I almost didn’t include this little island as it was such a dull, grey day when I visited that the photos are not very interesting at all – sorry! But an island is an island and, as this qualifies as one, I have decided to include it. (The next one’s a lot more colourful!) Košljun (Kosh-lee-oon) is a tiny monastery island tucked away in the deep natural harbour of the Puntaska Draga bay, Krk Island. It is home to a very small community of Franciscan friars and is only accessible by taxi boat which lands you at the purpose built jetty where a statue of St Francis and a wolf welcomes visitors to the island.
A taxi boat driver felt sorry for me and gave me a lift to the island on his way to delivering a group of French tourists to Krk town around the coast. They were friendly and interested to find an English person who speaks French so we had a chat and a laugh on the way there. The boat driver dropped me off and promised to pick me up later on in the afternoon and the jolly French people waved me off!
Orignally the site of a Roman villa, the island was home to a Benedictine monastery before being abandoned. In 1447 the Krk noblemen sought permission from the Pope to install a community of Franciscan friars on the island and the monastery was enlarged to accommodate them. The present day buildings include two churches, cloisters, the community’s cemetery, an extensive library and a museum displaying church and farming artefacts. The name is said to come from the Italian Castellione or Latin Castellum which, if you say it fast, sounds like Košljun (Kosh-lee-oon)!
The island is tiny – 300 metres in diameter and covers approximately 6.5 hectares – but covered in trees and plants. A clear path takes you around the edge of the island with views across to the town and shipyard of the Krk town of Punat on one side and thick forest on the other side. There is also a network of pathways which crosses the island and takes you to various tiny chapels built in amongst the trees.
There is a well-tended olive grove set in a lush green lawn close to the jetty and the island is apparently rich in a variety of wild flowers and plants. Most of the ground appears to be covered in tall holm oaks, pines and other typically Mediterranean trees and shrubs. It’s quite dark and shady in the centre of the island and must be lovely and cool in the heat of summer.
I only saw one of the friars – the one who sold me an entry ticket (there are apparently 4 of them in total) and it didn’t seem polite to take his photo! On the day I visited, there weren’t many other people there – a couple of groups of Croatian men. It was very quiet and peaceful to wander around the paths and contemplate how the friars manage to live there on a day-to-day basis. Some of the little chapels look quite dirty and unloved on the outside but have amazing frescoes painted on the walls inside. One, dedicated to the Stations of the cross, had a little courtyard with little shrines representing each station of the cross.
An interesting but slightly strange little island that, on a sunny day, would be a very picturesque little half day trip. I enjoyed my visit but was quite happy to see the taxi boat driver pull up at the jetty bang on time.
NEXT ISLAND: Staying in Croatia, the next island is beautiful and colourful Lošinj.