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article imageAdvent, wine, chocolate: New tourism ideas in Osijek, Croatia Special

By Paul Bradbury     Dec 10, 2014 in Travel
Osijek - Far from the fashionable Adriatic coast, the Croatian city of Osijek is working hard to attract tourists throughout the year.
Advent in Osijek opened on December 7, 2014, the third new tourism initiative of the weekend in the eastern Croatia city, weekend events which were attended by Digital Journal.
The Advent fair, which runs until Christmas Eve in the picturesque old town, is the first such event in the city to be held in a decade, and its timing coincided with two other new initiatives over the weekend, Osijek Wine Fest and the first Osijek Chocolate Festival, the latter of which was inspired by the leading boutique hotel in the region, Hotel Waldinger.
The delicious praline selection from Waldinger at the first Osijek Chocolate Festival.
The delicious praline selection from Waldinger at the first Osijek Chocolate Festival.
Hotel Waldinger, Osijek
The four-star Waldinger has been credited with raising standards in a city not known for its quality tourism. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, owner Berislav Mlinarevic, has been a driving force in the city to improve the quality of the city's offer, and the inaugural chocolate festival was held in the Portonovo Waldinger Lounge Bar.
Berislav Mlinarević  Hotel Waldinger s dynamic owner  opening the Osijek Chocolate Festival.
Berislav Mlinarević, Hotel Waldinger's dynamic owner, opening the Osijek Chocolate Festival.
Hotel Waldinger, Osijek
Mlinarevic was on hand himself to open the one-day festival, which plans to expand to a multi-day event next year, and the 10 litres of chocolate in the centrepiece fountain proved a popular attraction all day, while the praline cooking shows, wine and chocolate pairing, and children's workshops were but some of the highlights of an impressive opening day.
Hotel Waldinger is quietly raising standards in the region  and it s boutique four-star charms are a...
Hotel Waldinger is quietly raising standards in the region, and it's boutique four-star charms are appreciated by an increasing number of high profile visitors, including President Josipovic last month.
Hotel Waldinger, Osijek
Croatian wine has made important strides in recent years, as the wealth of indigenous grape varieties are slowly being discovered by the global wine community, while the introduction of international varieties is also leading to exciting possibilities, with leading Decanter wine expert and Master of Wine Angela Muir telling Digital Journal on a recent press trip to Imotski that former Yugoslavia was probably the most exciting place in Europe currently to produce wine.
The two-day Osijek Wine Festival brought more than 50 exhibitors to the inaugural event.
The two-day Osijek Wine Festival brought more than 50 exhibitors to the inaugural event.
Ana Rogac
The two-day festival, which attracted exhibitors from neighbouring Austria, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, centred on the excellent winemakers of the regions of Slavonia and Baranja, attracting a sizable number of wine journalists from Zagreb. Organised by the Association Decanter and the winery Vinita, the event was supported by the regional authorities, and plans are already afoot to repeat and expand the event next year.
These new initiatives are part of a growing trend in Croatian tourism, as the country looks to prolong its season and reduce its one-dimensional reliance on the sun and sea tourism on the Adriatic. This new focus has been captured in the official national tourist board's 'Croatia 365' campaign which is currently being promoted internationally, showing the richness of Croatia's 12-month tourism potential.
A visit to the crushed tank monument  to symbolise Osijek s resistance to Serb bombardment in 1991. ...
A visit to the crushed tank monument, to symbolise Osijek's resistance to Serb bombardment in 1991. Branko Breskic defiantly parked his Fiat in front of the tank and it was crushed. The monument symbolises the ultimate victory of the Fiat's owner, as Osijek was never occupied.
Osijek Tourist Board
While not one of the country's prime destinations, the potential of Osijek and the neighbouring Baranja region is starting to attract increased tourism interest. Ryanair's decision to fly from London Stansted to Osijek Airport has made it more accessible for British tourists, while the city's location on the River Drava and close to the Danube offers a growth area in river cruise tourism. According to the Osijek Tourist Board, there were 50 such cruises in 2014, with more than 100 already booked for next year.
Located in the region of Slavonia, there is a potential branding problem for the region, which is often confused with Slovenia and Slovakia by tourists, and the potential of taking advantage of its location just 20 kilometres from the middle of the Danube would give Osijek perhaps a better geographical focus for visiting tourists.
Digital Journal toured the city with experienced guide Mislav Pavosevic, who explained the history and heritage of the city, with perhaps the most surprising finding being the fact the the German National Anthem, written by Joseph Haydn, was in part stolen from a Croatian folk song, a fact established by Osijek ethnographer Franjo Kunac. Listen to the first ten seconds of the video below for a rather familiar introduction.
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