“Mare” in the media

Svršata and Katina Svršata is a small island with a name that has not been explained yet. The only thing about the island that everybody agrees on is its Dalmato-Romance origin, which means that the island isquite old. Artefacts from the Roman period confirm the theory of the island’s origin: the rem...

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Svršata and Katina

Svršata is a small island with a name that has not been explained yet. The only thing about the island that everybody agrees on is its Dalmato-Romance origin, which means that the island isquite old. Artefacts from the Roman period confirm the theory of the island’s origin: the remains of buildings and ceramics on the land and a large natural stone pool underwater, found at the bottom of the bay. The pool was probably used as a vivarium for the fish which was most likely caught in Statival, a neighbouring bay, that was and still is a well-known fishing area.

The bay is a pleasant place to stay. Both the island and the bay are owned by the Špralja family from Zaglav on Dugi otok. Katina is an island with three little bays. In the north-west of the island there is Mala Proversa, a bay at the very edge of a passage of the same name, with a few houses. The second bay, Pod Katinu, issituated in the south-west of the island.

Today’s biggest and most visited bay is the one in the south-east, with a famous restaurant and good berthing for the sailors. The bay’s official name is VelikaProversa. It shares its name with the passage where it is located, but the guests are more familiar with its nickname,“Kod Mare”, which comes from the name of the restaurant’s former owner. The island’s arable, deforested lands were also mentioned in Zadar cadastreas early as 1421, which means that the island was being exploited very early. The Šešelja family from Zaglav owns the island’s pastures, fences and houses.

Mare

The first tourists, the sailors, did not arrive until the 1960s; the guests would often wait for the work in the field to be completed so the cooking could begin, the food was cooked and baked fisherman style, there was no luxury; most people prefer it that way even today

There has always been a Mare in Proversa. The original Mare was Mare Šešelja, nee Matulić. Both Tonina and Nela are called Mare. Mare Šešelja passed away a long time ago, her daughter-in-law Tonina is an old woman who still lives in Proversa almost all year round, and Nela is the wife of Tonina’s son Vjekoslav. The two are today’s hosts on Katina. Will their daughter Luca be called Mare some day? Maybe, in case she also decides to spend her summers here, cooking.

“Mare“ is, in the truest sense of the word, a cult place of Kornati. It is located just behind Velika Proversa, which was until recently the only passage from Dugi otok to Kornati. You cannot finda sailor who has not stopped by the restaurant, tried their specialties and tied his boat to the dock. But many of them have left without hearing the story about Mare. In case a rude guest, even quietly, called Mare dirty, they would get a lecture from Tonina. She will even today, almost sixty years after she married into the family, respond to a rude guest without apology: “Mare’s a** was cleaner than your tongue“.

“Mare was never dirty“, says Tonina. “She was a living saint. It is not fair that people talk like that. Some foreign fishermen and Zagreb citizens made that up. She and her old house saved many fishermen in trouble and did only good to those hardworking people. It was not like today at that time. There was no motor drive, people steered boats using rows and sails. Boats did not have gas, we cooked outside the house in summer, when the weather was warm, and inside when it was not. I remember when I was young, a child, and the wind was very strong, the fishermen would spend their days waiting for the wind to pass and for the weather to calm down, because you cannot go against Bura. Mare would save them and take care of all of them like their mother. That is what they called her – the Mother. Cross my heart. Always. Not dirty Mare.”

The story of Mare and Katina is also the story of Kornati. The Zadar noble families were the first owners of Kornati. As the story goes, the Šešelja family whose descendants own the island today arrived at Dugi otok from Herzegovina. They were noblemen’s servants, farmers and shepherds. They did not become the owners of the land until 1885-1886 when the Zadar noblemen sold it to them. Before they bought the land, they were only allowed to look after sheep. They were not even allowed to plant olive trees. Today they account for 110 olive trees on Katina.

Their experience was the same on the other side of Kornati. They first lived in a small house on a hill until they moved to the seaside and built a new house there. They lived off the land and moved between Zaglav and Katina. They never completely abandoned the property on Katina. At least two family members constantly dwelled there at the time.

Today, powerboats are tied in front of the Šešelja family’s house at the seaside whereasin the past the place used to be a marina for Sali fishermen. Their fishing boats could not pass through the passage of Proversa so they used to fish in the open seas outside Kornati. The house on the shore was their station and their shelter from sea storms. After fishing they would tie up their boats in front of it and unload the catch while factory ships with shallower drafts transported it to Sali.

Nowadays, when the fishermen are able to speed through the Mala Proversapassage on their way to Sali,it is impossiblefor us to imagine how hard the fishermen used to work in the past. And the times were difficult. People made food, prepared their boats and nets in front of their houses, and whenBurablew, fishermen’s wives would stay at Mare’s house. Zaglav is 8 miles, not kilometers, away from the house, and everything had to be carried from there. Today it is an hour’s drive by boat and fifteen minutes’ drive by powerboat which every better Kornati household owns. How times change!

During the Second World War, Katina was also a shelter for anyone who dwelled there. The Italians and Germans would often pass by it, but they would not disembark. The island was so small that they were able to control it just by doing that. In 1942 Tonina appeared, married into the family and became a resident of Katina. The people were hardworking, but lived a peaceful life. As if time had stopped.

Tonina occupied herself with olive plants, fields, an occasional trip to Zaglav where she married or Dragova where she was born, but she spent most of her time in Proversa. On the stones with the fishermen. Thanks to those fishermen, the Šešelja family is still engaged in agriculture. They grow olive trees on Katina and in Zaglav, and since they own a field, they occasionally plant some potato and cabbage. They tend to produce 3 tons of olives only, and just think about olive oil! The pure cold-pressed olive oil. One would enjoy drinking it just for pleasure. Some of our Italian guests come to the restaurant and bring their own refined oil. They ask us to use it to spice up their food. We do as we are told, but Nela usually serves a plate of our homemade olive oil, just in case. Eventually all of their food ends up in that plate.

Unfortunately, food is no longer cooked in clay pots at “Mare”. It would be too difficult to feed all the guests just by cooking in clay pots on direct flame. These days, the restaurant offers modern Kornati cuisine in which good, fresh fish plays the most important role, be it grilled, steamed or in a stew. Since the Italians swarmed into the restaurant, we serve less risotto and more spaghetti. There is no harm in flattering them a bit. As genuine gourmands, we are hoping for a day when there will be no guests and Tonina will be able to make us a vegetable stew following a recipe that the old fishermen from Kukuljica, Ugljan left a long time ago. If not Tonina, then Vjekoslav’s son Dujeor his daughter Luca can do it. Duje is a waiter and Luca still goes to hospitality school in Zadar. For them, Katina could be a place of opportunities where the old islanders used to go to overcome poverty. And it will remain so as long as they keep the spirit of old times alive.

Note

In front of the restaurant there is analmost 20 meters long concrete pier atthe waterfront. At the head of the pier the sea is 3.5 m deep, compared with a 2 m depth at the foot of the pier. The sea depth decreases to 1 m as we approach the waterfront. The place serves as a good protection against all winds apart from Jugo, but it can be dangerous while Libeccio blows or during a storm from the west.