Baranja, another history-rich region, is located in Eastern Croatia and is famous for its wines and breathtaking nature. It is proud of its cultural and historical heritage, with endless sunflower fields and picturesque villages inviting visitors to relax and explore while surrounded by swamps and rivers, drinking the best wine and eating delicious traditional meals.
The region is surrounded by the Drava and Danube rivers, today divided by the Hungarian border. The origin of its name is unknown as some historical records say it was a personal name, Brana. In contrast, others suggest it comes from an old Slavic word ‘Bara’, considering it is a wetland, while the third theory is that the translation of the word Baranja means mother of wine.
Part of the region that belongs to Croatia is today part of the Osijek-Baranja county. The oldest settlements date back to the 12th century. The region was divided between then Yugoslavia and Hungary by a Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Currently, the Croatian part of Baranja covers more than 1000 square kilometres and is home to almost 40 thousand people. The biggest town and administrative centre is Beli Manastir.
Baranja is a multicultural region with Hungarians, Croats, Serbs and Roma living there. Rich history and heritage are well documented, and traditions are cherished until the present day.
Another important ethnic minority are Šokci. Native to the Pannonian plain, their traditions are tied to the environment. They are famous for cultivating folk songs, dances and recognisable costumes. Their famous embroidery is protected as a non-material cultural good in the Registry of Cultural Goods of Croatia.
Mother of wine
While the origin of Baranja’s name remains a mystery, everyone agrees that it is genuinely a wine region. Wine production is mentioned as early as the 3rd century, during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. People recognised the fertile land of the Baranja hills, and since then their wines have remained authentic and distinctive.
The famous wines come from Belje, an estate that united 19 villages in the 17th century by Prince Eugene of Savoy. He developed agricultural and livestock farms and discovered Duke’s Vineyard (Croatian: Kneževi Vinogradi), a village famous for vineyards and a massive wine cellar.
Today, Belje Wines (Croatian: Vina Belje) keep the Prince’s vision alive, with 650 hectares of vineyards. Famous for their hand picked grapes, Belje Wines today produces the most famous wines of Baranja.
The whole complex includes the old wine cellar from the 16th century called gator. The cellar design is typical for the area of Baranja, set on three levels of oak barrels from the Spačva forest, ageing the finest wine. The cellar is home to rich wine archives, with over 20 thousand samples.
Additionally, the Gerštmajer and Josić families are famous for their wineries and colonies of wine cellars gatori, buried in hills of Baranja Mountain (Croatian: Bansko brdo).
The mountain is home to the Zmajevac and Suza villages, known for typical wine streets surduk. They are full ofthese cellars, so unique in architecture and the materials used.
Cellars are walled with brick, mainly under the ground and have an ideal temperature of 12-15 degrees Celsius, perfect for wine ageing.
Enchanting nature and villages
Baranja’s floodplain covers an area of 177 square kilometres. Named after a village nearby, Kopačevo, the name originates from the Hungarian language.
Hungarian words for a buckle (Hungarian: kopacs) and swamp (Hungarian: rét) formed a name used today, Kopački rit, founded in 1976 as a nature park.
It is one of the largest wetlands in Europe and is famous for shifting shapes depending on the Danube’s water level and seasons. It is home to 140 birds and the biggest hatchery of freshwater fish.
The landscape of Kopački rit is mosaic-like, with mainland and water canals forming interesting shapes, perfect to explore on foot, boat, or bicycle as nature parks offer visitors multiple tours and adventures.
The nature park is also home to the largest hunting ground in Europe. With a hunting tradition dating back to the 17th century, hunting grounds are well-managed with careful wildlife management.
Baranja’s tourism is mainly dedicated to sustainable rural tourism, and the most popular and biggest being an Ethno village, Karanac.
Located near Baranja Mountain, it is the village that still has authentic houses and families that have been here for centuries. Passing down traditions and lifestyles to the new generations, Karanac is a place where each house has a unique story of the life and habits of the people of Baranja.
Houses are preserved in their original state and show the typical architecture of the Pannonian plain. The village is home to the biggest alley of cherry trees and family estates.
Numerous visitors come here to eat authentic dishes, drink locally produced wine, move around in original carts and relax in beautiful nature with local folk music playing at every corner.