Viškovo is a place situated north of Rijeka, effectively Rijeka’s suburb, but retains its special status as a town and proud itself for a long tradition of mask festivals. The area is known as Halubje, so the carnival is called Halubajski karnival, which has very longstanding tradition with Halubje bell ringers (Halubajski zvončari). Many tend to associate Rijeka carnival with Halubajski zvončari, who are indeed kings of carnival festivities.
Horrific animal mask on head, big bell on backs, seaman shirt, white trousers with red stripe, black shoes, white sheep skin, everything is part of Halubje bell ringer. The ringer must be a strong man, able to carry a heavy bell around his waist. Some 400 men are today proud part of this tradition, which begins for St Anthony the Great (Antonja, January 17th). The ringers walk through traditional routes in Viškovo and regularly visit all the other places in vicinity. Everything starts in front of the St. Mathew Church, where Pust is hanged.
Once, these strong men carried five to six small bells around their waists. Then, it fell to three, while today they ring with one big and one small bell. Some even carry just one, but it is five kilos heavy. Ringing is indeed a very tiresome and heavy job! That is why they should be fed well and with a traditional winter food from Viškovo.
We found it in celebrated Mladenka restaurant in the very heart of town.
Apart from Mladenka, Viškovo boasts other places with traditional cuisine. Among these are Restaurant Ronjgi, widely recognised for its wild meat specialties; Restaurant Nono Frane, with its exquisite barbecue and homemade pasta; Tavern Maretina, famous for its fish specialties; and homemade Viškovo meals in Tavern Kume in place Kosi, and Šmrika in Marčelji.
In all these places, you may find traditional winter foods of Viškovo. Fish lovers will enjoy the cod brodetto, one of the characteristic Adriatic comfort food in winter. Simple mix of cod, potatoes, garlic, tomato paste, parsley and olive oil is combined with polenta or bread for a very satisfying meal. Staple for winter days is certainly sauerkraut. Old way to make good sauerkraut is to drown it into the water, in order to lessen the sourness. Fatty bacon is mixed with garlic (mix is called zapešt) and is added to sauerkraut together with few bay leaves. Usually, smoked ham is made with the sauerkraut.
A bit south of Viškovo, already within the Rijeka town boundaries, is neighbourhood Pehlin, home of Pehinarski feštari and Pehinarska gospoda, two carnival groups with long historical background. Dark uniform, beret cap with peacock or pheasant feather, with yellow tie and sign of cock (symbol of Pehlin, which has its name because of it – peteh) – this is official dress of Pehinarski feštari.
The group came to be in 1953, with some 50 members today, and they begin their carnival walk on St. Anthony the Great from the Pehlin school, where Pust is being hanged. The Pust is traditionally called Mate, who changes his surname every year according to the happenings in country and the world. The reason for his name comes from local proverb: „Mate puste kvragu šal, se si žepi obašal“, which pointed to the wrong habit of spending scarce money for carnival escapades.
Their counterpart in Pehlin are Pehinarska gospoda (Pehlin bourgeois). In 1920ies some young men took their finest garb, bowler hats, walking stick, and walked around Pehlin with accordion and drum music. A bit later ladies also joined, wearing the urban dress from the beginning of 20th century.
The ladies also inherited cherished knowledge of their grandmas about the carnival foods. Most famous one in Pehlin is cauliflower with salted fish (broskva i slane ribi), an easy dish to make. A specific cauliflower from the northern Adriatic region is cooked in salted water. Also potatoes are cooked in another pot. Cooked cauliflower is then mixed with garlic fried on olive oil, with addition of pepper and salt. Salted fish should be then fried for a minute or two in olive oil and added to cauliflower. Cooked potatoe is a side dish and is eaten with white wine.
Another cherished gastronomy tradition is Pehinarski presnac and Presnac z Kuta. Main difference between these two cakes is in additional cocoa or chocolate, as well as apple, cinnamon, and clove in Pehinarski presnac. Basis for both is practically the same, consisting of dough (Presnac z Kuta adds rum inside), and filling is based on rice and raisins.
For more information visit the Tourist Board of Viškovo: