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We will make you wanna explore Croatia

Every country has its unique habits and traditions which distinct it from the rest of the world. However, talking about Croatia we can not skip the bellmen, bell ringers - “Zvončari” – men dressed up as fairytale terrifying creatures who scare the evil spirits.

Main Article photo: Irena Trkulja

Interesting, right? Croatian people still keep this folk custom and every year, a week before Lent, Croatian bellmen go from one village to another trying to chase away evil spirits and to welcome spring and new life that it brings.

Photo by: Irena Trkulja

Currently, there is annual festival - Rijeka Carnival – event which attracts more than 100,000 spectators and up to 10,000 participants from nearly 100 groups. During it the bellmen coming from different parts of Croatia, following centuries-old route, jumping and singing, trying to be as noisy as possible and scare the evil. The only “weapon” they have are their bells – hanging down from the waist. Men are doing this for hours using a powerful fuel - wine provided by locals. This custom together with 12 others are among the 13 cultural elements inscribed in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Croatia.

Photo by: Irena Trkulja

It’s all about the beat!

The secret and the magic of Bellmen is… loud clanging. Why? According to tradition, evil powers and winter can be banished only through ringing and noise coming out from bells. Participants are doing their best to move – shaking, walking in zig-zag, jumping into walls or a different object. It is really impressive to see when the bell ringers stop and form a line or outward-facing circle. Then start to twist and shake their hips rhythmically so their cowbells ring. In fact, Croatian people are quite productive in different ways of making noise after few glasses of wine.

Photo by: Irena Trkulja

However, out of jokes, with this tradition, Croatian people are preparing for Lent and Easter for many centuries. They are trying to purify their souls, their homes and their surroundings.

Beasty march

Apart of bells, Croatian people use a beasty look in order to drive out evil spirits. Their costumes are really realistic and scary. Imagine - hundreds of men covered by sheepskin cloaks and various terrifying headwear - horned masks, cattle skulls or tall hats. Their march between villages is quite impressive – kilometers of them jumping, shaking, clinging, or “beasting” around. Maybe it sounds crazy – in fact it´s a great fun.

Photo by: Irena Trkulja

Locals wait for them while they keep passing through villages and give them a glass of wine or some delicious homemade pastry. Everyone is waiting for this day of the year because this beasty march in fact is amazing party that crosses streets, audience is having fun, passing by bell ringers are making jokes trying to socialize with them.

Photo by: Borna Ćuk

So, did I catch your attention? Enough of Carnival in Venice, let's try something different, the Croatian version in Rijeka– with beasty bell ringers and delicious wine. See you there!

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