The castles of Slavonia and Baranje - the splendor of life in the Croatian east

Although Osijek is their heart, Slavonia and Baranja are much more. Tales of charming nobles, fort builders, great conquerors and court ladies are the starting point for exploring the many hidden corners of this region. So put a map in your travel bag (or simply charge the battery smartphone) and go, the castles of Slavonia and Baranje are waiting for you!

House Povischil
Povischil house in Osijek, photo: Foto Art, archive of the TZ of Osijek-Baranja County

From the beginning of the 18th century, the Austrian rulers assigned the fertile Slavonic expanses to different noble families. A series of land-rich feudal estates was created, centered in country castles and manors. Although far from Vienna, here one tries to keep up with the lifestyle in the center of the Habsburg Monarchy. The palace salons, meeting places of Slavonian gentlemen, are full of hunting trophies and trophy weapons. On the other hand, the salons where ladies and children spend their days are filled with sheet music, musical instruments and shelves of family libraries.

The castles of Slavonia and Baranja stretch from Donji Miholjec and Valpovo, to Našice and Erdut. In them, the country nobility discussed politics, economy and hunting, but also art, education and agriculture. In this area, individual manors stand out. For example, Beljsko, which occupies almost the whole of Baranja and has been operating continuously since 1697 until today, grew during the 18th and 19th centuries into one of the most productive estates in all of Hungary at the time.

Erdut Tower, Igor Šeler
Erdut tower, photo: Igor Šeler, source: TZ of Osijek-Baranja county

/// One of the largest European wine barrels is hidden in Erdut, and in it the count hid his wife and played cards

Castles in Slavonia

Našice, a small town about fifty kilometers west of Osijek, is one of the places with the richest cultural monuments in Slavonia. Here we find traces of medieval churches and monasteries, impressive manorial castles and one of the few English parks on the soil of Slavonia. But it is far from the fact that Našić's heritage is only immovable. A colony of artistic ceramics has been operating here for 40 years, named after Hinko Juhn (1891-1940), a sculptor from nearby Podgorač, also known as the founder of modern Croatian ceramic art.

Pejačević Castle
Pejačević Castle in Našice, photo: Denis Despot, source: TZ Osijek-Baranja County

Even more famous is the memory of the first Croatian female composer, Dora Pejačević (1885-1923). Her creative inspiration was probably not taken away by the environment of the park of the late-baroque family castle, bathed in the crowns of mammoth trees, ginkgo and wild chestnut. Today, Pejačević Castle houses the Native Museum, where you can explore the local ethnological collection and learn more about the history of the Našić region in general.

Lovers of the good old Middle Ages, stop by the Našice settlement of Martin! There is almost 800 years old, the only preserved Templar church in Croatia.

While Našice occupies an area where the plain gradually turns into the hills of Krndije, Donji Miholjac, 30 kilometers to the north, is 1906% owned by the lowlands and the first place on the Drava that can be reached by large river boats. Here, too, there is an English park open to the public and a castle, the youngest in Slavonia. Completed in 1901, it was supposedly built because Count Mailáth promised Emperor Franjo Josip, for his visit to Slavonia in XNUMX, that the next time he came, a hunting castle would welcome him in Miholjec. Said - done!

Prandau Castle - Mailath, Donji Miholjac
Prandau Castle - Mailath - Donji Miholjac, photo: Marko Banić, archive of the TZ of Osijek-Baranja County

A building that resembles a portal in Wonderland, there are a lot of trophies and souvenirs from Africa and Asia and decorated with luxurious decorative carpentry, stucco and fences. Still, luck wanted to from Franz Joseph all this is more enjoyed by the employees of the city administration of Donji Miholjac, whose headquarters are today.

Twin cities

Valpovo is located twenty kilometers southeast of Miholjec. It is one of the oldest Slavonian cities, and one of the few with preserved material heritage from the medieval period. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the baroque-classicist castle of the von Prandau family was built here, following on from the medieval fortress. An interesting architectural combination of styles and eras at the beginning of the 19th century is also enhanced by a large English park. At the same time, this one seems to have arisen from the well-known Slavonian spite.

Prandau-Normann Castle
Prandau-Normann Castle, photo: Denis Despot, source: TZ OBŽ

After an unforeseen "construction activity" happened to him on New Year's Day 1801 - a fire in the castle - Baron von Prandau decided that the renovated building would be not only more beautiful, but also "greener". The newly landscaped lawn will become one of the most valuable examples of park architecture in Croatia. At the end of the 19th century, the entire complex passed into the hands of the Normann family, hence its current name – Prandau-Normann Castle.

The twin city of Valpovo, and its eternal rival, is not far from Belišće. Unlike its older neighbor, Belišće is a child of industrialization, a settlement planned at the end of the 19th century, for the needs of the exploitation of the surrounding forests. Through the work of the Gutmann family, this town developed into an industrial center, which has remained to this day. But let there be no misunderstanding: Belišće is not just factory chimneys and steam engines. That the Gutmanns did well here, you’ll be convinced by the trigger selfie in front of the representative palace of the same name. The workers, clearly, lived more modestly, which you can best feel if you visit the street with seven preserved workers' houses from the end of the 19th century.

Gutmann Palace
Gutmann Palace, photo: Marko Banić, TZ OBŽ archive

Although their official address reads, and how different from SH Gutmann's Wreath, you can also look for them as Pekmez-ulica. Namely, its residents used to cook elderberry jam in their yards, the smell of which spread irresistibly throughout the town. The only thing that intoxicates the people of Belišće more than this sweet memory is the memory of their and our Matija Ljubek, kayaker and the most decorated Croatian male Olympian.

///Slavonic specialties: Where do kulen's seki grow?

Castles in Baranja

From Belišće on the right, we switch to the left bank of the Drava. We are in Baranja, one of the most attractive hunting tourism destinations in Croatia. Even the old hunting enthusiasts knew it. Thus, Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), the military leader who, on behalf of the Habsburgs, captured Hungary and Slavonia from the Ottomans, had a hunting castle built in the village of Bilje, ten kilometers from Osijek, at the beginning of the 18th century, which was also the seat of the previously mentioned Belj manor (award to Eugene for war merits).

The castle of Eugene of Savoy
The castle of Eugene of Savoy in Bilje, photo: Denis Despot, archive of the TZ of Osijek-Baranja County

At the beginning of the 20th century, to the northeast of Bilje, closer to the Danube, another hunting "cheka" was built to suit aristocrats - the Tikveš hunting castle. The Habsburgs, the Karađorđevićs, and the communist "monarch" Josip Broz Tito entered it. Wild game perkelt, hunting goulash soup or Baranja-style deer with bread dumplings did not leave any of the rulers indifferent. The same was true for their guests. Rumor has it that even Sophia Loren stopped her diet because of Baranja's hunting delicacies.

Tikves Castle
Tikveš Castle in Kopački rit

And that is why, at the end, we invite you to the east of Croatia. Let the castles of Slavonia and Baranje be just the starting point for your exploration. Conquer the flat and hilly region, explore the oak forests, peek into the parks and meadows, and discover the atmosphere of life on the Slavonian-Baranja manors


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