On the last Sunday before Shrove Tuesday, Rijeka plays host to the biggest carnival celebrations in Croatia, culminating in a spectacular parade. Much of the parade centres on carnival floats and fancy-dress costumes, although there is one authentic older element in the shape of the zvončari, young men clad in animal skins who ring enormous cow bells to drive away evil spirits. Many of the villages in the hills north of Rijeka have their own groups of zvončari, a tradition which has survived since pre-Christian times. The Rijeka parade, which normally culminates with a large party of zvončari strutting their stuff, usually kicks off at around 1pm and takes around five hours to complete. Afterwards, participants and spectators alike troop off to the Riva, where there’s an enormous marquee, in which drinking and dancing continue into the early hours.

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