In the center of a fertile, vineyard-rich valley, which the ancient Romans knew as "Vallis Aurea," or Golden Valley, lies Požega (pop. 21,000), the prettiest city in central Slavonia. Požega was first mentioned in historical documents in 1227, but not much remains on the ground of that early era of local history. Stari Grad, a 13th-century fortress, today exists only as a small, thickly wooded hilltop park right beside
the town center. During the 150-year-long period of Ottoman rule that began in 1537, Požega become central Slavonia's most important administrative and military center. With the expulsion of the Turks in 1688, a new era of Habsburg control ensued. In 1739 the town was ravaged by a plague that killed 798 citizens, but by the mid-18th century it had become a vibrant university center, and the town core was fast on its way to assuming its present appearance. By the 19th century Požega's cultural dynamism had earned it a reputation as the "Athens of Slavonia." In 1847 it became the first city to officially adopt the Croatian language. The construction of the central Slavonian railway, which began in 1894, was vital to the local economy as the 20th century arrived. Today it is a quiet city, surrounded by forests, with cute, colorful houses and wonderfully fresh air. It makes a lovely place for a day trip, or as a base while you explore nearby Papuk Nature Park.