The hinterland of Dalmatia is still resisting highly polished and commercialized events that overtook the coast. Here, you will not see the Helly Hansen “skippers” with two weeks experience, “hotel owners” of an apartment building… Local fiestas are still very traditional: loud, rude, religious, crowded with people in traditional outfits with not a great sense of personal hygiene…
Not events for everyone but closest you will ever get to going back in time for centuries meeting traditional inhabitants of the Dalmatian hinterland!
Benkovac Sajam or Fair of Benkovac is probably the best place to do so. Every 10th of the month, the fair takes place near the town of Benkovac and it became the biggest of it’s kind still operating in Dalmatia.
Thousands of people flock here even just to get a bite of delicious lamb and to see the offer.
The fair is usually big but it “grows” depending on the season. This, July, fair was about twice the size of the February one due to many more exhibitors/sellers and foreign tourists coming over to see what the fuss is all about :)) Locals come to buy cattle and tools for everyday use. Most of the other offer consists of the cheap Chinese cloths and shoes, some antiques, homemade produce like honey, domestic garlic, fruits… The offer obviously differs from season to season and, for example in September, more grape harvesting related objects will be on display.
Almost 10 000 people gather each time and it is best to either arrive early – before 9 AM or after 11 AM. The traffic gets really problematic between 9 and 10 and it usually takes almost an hour to make 3 Kms.
There are no entrance fees and the fair is, of course, held in the open air so make sure to bring a head cover or, in the winter, to protect yourself from bura wind that tends to blow rather strong in this area.
I enjoy going there because it is VERY colorful and my son enjoys the animals. It is rare opportunity to see cows, horses and donkeys all in one place. There are always squeaking pigs, chicken, ducks, pigeons, bunnies,dogs…
No visit to Benkovac fair is complete without enjoying lunch on the spot! Meat, meat and meat! Forget about salads – you will get a funny look just for asking potatoes or chips with your meat – and enjoy freshly roasted čevapćići, pljeskavice, kotlovina or lamb on a spit.
For those interested in cooking something special themselves, a lot of pottery, peka domes, gradele … can be found all over.
Generally, no visit to Dalmatia, for people really interested in culture and tradition, is complete without paying a visit to Benkovac Fair. No matter if you are coming in winter, fall or summer, each fair is unique and special.
Expect sweaty crowds, smelly animals, loud sales persons, big smiles – traditional sights and sounds of Dalmatia!
More on Benkovac.