In 2006, Fair Tourism organised a study trip to Baranja, a region situated between the Danube and Drava rivers, in northeastern Croatia, near the Hungarian and Serbian borders. This area has suffered a great deal in the civil war of Yugoslavia and the relations between the Croats and the Serbs are still very difficult here. The town of Vukovar, south of Baranja, came under attack from Serbian forces for three months in 1991. Thousands of people have died at this time and to this day the violence of war is visible from the gunshots in buildings and the never-rebuilt ruins. Especially in this city, the contact between the Croats and Serbs is very difficult and they live separately: they have their own cafes and radio stations. Even at school, they don’t sit together in class. The Youth Peace Group Danube (YPGD) tries to bring young people of both nationalities closer together again, by organizing music events, debates and other activities. They also organise exchange programmes with young people from other countries, such as the Netherlands. This organization is also working with the Vukovar tourism agency to address the city’s prominent war image. Tourists visit the city only to see the remnants of the war, while the city has so much more to offer, such as its special location on the Danube. Click here for the YPGD website.
War has also raged in Baranja, but fortunately not nearly as fiercely as in Vukovar. Few tourists know this region. If you think of Croatia as a tourist destination, you will mainly talk about the coast and places like Split. The capital Zagreb can also count on a large number of visitors. But further east, hardly anyone goes. A perfect place for an investigation into the tourist potential of the region. Fourth year tourism students at Inholland Rotterdam have spent a week researching this, exploring the area and speaking to local stakeholders. The results are surprising: despite the unfamiliarity of this region among tourists, there is certainly potential to develop tourism there. There are several tourist attractions, such as the Kopački Rit Nature Park, the wine region to the north, the Batina war memorial and the historic town of Osijek. Since Baranja is as flat as the Netherlands, you can make beautiful bike rides through nature and lovely villages. Baranja’s culinary specialities, such as the “kulen” (spicy sausage) and the “fish peppers” (stew of fish and peppers), can also be a draw for tourists, partly as well as the local music (tamburitza).
What is most special about Baranja is its immensely welcoming population, which welcomes tourists in such a friendly way that you won’t soon forget that. For example, at Agrotourism Crvendać, where hosts Ankica and Marija offer you a special stay in their red fairy tale house. The dining room looks like a museum, with the costumes of their ancestors on the walls. They can plan out fun tourist routes for you and rent bikes. They can also tell you all about Baranja, the beautiful nature and the traditions of the locals. You will feel completely at home here and don’t want to go home! For crvendać’s website, click here. On YouTube you can find a film of students about the study trip to the Baranja region in Croatia.