THE ŠTERNE WATER WELLS – A SOURCE OF LIFE
The karst relief with its permeable limestone rocks has unfavourable conditions for life due to its inability to retain water. The River Rječina, the only stream of water in this area, which marks the north-eastern border between the Municipality of Viškovo and the Grobnik area, has always been an important source of water. However, before the construction of the water supply system, the Rječina was generally inaccessible to people from Viškovo, which is why water wells – locally known as šterne – were a source of life for them.
For a long time, there were only a handful of wells, which were dug in the ground and covered with a stone. It was not until the 19th century that the construction of communal water wells in the centre of the village began. The water was transported by pipes from the nearby roofs. Every village in Viškovo received one such well; the oldest dates back to 1857 and is located in Saršoni.
Since people needed water on a daily basis, the well became the main meeting place for both young and old. People would go there to meet, exchange information and have a good time together. However, the local legend of Malik warned children against falling into the deep, cold water. All this made the well a source of life in both a physical and spiritual sense.
Over time, tap water was introduced into every household. As a result, the wells became neglected and forgotten, and their social role was taken over by other locations.
Because of the cultural and historical importance of these wells, Viškovo Tourist Board started renovating them in 2007. A total of 28 public water wells have been cleaned and renovated: four in Marčelji, five in Marinići, two in Mladenići, eight in Saršoni, four in Sroki, and five in Viškovo. They now play host to various cultural and entertainment programmes in the summertime, during which time these places come back to life, if only for a while.
Majevica is the local name for the first Sunday in May. In the past, young women would wait eagerly for this day, as the night before young men would bring flowers to the window of the house in which the girl they liked lived. They would also place a young May tree (usually juniper, fir or laurel) or a blossoming ash or cherry branch on the chimney or another high place next to her house such as a mulberry or walnut tree.
There is also a traditional song about this custom that goes:
Majevica, lovely Sunday,
You’ll bring flowers to my window,
Or a mulberry beneath it.
The girls would not sleep much on such nights. If a girl found kale on the window, it meant that she had done something to displease someone. In that case, the girl would get up early to remove this symbol of mockery before the neighbours could see it.
The afternoon was reserved for the last spring dance. After that, most of the young men would go into the nearby mountains to burn coal or lime.
To commemorate this custom, Viškovo Tourist Board initiated the Majevica spring event dedicated to preserving local traditions, cultural and historical heritage, and the cuisine and old customs of the Halubje area. It takes place on the first Sunday in May. The symbol of this event is the lilac flower, known locally as the majevica.
TAKE A WALK WITH ME…
The Municipality of Viškovo is crossed with paths and trails that connect seemingly remote locations. Some of these have been widened and asphalted and turned into roads, but the majority have remained as they were in the past.
The trails that once led to numerous pastures and garden plots on which various crops were cultivated and which were surrounded by dry stone walls lost their purpose when such agriculture ceased to be profitable. Remote plots of land became neglected and turned into groves in which deer, rabbits, martens, foxes and various birds have made their homes.
Viškovo Tourist Board, together with the local hiking club, has mapped these trails and initiated their renewal. The result is three walking and five cycling trails.
The Carnival period in the Municipality of Viškovo begins on 17 January. This is the feast day of St. Anthony, patron saint of animals, which reflects the traditional way of life of the area (animal husbandry). The beginning of Carnival is marked by the blowing of a horn and the hanging of a straw doll known as Pust. On Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the Pust is convicted of all the bad things that happened in the previous year and burned.
Carnival coincides with the period of winter dormancy before nature awakens. For local people, this meant a rest from their everyday work and an opportunity to get together and have fun. In fact, Carnival is often referred to as the fifth season of the year.
Typical Carnival figures in this area are the Halubajski zvončari bell ringers, whose carnival pageant has been inscribed in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This pageant reminds us of times gone by, when the administrative borders were somewhat different. However, its main goal and importance has remained the same: to connect local people. The inhabitants welcome the bell ringers and offer them traditional food just like they did in past centuries.
This tradition, which is based on the universal human need for the victory of good over evil and of the new life cycle (spring) over death (winter), is today reflected in the sports and entertainment events that are part of Halubje Carnival.
Traditional customs that evoke the need for the triumph of spring over winter and of good over evil are reflected in the Carnival period. In modern times, this period has been additionally enriched with sports and entertainment activities, which are now part of Halubje Carnival.
Halubje Carnival is an event that has taken place every year since 1999, and is based on the centuries-old tradition of the Halubajski zvončari bell ringers (link). All events connected to Halubje Carnival are focused on preserving local and traditional values. The Carnival is an event that features ‘live traditions’ and which simultaneously aspires to preserve old values and present Halubje to the wider public.
It is held on the first Sunday after St. Anthony’s Day. This event is organised by all the carnival groups and other associations active in the Municipality of Viškovo area, from kindergartens to the Pensioners’ Association. In addition to the main carnival procession, there are many cultural and sports events organised, like concerts, exhibitions or masked tournaments.
During Carnival, Marčelji becomes a gathering place for young bell ringers from all the neighbouring regions who value the bell ringer tradition.
Masked groups from neighbouring countries, such as Slovenia and Italy, also like to participate in Halubje Carnival, which makes it an international event.