Đurđevac’s Take on “Game of Thrones”

Đurđevac’s Take on “Game of Thrones”

The rooster appears as a symbolic character in many different cultures and mythologies. The French and Portuguese consider it a national emblem, while in the feng shui philosophy the bird represents the dawn of a new day, progress and prosperity.

 

The quiet and picturesque Podravina region, where the river Drava shapes the local lifestyle, also has a “rooster in the race”, so to speak. In the town of Đurđevac, this animal is known as picok, and its clay version can be seen on many of the town’s roofs as protection against evil spirits.

 

A long time ago, the picok scared off not only ghosts, but Ottoman conquerors as well. According to Croatian folk tradition, a few hundred years ago the powerful Ottoman army sowed fear in these parts.

TZ Đurđevac

They conquered the region of Slavonia, and then headed north along the Drava river. The town of Virovitica was no match for the huge armada, and then it was turn for the old town of Đurđevac.

TZ Đurđevac

Historical records mention seven different Ottoman attacks on the fortress that was guarded by a small though brave group of men.

In this local version of “Game of Thrones”, the enemy tried to force the defenders out of the town by starving them after many unsuccessful attempts at siege, but the cunning people of Podravina outsmarted them with one brilliant move.

Picoki Ward off Spirits and Invaders

The already starved and exhausted people took the advice of an old lady and fired the last small rooster – or picok – they had out of a cannon towards the enemy camp. When the picok hit the Ottoman tent, enemy leaders thought that the people of Đurđevac had enough food to throw around.

Boris Kovačev

The mighty Ulama-bey fell for the ruse and ordered the retreat of his army. In a fit of rage, he called the locals “picoki”, which has remained the distinctive nickname for the people of Đurđevac to this day.

You can see a live version of the legend play out during the wonderful Picokijada festival, held every year at the end of June, which preserves the traditions of Đurđevac and Podravina. While you’re there, explore the secrets of the unconquered Old Town, now the Đurđevac Town Museum, and the collection of works by the great Croatian painter Ivan Lacković “Croata”. Make sure you reserve the morning hours after the first picok crows for a tour of Đurđevački peski, the remnants of the only desert in Croatia, known also as the “Croatian Sahara”.