Rijeka’s Carnival finale

International Carnival Parade

Mike and I have just left Rijeka and Opatija a couple of days earlier than we wanted.  We lasted 9 days wild camping, which is our longest ever.  For a while I thought that we could make 11 days.  The 11th day was the huge Rijeka International Parade that we planned on attending.  We had thought that we would have to leave when we ran out of water but that didn’t happen.  We carefully preserved our water and our propane for heating was fine.  A problem that we hadn’t really thought about was the fact that we were running our generator 8-10 hours per day (obviously not conserving) and we ran out of fuel.  The generator uses the fuel from the RV gas tank so luckily for us it stops when the tank gets down to about 1/8th full.  This way you can never run the RV completely out of gas (benzine for our European friends).  We hadn’t yet fueled up the RV this year, I guess we should have.  We left for the camperstop that we planned to stay in on the island of Krk on day 10 and returned to Rijeka the next day by car. 

Our first free day in Krk was spent showering, washing hair and doing multiple loads of laundry!  It is great having water easily available.  I will say that we are now doing our laundry very differently than we ever have before.  As those of you who follow this know, our laundry machine quit working last year.  While we were in Canada, Mike bought a new motor, control panel and control module for the laundry machine, which probably cost more than a new machine would have cost.  We believe that the machine finally gave up because the electricity in Europe runs at 50 cycles per second and equipment designed for North America expects 60 cycles per second.  Now when we want to use the laundry machine, we disconnect from the campground electricity and turn on our North American generator.   We don’t really want to run the slow drying cycle on the generator, so we have started hanging our clothes outside to dry.  We live and learn while travelling.

At this time of year, a lot of the tourist places and museums are closed but those that are open are sometimes free.  Quite a few parking lots don’t charge at this time of year either.  We have been paying for parking whenever it is metered.  I just read about one parking lot where  no-one ever used the meter out of season.  How are we supposed to know which ones we can ignore and which ones we can’t?

The town of Rijeka has a very long breakwater that you can walk on.  It is 1700 m one way or more than 3 km or 2 miles return.  This is probably the longest breakwater we have ever seen.  Like Opatija, Rijeka has free wifi around the town, so does the next town of Krk that we will be visiting.  We need more of this in North America. 

Bakar, small town near Rijeka

Until now, there has been very little smoking inside restaurants although it is quite common outside, under the umbrellas.  For some reason that has changed in this area.  There is a lot more smoking indoors than we have seen (or smelled) in a long time.

The other day, as we were driving around in our car exploring some of the smaller towns, we encountered what Mike says is the steepest “proper” road that he has ever driven on.  He estimated the grade at about 20 degrees.  That is much steeper than roads are allowed to be in Canada.  The steepest section was more than 1 km long and had been cross hatched for traction. Mike was getting concerned that the Lincoln was going to have problems.  In addition to being very steep, the road was very narrow with nowhere to pull over.  Since this was officially a two-way road, that was also a bit disconcerting.  On occasion you couldn’t see where the road dropped off in front of you to as you were driving along it.  Everyone needs to be careful of the roads that Google maps sometimes sends you down, or in our case up.  I remember reading about a retired Canadian couple a few years ago who followed their GPS into an area on the west coast of the US that was too rough for normal vehicles.  They got stuck and couldn’t get out and the husband ended up dying.  It was really awful.  At the time I didn’t properly understand how you could follow a GPS onto what wasn’t really a road.  I understand better now.

Driving to Krk, we drove in the RV along some of the same roads and bridges that we have previously travelled in the car.  It is quite amazing what a different, more spectacular, view you get from the extra height of the RV.  Looking out at the gorgeous mountains going down to the sea, you could almost believe that you were in Norway.  For those who can’t decide between a preference for the mountains or the sea, then Croatia is a great place to be.

Rijeka’s International Carnival Parade

I wrote about accidentally being here for Rijeka’s two-month carnival in my last article.  As I mentioned earlier, Mike and I drove back to Rijeka the day after we left the town so that we could be part of the culmination of the carnival festivities, the International Carnival Parade.  The parade has over 10,000 participants.  It starts at noon and goes on into the evening.  The town gets over a hundred thousand visitors for this parade.  The internet refers to the parade as “the jewel in the crown of the carnival festivities”.

What was so interesting about this parade is that the floats didn’t look like they cost tens of thousands of dollars to design and build like the floats in the Rose bowl parades or Toronto’s Christmas or Caribana parades.  Mind you, the atmosphere was probably closer to Caribana than anything else.  Most of the floats weren’t really fancy, they used wagons, farm tractors, pickup trucks and a few tractor trailers.  A few were elaborate but most looked homemade.  This doesn’t mean simple or no effort, because they clearly had spent many weeks on some of the floats.  It just means that they weren’t created using professional float designers.  Some people were on very small homemade “contraptions” they had built.  Each float probably had 50 – 150 “dancers” along with the float.  The costumes were obviously a major part of the event.  It was interesting to see both men and women often wearing exactly the same costumes.  In some cases, the women looked elegant and the men just looked funny.  One group of people were dressed up with hundreds of beer cans attached to their clothes.  The noise that they could make just jumping around was unbelievable.  They were actually very interesting to watch.  I think some towns must have had all the adults in their town join in with their local float.  As we saw previously, the age of many of the participants was a lot older than we would normally see at home. 

There atmosphere was great, but the music was a little loud for Mike and me.  I think that, as we age, our ear drums must get thinner.  This parade sounded louder than rock concerts I remember attending when I was younger.  Many people in the crowds were also dressed up in costumes and masks.   Lots of people were swaying or dancing to the music.  At one point, Mike and I went into a church for a few minutes, just to sit down and let our ear drums get back to normal.  The silence was bliss ?.

Geriatric Cheerleaders

We were emphatically told that we needed to stay until the end when there was some sort of major traditional finish to the parade and then the festival would completely take over the streets.  We tried, we really did, but there was no way that we could stay that long.  It was too loud, and we just got too tired.  Our RV was almost an hour away since we had had to move it, so it wasn’t like we could go back home and then return in the evening.  Our campsite host came to see us just after 9 pm and told us that the festivities were still going on.  I am not sure if he was expecting us to return to Rijeka, but it wasn’t happening.

There were very few fairground type kiosks compared to what we would expect at home.  There were some people selling balloons.  The standard “fair” type food sold seemed to be balls of flour deep fried, served in a tall plastic cup with icing sugar or chocolate or some type of topping.  For my Canadian friends, think plain TimBits. 

Quick Update:

I spent Tuesday working on this article while Mike was working on my bike.  The campground manager Frederick is here every night at 9 PM and visits us to make sure that everything is OK.  Tonight he told us that today had been the last day of the Carnival.  On Krk, the kids were off school and dressed up.  There was a festival going on down at the waterfront.  In the evening they had the very traditional “Burning of a Straw Man” or “Pust”.  The Pust is blamed for all the bad things that happened in the preceding year.  This is followed by fireworks.  In Rijeka a boat takes the Pust out to sea and it is burned there.  Sadly, we don’t know how they did it here in Krk.  This article could easily have waited another day.  I am disappointed that we found out about this a few hours too late.

Below are a few additional photos from the Carnival Parade.

** note: Picture group removed due to licensing issues

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