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The STORKS of Alsace Amy McPherson strolls through the villages of Alsace in search of the famous storks… Eight AM. It was the first day of my multi-day walking journey along the wine route of Alsace and anticipation filled my heart. One of the smallest regions of France, Alsace is big on wonders, with many hilltop castles, tranquil forests and picture-book-pretty villages with restaurants that serve hearty Alsatian dishes paired with excellent local wines. As I left the already bustling cobbled streets of Eguisheim behind, I lost myself in the vast vineyards that carpet the surrounding hills. Over the next few days walking from one village to the next, I would find myself devoid of human contact, but not so alone that I was completely without company. Silently gliding with the wind above me, I saw the distinct long red beaks and the black-tipped wings of the famed white storks as they accompanied me on most of my journey. Storks of Alsace Visit Alsace in spring or summer and you’ll spot giant nests on rooftops, roadside poles and church towers in almost every village, town and city. This is home to storks which migrate each year from Africa to spend the warmer months in Europe and seem to particularly like Alsace’s natural environment. The storks are faithful, not only to their spouse, but to their dwelling, returning every year to the same nest after their laborious long distance journey. The male arrives first, ensuring the nest is of optimum condition before the female joins him. Their young carry the migratory instinct and begin their own journey back south in autumn. Amazingly, when the parents make their path back, they know exactly where to find their offspring. Eguisheim © Donald Druker Telling of time These birds have become somewhat of an oracle of the time of the year for farming activities, much like the groundhog of America. Stork abundance signifies a good year to come, the lack of storks means some hardship in living conditions. The locals are friendly to storks, many of the nests are formed on top of iron cages put there specially for the storks to move in. Perhaps it isn’t all for the storks though. If a stork decides to nest on top of a house, it is believed that good fortune (or a baby, if you wish for it) will come to those who live in this house. The obsession with storks doesn’t stop at encouraging nest-making. Throughout Alsace, storks feature as names of hotels and restaurants, mountain bike trails, walking tours and even a theme park dedicated to the storks. Walking from village to village in the spring, the sight of majestic storks appearing above the nests, perched high atop somewhere impossibly high, looking graceful and proud, was a constant feature. 64 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 65
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