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Otok and županja: from suvara to the neighbouring čardak

Category: Sights | Date: 25.06.2014.

We all know the watermills, the windmills, the mills which are driven by wind, steam or water. Though, not many have heard of the Suvara Mill. This kind of mill requires physical strength to start and its mill stones were moved by animals, mostly by horses. It was only natural, because at that time in Slavonia horses were used most of the time for hard work. Since there are not any rivers with strong current, horses were the solutions for the problem.

In the town of Otok (on the western part of Srijem, 20 km away from Vinkovac, Vukovar and Županja) there is a horse driven mill, which was built in the 19th century. The mill is the highest, preserving its original state cultural heritage in Croatia and Southeast Europe.

Thanks to the natural and cultural heritage in Otok, rural tourism started to develop here along the lines of Austria’s and Slovenia’s rural tourism in 1975. In fact, the rural tourism started to develop in Eastern Croatia first and this contributed to the development of the town of Otok. If you happen to travel around Vinkovac, make sure you visit the town. You can always see the Suvara Mill.The village, the houses, the surroundings are designed to preserve their ethnographic values and to demonstrate visitors the old equipments, items, heritages, social life and habits.

The land mill was driven by oxen, cows but mostly by horses. It was used for grain milling: wheat, barley, corn, oats and sometimes salt, too for human and animal consumption.

The first written documentations of the Suvara date back to the second half of the 18th century. Maria Teresa queen of Austria and Croatian empress encouraged the construction of Suvara on this land, to protest against the demolition of mills.

Building Suvara was a serious architectural venture; joint efforts were made to build the richer houses.

At the end of the 19th century there was a fire on the island, but still many were coming to the Suvara following that, until the middle of the 20th century. Particularly delicious foods were prepared from the home-grown plants that were grinded in Suvara. But by electricity, completely over-shadowed the Suvara Mill, due to this fact the Mill started to wreck. Suvara is the only thing that has been left in Otok, this is its special attraction. It is gathering more and more fans, who are fond of natural and heathy foods.

The Horse breeders’ Association of Otok frequently shows the grinding in Suvara to the visitors. Suvara was introduced in Japan in a lecture, which drew special attention among the Japanese who highly appreciate traditional values. The Suvara of Otok is the only mill survived that the local people call „Tomašićev” or „Clara Suvara”. On it, a carving says „1863”, the year which is considered the mill’s year of „birth”. The mill is still interesting and unique. It’s a „Mecca”, a curious object of study for construction professionals and the enthusiasts of mill stones pass on the tranquillity and devotion for the ordinary simple techniques through this. This is a real open air ethno museum. When you leave the town, you can be sure to take with you as a souvenir in your heart the terracotta style of Suvara.

Border Tower as a museum.

Twenty kilometers away from Otok, on the south, left bank of the River Sava there is the town of Županja. Rijeka's River, the Sava was a border between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire for a long time, so was Županja on the border between two worlds. As they used to say it, it was "the border of Christianity." It would surely be a great experience for anyone to visit the Županje border watchtower. It is the only surviving military-security structure along the River Sava. The watch tower was built in the early 19th century, just like the central border station neighbouring Turkey.

The Županja tower is a guard tower with an enclosed porch, where the border guards and the captain lived. The internal staircase led upstairs to the porch, where the commander could see well the border and the areas of the border. Despite the fact that the main features of the building remained it cannot be seen in its original form. Today the urban museum works in it, which was founded in 1953, the central and largest museum is located in the guard tower. For the design of the museum the historical and cultural objects were first exposed between the columns in the interior. The border tower in Županja is an old cultural-historical and architectural monument, and that is why it has been declared a protected class "A" monument.

The watch tower shows only a small fraction of the region's history. It offers rooms with paleontological collection of the fauna of the Pannonia landscape from the quarter period the bone remains are on display. Then there are the archaeological finds from prehistoric times to the middle Ages. The permanent exhibition showing the different historical periods in chronological order is owned by the Town Museum. Here are the remaining materials of the Turkish period, memories of the war period on display and the former "baby Beams" pharmacy's mood comes alive, too. Items exhibited are from the 18th-19th century, evoking the former life, like the contemporary parlour from the thirties of the 20th century. You can view an exhibition of objects that reflect and follow the technological development: Hanamanova lamps, typewriters, video cameras, etc.

Within the framework of the exhibition one can view some multimedia documents dated from the recent past, which show the region of Županja. Photos, documents about the first and second world wars, about the post-war socialist constructions in Županja, documentaries and review of the key economic and social crisis in the patriotic war.