If your outdoorsy heart is looking for a yet undiscovered gem, you have just stumbled upon the most precious discovery.
Magnificent horses grazing lazily on a green valley bathed in morning dew, while the clatter of birds provides the musical background evokes a kind of fairytale appeal that can’t be found anyplace else in Croatia.
Lonja Field is often overlooked in favour of other more prominent natural landscapes in Croatia. Unjustly so, we might add, as it is a genuine treasure chest of carefully kept traditions.
Called Lonjsko polje in Croatian, Lonja Field is the largest wetland in the entire Danube basin, protected as a Nature Park since the late 1990s.
The fact that probably speaks the most about its irreplaceable uniqueness and immeasurable importance is the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites the Lonja Field was placed on.
Attentively kept authenticity
The magnificent Lonjsko polje is one of the final examples of a landscape that once stretched across central Europe up until the late 19th century.
The nature park consists of three fields – Lonja, Mokro and Poganovo. It extends along the Sava River between the towns of Sisak and Jasenovac.
The meandering flow of the Sava River and the smaller Lonja – which the wetlands were named after – flood the nature park regularly, thus causing a great diversity of habitats and allowing the growth of a large variety of species. What is more, Lonjsko polje keeps the highest concentration of indigenous breeds in Croatia. It is one of the most important habitats for a large number of rare and endangered plant and animal species.
The local population still maintains the traditional way of life and the visitors can stay in one of several family-held ethno houses. There you can learn more about the fascinating traditions of central Croatia dating several centuries into the past and indulge in some of the most delicious Turopolje delicacies.
The unexpected love story in Čigoč Village
The first European stork village nestles comfortably in this central Croatian nature park. Čigoč has an irresistible time-warped quality – with a twist.
Each roof in Čigoč is adorned in picturesque nests. About 200 storks call Čigič their home, leaving it only when cold fall mornings start easing us up in winter. They travel thousands of miles to warmer African areas, only to return in spring.
One of those nests is home to Klepetan and Malena, two storks whose extraordinary love story has defied every obstacle.
When Malena was a young stork 20 years ago, her wing was broken by vicious hunters. All these years she has been unable to fly and was taken care by the man on whose house her nest was. For the past 15 years she has been sharing her nest with her companion Klepetan, with whom she had over 40 baby storks.
Every August Klepetan joins other storks from the village on an arduous, 15,000 miles long journey to South Africa, abundant in perils and risks. While he is crossing Bospor and Turkey, the valley of the river Nile, the Sahara desert and Somalia on his way to warm African climates, Malena remains in their nest, longingly waiting for her lover to return.
Every March entire Croatia and Europe set their sights on the tiny village of Čigoć, anxiously awaiting the return of Klepetan and reunion of this charming couple. For the past 14 years Klepetan never failed to reunite with Malena and have new baby storks, which then leave their nests every year and start their own families.
Let’s get active
Lonjsko polje Nature Park abounds in various things to see and do.
There are several walking trails within the park, each of varying length and difficulty. In addition to exploring spectacular scenery, they enable visitors to learn more about the versatile animal life found in this area, as well as to find out about the fascinating history dating back to the time of Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the threats the mighty Ottoman Empire once posed.
See over 500 years old oak trees, pass through an attractive ornithological reserve or roam the picturesque green meadows and pastures.
Lonja Field is an incredibly family-friendly place. In addition to exploring the park’s walking trails, you can go cycling, take boat tours or enjoy on a peaceful canoe safari through the captivating Posavina landscape.
There is one thing the Lonja Field visitors particularly enjoy – crossing the Sava River with a traditional ferry.
The ferry is the only way the river can be crossed in the park. It is operated by an old ferryman who will happily engage with you in small talk. It is a wonderful way to learn about the authentic local life and experience the authenticity of Posavina Region.
Trade the chaos and traffic of everyday life for the careless serenity of Lonja Field. This nature park offers a true ethereal travel experience for anyone searching for an idyllic rural life.
It is always a good idea to step away from the hustle and the bustle of our hectic lives and get in touch with nature.
*Photos are the courtesy of Lonja Field Nature Park