The city that’s joint European Capital of Culture for 2020 is a joyous mix of influences with a riviera ripe for exploring, too
Clanking cowbells filled the air as about two dozen zvončari paraded through the village of Rukavac, just west of Rijeka. To me, they looked like pagans from a Grimm’s fairytale: shaggy woolly gilets, those bells hanging round their waists, and heads adorned with towering flower-covered hats. Exaggerating their gait to make the bells jangle, they shimmied and bumped their hips against each other as they waved carved wooden figures with a somewhat menacing air. Over the course of a 25km procession, they were here to banish evil spirts and herald the coming of spring. Carnival had come to town.