The ‘Rijeka Carnival’ has built its reputation based on the past-times of its citizens who had lived in and around the city hundreds of years ago.
It dates back to the Middle Ages where locals indulged themselves in fancy dress parades and masked balls. Hmm… a good way to get rid of the winter blues but that’s not all they got rid of; according to Slavic pagan tradition the carnival also represented redemption, a way in which the evil spirits and all the bad things that had happened over the past year could be erased, forgotten and diminished. So groups of people would dress up in colorful costumes, others would play instruments and a special lot called the Zvončari – men who dressed up with animal skins and masked with fearsome intent, would dance and cavort while ringing deafening bells. People paraded the streets marching, cheering, eating and drinking in order to relinquish their rather immoral past. The event would deliberately coincide with the holy Season of Lent, a time for fasting in preparation for Easter. So as you can see, this was last minute pampering before the big diet kicks in.
Nowadays the carnival runs for a few weeks with a plethora of events on show and even though by the time you have read this the proceedings will have well and truly kicked-off on January 17th with the inaugural raising of the carnival flag which was followed by the handing over of the city keys to carnival authorities, let it be known that the best is yet to come as there’s a smashing line-up of activities up for grabs until the 26th of February.
This spectacular event is what many of the locals prepare for the entire year; wait till you see the traditional costumes worn by regulars as they are outrageously extravagant. Besides the exhibitions, masquerades, concerts, sports events, dandy rituals and celebrations; the highlights are undoubtedly the Children’s Carnival parade, the Carnival Snowboard Session and the pinnacle being the International Parade through the city centre where an expected 10,000 masked participants and over one-hundred delightfully decorated floats from Croatia and dozens of other countries from all over the world, parade in style. This joining of tradition and custom is a sign of unity and the march in the city centre attracts over 100,000 people from just about everywhere.