Slavonia is the most eastern province in the Republic of Croatia. The coastal provinces of Croatia are much more common as tourist destinations, but this interior province has much of interest to visitors, particularly nature lovers. Slavonia’s culture, population, history, and geography are distinct to the region. Slavonia is primarily an agricultural area, with a landscape dotted with small farming villages. The largest city is Slavonia is Osijek.
Osijek offers lovely baroque architecture and is a rather enjoyable destination. It boasts one of Croatia’s few zoological parks and has a number of annual festivals, including a Tambura Orchestra festival. Osijek is also a popular destination because of its proximity to Slovenia’s most popular tourist destination.
Slavonia’s main attraction is not manmade, but natural. The Kopacki Rit Nature Park is both ecologically fascinating and unusual. The Kopacki Rit Nature Park is situated on the right bank of the Danube, where the Danube and Drava meet. Kopacki Rit is one of the largest natural marshlands in Europe, and its flood ecology is frequently changeable. The lay of the land depends upon many factors, including annual flood levels. Lakes do remain in the marshes year round regardless, but like other flood plains, many areas of the marsh change throughout the year.
Kopacki Rit is home to more than 2,000 biological species of flora and fauna. There are more than 400 recorded invertebrate species, 44 varieties of fish, and 285 species of birds living in the Kopacki Rit marshland. A number of endangered bird species nest in Kopacki Rit, including black storks, falcons, egrets, and wild geese.
Kopacki Rit was first protected as a natural reserve in 1967. In 1976, a portion of the park was deemed a special zoological reserve, while the rest remained a nature park. In 1993, Kopacki Rit was deemed an internationally significant wetland. Guided boat tours through the wetlands of Kopacki Rit are available to interested visitors.
Kopacki Rit is also known for its large mammal populations. Red deer, roe, foxes, hares, and boar live in the marshlands. Slavonia in general, and Kopacki Rit in particular, are known as excellent locales for deer and boar hunting throughout Europe. The Public Company Hrvatske Sume organizes hunts in the region for both locals and visitors and some of the most trophied deer in Europe originated in Kopacki Rit. The red deer population in Kopacki Rit is estimated to number between 5,000 and 7,000.
Visitors to Kopacki Rit should also take time to see Tikves castle, located within the oak woods of the nature park. Tikves castle was a popular gathering place for politicians, nobility, the famous, and the wealthy. The historical Tikves castle was devastated by war and was renovated as the European Environmental Center. Today, the Center offers programs encouraging nature conservation, as well as accommodations for visitors to the area and research facilities for the region.
The European Environmental Center is also home to a fine restaurant. The restaurant offers many fish dishes, fish soups, carp, and wild game. Traditional Slavonian desserts are also available to sample, including poppy seed and walnut strudels. The Kormoran restaurant is also located in the area, and offers a variety of wild game and fish. Excellent local cuisine can also be sampled in the city of Osijek.
Slavonia as a whole and Kopacki Rit in particular are examples of nature at its best. The region is less valuable for its appeal as a tourist destination and much more valued for its role as a wildlife preserve and natural marshland. Kopacki Rit is one of the largest and most significant wetlands in Europe, and is also a popular destination for hunters and fishermen, for environmentalists and ecologists.