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Kastavian stories from the past

1. HOW THE PEOPLE OF KASTAV DROWNED THE NOTORIOUS 'CAPTAIN' MORELLI IN A BASIN
In the second half of the 17th century, Kastav was ruled on behalf of its proprietor by 'Captain' Franjo (Fran) Morelli. Although Kastav had a statute dating back to the year 1400 and customary laws, 'Captain' Morelli enforced his own rules, ignoring justice and the old customs. When the people of Kastav had had enough of his behaviour, they broke into his residence, the 'Kaštel'. While they were dragging him down the stairs (which can still be seen today), he cried out: "Dear God, Mother of God and the Holy Trinity, please help!", and the people replied: "We don't need any help, we'll sort you out ourselves!"
They took him out and drowned him in a basin on the square in front of the 'Kaštel'.
Investigators came all the way from Trieste and Vienna to find out who had led the rebellion, but when asked about it, the people replied: "We all did it! My brother, the brother of my brother, Judge Kinkela and everybody else! Old Mary even stabbed him in the bottom with a distaff!" In this way, no one could be condemned.
In memory of the event, the quote "We all did it!" and the year of the rebellion, 1666, are engraved on the head of the well on Lokvina Square in the centre of Kastav.
 
2. HOW CREKVINA CHURCH WAS BUILT
In the 17th century, the Jesuits decided to build a magnificent church dedicated to St. Mary in the eastern part of Kastav. All the local people had to help build it without any compensation, even a poor widow with three small children. When it was her turn to carry the sand used in construction on her back all the way from Preluk Bay (next to Opatija), she asked a Jesuit who was in charge of the building to free her from the obligation so that she could work as a maid with some family to earn a piece of bread for her hungry children. Instead of letting her go, the monk made her work and even hit her three times with a whip. The humiliated and offended woman cursed the building:"Please God, don't let them ever finish the church!"
According to legend, the Jesuits tried to complete the church three times, but it always collapsed. Today, we don't know why it collapsed or if it was ever finished.
The ruins of this church, known locally as Crekvina, today still stand in Kastav as a historical and cultural monument.
 
3. THE LEGEND OF THE ORIGINS OF THE ZVONČARI BELL-RINGERS
Legend has it that when the Tatars, and later the Turks, reached the plain of Grobničko Polje, the local residents, mostly shepherds, had no weapons to defend their property. To scare off the intruders and chase them away, the people of Grobnik covered themselves in sheepskins, put bells around their waists and dreadful masks on their heads, took an axe in one hand (which today is still called a balta, from the Turkish word for axe) and a bag full of ashes in the other, and started jumping, shouting and ringing their bells. When the enemy soldiers saw these 'monsters', they turned and fled.
This is also the origin of the question that can still be heard today before the beginning of carnival: "When will come the day when Kaurin went mad?"
Another, more plausible explanation of the origins of the bell-ringing tradition is associated with the pre-Christian custom of chasing away the bad winter spirits and summoning the awakening of life, which is also known in other cultures. During carnival, the zvončari still pass through the villages wearing their zoomorphic masks and with bells tied around their waists. In their hands, they carry a wooden sabre or axe (balta). The custom of spreading ashes on women and girls to encourage fertility is not practised anymore.
 
4. HOW THE PEOPLE OF KASTAV DRAGGED A COW UP THE BELL TOWER
According to legend, the Kastav bell tower once was all overgrown with ivy. People had thought for a long time about how to remove the ivy without having to climb the outer walls of the tower. After long deliberation, a man suggested tying a rope around a cow and raising it up to the tower so that it could eat the ivy. And so it was done.
After a short time, a large group of people from Kastav gathered under the bell tower, putting all their efforts into raising the cow with a rope. The poor animal was choking and stuck its tongue out, but the people, watching it from below, cheered: "Look, the cow is alright, it's so happy that it's even stuck its tongue out!"
This is probably based on legend rather than a real event, as the story of a cow and bell tower is also known in other towns in the littoral region. However, since this story has always been part of the history of Kastav, it is considered to be part of the local cultural heritage.
 
5. SARDINES
In the Middle Ages, the Kastav Manorial Estate stretched all the way down to the sea. The small fishing village of Volosko – now part of Opatija – was under its jurisdiction. According to the law of the time, the local fishermen had to sell the fish they caught first in Kastav, and only after that in Volosko. People from Kastav were dissatisfied with the fact that the fishermen from Volosko would leave the best fish for themselves, so they decided to plant their own sardines in the autumn.
In the early spring, the people of Kastav came to see the crop, but none of the planted sardines had sprouted. After a long discussion, they concluded that it was because they had planted the sardines the wrong way round, with their heads down. The following year, they planted them the other way round, but there were still no crops in the field.
The people concluded that it was because the person who had planted them had probably stepped on the crop and destroyed it. They found the solution for this problem too: while one person planted the sardines, four others would carry him on a litter to prevent him from stepping on the crop.
Of course, the next spring there were still no crops in the field. One sad and disappointed man went digging in the field and found a rotten sardine full of worms and triumphantly exclaimed: "Look here, it's started shooting sprouts!"