A FESTIVE CASTLE: Where magic comes to life Published 21/06/2024

A FESTIVE CASTLE: Where magic comes to life

Today, the Prandau-Normann castle and its park are Valpovo’s central point,
both geographically and socially

Valpovo has been a hub of life for centuries, with its origins dating back to 1332 when it was a military fort. At the heart of the city lies the remarkable Prandau-Normann castle, a one-of- a-kind complex. Built by Ban Ivan Morović in the early 15th century, the fortress castle's tower stands as one of the few remaining medieval structures in Slavonia and Baranja. This castle is the centrepiece of the Museum of Valpovština, making it a truly invaluable historical treasure. (Working hours on Mondays and Thursdays 16:00 - 19:00, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10:00 - 12:00; the possibility of visiting the castle with professional guidance with an announcement at +385 31/650-639).

Today, Prandau-Normann castle and its park are the focal point of Valpovo, both geographically and socially. It all started with the Summer of Valpovo. This traditional manifestation has more than 50 editions under its belt, and every summer it gathers cultural societies, local producers, and other associations and organizations that demonstrate the beauty and wealth of the Valpovo region with their costumes, dances, customs, and products.

In May, the Wine and Cheese Festival offers a great chance to try local delicacies. Visitors can sample and purchase cheese from small Slavonian dairies and enjoy wines from Baranja, Erdut, Ilok, and Kutjevo while listening to disco funk. The event is organized by “Karašička Republika” and marks the beginning of the Wine Month of Osijek-Baranja County.

The five-year-old Wine and Cheese Festival is two years older than the equally popular Valpovo Craft Beer Festival. Thousands of enthusiasts of this golden beverage and good music gather every September for fun, dancing, and the Craft Beer Mile race.

The city of festivals owes much of its vibrant atmosphere to its music scene. For the past decade, the "Revolution" association has been organizing the Reunited Festival, a celebration of hip-hop culture featuring a diverse music program and prominent names from the Croatian hip-hop, dub, and electronic music scene. The festival also includes educational workshops and exhibitions. In addition, the Rock'a'raj fest enlivens the Summer of Valpovo with three days of top performances by local and foreign rock bands. The Valpovo area's strong affinity for rock music is further showcased through the Vashar festival, which highlights young local and other bands playing rock, hard rock, acoustic, alternative, and metal music.

The meadow in front of the castle serves as the venue for many other events, including the Valpovo Summer Running League and the International Day of Karašica River. The whole town lives around the castle and its park. Here, you will find the Valpovo football club, kindergarten, scouts... It comes as no surprise that the official colour of the town is green.

Belišće’s Industrial Heritage

Just a few kilometers away, you will encounter a completely different atmosphere. Near Valpovo, almost connected to it, lies the contrasting city of Belišće. It was established only 140 years ago due to the growing industry. In 1884, Salamon Heinrich Gutmann, a Hungarian merchant and factory owner, opened Europe's largest sawmill in Belišće.

Two out of the three well-preserved residential buildings in Belišće, which belonged to Gutmann's colony, now form the Belišće Museum. (opening hours: Monday 16:00 to 20:00, Tuesday to Friday 12:00 to 16:00; on Saturdays for groups by appointment: +385992051425). In addition to the residential buildings, the museum also houses the Gutmann Family Collection in the Gutmann Palace, as well as Gutmann's steam train on Željeznička Street. The museum buildings are a protected cultural asset and the museum items are a testimony to the city's rich industrial heritage.

Nearby, you can find "Ćiro", a restored memorial train, a protected cultural asset, and a reminder of the former railway that connected Slavonia and Podravina. In the very centre of the city, you will see a recently renovated historicist one-story Gutmann Palace or Palej, the former building of the Administration of Belišće d.d. (joint-stock company), which dates back to 1905. You can learn all about the city’s history in its most famous street - Pekmez Street (Jam Street). In the past, elderberry jam was cooked here in large cauldrons, giving the whole street a distinct smell. Now, it is a living and breathing historical sight. Restored and preserved, all of these monuments are the perfect representatives of the city's history.

Belišće stands as a thriving industrial powerhouse even today. Home to leading Croatian exporters like the paper factory "DS Smith" and the renowned company "Harburg- Freudenberger," known for their cutting-edge presses for car tires, the city has a rich history as a working-class town. This heritage has fostered a vibrant sports and cultural scene for workers and their families, giving rise to an amateur theatre, a celebrated football club, and a kayak club. Notably, the city is also the birthplace of Matija Ljubek, the most successful Croatian Olympian. When visiting Belišće in the summer, don't miss the chance to take a refreshing swim in the town pool and explore the picturesque Bistrina beach, accessible by car, bicycle, or on foot along the newly refurbished educational path "Bistrina." This scenic route also leads to the "Drava" Resort, offering a wide range of recreational amenities. Additionally, a leisurely walk towards the Sanctuary of St. Anne and the tranquil "Jugovači" pond promises a serene escape in every season.

Written by: Katarina Anđelković