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 arrival in Osijek perfectly. I stepped off the train from Zagreb 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!”
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* photo by James Johnson – Intrepid Photography Competition