Yesterday was a fairly relaxed day in comparison with the previous few days. The routine has been the same each day – wake at 06:30am, meet for breakfast at 07:30am, pack the bikes and aim to get on the road by 08:30am, ride for approx 9hrs to cover the day’s allocation of around 300miles, stopping only for petrol and the occasional leg stretch / call of nature. We have twice opted to forgo lunch stops in favour of pushing on through to cover the miles, such is the demands of covering the distances we have set ourselves.
But yesterday we had a leisurely start to the day, departing our overnight stop in Ptuj, Slovenia shortly after 09:30am, striking out across the Slovenian and Croatian countryside towards our next destination, Szeged in Hungary.
The road took us through an endless string of rural settlements which were unlike anything I had seen before. In particular, the Croatian approach to farming appears to focus largely on numerous subsistence level “micro farms” in my opinion. I didn’t stop to take any photos so try to picture the following scene – a fairly substantial secondary road with a single row of houses each side every few miles (not unusual so far) – the houses are on average 30 – 50 meters apart and at a guess perhaps 60 houses per “settlement”. BUT – each house is on an acre or two of land the stretch in a narrow strip away from the road and each “plot” is a small farm! There were no “gardens” as we would think of them, every bit of land was cultivated under grains or pulses or given over to raising free range chickens, geese, pigs or donkeys. These tiny farms clearly yield more produce than required for personal consumption and many had signs up or small stalls out front to sell their wares. Some of the properties had farm implements parked outside with a phone number on – probably a common way of both generating extra income and eliminating the requirement for every individual to have to own the full array of equipment required for their enterprise. There were of course much more sizeable fields behind these micro-farms that disappeared into the distance although where the actual “farm house” or base for these farms were was difficult to determine. It was certainly a fascinating approach and I got the impression that the farmers were proud and in their own way sufficiently prosperous as the heavily ablated brickwork and slowly decaying beams of the barns and grain stores gave an overall impression of timeless substance as opposed to despair and neglect as it has in other areas of the world that I have travelled in.
So what does this all have to do with the title of this post? Well, as we all know, the storks bring the babies to the mummy and daddy when the time is right but the real question is therefore where do the storks come from? At last I have an answer – they come from Croatia! Every few miles a couple of lamp posts would have a platform on top where the storks make their nests to grow the babies until they are ready – one of life’s mysteries finally solved 🙂