Culture and tourism

The phenomenon and beauty of naïve art

In the town of Hlebine in the heart of the Drava basin, the 1930s saw the creation of naïveart, a special form of artistic expression spearheaded by two self-taught painters, Ivan Generalić and Franjo Mraz. Their success inspired a whole host of locals to try their hand at painting, and they were joined on the international art scene by creative naïve painters Mirko Virius, Josip Generalić, Mijo Kovačić, Ivan Večenaj, Ivan Lacković-Croata, Martin Mehkek, and many others. Naïve art spread from Hlebine throughout all of the Drava basin (Gola, Molve, Gornja Šuma, Kloštar Podravski, Koprivnica, Đurđevac), and naïve painting became a phenomenon that brought Hlebine, the region, and Croatia worldwide recognition. The power and beauty of naïve art lies in the traditional, somewhat nostalgic atmosphere of its paintings, most of which are painted on glass. Since 2012, painting with oil paints on glass in the naïve style of the Hlebine painting schoolhas borne the status of Croatian intangible cultural heritage. Despite modern trends, naïve painting has been preserved, and the Hlebine circle of painters numbers at around 200.

Artistic experiences

The true experience of naïve art requires getting to know it in the environment where it was created. You can do exactly that on the Gallery Route– a route connecting more than 15 galleries. In addition to the famous Hlebine Gallery, which houses the works of Ivan Generalić, there is also Večenaj Galleryin Gola, Stari Grad Galleryin Đurđevac, which houses both the works of Ivan Lacković-Croata and his endowment of more than a thousand paintings by more than two hundred authors from twenty countries, including some of Croatia’s most famous painters (Vladimir Becić, Vlaho Bukovac, Oton Gliha, Oton Iveković, Đuro Pulitika, Krsto Hegedušić, Zlatko Prica, Vilim Svečnjak…). This impressive endowment has won the gallery the local nickname of “the little Croatian Louvre”. The region also features valuable open-air sculpture collections – the Ecological Garden of Peacein Podravske Sesvete (featuring full-sized oak wood sculptures of famous figures whose works were imbued with closeness to nature and water), the Biblical Garden of Peace in Kalnik (featuring sculptures of biblical figures), and the Eco Garden of the Drava Basin and the River Drava at Ješkovo lake near Gola, managed by the Motacilla Alba Association. There are two fascinating ethnological collections in the region as well – the Slavko Čamba Collection in Đurđevac and the Josip Cugovčan Collection in Podravske Sesvete, which in addition to its ethnological collection also features rich archaeological and paleontological collections, as well as a collection of Easter eggs.

An Easter egg from the heart

The Koprivnica-Križevci county tourist board has created and realised a project that merges the tradition of painting Easter eggs (which has held the status of Croatian intangible cultural heritage since 2008) with naïve painting – An Easter Egg from the Heart. Today, these huge two-metre polyester Easter eggs painted in the naïve style grace numerous galleries, squares, and spaces throughout Croatia and the world, from New York, Paris, Rome, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest to Salzburg, Marseilles, Riga, Munich, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Vukovar, Varaždin, and many other cities. One of these Easter eggs was even given as a gift to Pope Benedict XVI. Before Easter every year in Koprivnica, the only exhibition of large Easter eggs in the world is held on the main square.

Križevci – traditions

The town and its surroundings are best known for its numerous well-preserved architectural monuments. The oldest town in the county is known for a number of things; for being home to the county’s patron saint and the third Croatian to be sainted, St. Marko Krizin: for the Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, an artistic gem with a magnificent iconostasis; and for the Church of the Holy Cross in the old town centre, which boasts the painting “Krvavi križevački sabor”, one of the greatest works of painter Oton Iveković. Križevci also boasts numerous preserved traditions. The Križevačko veliko spraviščefair was one of the first traditional folk events in continental Croatia. It is founded on the legend of a reconciliation between the citizens of Križevci and the nobles of Kalnik, and it has been held every third weekend in June for nearly 50 years. The town is also known for its traditional wine celebrations and the Statute of Križevci, which, aside from defining the rules for a popular wine ceremony to bless young wine, also contains the first Croatian written rules of etiquette in company and at the table.

Koprivnica – Vegeta, bicycles, and historical experiences

The free royal city of Koprivnica was declared the metropolis of the Drava basin long ago in 1356 AD. The centre of the town is dominated by a city park and one of the most beautiful squares in continental Croatia, which features a group of two-storey buildings built between the Baroque and Art Nouveau periods. One of the most important of these buildings is the one housing the Kraluš pub, with its unique interior designed by well-known Croatian artists. The square is dominated by the 1856 city hall building. Koprivnica is also a city of bicycles, and is among the cities in Europe with the most bicycle paths per capita. It is the headquarters of Podravka, Croatia’s best-known food production company, whose Vegeta brand seasoning is one of the most popular and best-known international Croatian products. The town also features a unique museum – the Food Museum. Of the numerous events in the city, two stand out in particular. The Renaissance Festivalis one of the largest historical spectacles in this part of Europe. It is held on the last weekend in August, and its unique atmosphere and events transport visitors to times long past, when knights sharpened their swords to win the hand of their maidens in duels, and traders and craftsmen hawked their wares from stands full of handicrafts beneath the city walls. Hunting falcons circle the air, and the delicious scents that spread through the air invite visitors to sample dishes made only from ingredients used during Renaissance times. Podravski motiviis the largest event celebrating naïve painting, old crafts, folklore, and local cuisine in the open air. It is held every first weekend in July.

Đurđevac – legends and art

Proclaimed Croatian intangible heritage, Legenda o picokimais one of the trademarks of the city of Đurđevac. A festival under the same name brings the town to life across the three days of the last weekend in June, presenting the life of the region’s inhabitants, traditions, and local cuisine. The main event is a unique play held in the historical atmosphere of the old city fortress, presenting an exciting visualization of the siege and defense of the town, which the citizens managed to save from the Turks using a clever trick featuring a chicken (picok). Đurđevac’s Stari Grad fortress is a cultural monument from the 14th century, and it currently houses the City Museum and an especially valuable collection of paintings and sculptures endowed by Ivan Lacković Croata.

Molve - the Roman Marian holy site of the Drava basin

Amidst the gentle landscape of the heart of the Drava basin stands the monumental Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This symbol of the town of Molve dominates the broad plains of the basin. This spectacular, massive church features a 45-metre bell tower built in 1862 and 26 frescoes, and is a destination for local residents and numerous pilgrims from Croatia and other neighbouring countries. Near the church is the Chapel of the Virgin Mary of Molve, which holds a statue of Mary dating from the early Middle Ages. Each year, the statue is brought to the church in a procession for the Assumption of Mary.


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