Where a mysterious mountain meets a tame valley, idyllic meadows meet long-dormant volcanoes, and a mystical river meets clear streams you will find the Virovitica-Podravina County. Does that sound dreamy and intriguing? That is what the Croatian north-east is, an area where magical nature, hardworking people, and rich tradition harmoniously complement one another, together creating a story you won’t want to leave behind…
It is the story of sleepy ancient cities and the secrets they hold behind their strong walls, the surprising beauty, unrequited love, and estates where time has stopped. It is a story of living harmoniously with enchanting nature.
Choose the starting point for your adventure in this part of Podravina and Slavonia, but make sure not to miss out on the following experiences…
You can reach Križnica nowadays in two ways only – by a ferry or by a pedestrian suspension bridge. Only few people know that it exists and those who reveal it are stunned by its beauty. Križnica is unreal, a mysterious place on the Drava river, an island where you do not expect one. In all the nuances of the green, it is a paradise for adventurists, recreationists, couples in love, tourists, travel writers, anglers, birdwatchers and artists looking for inspiration, peace and beauty.
You can get there also by bike, along the Drava route and EuroVelo 13 along the border, the former Iron Curtain that in the past century divided Europe into two blocks. If you navigate the river, you will not know that in one instant you are in Hungary, while in the other in Croatia, because the Drava does not recognise borders, it just follows its own way. In this small area in the Virovitica-Podravina County a landscape to be remembered is created, meandering in huge curves that one cannot see from its source in South Tyrol all the way to its mouth in the Danube.
You do not know which you like better: the sandy Jelkuš shoal, the Širinski otok (island) or the Vir marshland habitats, the significant landscapes along Križnica on the territory of the Pitomača Municipality that are a part of the greater Regional Mura-Drava park and the UNESCO Cross-Border Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube.
If you plan a trip in the nature, we suggest that you visit Noskovci beside Čađavica. There you will be told the most beautiful Drava Story. The former summer cottage of Count Drašković from the 19th century in the centre of the most beautiful park became the informative and educational centre and hostel. There you will enjoy the birds singing, the world of owls, a corner for butterflies, the Drava forests of fairies and elves… A perfect place of return to nature on the embankments of the Drava!
Where there is a river, there are also anglers, and where there are anglers, there is also fresh fish, while where there is fresh fish, there are the true gourmets and, when you feel the aroma of the Drava on the table, you will become one of them.
If it thrilled the noble Josip Janković from Voćin, it will thrill you, too. It is called the most beautiful mountain valley of the Papuk Nature Park where scientists have counted more than two thousand plant and animal species… There are caves here, two artificial lakes, the Skakavac waterfall that from a rock that is 36 meters high swoops into the deep Kovačica riverbed, a mountain lodge with 60 beds and the most superb specialties inspired by the Papuk forests… The Jankovac Park Forest seems unreal, like a true place from a fairy-tale in which you wish to stay.
This is exactly what the nobleman from the beginning of this story did, who, because of his blue blood, was called a count. In time he moved here, lived in the summer cottage that no longer exists, he built trails, created artificial ponds, enjoyed each day in cohabitation with nature… According to his own wish, he was even buried in the cave above the valley that today boasts of the Count’s Educational Trail with info boards, wooden bridges and stairs.
In the Papuk Nature Park there is Rupnica, a mystic place where nature raised a unique geological monument of volcanic origin. You will most easily reach it from Voćin, where the official entrance into the Papuk Nature Park is. Once you are in this picturesque place of the Virovitica-Podravina County, take a peek in the church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as a place of family heritage taking place in August.
At the top of the Papuk, there are the remnants of mediaeval towns. Out of eight of them, one is located above Orahovica. It is known as Ružica grad (Ružica Town) built in the 15th century, its constructor unknown, and it is unclear to us today how such huge stone blocks were brought to the top of the hill. Some say that it got its name after the most beautiful villa put in the walls, while others say that it got the name after the duchess who threw herself from the highest tower, while even others say that a blue-haired bull slept in the shadow of a walnut tree beside a blossoming rose, so that at this particular place a town was built as hard as a walnut and as beautiful as a rose, resisting time and weather until today.
Mountaineering, free climbing, swimming in the Orahovac Lake, riding a mountain bike, hunting, fishing, walking, a family vacation, sitting around for a picnic on one of the meadows… you will enjoy the mountain whose tops reach almost a thousand meters.
A few figures to conclude: the Papuk Nature Park covers 336 km2, more than 96% of the area is covered in forest vegetation with as many as 13 types of forests, it got the status of a park in 1999, while the status of a UNESCO Geopark was attributed to it in 2015.
The rooms of the Count Pejačević used to be reached through a secret passage. Allegedly, it was used by his female visitors in late night hours, while today you can reach this baroque castle housing the Virovitica City Museum by one of the attractive bridges: the Love Bridge, the Music Bridge, the Mirror Bridge, the Gymnasium Bridge and the Portal Bridge connecting the modern with the old part of the town, in the most beautiful way connecting the contemporary art atmosphere with the baroque and classicist architecture.
From whichever side you start, sooner or later the Noblemen Route of the Virovitica-Podravina County will take you to Virovitica, where the old baroque and the contemporary façades intertwine. Among the latter ones, there is the one in Schubert red and blue, nuances in which the first lady of the Croatian transavantgarde, Edita Schubert of Virovitica, made her creations. After sightseeing in Virovitica, you will enjoy some rest in the Janković Manor in Kapela Dvor, a former country estate of the noblemen from Suhopolje that today is a four star heritage hotel. All in the style of noblemen, from the breakfast to the most delicious delicacies perfectly matching with Slatinski biser (the Slatina pearl), the first Croatian sparkling wine dating back to 1864, at the estate of the German Count Georg Wilhelm Schaumburg-Lippe in Slatina.
Not far from Slatina, there is the Pustara Višnjica, an oasis of peace, a place where you return to nature, a good anti-stress therapy choice. Here you can do some horseback riding, ride in a carriage, groom horses, help in the stable, walk, feed the deer, ride a bicycle, take part in gastronomic or painting workshops, while all of which growing in the fertile land is prepared in the restaurant. You could lick your fingers.
The Informative and Educational Centre and Dravska priča hostel (Drava Story) in Noskovci used to be a summer cottage of Count Drašković. A world of owls, a world of fish, amphibians and reptiles, the song of birds, rich flora, a corner for butterflies, the Drava forests of fairies and elves, an educational trail on the embankment of the river, Dravi u zagrljaj (Hugged by the Drava) – are only a small portion of what awaits you there.
The story on the Noblemen Route in the Virovitica-Podravina County cannot end without the Visitors’ Centre – the Janković Castle in Suhopolje. This impressive renovated building from the mid-18th century with 15 modern rooms, a multimedia exhibition hall and a 5D cinema is an excellent starting point to research the beauties of the Virovitica-Podravina County, a place where Podravina and Slavonia meet.
Bike routes, the attractive Bilogora mountain, the picturesque Papuk mountain, the powerful Drava, the sacral heritage, birdwatching, hunting and fishing, a gourmet paradise, excellent wines and craft beer… In a few words – a nobleman’s vacation to be remembered!