Marathon effort in Croatia

Walking near Osijek Croatia

Everyone knows that to compete in a marathon you need to do a lot of training. But unfortunately for Intrepid’s Alex Kewley, he had no prior warning that he was about to undertake an unusual Slavonian style festival-cum-sporting event…

“I had timed my Balkan adventure perfectly. I stepped off the train from Zagreb in Osijek and was greeted by my good friend Ivan, with news that I was in time for Surduk.

What’s Surduk? Imagine my pleasant surprise when he explained that it’s a kind of wine marathon. Baranja is a small region 40km north of Osijek, famous for its wine production (most notably its shiraz), and for the past 8 years has hosted an event called the ‘Vinski Maraton’ or Surduk.

As we drove to our guesthouse, Ivan both educated and terrified me with his animated, arm-flailing recollections and imitations of past events and its competitors.

I don’t recall if I had a warm-up breakfast before it all began, but I remember it began in the morning with the donning of a wine glass attached to a cord, worn around the neck. From there, each competitor was provided with an illustrated map of the village and its 12 wine cellars. To complete the marathon you had to visit each cellar, drink 1 glass of their wine, then they would sign you off on the map and you could progress to the next cellar.

On the map their was space to mark what you rated the wine out of 5 – so in most cases the cellar masters insisted you drink two glasses before signing – or not signing at all until you had 3 or more and were completely satisfied.

Needless to say I am still alive, so obviously I didn’t complete the marathon. What I did do though was take part in too many post-marathon activities, like visiting the local discos and learning how to crack a stock whip. The next morning, along with the headache from hell, to remind me that it all wasn’t just a dream were my wine-stained lips and shirt, the club entry stamps up my arm and a strange welted stripe across my cheek!”

Photo: walking near Osijek by James Johnson.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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