A nation’s culture can best be discovered through the games they play. Long before massive online playing became popular, Croats of all ages had their own social gatherings with fun in mind. Here are a few examples of their traditional games, some of which are still entertaining Croatian kids on streets and in backyards and playgrounds.
Brusim, brusim skarice
Translated, it means “I’m sharpening, sharpening my scissors.” Don’t worry; kiddies don’t use sharp objects in the game. It’s supposed to be played in an orchard or another place with lots of trees. One player takes two separate branches and crosses them over one another as though they were scissors. This is often done with a naughty grin. His task is to catch the other players – essentially, the one with the scissors is “it.” However, as long as the other players are physically touching one of the surrounding trees, they are considered “safe.”
There is a rule, however, that each one tree provides safety only to one single player, the one who touched it last. This means that players can run towards each others’ trees, and by touching them, they are ridding their opponents of their safety, thus providing a chance for the catcher to find his victim. If all the players manage to change trees at least once, the scissor-yielding catcher loses. If he manages to touch a tree-less victim with his branches, the player caught becomes “it,” and the game starts anew.
Croats sometimes describe bats as slijepi misevi (blind mice). In this game, one player gets blindfolded and spins around. He then tries to catch other players, who are using screams to guide the slijepi mis towards their opponents. Once he catches someone, he has to touch his or her face and recognize the person in question. If he succeeds, the caught player becomes the blind batman.
This is a game most commonly associated with herdsmen and usually played on pastures. One player takes off his hat (or in some cases, his shoe) and puts it on the ground. He then provokes the other participants to hit it with their legs. He guards it well, but when somebody actually manages to hit it, the “guardian” has the right to catch that person. However, if somebody, in the meantime, hits the hat again, the guardian has to catch that new person, instead of the one originally hit the had. In other words, the last person to have hit the hat is “catchable,” and if gets caught, he has to take off his hat and become a new catcher. This rural game is played as long as the players have energy, or up to the moment their hats are completely destroyed by the hitting.
Konac was played on Croatian islands. Basically, one player counts all the others, takes a piece of thread (konac in Croatian) and cuts it into small pieces. The number of pieces corresponds with half the number of the players (so if ten people are playing, the konac will be cut into five pieces). He wiggles the threads into his hand so that only their edges are sticking out between his fingers. Now all the other players have to hold one edge of the threads, and upon releasing the first player’s hand, they see who has the other end. These two persons are supposed to kiss. If you don’t want to kiss the person holding the other edge, you’re left out of the rest of the game. In days of modesty and chivalry, konac was the easiest way of getting close to your secret crush.
This is a game which imitates nature — a hen, to be specific. It was very popular among the young female population in the past. The way it’s played is that one of the girls playing – now a young hens – puts her hand on the ground and raises her palm, so only the tops of her fingers are touching the soil. Then she puts a small pebble in front of every space between her fingers. These are “chicks.” The brave hen now must take a different pebble and flail it above her head. While the small rock is in the air, the hen is supposed to put the other pebbles under her palm, as the real animal puts her children under her bottom. Of course, the player doesn’t have to put all the chicks under her palm at once. The important thing is to catch the pebble in the air. If successful, she can continue to gather the chicks with a new throw. If she fails to catch the pebble in air, it will scare the “chicks” and she will have to start from scratch. It also ends her game, and a new hen begins her turn. When all the “chicks” are under the girl’s palm, the player is supposed to grab them all in hand while the thrown pebble is in the air. If successful, that hen is victorious.
Skok s misine
A misina is a small hollow lining, usually made of goat or sheep skin. It was widely used for many things, including for making musical instruments. Misina was also used as a gaming tool, as filling it with water made it very trampoline-like. Croats would circle one such misina with rocks, take a running start, make skok s misine (a jump off the misina) and hopefully end somewhere on the outside of the rock barricade. The most successful jumper would be awarded with pork ribs, but many losers would break their own along the way.
Despite the fact that Croats received casinos quite early on, they had the game of kovcanje even before that. What you need for one round are coins, pebbles, and a 10-centimeter-long rock called a mekac. The latter is put on the ground, and the coins go on top of it. Then the players take ten steps back, away from the mekac, and throw pebbles at it one after another. If they manage to flip the mekac, they take all the coins it had on top of it. If the coins are hit, they will most probably spread all over the playground. If a player does miss the mekac, he or she takes all the coins which are closer to the spot where their pebble landed than to the mekac itself. In times of crisis, there is a slightly less demanding version of the game. Instead of coins, players use clothes buttons.
Many other games exist in Croatia. Hopefully, you will meet at least one during your stay. However, be advised. That misina is really not for clumsy players.