What is it like to live on the Adriatic island Molat? That's the kind of question we (should) ask ourselves when choosing which place to visit on your travels. It is about the stuff to do and things to see; but bottom line is, you want to see the place that is alive and kicking for reasons other than tourism.
So, here is a photo essay with comments on what living on island Molat is like. I'll be talking about the island Molat. Note that the island has 3 villages, but half of everything happens in village Molat, the biggest of the three.
Molat is the kind of island that is small enough not to be big and big enough not to be small. It is the kind of place that has just what you need: a shop, a cafe, a restaurant, an ambulance, a post office, a church, a bell tower, some goats, some sheep, handful of the fisherman, their chatty wives and it's annual social events. The number of shops, cafes, and restaurants doubles up in number during the season to cater to maritime tourism. The town itself also has urban structure (roads, water distribution, electricity) for 500 people., which was the size of the town Molat's at its demographic peak in an early 20th century. Add to this two more smaller villages.
Here is a visual journey through the island.
1 / The town
Cozy. Small. Laid back. Orderly (for Croatian standards).
2 / The ports
Village Molat has two ports. One is used for connection to the mainland and storing the bulk of the local fisherman boat fleet. The other for swimming, water polo and relaxed summer afternoons.
3 / The villages
The other two villages on the island have different personalities. From certain angles, they resemble mighty hilltop villages in Tuscany. From other angles, they are sleepy fishing villages.
4 / The countryside road
The road that connects the three villages runs along the island's hilltops and cuts through thick maquis and occasional oak forest. Iti s 9km long and makes for a perfect cycling, running or walking platform day trip.
5 / Brgulje bay
Seen from up above, island Molat looks like a Greek letter lambda (inverted V). In between is the cozy little bay with a perfect round island in the middle of it.
6 / Zapuntel bay
At the far northern end of the island is Zapuntel bay. Name may come from 'pontello' small bridge in Italian, hinting at the former bridge that went across a 100m strait over to island Ist.
7 / The asparagus
Spring, in my opinion, is the most underrated period of the year on this island. All plants blossom and grow. You can't not feel the intense intense scents in the air. Going for an asparagus picking session is an adventure for all senses. After potatoes, probably the second most popular plant that finds its way into the hands and plates of the locals.
8 / The coves
From the main road, a number of fire escape routes lead to numerous secluded coves. Some end with a pebble stones beach, other with cristal clear rocky shore.
9 / The beaches
Thousands of years of sea currents moving around the pebblestones have created a few sandy beaches. Ideal place for a game of picigin (local pastime played in shallow waters).
10 / The fishing tradition
Over centuries, a significant source of protein for locals has always been fishing. This tradition is most visible in the early morning hours.
11/ The history
A statue at the entrance to the village, round guardposts, military tunnels, and infrastructure are just a subtle indicator of what has shaped local biographies and local history. An intense and complex story of communism, fascism, Cold War, concentration camp, military tunnels and many more things.
12 / The card games
Forget politics, economics, and even fishing. It's the card games that spark the most explosive discussions: during the game and after.
13 / Self-grown medicinal plants (and salad)
Here, a bush of wild rocket (Arugula) just growing our of a mocira (stone wall). We like this island and so do medicinal and other very useful plants.
14 / Beekeeping tradition
With some medicinal plants, come the bees, too. On an island with no agriculture and few cars, it is safe to say that environment is appropriate for organic beekeeping.
15 / The fields
First inhabitants came to the island in Rennisance times as farmers. Therefore, the village is situated high up on the island, right next to the flatlands. At the time when there were 500 people living in Molat, those fields meant a source of food. Today, less so for humans, and more for sheep.
16 / Nobleman's house
The person who invited the first farmers to the islands actually owned the island - actually leased it. That owner family collected a share of crops as 'payment' from farmers as compensation for allowing them to harvest the land. This serfdom lasted all the way until 1937. The house of the last noble family is still standing and gives insight into the difference in lifestyle between the farmers and the nobleman.
17 / The silence
One thing you notice spending some time on the island is the thick, healthy and inspiring silence. You can almost hear the clouds rolling in the sky. Magical. Note that in summer it is silence plus the crickets.
18 / The Clocktower
Building on the silence comment: in stark juxtaposition to this silence is the belltower that gets its moment of glory every noon. Noon is a big thing here and two powerful (as in - loud) bells clearly explain this for some 5 minutes every day as they ding dong their melody. Maybe that's why no one takes a daily nap before noon. In all seriousness: belltower is designed so you can hear it from the furthest points of the Molat field – basically from most of the beaches and coves, 2km away. Belltime is lunchtime.
19 / The views
Please note that I am being subjective here. I think that these 100m altitude hikes you can do to hilltops have some of the most rewarding views, especially given a little effort required. A must do if you are here.
20 / The greenness
From April until September Molat is as green as a botanical garden.
21 / The main square at 11h
The main square is empty most of the afternoon, but from 10 until 12 it is the heart of the village. The sound of multiple conversations of varying degrees of loudness. The only sound that cuts through is ceramic sounds of coffee cups stacking up on the bar. You can guess: this image was taken at noon. I will replace it with a new one. Promise. 🙂
22 / The snorkeling
Rocky shoreline of island Molat (honestly many places in Croatia) is the reason why the visibility is so great. Find fish, octopus, sea urchins, sea stars, underwater caves, an occasional dumped stove. There is a reason why the stoves are there. We'll explain when you come over.
23 / The fossils
Some micro-locations on the island have some cool fossils.
24 / The evening silence
If you chill out by the beach, you'll see that the evening silence and day silence have a different feel to them.
25 / The food
Every island has a unique twist to traditional local dishes. A different spice for the peka (the bell), the buzzara, popara or lešo. A couple of restaurants have delicious food. Then there are also families that can prepare something if you are staying overnight on their premises.
26 / Hospitable people
Come once, you know peoples names. Come twice, you already have the stuff to talk about. Island cordiality.
27 / Maze of streets covered in thick oak shade
The thick shade covers most of the streets up in the center of village Molat. Urban grid just big enough to get lost if you want to.
28 / Stand up paddle boarding
If you are ready to physically get off the island, you can take certified SUP course or go on a guided multi-day trip. For more info on SUP trips, see here.
29 / Sea kayaking
If SUP is not your cup-of-tea, then consider taking a certified kayaking course. For more info about kayaking trips see here.
30 / Surprise
Lastly, one thing that you can expect on island Molat is a surprise. If you are persistent enough to scratch underneath the surface you will find something to challenge you: the way you live, the way you see things or just something to inspire you.
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‘‘Conversations’ isn’t necessarily about the things that we talked about on our trips. It is about all the topics that you wanted to know about or ones that we promised we’ll look into. It’s about that constant pursuit of Croatia’s and region’s secrets, insights, history and lifestyle. It’s about enabling you to dive behind the obvious and get the best of your travels – challenging the status quo and celebrating cultural and natural diversity.