THE EXQUISITE DANUBE TRIO: From science and spirituality to art Published 25/06/2024

THE EXQUISITE DANUBE TRIO: From science and spirituality to art

Aljmaš is known for its unusual-looking Church of Our Lady of Refuge, also called the Danube Swan

If we allow the river Drava to take us east from Osijek, it will soon hand us over to its faithful friend, the big and mighty Danube. It will reveal that if hedonism is in the east, wine is in Erdut, fish stew is in Aljmaš, and science is in Dalj. This Danube trio is quite exquisite. And it truly offers everything - from science and spirituality to art.

Our Lady of Refuge

Located twenty-six kilometers east of Osijek, between the slopes of the Aljmaš mountain and the bank of the Danube, this small fishing village patiently awaits the arrival of all those who desire peace and quiet. Aljmaš is four streets, a thousand houses, one large church, and about 350 people. Is that all? Of course not. Hundreds of years of history, stories, tradition, and the best fish stew are just some of its charms.

Aljmaš is best known for its unusual-looking Church of Our Lady of Refuge, also called the Danube Swan. Although there is a legend about the sighting of the Virgin Mary, this is not the reason why Aljmaš became her home. In 1704, the statue of Mary was brought from the village of Lug in Baranja to save it from the rebellion that was being plotted there against the Habsburg Monarchy. A modest church made of branches and mud stood in Aljmaš as a shelter. The Virgin Mary has been the symbol of Aljmaš ever since. In 1846, the village church burned down, and only a painting of the former statue remained. A new baroque church was built, and Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer financed the creation of a new statue in Vienna. During the Homeland War in 1991, the said church was heavily bombed and demolished, and the statue was thought to be destroyed. Nevertheless, the famous Croatian photographer Mario Romulić, together with Reverend Radman, went on a mission to find the statue in the ruined church. It was only missing its crown and a part of the hand. They safely transported it to Osijek together with several other statues of saints and with the help and protection of UNPROFOR forces. Like the people of Aljmaš, the statue spent some time in exile and was returned to the restored church.

Nowadays, the church is an important place not only for the people of Aljmaš, but for the believers who visit. The feast of the Assumption on August 15 is a special event. Year after year, the Holy Mass in the open air gathers thousands of pilgrims. Although it is a quiet celebration, on that day the whole village shines with its former splendor. In memory of the difficult, but long and courageous history of the Aljmaš church, the area of the former military bunker was converted into a Memorial Center that preserves important documents and depictions of its journey, as well as a permanent exhibition of paintings and sculptures by academic painters created during the Homeland War in honor of Our Lady of Refuge.

A peninsula, and a wine one at that

Without much effort, the Danube meanders to the place where it has boasted the most beautiful views for centuries. Embraced by the mighty river, the Erdut peninsula is a protected landscape, as demonstrated by the Porić educational trail. The trail weaves through the forest all the way from Aljmaš, celebrating the rich flora and fauna of the region. Have a rest at the carefully placed viewpoints and continue your journey up and down, whether the hills or the 226 steps of health leading to the Erdut fortress. This mysterious medieval-looking fortress is located on the very bank of the Danube. There is no written information about its origin, but there are several legends. The fortress is now a zero-category monument.

Due to its favorable geographical location and large number of sunny hours, Erdut is also known as the wine peninsula. In a tradition that dates to the Roman Empire, the most represented varieties here are the whites such as Traminac, Graševina, Chardonnay and Riesling, while the red varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt. All of them still thrive in Erdut thanks to the family wineries that take good care and invest in them year after year. So don't skip places like the Brzica family winery with one of the most beautiful views of the Danube, where the hosts will always happily demonstrate what it means to live and breathe wine. With prior notice, you can also visit other family wineries, such as Siber, Danubio, Royal Hill, K55, Rogić or Magistra.

Graševina is Erdut's trademark, and there is so much of it that they had to build one of the largest barrel in the world to keep it all, which is still in use. In the Adamovich Cseh castle, the legacy of the peculiar count Ervin, who secretly gambled in a large barrel, lies the Erdut winery, home of the mighty barrel. The wooden structure is held in place by an incredible two and a half tons of iron, with its volume being 75 thousand liters, enough for 100 thousand bottles of wine. It was made using the traditional method of construction from a total of 109 oak logs, which back in 1989 were more than a hundred years old. It is decorated with motifs of traditional Croatian wickerwork and the "Last Supper". The barrel has been full of Graševina since its construction. Although there is no doubt about its durability, it is placed over a special pool that would save the golden nectar of life in an unfortunate event.

The Erdut barrel is a sight not to be forgotten, and it is located in a fitting environment. If you take a walk through the castle grounds, your legs will take you through the vine tunnel to the viewpoint which showcases the mighty Danube and its guardian, the Erdut fortress. You can visit the Erdut winery on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., while on weekends you will need to provide prior notice.

Finally, make sure to leave room for good food and an unforgettable experience of a home atmosphere. Zlatica awaits in "Stari dud”, her traditional house where she prepares real local home-made food and serves it with a smile and a side of stories. Make sure to book in advance.

Erdut barrel
2.5 tons of iron
109 oak trunks
75 thousand liters

The woman and the vine, Milutin and the stars

The wine road would not be complete without a special surprise in Dalj. Boutique winery Antunović is one of the first female-owned Croatian wineries and one of the most awarded in Croatia. Its work is based on a centuries-old family tradition, and within the winery there is a tasting room/wine cellar decorated in the traditional style. The wine archive with 2,000 bottles of carefully selected Antunović wines also offers a nice ambience, and the atmosphere of the spacious and well-kept outdoor space in the immediate vicinity of the Danube will provide for some true relaxation.

Dalj is a spiritual place. Apart from the Catholic Parish of St. Joseph, visit Orthodox places of spirituality such as the Monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dalj mountain, also known as the Vodica Monastery, or the Cathedral Church of St. Demetrius, the largest Orthodox church in Croatia, located in the very center of the village. As a witness to a long and important Orthodox tradition, the Patriarch's Palace from the 18 th century is located nearby. This beautifully decorated building is the summer residence of the Serbian patriarchs in Dalj.

The birthplace of the most prominent Dalj resident, the great Milutin Milanković will inspire feelings just as big. This astronomer, geophysicist, climatologist, mathematician, inventor, engineer, doctor of technology, university professor and writer is often unfairly overlooked. He primarily worked on cosmic issues, the Sun, ice ages and their impact on life on Earth. In addition to science, he also wrote lyrical prose, providing three volumes of memoirs about his life, his birthplace, the village of Dalj and the Danube, which was an inexhaustible source of inspiration. His house was declared a cultural monument in 1979, but it suffered the consequences of time and war. It has been completely renovated, and it now houses the Cultural and Scientific Center. It is equipped with models, presentations and projections, including Milutin's space room. Its yard is a pleasant fresh green oasis, with a gazebo right next to Milutin's beloved pine tree, which still stands strong and tall. The observatory located there is the perfect place for stargazing and special events. A visit to the Cultural Center is possible with prior notice. (

If you find yourself in Dalj in the summer, make sure to have a swim in the chilly Danube. The sandy Jama beach is easy to find in the center of the village, and the locals love it for their summer gatherings.

Milutin Milanković completed his high school education in Osijek (1896), in today's III Gymnasium, attended by two Nobel laureates.

Written by: Katarina Anđelković