On the trail of the Halubajski zvončari bell ringers

Today, Viškovo is a place where tradition meets modernity, where everyday life is intertwined with echoes of the past. This can best be experienced during the carnival period, which begins with the blowing of a horn on the feast day of St. Anthony in the centre of Viškovo. Every year on the first Saturday after the Feast of St. Anthony, the Halubje Carnival takes place. It is a vibrant, joyful event that brings tradition back to life, inviting everybody to join the party and dance.

The best way to acquaint yourself with the villages, people, customs, and the irresistible power of tradition is to follow the Halubajski zvončari bell ringers along their way. Every year on the last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, these guardians of the area’s centuries-long tradition head off on their traditional pageant across the villages of the Halubje and Kastav areas. The uniqueness of this pageant explains why it has been inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Dressed in sailor’s shirts and white trousers, with giant animal masks on their heads and bačuka-maces in their hands, they enter the village in a column so long that you cannot see its end. Their well-trained steps are supervised by their commander, who warns those who sometimes refuse to follow orders. The order is only occasionally disturbed by the devil, dressed in black with his tongue sticking out. Next to him, there walks a bear so mischievous that even his two guards can’t stop him.

In every village, always in the same place, the zvončari will form a circle turning towards their hosts and ring steadily, making an even more piercing noise. This completely overwhelming, magnificent noise will last until the commander whistles. The pause is short, and the way ahead of them is long. This game of chaos and order will be accompanied by the sound of music all the way down to the next village, where it will start once again from the beginning.

Apart from being a reminder of times gone by, the importance of this pageant has remained the same: to connect local people. During the pageant, the bell ringers are welcomed by local people who offer them traditional food just as they did in past centuries. This is the time when you can taste traditional carnival food that invigorates and provides strength during cold winter days. This is also an excellent opportunity to try local desserts such as presnac and fritule.

The highlight of the carnival period can be experienced on the last day of the pageant (Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) in the centre of Viškovo. The pust, a carnival puppet hung on a pole, awaits its verdict silently. At the last stop of the procession, those gathered will pass sentence on him unanimously: he is guilty of everything that went wrong in the previous year. One of the people will reach for the torch and set the condemned on fire as he hangs from a metal chain. When the ashes settle and the ringing ceases, through the thick smoke one can see the happy faces of people who, now without masks and worries, look forward to the coming spring.

Evoke the mystical past by following in the path of this pageant, by awaiting its arrival, and by listening to the clattering of bells and the trembling of the ground. The ancient connection between man and nature will ring out from the past, and historical, cultural and culinary highpoints will create an experience that will take you away from the reality and give you a break from everyday life.

Skip to content