Friday, November 11, 2022

Osijek: Slavonia's Largest City & A Fun Place To Explore

During our visit to Slavonia, on our two-week tour of Croatia, we stayed a couple days in the city of Osijek, the largest city in the region. Located in the northeastern corner of Slavonia, the city was once an Austrian fortress town and in 1809, Emperor Francis I declared it a Royal Free Town. The name "Osijek" derives from the Croatian word "oseka," which means "ebb tide." Osijek occupies an elevated spot which protects it from being flooded, and thus it received its name. 

We stayed at the Hotel Maksimilian, a small guesthouse with only twelve rooms, which is located in Tvrđa, an old baroque port in Osijek. It's only a short walk to the downtown area so it's in a good location. The rooms were very pleasant and comfortable. There is also a beautiful courtyard, pictured above, where you can sit, have a drink or snack. We made use of this courtyard multiple times, enjoying rakjia and wine. 

They also make breakfast for you each morning, and the freshly made omelet was delicious. One morning, the cook mentioned an old Slavonian saying: If you don't gain at least 2 kilograms while you're in Slavonia, then you haven't done it right. Well, I'm positive I gained at least that much while in Slavonia, as the food was so plentiful and delicious. And I don't regret a single bite. 

I had some free time one morning so I explored downtown Osijek, and I wish I'd had even more time to do so. There's plenty of interesting shops, bakeries, cafes and restaurants, and you could spend a couple days exploring the city. This statue is of Dr. Ante Starčević, the "Father of the Nation," who in the 19th century advocated for Croatian independence from Austria, and the creation of a Croatian state. 
At the base of the statue, it states: "Only the laws of God and Nature are above the sovereign will of the people of Croatia."

A few more interesting statues I saw on my walk through the city. 

Osijek is well known for its Baroque style architecture. 

Near our hotel, there were a number of intriguing topiaries. 

I stopped at the Đakovačke Delikatese, a "temple" to the Black Slavonian Pig. This meat shop sold a wide variety of pork products, from cracklings to Kulen.  

Such an amazing selection of pork products, most made from the famed Black Slavonian Pig. The cracklings were excellent! If I had been able to bring this pork home with me, I would have bought plenty.

I found a used book stall, which I obviously had to check out. Although most of the books were in croatian, there was a small selection of books in English, and I bought a Dalmatian cookbook. 

I also stopped at Morobo Games, a cool store of board games, role-playing games and miniatures. The stop was only about a year old but had a nice selection of games, and were planning to expand their stock in the near future. If you're into games, and in Osijek region, you definitely should stop here.

And even if you're not a fan of games, the store may still interest you as they also sell teas and artisan chocolates. And it's located just across the street from Đakovačke Delikatese

One evening, we dined at the Hotel Osijek, at their Zimska Luka Restaurant, an elegant place with a menu of many traditional Slavonian dishes. I began with the Ravioli filled with mushrooms and bacon in a truffle sauce, which were quite tasty.

We then shared the Chef's Selection of Meat Dishes, a huge platter of veal loin, marinated ribs, chicken filet wrapped in prosciutto, meat donut, fried young potatoes, grilled vegetables, and fried onion rings. What a smorgasbord of delicious meats, and the potatoes and onion rings were excellent as well. 

We drank the 2018 TRS Frankovka with our dinner, a very good choice to accompany all of those meats. 

One evening, we also attended a Wine & Art festival, which had local artists, live music, a couple dozen wine producers, food stalls, and more. The event was well attended and it got a bit crowded as the night went on, although none of the lines were too long.

Some of the artists displaying their works, and a few of them were even producing art at the event.

You purchased inexpensive tickets for wine samples, and could wander around the grounds, deciding on which wines you wanted to sample. There were plenty of choices, including from some wineries we had previously visited. 

One of my favorite wines at the event was the 2021 Vinarija Svijetli Dvori Graševina Premium, with a 12.5% ABV. It was complex and intriguing, with delicious flavors of apple, stone fruit, and a touch of minerality. Good acidity, well-balanced and a lengthy finish. 

One of the highlights of the festival was their Langošice, basically Fried Dough. Each piece was huge, easily two to three times the size of fried dough you find at local carnivals and fairs. You could get the fried dough filled with a variety of items, from cheese to nutella. And the best part? It only cost 10 kuna, roughly equal to $1.50 US. What an incredible value! I loved the cheese-filled fried dough, the cheese quickly melting into gooey wonder. 

Here's a brief video of the cooking of the fried dough. 

Osijek has much to offer tourists, and it's a very good location for a further exploration of Slavonia, its wineries, restaurants, and other attractions. I would love to return here, to explore more of what it has to offer. All the people I met were very nice, and it was fun just to walk the streets, seeking out cool places to visit. 

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