DRAVA – THE BLOODSTREAM OF OSIJEK: Reflecting rivers, sandy canvases, happy places… Published 21/06/2024

DRAVA – THE BLOODSTREAM OF OSIJEK: Reflecting rivers, sandy canvases, happy places…

If someone were to ask me, as a local, where my “happy place” in Osijek is, I would say the river beach Copacabana. Bicycles, towels, swimwear, the Drava River, and the best friends in the world – these are the ingredients for a perfect summer break. Swimming without your parents was (and still is) a kind of initiation into adulthood (or at least its waiting room), a symbol of emancipation. My family worshipped the Drava, as have generations of Osijek residents before and after us. "What kind of summer is it without swimming, picnicking, boating, fishing, and local fish on the menu? I learned to swim in the Drava; my dad insisted," says Višnja Tavas, a retired teacher who swims from late spring until October.

From Garnika to Kopika, as evidenced by the artefacts in the Museum of Slavonia and their leading expert, senior curator Grgur Marko Ivanković, the swimming areas on the Drava River like Pampas and Želja have always been favourites among locals and visitors alike. The Drava is the bloodstream of Osijek, infusing the city with a youthful rhythm. On the right bank, which will soon boast Europe's longest river promenade, you can find the urban side of Osijek – Central European, tame, and civilized. But cross one of the bridges to the left bank and you get a different perspective, somewhat Crusoesque. Sit at the foot of the beach bars, shield your eyes from the sun, and you’ll see the CITY reflected in its river, aware of its allure but completely devoid of arrogance. You sigh and think: Branko Mihaljević captured it perfectly in his timeless lyrics, "My Osijek is full of sunshine, along the Drava, calm and quiet..."

But the Drava can also be loud, playful, and generous with entertainment, so guests should be warned not to miss its charms. Be careful, because the river can be moody. Perhaps the more extreme activities (like drifting) are reserved for locals, but all other pleasures can be enjoyed regardless of your birth certificate. From river cruisers that have anchored in Osijek in recent years, to the ferry boat that lazily ferries visitors to the Zoo, to speedboats and traditional fishing boats for fishing, sailing is a true Osijek experience. If you are not staying with a host who owns a vessel of some kind, take a fun tourist trip by boat/ship, offered by the "Old Town Izleti" (igor.zivkovic11@gmail.com; https://www.facebook.com/Oldtownizleti; tel. +385 99 756 93 60) and the company "Gusar" (gusar.jdoo@gmail.com; www.facebook.com/gusarjdoo; tel.+385 95 526 9869). 095 526 9869).

At the end of this ode to the Drava, let us remind you that in one episode of the series “Europe from the Air”, the famous National Geographic showed the fascinating art on the sandy banks of the Drava by the local sculptor Nikola Faller. Leave your mark in the sand and you’ll always know how to return to Osijek...

Written by: Ivana Rab Guljaš