Croatian summer story, fešta

Svako selo svoju feštu ima… first line of one of the most popular Croatian old pop songs. It means every village has its own fiesta. And fiesta or fešta is a very serious event and an important part of summer. On a well defined date almost every city or village on the Dalmatian coast will declare “its day” and prepare a feast in every sense of the word, for all the senses.

On the small villages on islands, fetša has a special homely atmosphere. On the day of the festival, the villagers start preparing early, setting the scene for the evening when the main party will commence. Stage for the concert is set up and wooden stands are brought on site. The center of the village is usually decorated with colourful lights and little flags hanging from the porches of cafés and shops.

In the late afternoon they start slowly cooking the dishes that will be sold to the hungry dancers and curious visitors: brudet, rizot, polenta. While the band is having a rehearsal before the evening concert, fish and squids are cleaned, kilos of onions and potatoes are chopped and peeled and drinks are arriving in crates.

As the sun starts coming down, lights are lit up, food stands are ready to serve their delicacies and the first passersby are reading the menus. The smell of fresh fish and grilled meat is inviting and all of a sudden, the village is packed with people of all age. Music starts after sundown and soon enough people are dancing, eating or sitting by the sea with a drink in their hands, enjoying the summer breeze.

There is something for everyone. After the meat, risotto or fresh fish, traditional sweets and candies made on the premises by local women are wrapped in rustling paper are waiting for the ones with a sweet tooth. My favourite are fritule, a doughnut-like Dalmatian pastry, prepared with a secret ingredient: a touch of rakija, a traditional strong fruit or herb alcohol. The band plays till late night and after the big firework at midnight  the party continues in one of the bars on the seaside until dawn.

The village festivals like these are the best opportunity to try local unpretentious food, prepared with fresh ingredients in the traditional way by the locals which is a treat one can rarely find today. If you visit a small village on the coast one summer, ask the locals for the date of the fešta, they will know best.