WJ Tested: Croatia – Uniworld River Cruise Tour of Vukovar and Osijek

WJ Tested: Croatia – Uniworld River Cruise Tour of Vukovar and Osijek

Uniworld Eastern Europe Explorer Included Shore Excursion to Vukovar and Osijek in Croatia

WJ Tested: Croatia – Uniworld River Cruise Tour of Vukovar and Osijek

WJ Tested: Croatia – Uniworld River Cruise Tour of Vukovar and Osijek

Day 10:
Uniworld River Princess arrived in Vukovar, Croatia around 8:00 a.m. and once customs and immigration cleared passengers to go ashore we met our local guides for our included tour.

Franjo Tuđman Square in Vukovar

Franjo Tuđman Square in Vukovar

Our group’s guide, Ivor, took us on a 30-minute stroll along the waterfront and through a small part of the town towards the bus station where we joined our bus for the journey to Osijek.

Ivor - Tour Guide in Vukovar, Croatia

Ivor – Tour Guide in Vukovar, Croatia

Did You Know?… Croatia – Country Facts:

  • Is in Southeastern Europe, bordering the Adriatic Sea, between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia
  • Declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991
  • Is slightly smaller than West Virginia with a population of 4.4 million
  • Is nearly 88% Roman Catholic
  • Zagreb is the capital and largest city – population approximately 1 million (Split 2nd, Rijeka 3rd, Osijek 4th)
  • Currency is the Croation Kuna (HRK) – 100.00 HRK = approximately 17.27 USD (check currency conversion at www.xe.com)
Vukovar Old Town Building Damaged by Shrapnel

Vukovar Old Town Building Damaged by Shrapnel

During our walk through Vukovar, Ivor pointed out many buildings that had been bombed during the war with the Serbs in the 1990s.

New Building at Franjo Tudman Square in Vukovar

New Building at Franjo Tudman Square in Vukovar

Did You Know?… Vukovar:

  • Is a city in eastern Croatia on the Danube at the confluence with the Vuka River
  • The name actually means ‘town on the river Vuka’
  • Pre-war Vukovar was the 2nd wealthiest town in Yugoslavia
  • Post-war Vukovar is one of the poorest towns in Croatia
  • Unemployment rate is 35%
  • Surrounding area is known for agriculture – sunflowers, wheat, corn, orchards
  • Bata Shoes originally came from Vukovar – known locally as Barova
  • Caffe & Bar Dani is a favorite with locals – especially their ice cream
  • Serbs write in the cyrillic alphabet and Croats write in a form of latin script
Daily Outdoor Market in Vukovar, Croatia

Daily Outdoor Market in Vukovar, Croatia

Although we did not have time to stop and peruse the outdoor market we did observe a lot of locals shopping for food, clothing, kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies, and the sort of items typically found in hardware stores.

Memorial to Defenders of Vukovar

Memorial to Defenders of Vukovar

Did You Know?… Battle of Vukovar – facts from local guide Ivor:

  • Was devastated during a three-month siege in 1991 by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav National Army
  • Vukovar was attacked by 60,000 Yugoslav soldiers
  • Local volunteer army stopped 250 tanks that were headed to Osijek
  • Currently has a population divided between Croats and Serbs – is divided too by animosity
  • The White Cross is a memorial to the defenders of Vukovar (overlooking the confluence of the Danube and Vuka rivers)
  • There are still mine fields throughout the region (it is not wise to venture off the roads and paths)
Military Tank in Vukovar

Military Tank in Vukovar

During the 50-minute drive between Vukovar and Osijek we saw many bombed out buildings – now all that remains are just the ruins of what once were thriving businesses and family homes. This was a war that we did not know many details about, and although Ivor was only 3 years old when the war started he had many tales to share regarding how it affected the people from this region.

Bombed Out Building near Vukovar, Croatia

Bombed Out Building near Vukovar, Croatia

Did You Know?… Osijek:

  • Is the fourth largest city in Croatia with a population of 114,616
  • Is located on the right bank of the Drava River near the confluence of the Danube
  • Is the largest city and the economic/cultural center of the eastern Croatian region of Slavonia
  • Was hard hit during the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s
  • Is known for its fabulous local food
  • Is home of the beers Osječko and Esseker
Franciscan Church in Osijek

Franciscan Church in Osijek

Once we arrived at the Franciscan Church (it has an amazing baroque interior) near Osijek we enjoyed a beautiful guitar and vocal concert by two local teenagers.

Guitar Concert in Osijek Franciscan Church

Guitar Concert in Osijek Franciscan Church

Following the concert there was a little time to shop for souvenirs before walking with Ivor through the district known as Tvrdja (The Fortress).

Tvrdja - The Fortress - in Osijek, Croatia

Tvrdja – The Fortress – in Osijek, Croatia

Did You Know?… Tvrdja:

  • Is the self-contained 18th-century Hapsburg defensive fortress just east of Osijek city center
  • Is a baroque military compound designed by Maximillian de Gosseau in 1721
  • Contains interesting buildings such as Church of St. Michael, Museum of Slavonia, University of Osijek, Archaeological Museum
  • At night it is a hotspot with many restaurants, bars, discos and clubs
  • Did not sustain damage during the war
Lunch at the home of a Croatian family

Lunch at the Home of a Croatian Family

Lunch at the home of a Croatian family:
One of the main highlights of our Uniworld Eastern Europe Explorer cruise was having lunch at the home of a wonderful Croatian family. A short 10-km drive through the countryside from Osijek took us to the village of Bilje, where eight passengers from our bus spent about 90 minutes having lunch and conversing with the Aleksander family.

Lunch with a Croatian Family in Bilje, Croatia

Lunch with a Croatian Family in Bilje, Croatia

Not only did the family make us a delicious lunch with fresh ingredients straight from their garden, but we learned a little about what they experienced in the war with the Serbs – not only did they lose all of their possessions, but also family members were killed. The family also runs a B&B in their house – Seoski Turizam Aleksander – that we would love to stay at; it is very popular with cyclists passing through this region.

Lunch with Croatian Family

Lunch with Croatian Family

For lunch we dined on chicken that was probably the freshest and most tender we have ever eaten – it was wandering around their garden the night before. They grow their own fruit and vegetables and make their own version of maraskino – a very potent cherry liqueur.

Lunch at the Home of a Croatian Family

Lunch at the Home of a Croatian Family

After lunch we went into the garden where the mother, Helena, showed off her abundant garden and picked fresh blackberries for us to snack on while we waited for the coach to return and take us on to the next stop of our tour.

Tasting Croatian Wine

Tasting Croatian Wine

Wine Tasting:
Our final stop of the tour was to a local business where we were entertained by the owner (he is quite a character and also runs guided tours of the nearby Kopacki Rit Nature Park) as he gave us a short lecture on the wine industry in the region. We then sampled the wine and also some local specialties – kulenova seka (paprika flavored salami), ajvar (a Macedonian red pepper relish), and a local sweet bread with chopped nuts.

Sampling Kulenova Seka and Ajvar

Sampling Kulenova Seka and Ajvar

Many of our fellow passengers agreed that this included shore excursion had been one of the most memorable and enjoyable of the trip thus far. In our opinion, guests that chose not to take this tour and stay either at the ship or in Vukovar missed out on the opportunity to really spend time with the locals and learn about their culture.

Our group returned to the ship around 4:00 p.m. and River Princess set sail for Budapest shortly thereafter.

Rebuilt Building in Vukovar, Croatia

Rebuilt Building in Vukovar, Croatia

At 6:00 p.m. we joined other passengers for the River Heritage Club cocktail party in the lounge – by invitation only for repeat Uniworld passengers. Then at 6:45 p.m. Cruise Manager Heiner Schmidt held a port talk to inform us about the various excursions the following day in Budapest in Hungary, followed by dinner in the restaurant.

Marinated Balkan Feta Cheese Appetizer

Marinated Balkan Feta Cheese Appetizer

Sirloin Steak with Fries

Sirloin Steak with Fries

Dessert - Berry Lasagna with White Chocolate Mousse

Dessert – Berry Lasagna with White Chocolate Mousse

Our evening entertainment was again provided by Freddy, but this time he performed a classical piano concert that was splendid and showcased his extensive musical talents. We also enjoyed a marvelous piano piece from the youngest passenger onboard – a 9-year old girl travelling with her parents and grandparents.

If You Go:

Continue Reading WAVEJourney’s Uniworld Eastern Europe Explorer River Cruise Review:

Cruise Overview | Bucharest | Peles Castle | Bran Castle | Bucharest City Tour | Uniworld River Princess | Giurgiu: Embarkation | Rousse to Varna & the Black Sea | Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi | Captain’s Welcome Gala | Vidin, Belogradchik & Baba Vida Fortress | Iron Gates | Donji Milanovac | Viminacium Archaeological Site | Sava River | Belgrade City Tour | Deck Dining | Vukovar & Osijek | Cruising the Danube to Budapest | Budapest City Tour | Budapest Parliament Building Guided Tour | Gabcikovo Hydroelectric Dam and Lock | Bratislava City Tour | Captain’s Farewell Dinner | Vienna City Tour |

Notes: WAVEJourney travelled from Bucharest to Vienna as guests of Uniworld River Cruise Collection from July 25 to August 8, 2012.

 

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