Picigin: Made in Bačvice
Picigin: Made in Bačvice
Explore the world of a unique sport from Split
Bačvice beach is only a few minutes’ walk from the city centre and is a favourite place to relax during the day among people from Split and their guests. The sand, warm sea, and numerous bars that offer spectacular views of the nearby islands of Brač and Šolta are all great reasons to spend time in one of the most iconic places in Split.
In addition to being the perfect spot to enjoy your siesta (or fjaka, as it’s known locally) with a refreshing drink, Bačvice beach is also the legendary place of origin of picigin, a type of sport specific to Split. To put things into perspective, Bačvice beach is to picigin what Wimbledon is to tennis, or Wembley to football. The game was created after WWI, and became a favourite pastime in Split sometime around 1923. Today, it has found its way to various beaches worldwide. There is one clear rule, though – only the Bačvice picigin is the original, everything else is only a copy.
Although there are no strict rules on the number of players, having five players and a small ball (or balun) is the best way to play the game. The ball is usually a worn-out tennis ball, and the goal is to keep it from falling into the sea for as long as possible. If you happen to see experienced picigin players (or piciginaši) at the beach, you’ll notice right away that they work together as a synchronised orchestra that uses acrobatics, jumps and elegant movements to keep the ball in play.
The story of how Bačvice beach became the temple of the picigin is specific in and of itself. For starters, sand is an ideal surface for this purpose because it allows players to fall into the water without the danger of hurting themselves. This particular point is very important as the game is played in ankle-deep water. Seeing as Bačvice is the centre of the world for residents of Split (or centar svita, as they call it), with numerous bars and restaurants, the best picigin players often have an opportunity to show off their talents to a wider audience, especially the ladies.
Because of its popularity, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia included picigin on the list of intangible cultural heritage. Split also holds an unofficial “World Championship” in picigin every year, as well as a New Year’s Eve game, which has become a sort of a tradition.
A bit of trivia:
Some say that in 1908, students from Split brought back water polo from Prague with them, and wanted to play it on Bačvice beach. Since the sea there is shallow, this is where picigin was created, and it gained its present form after the end of World War I