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The winding Drava “drew” Križnica

The beginning of Križnica is marked by the dynamic lifecycle of the Drava which has shaped Križnica with it’s winding and unrestrained flow, but has also isolated it from the rest of the land.

The source of the Drava is in Austrian Tirol, flowing through Carinthia and Lower Styria in the direction of Hungary and then enters Croatia where it merges with the swelled Mura flowing from Graz, and later flows into the Danube near Aljmaš. It’s fast flow slows down in Slavonia. Since the river bed nearly never had solid banks that would be strong enough to withstand the strength, it often flooded and created new river beds, creating and forming new marshes and swamps with it’s currents.

The Drava is the largest river flowing from Maribor to the Danube and it’s waters flowing into the Black Sea. It used to be the oldest “road” of Podravina, even though navigability has been neglected by not clearing stamps, fallen trees and debris that can be dangerous for navigation. The Drava was navigable from Styria for small boats, for larger boats from Maribor to Osijek, from which it was navigable for the biggest boats. People have navigated it by rafts and small, short boats and only downriver. Navigating upriver was not possible, not because of water depth, but because there was no organized pulling by horses or oxen. The river had many arms and curves so the upriver pulling would have to be often switched from one bank to the other.

The Drava has snow-rainfall regime with high-waters appearing twice a year, so in the past there were common floods which happened in spring after the snow melted and in autumn. In a short period whole villages had been flooded, all passages blocked which would last for 14 to 30 days. For this time all passages were blocked so travelling by horse carriages were not possible, only by foot or smaller boats with the risk of drowning. Because of the strong current, especially during high water, sandbars (deposit of sand on the banks) were often flooded away and new ones were created elsewhere. Marshes and swamps were created in lowlands that were overgrown by shrubs after the floods.

Blessed land

In the 18th century travel writers described Podravina like this: “He who travels trough this blessed land, on all sides comes across swamps with no bottoms, marshes and mud, impassable mountains with sudden steep endings and deep valleys, vast dark forests, wide and complete plains where the end is not noticeble. The delightful nature as if smiling: showing it’s breathtaking beauty where ever you look. The benevolence of nature are the beautiful forests constisting of mainly oak, but also beech, birch, aspen, alder, hasel, wild vines and many types of wild fruit trees. In areas where the Drava flows you can often find white aspen, whose three inch thick hollow spungie bark can be used as cork. The Drava’s bank are covered with trees, mostly oak which prevails in the giant Slavonian forests, which reach highest beauty and give the best wood for boat building”.

In the times of the Osman Empire, Europeans describes the Drava as the furthest river from the Osman neighbour and the closest to central European develop cities.

The Drava doesn’t respect set borders between politicians or land books

Since ancient times the Drava has been a big and dangerous river so it often was a natural border between regions, kingdoms and empires. The official border between Croatia and Hungary wasn’t established until 1919, but the Drava does not respect the deals between politicians or land books, even today it flows freely, in spite of many mounds, dams and rocks.

The bonds between each side had never been severed, except perhaps during the State of Yugoslavia from 1918 – 1941, when the border between Yugoslavia and Hungary was strictly monitored and every crossing was treated as an offence. Even then there were illegal connections like the famous crossing into Hungary of Stjepan Radić in 1923 while escaping arrest. Then there was 1956, the time of the Hungarian revolution when Hungarian refugees found good reception and support of the people on the right bank of the Drava, so many refugees spent a longer period in Koprivnica. Strong influences coming from the Hungary and vice versa are seen even today in common objects, songs and music, which is especially noticeable in the Drava region and the language, traditions and habits of the village folk.

The Drava’s gold seekers and lumberjacks

In this area there were many strong hard-working and persistent people who made a living in cutting trees and transporting the lumber on the river, and by searching for gold dust. Today these activities have practically disappeared because lumber is transported on roads and the construction of dams causes much less gold dust to flow in the river.

Flour from wooden river mills

Another speciality are the Drava mills which used to have an important role in the life of people. It was there that the grain was milled for baking bread, one of the key foods for humans. Mills were commonly built on streams and rivers because of the constant strength of the current that was needed to move the milling stone. The beginnings of the mills in Podravina are in the 14th century. They were an amusing sight. They were mostly wooden water mills. The water moved the mill wheel and it moved the sharpened mill stones which transformed the grains into flour. Those mills functioned in balance between man and nature. People built and maintained them according to the knowledge and efforts of their ancestors. Except for the fact that they were one of the elements of existence for the people who lived near the Drava, it had also become one of the symbols of identity of the people.

The Prinke family

Križnica is a village that appered in the 1880 census. That year it had 174 inhabitants. Until the middle of the 19th century it was mostly covered in forests which were hardly accessible because of crossing the river. Therefore the government started selling and leasing the forests. The biggest leaser was the Prinke family from Baboč who earned the title of earl from the Šomšić (Somssich) family by inheriting land and family relations. Since the Prinke family had estates in neighbouring Hungary and the exploitation of forests was a lucrative business, Ignac, and later his son Šandor, leases up to 900 hectares of forests and fertile land, brought workers and their families and built a smaller manor, or administrative building, on the spot where the “Dravska iža” restaurant is located today.

It is interesting to notice that some families from the nearby village of Otrovanec had their inns in Križnica which is noticeable by local surnames from Otrovanec – Franjić and Tišljar.

Križnica’s name

It is assumed that Križnica got it’s name because of the shape of it’s peninsulas and the paths that crossed each other – the Franjić peninsula, Segedin, Jadica, the Narrow port and Guljež.

Križnica is the name for various ritual breads and buns which symbolise different crops, and in other terms it even means fertility. The bread was mostly round like the one shown in Hrvoje’s misal from the beginning of the 15th century. In the 20th century many names for Christmas bread: badnjača, ljetnica, božić, božićnjak, krsnica or križnica and česnica. In Central and Panonian Croatia the bread was commonly decorated with different shapes of dough, of which especially those from Srijem with symbols of the cross.

There is a connection between a sail from a sail boat, and from ancient times it is a symbol that illiterate people use as a signature on a document.

There is also a connection between the meaning of the word cross and the symbol of the cross. The decorative and the symbolic sign usually consists of two lines which are crossed at the right angle. It had been used as early as the neolithic in Egypt, China and Knosos on the island of Crete. The oldest form of the cross is the swastika, which is a symbol of luck and health and the Egyptian cross as a symbol of life and immortality.

In Ancient Greece, the cross consisted of two crossed bars, it was a construction used for hanging or crucifying slaves or criminals. According to Roman law crucifixion was an especially shameful penalty for rebels and pirates.

However, the most widespread meaning is in Christianity, where the cross is the most significant symbol, the symbol of Jesus’ suffering. The cross as a symbol is used by priests, it is found on altars, churches, bell towers, graves and crossroads. Priests wear crosses on their necks, believers keep them in their homes to show their faith. Catholic and Orthodox believers make the sign of the cross, and the shortest form of Christian blessing is “In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit”. In construction work the cross can be seen in the plan of a church. On the east side for the Greek cross and on the west side for the Latin cross.

We can freely say that the name Križnica bears a special force and connection which we have tried to illustrate because the geographical space and the content which are offered here are an invitation to connecting people from different parts of the world, different cultures and religions.

Today Križnica is a tourist destination on the left bank of the Drava right next to the border with Hungary. It owes its establishment to the Prinke family. In 2011 it had 128 inhabitants and 84 houses.

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