Rijeka is the third biggest Croatian city and its main seaport. Rijeka has also been announced as European Capital of Culture for 2020. The craziest time of the year to visit Rijeka is during the carnival or the so-called fifth season. The International Carnival Parade had its humble beginnings back in 1982 when only three masked groups paraded through the city. Now, more than a hundred masked groups from Croatia and other countries entertain more than a 150 000 visitors with their colourful costumes. The tradition of wearing a mask in the period before Lent in this region of Croatia goes back centuries. The most traditional costume is that of Zvončari–men wear animal skins and horns and big bells to scare away the winter and welcome in the spring. Zvončari are on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. You can see how they look like here.
A month of carnival activities includes Rijeka Carnival Queen Pageant, a masked ball, carnival dances, children’s carnival parade and carnival snowboard session in the center of the town as well as a masked car rally. The culmination of all this is the International Carnival parade which begins at noon and lasts until the evening. This year it was held on 11 February. Since we went with our baby we didn’t stay long so I don’t have a lot of photos to share with you. Therefore, I’m posting also some photos from the carnival of 2015.
I’m sure you’ve heard about Venice Carnival and Rio de Janeiro Carnival but now you also know about Rijeka Carnival. What distinguishes this carnival from all the others is that groups mainly make their own costumes which can be inspired by tradition, popular books and movies and quite often by the current political situation. For the locals the procession of Zvončari around suburbs of Rijeka and nearby villages is more important than the more recent carnival events. However, the main event for the tourists is the International Carnival Parade.
Photos from 2018 International Carnival Parade