Wine growing and production have had an uninterrupted tradition of almost 1,800 years in the region of Ilok. In the 3rd century, after the Roman Emperor Probus abolished prohibitions that had been in force on wine growing and production in the Pannonian regions and introduced new quality varieties, the wine-growing hills of Ilok received an impetus for development. The Odescalchi dukes reaffirmed the position of Ilok as an important wine-growing region. In the 17th century, they built unique cellars underneath the Odescalchi castle, planted even more quality varieties and started bottling wine. These old cellars are used to the present day and represent one of the most interesting attractions of Ilok. In 1899, the Royal School of Viticulture was founded in Ilok, which later developed into the Agricultural School and today’s High School for wine growers, wine makers and fruit growers. The wines produced by the company Iločki podrumi d.d., Traminac, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Rein Riesling and Chardonnay are world-class wines, and the company itself has been among the strongest Croatian companies for a long time now. In addition, there is an increasing number of small and quality private wineries which focus on wine growing and wine tourism. Every visitor can choose to visit one of the typical cellars of Srijem in the hills or under the houses or experience modern wineries. Wherever you choose to go, you will be able to learn about the process of wine production and enjoy a cordial family atmosphere.
The Odescalchi Castle is the central building situated in the medieval town of Ilok, housing the famous old Ilok cellars and the Museum of the Town of Ilok.
The Odescalchi Castle is an impressive building built on the foundations of the castle of King Nikola Iločki from the 15th century. Nikola's medieval castle with the entire Ilok estate, which at the time occupied the greater part of Srijem, were given by Emperor Leopold to Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi and his family as a reward for their help in liberating Ilok from the Turks. The Pope's nephews, aristocrats from Italy, expanded the castle and changed its style. The castle was eventually rebuilt in the Baroque-Classicist style. They developed at the time very modern wine cellars beneath the castle and gave impetus to the growth of viticulture and wine production. After 1945, the Odescalchi left their Ilok estate, and their descendants remain a part of the Italian nobility, living near Rome.
In 1697 the Austrian Emperor Leopold donated Ilok and the estates in Srijem to the Italian family Odescalchi, as a compensation for the aid given by the Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi for the war against the Ottoman rule. So Ilok became the centre of the large estate run by the counts of Odescalchi. They built a three-storey, U-shaped manor with double arcades in the courtyard.
Today the manor holds a local museum. On the ground floor there is a restaurant, and the basement hides old wine cellars. There is also a small hotel / pension inside, but since the manor is currently under a big reconstruction I don't think this is available at the moment.
The Franciscan parish church of St.Ivan (John) Kapistran dates back to 18th century, but it owns today shape to early 20th century redesign by Herman Bollé (who also did works on Zagreb cathedral). The church features tombstones representing Nikola and Lovro Ilocki. The main altar is decorated with the painting featuring St. Ivan Kapistran, the defender of Belgrade, who died in Ilok in 1456.
Behind the church there is a two-storeys U-shaped Franciscan monastery which includes the cell of St. Ivan Kapistran and a library with around 4,000 books (16th to 19th c.).
Ilok is surrounded by Fruska Gora hills, area known for producing wines since the Middle Ages, if not even earlier. As soon as the Odescalchi family arrived here they organized the production of wines. Under their manor there are large substructures hiding an old wine cellar.
The wine cellar is now part of the "Ilocki podrumi" company, the largest wine producer in the region, and the visit to the old cellars is a must. Unfortunately, most of the old oak barrels are here just for the display. During the occupation of Ilok by Serbian forces in the beginning of the 1990s they took the wine from the barrels but did not clean them properly. Some chemical processes started that ruined the old barrels forever. Renewal methods so far have proved to be unsuccessful.
Quality wines are still produced here, Grasevina, Traminac, Pinot, Chardonney and Rajnski Rizling being the best this cellar has to offer. When Queen Elisabeth II was crowned, the English Court ordered 11.000 bottles of best Ilok wines for the occasion.
Strong protective walls were obviously not strong enough to stop the Ottomans on their conquest of the European territory in the 16th century.
From 1566 to 1697 Ilok was under Ottoman rule and was the center of the Srijem Sanjak. Not much is left from the Ottoman times. A rare building that is still preserved is the Turkish mausoleum - Turbe - located near the Church and the Odescalchi manor. In the nearby park there are remains of the Hamam (baths), all other traces of the Ottoman rule were erased after Slavonia became part of the Austrian Empire again in the 18th century.
This location was a very important strategic point from the very early ages. The most important family that ruled Ilok was the Kont family, whose member Nikola took the name Ilocki (of Ilok) in mid-15th century. He was also the King of Bosnia and coined his own money.
At this time a castle and a fortress were built here, including the impressive protective walls. The town also had several churches and chapels, a hospital and an almshouse.
Old town of Ilok is located on top of a cliff over the Danube. The river is a border between Croatia and Serbia, and Ilok is the only bigger town in Croatia located directly on Danube.
This easternmost point of Croatia offers the great view of the river, forests and plains of Vojvodina that stretch on the eastern side of the Danube.
In my opinion this is one of the top ten "You Must Sit Down and Enjoy the View" places in Croatia, along the Vidilica in Split, Riva in Zadar and St. Eufemija in Rovinj. Really a must!
We started our Ilok tour with a tour of the old wine cellar. The cellar is over 100 m long. It was first built under the castle and enlarged with time. The present day entrance is at the oposite other end, not from the castle.
The wooden barrels currently serve no purpose other than as attraction for visitors. Normally, they would contain wine, but sadly when Serb forces occupied Ilok and drank all the wine, they did not clean the barrels. Liberation came too late for the barrels. Since most barrels are very old the attempt was made to try and save them, but study showed that they were damaged beyond repair. New barrels will replace these one sin 2005.
This is the main entrance to Ilocki podrumi but it's not used by tour groups because buses park by the castle. The castle is called simply Dvorac (castle). I was quite surprised that it does not have a proper name other than Dvorac.