Inland Croatia

Falling to Serbian forces on November 18, 1991, Vukovar remained under occupation until 1998. In the meantime the restorers have been busy and, a quarter of a century after the siege, the town is at last beginning to resemble its charming old self.

Vukovar is an important symbol of resistance to Croats, and memorial tourism is deeply embedded in the fabric of the place. However it’s also it’s also the kind of town where you can laze beside the river, go cycling in parks, dine on catfish, and marvel at one of Europe’s most compelling prehistoric sites.

Vukovar is best treated as a double date with the historic fortress town of Ilok, 30 kilometres downriver, where you’ll find the best of the local wines and some great B&Bs. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Vukovar and Ilok.

 

Where exactly is it?

Vukovar lies in the green, agriculturally-rich southeast of Croatia, about as far away from the tourist-swarmed Adriatic coast as you can get. The nearest city is Osijek, a Baroque jewel 40km to the north; you can either fly to Osijek or catch a bus from Croatian capital Zagreb (5hr 30min), or from Novi Sad in Serbia (2hr 30min).

What should I see in Vukovar?

The one essential sight in the town centre is the mid-eighteenth-century Eltz Palace, a sweeping Baroque cake of a building that looks out on riverside meadows. Inside is one of Croatia’s best museums, offering everything from bronze-age jewellery to the boots made by legendary footwear manufacturer Bat’a, who set up shop in Vukovar in 1931.

The Museum of the Vučedol Culture, five kilometres out of town on the banks of the Danube, is one of the most exciting and well-represented archeological museums anywhere in Europe. Built into the hillside below the original excavation site, this award-winning structure celebrates the copper-smelting civilization that flourished hereabouts 5000 years ago.

The Vučedol people used highly decorative astronomical pictograms to decorate their ceramics, and laid out their dead in shapes imitating signs of the zodiac. Knowledge of astronomy was crucial in deciding when to sow and when to reap.