If you arrive in Kraljevica in winter time, you will meet jolly groups of masked men and women on the streets and in the inns. They are the carnival group that goes by a name „Mesopustari Kraljevice“. Mesopust is the carnival in the Croatian language and in Kraljevica they have a tradition that goes back to 1887. At the time, only the male citizens could be members of this association, which was known then and now as a carnival group with a very precise and up-to-date critical message to the society and politics. Thus, we too must be careful in writing, as who knows what awaits us when the Carnival – the fifth season – starts!
To be sure, we sat with the secretary of this association. Mrs Katarina Volarić Nižić told us many things from the Carnival tradition of Kraljevica. On hundredth anniversary of Mesopustari in 1987 new uniforms were made and since then members wear white trousers or skirts and black or navy blue jackets, together with bands in the Mesopustari's flag colours: white, red, yellow, and black. These colours symbolise everything in a man's lifetime: white for innocence, red for love, yellow for jealousy, and black for death.
Every year, Mesopustari celebrate the fifth season on Kvarner from the first Saturday after the Three Wise Men Day until the Ash Wednesday. They go around with Adam, their Mesopust (a doll that rules the Carnival time and is burned every year at the end of the festival; different groups give different names to the doll, mostly annually, but in Kraljevica it is always Adam). After they receive the Town's Keys from the mayor, they rule Kraljevica. Every Saturday the company gathers in festive colours and visit every corner of the city, with singing and brass music. Before it was a very important custom to stop at certain houses, where the owners would give hospitality to the group with food and drinks. Nowadays only a few such hosts exist, but the tradition of Carnival dances continues. Every tour of the city ends on the seafront, where they sing the local song „Živjela, živjela Kraljevice bijela“ (Long live the white Kraljevica).
They also visit the neighbouring places, and meet other local carnival groups, such as Maškare from Dol-Križišće, Šmričke mačkare from Šmrika, and Čenguti from Bakarac. They have lively work with children and take part in many neighbouring Carnival processions, including the most famous one, the International Carnival in Rijeka. Everything ends on Ash Wednesday, when Mesopustari returns the Keys to the City and on the waterfront the judge reads the sentence to Adam. Every year it ends the same – Adam is found guilty and charged with death by burning. The people gathered around are then invited to have a cod stew.
We were also very much interested in the Carnival dishes. There is no particular meal very specific to Mesopustari, but they have been always known for the various minestrone and sausages, cod stew with potatoes, and frite (fritters). When it is cold, one must be warmed up, sometimes with wine, sometimes with maneštra (minestrone); usually both! Cabbage and sauerkraut with potatoes go well with various sausages – this hearty food keeps Mesopustari going and touring Kraljevica and its neighbouring places!
Learn more about Mesopustari by visiting their Facebook page:
Frankopanska 1a, 51262 Kraljevica
Gallery (all the pictures made by Mesopustari):