The day of Saint Anne, or „Blagdan Sv. Ane“ is a big church holiday in Croatia. Saint Anne was Jesus' grandmother and mother of Virgin Mary.
Every last Sunday in July a riverboat is towed upriver on Drava toward the Mura-Drava estuary. During that day hundreds of pilgrims pass from Legrad to the Hungarian side of the Drava and walk towards the church of St. Michael. But, let's start from the beginning.
For thousands of years the Mura – Drava estuary changed its course. It moved from left, to right, erroded and filled the banks. It even moved the town of Legrad from one side of the river to another. Imagine a town being on left bank of Drava in 1710, then suddenly appearing on the right side and in another historic county.
The Croatian Amazon
There's a reason why they call the estuary the „Croatian Amazon“, as it's one of the last untouched riverlands in Europe. Twice a year the inhabitants of Legrad organise a trip to the left bank of Drava to Hungarian side. On one such occasion we decided to pass the Drava/Mura Estuary and cycle into Hungary.
The trip through West Hungary
For almost half a century, Hungary was behind the Iron Curtain. Closed and unapproachable for its southern neighbors, a closed state with people talking an unfamiliar language. Today its western borders are still one of the poorest parts of Hungary, yet you can see the region slowly rebuilding and waking up from the post transition slumber.
A group of 10 left Čakovec, grew to over 30 around Prelog and when we entered Legrad it was time to marvel at the sights of the county, the estuary and wait for the riverboat. Once we sailed over the broad river of Drava, we were officially "behind the Iron Curtain". Rengerorseg checked our ID cards (their police), and we went to climb towards the church of St. Michael.
It's quite unbelievable how on one side you have plains, without any rises, while on other side you encounter steep hills. The top presented us a splendid view towards Varaždin, Koprivnica and even Čakovec in the distance.
The road took us into Hungary, we raced down the hills and back up for the next 70km while the sun warmed us well over 33 degrees.
Back into Međimurje
From the border pass in Letenye/Goričan, a place that connects highways from Budapest, Ljubljana and Zagreb. After almost 7 hours in scorching summer sun, passing over the Mura river felt like a blessing. We knew that there were no more hills, no more climbs only two overpasses and we're home.
Međimurje and Hungary are counties that were intertwined for centuries, yet for 50 years they were bordered with tanks, razor wire and deep rivers.
After 147 kilometers, making a round trip home felt great. Until the next time...