The city of Dubrovnik in Croatia, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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
It was rather difficult to choose just 10 photos of different areas of Croatia to inspire you to visit my country. I’m fed up with too many blog posts with titles such as 5 cities you must visit in Croatia or 10 places to see in Croatia and such which only feature seaside towns and mainly those on the southern Croatian coast called Dalmatia, e.g. Dubrovnik and Split. There are many other gorgeous seaside towns and islands apart from the already mentioned Dubrovnik and Split. Besides, Croatia has many amazing places far away from the sea too. There are castles, mountains, plains, forests, wheat fields, forgotten villages and sleepy continental towns. I know, I haven’t exactly written much about those either but I’ll get around to it eventually 🙂 However, you can find posts about several Croatian islands on my blog that aren’t as heavily featured as Hvar island for instance.
Hopefully, this post will make you want to visit Croatia if you haven’t already been. I know, who hasn’t heard of Dubrovnik after watching the Game of Thrones? FYI, Dubrovnik was a powerful merchant republic in its past much like Venice and anyone visiting it should be aware of that. Also, I strongly suggest to visit Istria and Kvarner regions for a beach holiday+culture, not just the southern Croatian coast. 🙂 Furthermore, the next time you’re imagining a hot mug of mulled wine in your hand and Christmas lights why don’t you consider visiting Zagreb and its magical Christmas markets? Or see the biggest carnival parade in Croatia in Rijeka in February? Or go castle-hunting in Zagorje? What about tasting some delicious Croatian food in Slavonija region?
Anyway, let the photos do the talking and convince you to visit Croatia!
Zagreb (the capital of Croatia)
Osijek (the biggest town in Slavonija region)
Vukovar (Eltz castle)
Plitvice Lakes National Park
What better way to spend a Valentine’s Day then by visiting a castle? That’s exactly what I did two years ago. How did I choose Ozalj castle? Well, I saw it featured in a magazine in an article about Croatian castles and convinced my husband to visit it with our friends. And it was the perfect day trip!
About Ozalj Castle
Ozalj is a small town roughly 66 km away from Croatian’s capital Zagreb and very near the Slovenian border. Its most famous period in the history was during the rule of the illustrious Croatian noble family Zrinski in the 17th century. Another notable resident of Ozalj was the Croatian deaf-mute painter Slava Raškaj who was born in Ozalj in 1877.
The medieval Old Town of Ozalj perched on the stone cliff above Kupa river was transformed into a beautiful castle in the 18th century. Ozalj castle changed many hands during the turbulent Croatian history. It was owned by the King in the 13th century and then by the noble families of Babonić, Frankopan, Zrinski, Perlas, Batthyany and Thurn and Taxis. Its current owners are the “Brethren of the Croatian Dragon” society who have opened it to the public.
Inside the Ozalj castle you can find a small museum and the library. The entry fee was 20 kuna which is just under 3€ at the time of my visit (Feb 2015).
Have you ever been to a chocolate festival? I’ve visited a chocolate museum in Prague and a chocolate factory in Austria but it was only this year that I went to the Chocolate festival in Opatija, Croatia for the first time.
Opatija is a lovely seaside town in the Kvarner Bay and the oldest tourist destination in Croatia. Many counts and earls and kings frequented Opatija during the Austro-Hungarian empire (19th ct) when Opatija was the favourite spot for many noblemen. It definitely deserves more attention from the travellers nowadays.
The Chocolate festival was held at the first weekend in December (2-4.12.2016) for the eleventh time. Every year the main part of the festival is held in the oldest hotel in Opatija, Hotel Kvarner. However, the chocolate festivities are spread around the whole town including its beautiful parks. There are special menus at restaurants and cafes too. You can also enjoy chocolate wellness & spa programmes at Opatija’s hotels.