The East of Macedonia, often neglected, offers wonderful sights. One of them is Kuklica, the village of Kuklica with stone dolls. The site is known for a strange and unusual celebration, which in Macedonia is known as “Petrified Wedding”.
This mystical place is located near Kratovo, a small town in eastern Macedonia.
This unusual area is rich in tall earthen columns and natural pyramids resembling dolls, hence the place got its name Kuklica. “Kukla” (кукла) means doll in Macedonian.
The phenomenon of such earth pillars is rather rare, besides Kuklica one can see them in the Serbian Devil’s Town (Đavolja varoš), as well as the so called Altai stone mushrooms of Akkurum (Russia).
There is an old legend about the Kuklica stone dolls, which tells of love, hate and jealousy. But first, let’s deal with the natural matter of the Kuklica stone dolls.
Morphological properties of the stone dolls
From a realistic and scientific point of view, these erosive forms are formed by nature. The pillars site covers an area of 0.4 km². The rocky pyramids and pillars were created between the Eocene and the Pliocene as a result of a volcanic mass and are more than 10 million years old!
At the site of the Kuklica Stone Dolls there are two groups of earth pyramids: those in the central part of the small depression at the foot of Dubica Hill are larger (up to 10 m high), independent and in the form of earth columns.
To the east (right side) of the previous ones, on the sides of Zabel Hill, there are smaller formations (up to 5 m high), close together and often connected at the foot. Due to the interesting appearance of the large earth pillars that look like human figures arranged like “petrified wedding guests”, the whole phenomenon is called “Merry Wedding” or “Stone Wedding” by the local population. But more on that later when we talk about the legend.
Kuklica – A natural phenomenon
The stone dolls in this area are a natural phenomenon. Caused by the long-term erosion of volcanic rocks of different resistance: ignimbrites, andesites and tuffs. Harder, compact rocks (ignimbrites, andesites) are slowly eroding, protecting the soft tuffs below.
Protected in this way, the tuff together with the boulder remain prominent in the relief in the form of columns, i.e. earthen pyramids. Meanwhile, long-term atmospheric influences (precipitation, temperature changes, wind) have completed, modeled, deformed-modified and that is why they have such a characteristic and unique shape.
These processes, which began tens of thousands of years ago, continue to this day, gradually destroying some earth pyramids but creating other “new” ones. With this, the pyramids are constantly changing their shape, only this process is very slow and can not be noticed in a period of, for example, a month or a year.
Importance of Kuklica Stone Dolls
The phenomenon of earth pyramids or stone dolls is a rare phenomenon in the world and their formation requires special geological, geomorphological, climatic and vegetative conditions. This applies in particular to well-defined, typical phenomena such as in Kuklica.
Therefore, this site is protected as a natural rarity. At the same time, no activities should be carried out that endanger the location or individual educational institutions, or reduce the environmental value and natural appearance of the space.
Due to the small area of the site and its “sensitivity”, the number of visitors should be limited to acceptable frames. Otherwise this phenomenon will not be preserved in its spectacularity for future generations.
As mentioned, similar phenomena can be found in Serbian Devil’s Town (Đavolja varoš) and in Akkurum, Russia. Also in Macedonia there is another place with such earth pillars, near Delcevo the locality is known as “Kukuljeto” (Кукуљето).
Legend: a curse petrified the wedding party
There is a legend among the Macedonians about the origin of the stone dolls. It is about a wedding and the unhappy love of a boy with two girls.
According to the legend, a long time ago a great tragedy happened in the village of Kuklica. A boy, a great builder, bricklayer, but at the same time an imposter and Casanova, lived in the village of Kuklica. A girl was in love with him, but he married another, and the disappointed girl cursed the newlyweds.
In the legend, the bride was a wealthy girl from the lower part of the village. While the girl in love who cast the curse was a prettier but a poor girl from the upper quart.
When the wedding day came everything seemed fine. The bride and groom gathered, the other guests came, the celebrations began. The moment the newlyweds kissed, the curse came true and all the wedding guests were petrified.
Love, anger and pain
According to the legend, the petrified wedding guests still bear witness to the anger and pain of the unfortunate girl.
Another version of almost the same legend says that the boy planned a wedding for both girls on the same day. In this version, both girls have the same name: Stoyanka. On the wedding day, when the poor beautiful girl heard the music of bagpipes and drums from somewhere, she checked what was going on in the village.
Following the sounds of the music, she saw how the wedding of the mason and the rich girl Stoyanka was already beginning. Angry and offended, she approached the groom and asked him to kiss him for the last time.
Then she uttered a curse that reads as follows:
May God allow you all to be petrified, including me and you!
After the bride and groom kissed, the curse became a reality. According to legend, all guests turned into stone dolls.
Both versions mention the matchmaker’s smile, which also turned to stone and is now trapped forever. Just as the lovers turned to stone in the moment of an embrace. Since then, villagers in Kuklica called the place “Merry Wedding”.
Because of these petrified “dolls” the place got its name – Kuklica.