I played Robinson on the Croatian island of Kornat

Nicol Ljubic, journalist and writer of Croatian origin, went to spend a few days on the almost deserted island of Kornat, off the coast of his native country. An infinitely regenerating stay.

I took with me a kilo and a half of quark [fromage blanc], 20 eggs, a packet of oatmeal, spaghetti, nuts, four cucumbers, a kilo of tomatoes, two zucchini, bananas, nectarines, a piece of bacon, a packet of cevapcici [saucisses traditionnelles croates] and nine liters of water. It remains to be seen whether that will be enough to last five days on a desert island; I’m not particularly good at stewardship.

I’m more of the type who waits until I miss something to go out, which might be difficult on an island without a grocery store. Maybe I should have taken the Survival-Lexikon de Rüdiger Nehberg [“La survie de A à Z”, inédit en français], a harpoon or at least a fishing rod, but that would perhaps be exaggerated, because it is not on an atoll lost in the middle of the southern seas that I am going to find myself, but on a Croatian island.

I will not need to DIY a hut either, since I will move into a solid house that I have chosen beforehand on the Internet, with electricity and running water. It’s Robinson’s life in a light version: five days in Kornat.

No road, no hotel, no network coverage

Kornat is the largest (and it shows) of the 147 islands and islets of the Kornati – an archipelago on the Adriatic coast. The first time I came here not far from [la ville côtière de] Zadar, that was three years ago, I took a day trip by boat there. I discovered another world, arid, isolated, a rocky archipelago made up of deserted islands and craggy islets as if emerging from the waves, called “crowns”. No car here, no road, no hotel, no board. Most of the time, no network coverage either. Here and there, just a house by the sea and a few rare localities on Kornat.

And then stone walls, for kilometers, which stretch over the large islands, from one side to the other, spanning the karstic hills, straddling the ridges before descending the slopes. They must be about a meter and a half in height, erected stone by stone. If they were bigger, I imagine they could be seen from space: mysterious lines, parceling out the void with no apparent pattern.

Isolation, karst, indigo sea – in my mind the Kornati are the very embodiment of fjaka, this term used by Croats to describe a mental state of calm, languor and laziness. Quite the opposite of my Berlin life, especially in these times of pandemic. I had this image in front of my eyes: I am sitting on one of these islets, staring into the distance, and I breathe – I breathe in deeply, I breathe out, and I start again.

Stone walls storming the hills

Renato is waiting for me at the port of Murter. He will be the ferryman who will bring me to “the other world”. Murter is located on the island of the same name, connected to the mainland by a bridge. It is the last place where one can find crowded streets, supermarkets and cafes. The house in which I will stay [sur Kornat] belongs to the family of Renato. It is noon, the wind is tearing shreds of foam from the sea, the crossing in a motorboat has all of the rodeo. I don’t know if Renato sees that I am as white as a sheet. Halfway, he offers me a schnapps, which I politely decline.

The closer you get to Kornat, the more grated the island looks. The earth glows red in the middle of this mineral universe. The island is blocked off in the middle of a chain of hills. I see again those stone walls which attack the hills. And I wonder who bothered to pile up hundreds of thousands of stones like that on these rough, steep lands. And above all, why.

After an hour of riding the waves, Renato points to a small cove punctuated by two houses


Ni­col Lju­bic

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