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History of Vojvodina and Panonian plain - Wealth of Diversity

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The Danube region in Serbia was until three hundred years ago only sparsely populated due to its large areas of swampland and waterways. The Pannonian Plain, which bordered the left bank of the Danube, was 80% covered in water and unsuitable for habitation.

Nevertheless, many have passed through these parts down the ages: the Illyrians, the Thracians, the Celts, the Dacians ¬– then there were the Romans, the Goths, the Sarmatians, the Huns, the Gepidaes, the Avars and the Franks. In the 6th and 7th centuries the Slavs settled here, and from the 10th century this region was under Hungarian and later Austro-Hungarian rule.

During the Middle Ages the Ottoman Empire had ambitious plans for the conquest of Europe and this route, due to its poor opportunities for defence, was most suitable for use in this undertaking. In fact the Turks ruled this region for around 150 years, reaching the gates of Vienna on two occasions.

For these reasons, the Austro-Hungarians chose to reinforce the defences of their great empire right here on the Danube, launching the most ambitious project of its time in Europe – the building of a canal through the Pannonian Plain and the settling of various peoples here from almost all over Europe.

Besides the people who already lived in these lands (mostly Hungarians, Serbs and Romanians), SETTLING BEGINS with: Danube Swabians, Slovaks, Czechs, Rhutenians, Ukrainians, Slovenes, Serbs and Croats from Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia and other parts of the Balkans, and even Spaniards, Italians, French, Jews, Armenians and Poles. Bulgarian Catholics, Gypses and numerous other smaller ethnic communities also found refuge here, in what was for all of them a kind of Promised Land.

Although some of these peoples have disappeared, there are more than 25 different ethnic communities living in Vojvodina today, with six languages in official use (a number exceeded only by the European Parliament) and numerous religious communities. Thus all of these people today comprise the indigenous population of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, and that is why Vojvodina enjoys a high degree of autonomy in Serbia.

Even today in many villages this communities strive to preserve their culture, customs, tradition, cuisine, music and folk-dance. It is this wealth of diversity that is the most valuable resource of this region and our basis for creating a unique tourism product – a cultural tour that includes visits to villages inhabited by people who are striving to protect their uniqueness from being forgotten, urbanisation and globalisation.

Despite a turbulent history, all of the peoples who came to this fertile plain and defended Europe and Christendom from Ottoman aspirations found their peace here, and a harmonious coexistence with the other peoples. Today they are constituent peoples with no difference in rights in relation to the majority Serb population comprising Serbia today.

In order to promote this programme we have chosen 14 villages that are best prepared for promotion as tourist destinations, and plus 13 villages with whom in the coming period we will be working on developing tourism and improving the quality of services.

There are villages in which some of these ethnic communities comprise the majority population, while in others the population is relatively proportional.

In one such village (Belo Blato in the Banat district, with a population of around 1400), there are Slovaks, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Serbs and 16 other peoples. All the villages communicate amongst themselves in four languages (of the seven that are in active use) and belong to eight different religious confessions! The meeting of different peoples and cultures in this region, their intermingling and their mutual respect and acceptance, have contributed to the wealth that we see today.

The tours we have created involve a different welcome for our visitors in every village. They will have a chance to meet different local people, learn about different customs and traditions, try the different tastes of local specialities and feel the different rhythms of folklore dance. All this adds up to a unique experience, as they use old tools, try old crafts, take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, a boat, a bike or a tractor, enjoy the lapping of the Danube to the sounds of the tamburica and try the best local wines and rakija brandies. Then, if they wish, they can try to making sausages in Turija, or making straw pictures in Tavankut. If they come to Banoštor in autumn the men can pick grapes and the women can tread them. In Selenča the ladies can put on many-layered Slovak skirts and cycling for the local market to buy healthy organic ingredients. Then they can learn how to prepare a healthy organic meal. In Golubinci they can take part in a traditional wedding and be the guests of the bride. They can also learn to dance the Serbian kolo or the Hungarian čardaš or the dance like a Gypsy girls. 

Much can also be learned about the people, their customs and tradition at the hosts’ dining table. As Vojvodina is a melting pot of many people’s from East and West, so the food of the region is a mixture of a variety of tastes. There is a wealth of culinary know-how and mutual influences from German, Serbian, Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak cooking, with many meals also derived from Russian, oriental and other national cuisines from the surrounding area.

No meal is complete without a drink, and so besides good wines and the beer-drinking tradition in Vojvodina villages, guests can try walnut or dogwood berry liqueur (which cannot be found in restaurants), as well as non-alcoholic beverages such as sour cherry, elderflower and beetroot juices. Each village has some little culinary secret to be discovered. Vojvodina villages still maintain the traditional Sunday lunch, where the whole family gathers together. These occasions invariably feature soup, boiled meats, sauce and other goodies.

As part of the programmes we have created, our guests will not only be able to expirience new cultures and cuisine on a daily basis, they will also have the opportunity to see all the  other highlights of Vojvodina too – such as castles, wine cellars, farmsteads, towns...

Depending on guests’ preferences, accommodation can be provided either in 3- or 4-star hotels, or in private boarding houses with hosts who have star-rated accommodation and who have been trained to European standards.

All of these villages are located two hours at most from Belgrade, and on average there is a 35-minute drive between them. The price of the tours (for a group of about 20 people), with coach transport, guide, full board and rich itinerary, depending on the category and type of accommodation, comes to between 50 and a 100 euro per day. We can make a program depending of interests of guests. Program can be from 1 to more days and also combine with the rest of Serbia or Balkan region.

This project promote connection and contact with people from different cultures who have shared the territory of the Danube region over the last two to three hundred years. Nowhere in Europe are there so many different peoples living in such a small area as here. The wealth of diversity of this region is unique in Europe. Meeting different people and their cultures, enjoying different culinary specialities, music, folk dancing and the other features of the customs and traditions of these peoples is the guarantee of a unique and unforgettable experience. 

So, if your clients are looking for a unique experience, if they want to meet local people still living in the village environment, learn first-hand about different cultures, traditions, and old crafts and skills, and enjoy different, almost forgotten culinary specialities along the way, then they have a warm welcome in Vojvodina and the Danube region.

This project realize Ister21, Danube tourism cluster of Serbia i cluster leader Magelan corporation, a destination management company.

The Danube Tourism Cluster is an association of different companies that each have some connection with tourism in the Danube area in Serbia. These companies, more than forty of them, include hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, boats of various sizes, transport companies, wine producers and souvenir makers.

In order to market our services more effectively, we have initiated a project, supported by the government, through which we want to create a unique tourism product to present to the market.

Representative: Biljana Marčeta, cluster manager

More about Wealth of Diversity project www.wealthofdiversity.com

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