By Merryn Wainwright
For culture-vultures who sail there is plenty to keep you entertained in Croatia this summer. Croatia is known for its music festivals and beach parties, a rival for places like Ibiza; but there are many other types of festivals to attend all through the summer months. Sail into port and drop anchor– here are some of the best.
International Children’s Festival
Šibenik, June and July
If you have little sailors on board, and you are sailing in the Šibenik region, Šibenik hosts an annual international festival for children and the young at heart. This multi-disciplinary even includes visual arts and design, puppetry, theatre, street art, music and dance. Activities include craft workshops, performing arts events, children’s film and theatre, puppet shows and parades. The streets and squares of the city come alive and are surrendered to children and their creative drive. The first festival was held in 1958 and continues to be a vibrant and unique one offering joy, play and hope. Let your inner child out and join in the fun!
International Folk Festival
If you fancy a bit of folk, then stopover in the capital for Zagreb’s International Folklore Festival. Witness a world of folklore and colourful costumes that celebrate the cultural heritage of Croatia. Folklore connoisseurs will marvel at this lively event. This festival has become an integral part of the UNESCO-led global movement that aims to safeguard intangible cultural heritage. The Upper Town and main city square are the scene of a variety of events like concerts, exhibitions and workshops. Folklore bands from around Croatia participate and present the folklore culture of different regions. Workshops in traditional dance are held and performances in regional costumes abound.
Dubrovnik Summer Festival
Dubrovnik, July and August
If you have chartered a boat from Dubrovnik or close by and have more classical tastes, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival offers a host of events. With a focus on classical performing arts, it is a mainstay of high-culture. The timeless Renaissance-Baroque city of Dubrovnik offers the perfect backdrop for open-air opera or award-winning films. Performances including, but not limited to, classical concertos from prominent philharmonic orchestras, plays from directors both local and foreign, ballet, contemporary dance and classical jazz.
The shows are held in several open-air stages within the walled old city and it is one of the most important art festivals in Croatia.
Don’t miss the opening night that ends with a spectacular fireworks show that you can watch from your boat in the harbour.
Pula Film Festival
Pula, July or August
For film buffs sailing around Istria, the oldest film festival in Croatia, takes place annually in the Ancient Roman Amphitheatre known as the Pula Arena. Apart from film screenings open to the public, the annual Croatian film industry awards are also held at the festival.
The festival has screenings of Croatian films, many of them premieres. Short films, series and documentaries also have their place, as well as international and independent films, various themed programs and retrospectives.
The Cinema by the Sea programme is designed for young film lovers aged 16 to 21. Themes of growing up, friendship, first love, and family relationships are explored. There is also the opportunity to take part in the RED Workshop, a filmmaking workshop, designed for participants aged 12 to 16.
Running alongside the film festival is the Pula Food Festival showcasing Croatian cuisine. Dinner and a movie, anyone?
Summer at Gradina
Rijeka, July - September
In the northern Adriatic, in the charming city of Rijeka, the annual Summer at Gradina (Summer at the Fort) is held. The semi-ruined Trsat castle is said fort, perched on a hill offering grand views of the city and Kvarner Bay. Various programs run throughout the summer months showcasing local and national artists in music, movement, visual arts, drama plays, and fashion.
The festival kicks off with the lighting of 4000 candles in and around the castle, promising a magical summer evening and many more.
If you happen to be sailing by, it’s worth a stopover.
Rabska Fjera – Medieval Festival
Rab Island, 25th-27th July
If your sailing holiday brings you in the vicinity of Rab Island in Kvarner Bay, don’t miss the largest medieval summer fair in Croatia. Rabska fjera (Rab Fair) has its roots in traditions that began in July 1364. The Rab City Council wished to celebrate and honor King Louis the Great, who freed the island from Venetian rule; and St Christopher, the patron saint of Rab Town, who might also have had a hand in saving the town from destruction.
The entire island goes back in time during the festival with artisan stores lining the streets. Leather belts are made in front of you, medieval toys are on display for the kids, you can get your hair braided with tiny flowers- medieval style - and freshly fried šulčići are served from food stalls. Down at the beach is a fisherman’s village, built with traditional tools and everyone is dressed in medieval clothes.
The Rabska Fjera culminates with a costumed parade, a re-enactment of a crossbow tournament, and cannon fireworks. A unique and vibrant festival to come into port for!
Klapa Music Festival
Omiš, 29 June-21 July
In the medieval town of Omiš on the Cetina River, the annual Klapa Music Festival is held. “Klapa” (meaning group of friends) is a group of male or female singers who sing in a special way, unaccompanied by instruments. The evocative songs of love and longing, wine, homeland and the sea are sounds unique to Dalmatia. Groups of singers perform competitively in the towns squares and restaurants are full of their amateur counterparts.
The main elements of the music are harmony and melody and klapa has been inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Once you have picked up your charter boat in Split, it’s a short sail down the coast to Omiš and the klapa groups.
In Croatia you are spoiled for choice. Stunning sailing areas and fabulous festivals for all tastes!