Green Međimurje was once the place where gold was being found in the rivers Drava and Mura. People who lived on its shores often went for gold rush in time of year when agriculture was not so demanding. The gold on the river sandbank came from the Alps, taken by the flows in spring.
Međimurje goldsmiths, as they were known, transferred this knowledge from generation to generation. In 1939 over 200 people went on Drava, searching the valuable gold nuggets. They were floating the river in long wooden boats, taking two persons. One gold rush lasted for at least ten days. The village of Donji Vidovec was especially known for this activity.
Amongst the inhabitants of this village is Matija Mate Horvat, the last living gold expert. For decades he has been visiting the river with two wooden planks, sieve, shovel, buckets. He was working with Mr Dragutin Horvat, another gold rusher. The two never got rich from gold, but the best day in career was when they have found 17 grams of gold! Still, purchase of gold did give them good earnings for their families. The Drava and Mura gold is among the cleanest in the world, and thus gets a good price.
For one piece of pure gold, Mr Mate should work few weeks in the murky waters. After cleaning, the gold pieces are put in a bowl with mercury, which gives pure gold in the end of the process. Still, there isn’t enough gold on these rivers for commercial exploitation. Thus, Empress and Queen Mary Theresia gave in 1776 concession to the villagers of Donji Vidovec to search for gold.
The gold search is now part of tourist activities and team building in Međimurje.