A few years ago, I was instructed (or, put more correctly, ordered) by my family to take care of our beloved offspring, my niece’s children. Namely, my two hyperactive twins named Ivan and Dario (age 7) and their slightly older but nevertheless energetic sister Lorena (age 9). We were supposed to enjoy our time in Osijek until dinnertime, when my aunt would take over control of the fantastic trio and entertain them for the rest of the evening.
As I was a young lad, with no knowledge whatsoever of dealing with children who seemed to be full of sugar all the time, I unwittingly decided to take them for a tour around the city. The theory was that after an hour of walking, the tots would be so tired that they would sleep until dinnertime, and I would have some time for myself and videogames. Who knows, maybe I would even get an extra slice of cake after dinner for my educational endeavor.
I was also very imaginative. The night before, we watched Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first movie about the adventurous Indiana Jones) , in order to in the kids an interest in archeology and history. But we only managed to make it through the first fifteen minutes, as they were afraid of the snake in the plane (which was completely harmless, and was actually a pet of one of the characters in the movie). However, that didn’t stop them from insisting that I make them toy whips out of my leather belts the following day (for your information, the whip is the weapon of choice of Indiana Jones).
So there I was, in the middle of Osijek, followed by tots armed with my (very expensive) leather belts. The twins were waving them around a lot, but they were no trouble at all compared to Lorena, who intended to practice her whipping skills on my unexpecting bum.
First I brought them to Tvrda, a star-shaped citadel built in 1735. It pretty much surrounds the entire Old Town of Osijek. When it was built it was the largest building of its kind in the area, as it was supposed to keep out the powerful Ottoman invaders. Its existence increased the security of Osijek, so commerce and culture were then free to grow. Franciscans constructed their monastery of Sveti Kriz, while Jesuits constructed Sveti Mihovil (St. Michael’s) Church. Both buildings were built in the first half of the 18th century.
This information might be interesting to Indiana Jones, but not to Ivan, Dario or Lorena. While on tour, showing them the walls and bastions of Tvrda, I actually managed to lose Lorena on the way. Shocked, I took the twins to a friend of mine who runs a café near the walls and asked him to keep an eye on them while I search for the missing, whipping archeologist. After ten minutes of a crazy marathon around the walls, I returned to the café to find Lorena next to her siblings. When asked where she’d disappeared to, she said she was looking for the treasure chest in a dungeon. Whatever that meant.
Having learned my lesson, I decided to change the plans a bit. Outdoors was too risky for this bunch, so I led them to the Museum of Slavonia (the latter being the region of which Osijek is the cultural and administrative center). It is considered the largest universal museum in Croatia, which means it covers exhibits covering everything from nature to the technical sciences in Slavonia. Since Slavonia was inhabited in the ages prior to written history, it is no wonder that its museum features around 400,000 authentic exhibits categorized in hundreds of distinctive collections.
This time, I lost all three kids, as each one of them was interested in a different subject covered by the museum. Ivan had a picture of a dinosaur on his t-shirt, and was easily found
in the prehistoric department. Dario was a greater challenge. I found him whipping the exhibited swords in the medieval part of museum. My belt was damaged beyond repair, but at least the century-old sword did not suffer the same fate. Lorena, as expected, was the biggest trouble to find. When I did track her down, she was charming the attendants of the restoration workshop in the museum. For some reason, she told them she came with her parents, so at first they didn’t let me take her away.
I had two more hours to spend with the children, and was quite desperate. To me, the best thing to do would be to use those belts I gave the kids to tie them down. However, they had a different idea. They wanted to go to the pedestrian bridge crossing the Drava River. It is one of the symbols of Osijek which is reached by taking a walk along a beautiful promenade surrounded by nature.
I was afraid, as a bridge plus active kids didn’t sound like an equation which had a dry result. On the other hand, I was able to blackmail the children with the usual grown-up ultimatum of “We will go there if you promise to behave.”
Fascinatingly , the kids were fine on the bridge. They ran along it the entire time, screaming and waving my expensive belts above their heads. At one moment, I was even relaxed, as I managed to see all three of them at the same time for a whole minute. Two young girls crossed the bridge, and were impressed by my talent with children. In order to show off, I entertained the tots (and girls) by walking on the very edge of the bridge. It didn’t take long for me to lose my balance and end up in the cold water below.
Finally, after another half an hour, we returned home. I was completely wet, covered in mud, and without the slightest trace of pride left in me. My aunt was angry with me, saying that next time, she will send the children off to watch over me, and not vice versa. And the belts got lost along the way. Not that they were that fashionable anymore.
At the end of the day, my conclusion was that Osijek is a great place for young archeologists, historians and bridge architects. As long as they are not armed with fashion items or under the supervision of a responsible young male.