The Ćićarija Zgončari from Istria have been invited to participate in the Inauguration of Rijeka as European Capital of Culture 2020. The wonderfully-costumed folklore participants, who wear large sheepskin coverings and carry two large bells, each weighing eight kilograms, have already begun their journey.
The post-New Year period in Croatia marks the start of carnival season, with Rijeka and Pula carnivals among some of the best known in the country. You can see similarly dressed figures at carnivals (sometimes known as maškare, poklade pust or fašnjek) events all over Croatia, particularly in Slavonia and in Rijeka. Indeed, in Rijeka, one such folklore group can take credit for reintroducing the huge carnival (Croatia's largest) to the city in 1982.
Rijeka's bellringers, known locally as zvončari, each wear different costumes, dictated by the traditions of the neighbourhoods they come from. They include the Halubajski Zvončari, the Zametski Zvončari, the Grobnički Dondolaši, the Griški Krabunosi, the Munski Zvončari and the Pesniki. The Ćićarija Zgončari are the only such group emanating from Istria and their folklore group contains around 50 participants.
Zvončari taking part in Rijeka carnival
The Ćićarija Zgončari's march to Rijeka to accept the invitation has already begun. They will appear on Saturday 1 February as part of the flagship event at the Inauguration of Rijeka as European Capital of Culture 2020 although, first, they called in at the village of Lanišće, on the border of the Istria and Kvarner regions, in order to issue their traditional demand for the keys to the city from the reluctantly compliant mayor.
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