THE BEST PLACES YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
Scouting Report 2007
We asked 10 people who explore for a living to reveal the places they've recently "discovered"--in other words, the best places you've never heard of (and, frankly, neither had we). Go now, before the rest of the world catches up.
BARANJA REGION, CROATIA
Anne Wood: Program director for Mountain Travel Sobek, a small-group adventure-travel company founded in 1969 (mtsobek.com)
Anne Wood spends about a third of the year in Europe and the Pacific for Mountain Travel Sobek. During a recent visit to Croatia, she became fascinated by the remote northeastern region of Slavonia.
Osijek, a town about a three-hour drive from Zagreb and the scene of much violence between the Croats and the Serbs in the early 1990s, has, Wood says, "a beautiful old square, with 18th-century Austrian-influenced architecture in pastel blues and yellows." Less than an hour's drive north of Osijek is the Baranja wine region. "Flat fields of wheat turn into rolling vineyards dotted with tiny A-frame cottages," says Wood. "These are actually centuries-old, family-run wineries."
Behind each house, a big wooden door opens into a wine cellar where 200-year-old barrels store traminac, pinot blanc, merlot, and other varieties. "Usually somebody brings fresh-baked bread from the kitchen, and then we sample wines and enjoy the scenery," says Wood. She recommends the cellars in Zmajevac and Suza, and Baranjska Kuca, a restaurant in Karanac. There, musicians play traditional songs while venison, sausages, and fish stew are prepared in an outdoor oven and served family-style.
Though locals are friendly, "it's not easy to find your way around," says Wood. "People don't speak much English, if any."
How to get there: Wine Cellar Josíc, 194 Planina, Zmajevac, 011-385/98-252-657, josic.hr; Wine Cellar Mihalj Gerstmajer, 31 Petöfi Sandora, Zmajevac 011-385/91-351-5586; Baranjska Kuca, 99 Kolodvorska, Karanac, 011-385/31-720-180, baranjskakuca.cjb.net.