The village of storks

17 February 2023.

Written by Matija Čaić

Čigoč is situated in Nature Park Lonjsko Polje which is worldwide famous for its birds population. In this part, the Sava river flows through Panonian lowland and pours from its riverbed creating swamps that are a perfect living space for many different flying beauties. Čigoč harbours one of the largest population of storks in Europe and that is why European Foundation for Nature Preservance, Euronatur, declared Čigoč the first European village of storks in 1994.  The largest one is in Malpartida de Carceres in Spain.

More storks than people

More than 200 storks live in Čigoč in perfect harmony with only about 120 people. There is a nest on top of almost every house and this place is perfect for observing the storks’ behavior in their peaceful and natural environment. People take care of these magnificent birds by trying not to disturb them much, hoping to preserve or even to increase their population.

Every last Saturday in June there is festival going on that is called „The Day of Storks“ with many cultural, recreational and gourmand contents.

It is interesting that the word „štrok“, male stork, is very similar to english word „stork“.

In 2003 AEFP, European Association for Flowers and Enviroment, awarded Čigoč, between 5700 European villages, with silver plaque Entente Florale for exceptional atmosphere and environment.

Big birds, big nests and big trip

Storks are, od course, really large birds. Their wingspan can reach 1,5 meters. Their nests are also very large and can weight up to 1000 kilograms. Nests are made mostly of tree branches, but storks will use everything on their disposal, including colorful clothing which they steal in front of the houses.

Stork come to this part of Croatia usually around 15th of March, always in the same nest, and stay until late summer or beginning of September when they depart for south Africa to spend winter there. Since they are large and the trip is long, they cannot fly directly, in order to preserve strength. They use hot air currents to hold them in the air so they go over Bospor, Turkey and Sudan to reach their destination.

Before departure, storks wait in the fields for other traveling companions from Slovenia and other countries. When they finally lift off, that is an amazing sight because their group can be several kilometers long and count many thousands of birds.

Interesting fact is that male and female storks are partners for life, and if they realize that they are late and that they won’t be able to raise their offspring in time, they don’t mate that year.

No chimneys for storks

Storks are known to nest on chimneys but in Čigoč there are unusually few chimneys on every house. If there is any.

Reason for that is that in the past, taxes were calculated according to number of chimneys and windows on the house. People then decided to build less of them. Because of this, the smoke from furnaces went into the attic where it smoked meat, impregnated beams and protected them from worms, which made the roof possible to withstand the weight of the nest.

Houses were also built on oak’s stumps, and later on bricks, so they are lifted above ground for protection from floods. This specific way of building, conditioned by historical cirumstances, is unique in the world.

Gallery source: Croatian Tourist Board.

Author of gallery: Bojan Haron Markičević

Informations and other stuff

There is educational and information center as well as small carpenter’s workshop in the house number 26. In the rest of the village you can find traditional objects and tools from the late 19th and early 20th century, as well try different traditional food from this area. If you like to walk, there are paths around village to enjoy the nature itself.

Short documentary about Čigoč

 Klepetan and Malena

True love is indestructible, doesn’t know boundaries and lasts forever. At least in theory. Practice is little different and the most beautiful love story of animal kingdom comes from Croatia. This is the story about two storks, Klepetan (eng. Chatter) and Malena (eng. Little one) who have lived in happy marriage for 15 years.

Malena lives in Brodska Varoš. That is suburb of Slavonski Brod, a city on the Sava river that is also very worthwhile to visit because of his fortress from Ottoman invasion. Twenty four years ago hunter’s bullet shattered her wing. From then on she wasn’t able to travel to the south during winter. She would die from cold if there wasn’t a janitor from local elementary school who took care of her. His name is Stjepan Vokić and he is the owner of the house on which Malena has her nest.

We explained before that two storks who fall in love stay partners for life. In year 2012 Malena found her soulmate, Klepetan. Their love had lasted for 15 years Every autumn Klepetan would leave with other storks and return to his spouse after seven months.

He usually returned around 24th of March and his arrival was anxiously waited both by Malena and by Stjepan. Their love story was always followed by many media and there was also live stream from Malena’s nest.

When Klepetan was late that always started rumours about his death and that he was too old for such a long trip.

There was an affair when Klepetan returned few years ago. He was more than two weeks late and everybody assumed that he died. Malena spent night with other male so when Klepetan finally returned he found his opponent’s eggs in his nest.

Defending what is his, Klepetan confronted his rival. After ten minutes of bloody fight he chased him away, and destroyed the nest and the eggs. After that he returned to Malena. It seems that he forgave his beloved this betrayal so their love story continued.

Unfortunately, in March 2019, Malena and the rest of the village waited for Klepetan to return, but it never happened. We can only assume that he found his resting place somewhere along the way to his beloved Malena.

Author of background picture: Fraxinus Croat, Wikimedia Commons

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