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Monday, 16 February 2015

Photos Of The Day: 2015 "Rijeka Carnival" (+Videos)

A scene from the final parade of the 2012 Rijeka Carnival.

I did a post yesterday about Croatia's 1st Woman President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, (who actually grew up in the city of Rijeka coincidentally), complete with images from the inauguration in the capital of Zagreb, and since today is a holiday around here, I was going throw in some images of carnival dances/activities that took place throughout the day yesterday afterwards. Then I decided to instead do the Rijeka Carnival again. It's sort of a tradition for me, even if not there in person I still like to make the internet readership aware once a year about what went on and what it is. (I also like to dispel misleading rumours and lies that in Rijeka this time of year they kidnap foreign journalists and then make human sacrifices to Zalshabaroth, partake of cannibalism, hold diabolical ritualistic ceremonies praising Lord Disney, eat deep fried rabbit heads and cricket burgers, etc) There are other similar carnivals and winter events that take place across Croatian cities and towns, (The Samobor Fašnik being just one example that I posted about before) but the Rijeka Carnival is by far the most popular one with the most events and attendance, the most well known Croatian carnival in Europe. Rijeka became a full member of the Federation of European Carnival Cities (FCCC) in 1995 and the Rijeka Carnival is also on the list of the 500 most important events in Europe - Top 500 European Events.

For weeks before the grand finale main carnival parade that took place yesterday, there are a variety of activities, events, competitions, dances, masquerade balls, contests, races, children parade and more, that take place throughout the city and local area leading up to the popular final parade. Zany electrifying fun, food, music for all ages and more dressed up zaniness. It's just crazy costumed zanny fun I tell you, and so much more than just the final parade. I've been to Rijeka 4 times but not during the winter season. (I think when I eventually go there during the Rijeka Carnival, I'm going to dress up as a medieval count or some kind of 18th century duke or aristocrat with a tall hat, walking around with a snifter of cognac or absinthe and a walking stick, probably a pocket watch with chain hanging from my vest too) Below are some images from this year, not including the final parade, which I took from the official website (Hit my previous post links below for much more information and media from previous years)...

Rijeka as a small walled fort town and the nearby medieval Trsat Castle from a 1689 drawing.

(I should add that many of the traditions and events that go on for the weeks leading up to the final parade actually go very far back. Many of the the events, smaller parades, masquerade balls etc, date from Renaissance times and when the Croatian lands were a part of the Habsburg Empire for centuries, just as some other European countries were also part of Austria-Hungary back then. (Some of them also have similar carnivals also) As for some of the other folk customs and events of the Rijeka Carnival, (the Zvončari (Bellmen) for instance), they go even much further back, their traditions date from the early middle ages and even earlier pagan times when the Croat tribes first arrived, all a part of historical events and legends from centuries ago. (According to some legends they even scared away Ottoman Muslim soldiers from the area when they were advancing to Vienna, the men and boys all donned cowbells to make more noise and since then the bells have become a standard attire of the bellmen costumes). They were also customs and traditions used to ward off dangerous spirits, bad crops and weater or invaders, as well as welcome in the spring and abundant crops. So 2015 is only the 32nd "Internationally recognized" official version of this annual carnival, the continuing traditions and history actually goes much further back)

Related posts/images: rijeka-carnival-2012-just-around-corner








Rijeka Carnival - 101. The Nuts & Bolts of Rijeka's Electrifying Annual Festival

The Rijeka Carnival (Croatian: Riječki karneval) is held each year before Lent (between late January and early March 1st) in Rijeka, Croatia. Established in 1982, it has become the biggest carnival in Croatia.

About a century ago Rijeka lived its carnival life more intensively than any other town in this part of of the Croatian lands. Carnival parades were organized as well as carnival balls with the presence of Austrian and Hungarian aristocrats, Russian princesses, German barons, earls and countesses from all over Europe. The rebirth of the Rijeka Carnival started in 1982.

Every year there are numerous events preceding the carnival itself. First the mayor of Rijeka gives the symbolic key of the city to Meštar Toni, who is "the maestro" of the carnival, and he becomes the mayor of the city during the carnival, although this is only figuratively. Same day, there is an election of the carnival queen. As all the cities around Rijeka have their own events during the carnival time, Queen and Meštar Toni are attending most of them.

Also, every year the Carnival charity ball is held in the Governor's palace in Rijeka. It is attended by politicians, people from sport and media life, as well as a number of ambassadors.

The rise in the industrialization economy of especially the port city of Rijeka and surrounding region created the basis for the newer Rijeka Carnival that we see today. Up till then the Central European Lenten Carnival season festivities revolved mainly around the main Masked Ball attended by the various nobles and guests, and the first floats of the parade were few. Above an image of one of the first floats from 1892. (The float reads "Vatrogastvo u godinu 2000" which in Croatian means "Firefighting in the year 2000")

The weekend before the main event there are two other events held. One is Rally Paris - Bakar. (after the Dakar rally). The start is a part of Rijeka called Paris after the restaurant located there, and the end is in city of Bakar, located about 20 km south east. All of the participants of the rally wear masks, and the cars are mostly modified old cars. The other event is the children's carnival, held, like the main one, on Rijeka`s main walkway Korzo. The groups that participate are mostly from kindergartens and elementary schools, including groups from other parts of Croatia and neighboring countries.

"Smite the ghouls with thine wonderous wand and magical crown, let the wine and absinthe dipped sceptre and costumed armour destroy the invading infidel philistines back to Hades whence they came." (2 Chronicles of Hjorvarth the Caped Jester of Narvia, 5:7-13)

The main carnival march is held on the last Sunday before the Ash Wednesday. It usually starts at noon. In the front there are the real mayor of Rijeka, the carnival Queen and Meštar Toni. The route of the march has several stages where the hosts present every group, and the main stage is situated in front of the city hall. The mayor, the queen and Meštar Toni stand in front of this stage and they greet all the groups coming afterward. The queen leaves this position only when the group, which she is originally from, pass the route of the carnival. Spectators usually gather to see the march all along its route. If the weather is good, up to 100,000 spectators may attend the carnival. Traditionally, the last group are Halubajski zvončari, and when they pass the march is over. Depending on the number of participants.

The march does not mark the end of the carnival. On the same evening, there is an event called the burning of the Pust. Pust is a puppet, that has some satiric name, very often after some politician, a stinky fat gnome who never stops talking or some ghastly green ghoul being who is full of flies and steals from the people and country, he is blamed for all the bad things that happened in the preceding year. This event is held in Rijeka harbor, and before he is taken to the sea, a reading of charges is held, where a spokesman reads all of his sins. Afterwards, a boat takes the Pust to the sea and it is burned there. This tradition is held in all places around Rijeka, but it is held on Tuesday or Wednesday after the carnival.

In the last few years there are several parties held on various locations in Rijeka, some starting day before the carnival, and end in the night after the carnival. The most known is a carnival party held on Korzo, where various DJs perform.

2014 Rijeka Karneval highlights. 

A synopsis report about the 2014 Rijeka Karneval. The related humanitarian masquerade balls over the years which harken back to 18th century imperial times (at the 18:53 minute mark) have been especially popular with visitors attending all the way from Japan, Finland, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Macedonia, Belgium, Australia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Latvia and even Italy just to name a few.  

A highlight video from the 2011 Rijeka Karneval.

Photos from various events in no particular order.

Although the same or very similar in customs, rituals and dress including the all important big brass bells, the costume can vary from village to village in the areas outside of Rijeka, see Zvončari for more about that.

Every year the Baroque to 19th century era themed Carnival charity ball is held in the former Governor's palace in Rijeka. It is attended by politicians, people from sport and media life, as well as a number of ambassadors. There is the first official evidence of a carnival tradition in this region in a prohibition document from 1449 – a provision of the City Council that prohibits the covering of the face with a mask (with the exception of guests of the masked ball in Kaštel Trsat), which at that time was severely punished. Over the later centuries the masquerade balls became more popular and frequently attended by Croatian aristocrats, princesses, barons, earls and countesses and nobles from other parts of the Habsburg Monarchy, and at times even other parts of Central Europe also, The weeks of colorful showcases, refined taste and dazzling creativity revive the spirit of traditional medieval carnivals which were celebrated both in the streets and in noble palaces. It recalls the historical and allegorical spectacle of the festivities, which were held in Rijeka and in the Croatian crown lands during the Middle Ages, similar to the Czech Carnevale Praha/Prague Carnival masked balls and events.

Every year the Carnival charity masked ball is held in the former Governor's palace in Rijeka. It is attended by politicians, people from sport and media life, as well as a number of ambassadors.

Wearing sheepskin cloaks, elaborate headwear of horned masks, cattle skulls or tall hats - the men of all ages carry wooden clubs and wear huge and heavy cowbells tied around their waists that clang loudly. Their mission is to drive out evil spirits that may have gathered over the winter months and to usher in the beginning of spring, a tradition that dates back many centuries and has pagan roots from antiquity. Beng similar to some other Shrovetide processions in Slovenia, Austria, Bohemia Czechia, the bell ringing Zvončari were added to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

The City of Rijeka carnival festivities have origins from the Middle Ages and are a particular blend of European middle-class carnivals with elements of old Croatian folklore and mythology. Official website:

A fairly recent pic of a bunch of happy Serbs being Serbian at the Serb Carnival in Ukraine doing Serbian things while outside of Serbia but still beings Serbs because it's still Serbia or should be or something like that. I can guarantee this pic is not from the Rijeka Carnival or from any other Croatian carnival taking place. (supplementary information for the benefit of the reader)

The Rijeka Carnival slogan "Budi što želiš" (Be what you want) written on the bus just about sums it up, meaning you can be a hybrid Batman-Ninja Turtle-Chef-Clown Giraffe or a Mickey Mouse-Spiderman-Giant Carrot-Pirate-Wolf etc. 

Just to be fair I thought I'd throw in this footage of a Serbia Carnival I came across from a few years ago. 

The Crveni Nosevi - Klaun Doktori (Red Nosed Clown Doctors) also make an appearance.

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