Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lošinj Island - First Impressions: Immortelle!

Immortelle, Lošinj, Croatia © Jane Cody

Regular readers will be well aware that, in June, I spent a week in Ćunski, near Mali Lošinj, on the island of Lošinj.

The main purpose of the trip was to better my language skills with an immersion course with the Croatian Language School, but of course there’s no point trying to ”immerse” yourself in all things Croatian without getting out and about a little!

I've explained, in detail, how to get to Lošinj in earlier postings - Rijeka airport is probably the best airport to fly to and then it's over the road bridge onto Krk island, followed by a short ferry hop to Cres island and then a further drive south, over another road bridge, onto Lošinj island - the next few postings are all about the delights you can find on the island….

The first thing that strikes you, the moment you arrive on Lošinj, is a strong, unusual but pleasant smell that's hard to identify. Some suggest it's a curry smell but I think of it as a mixture of carob, pine, rosemary, sage, lavender and aniseed although that might just be because they are all smells that I associate with Croatia. In fact I’ve just had another smell (you CAN bottle it!) and now it’s reminding me of Orohovac – a walnut brandy. Whatever its scent is like, it’s with you all the time you are on the island, as is the sound of crickets and the iridescent blue of the sea and sky.

The olfactory part of the sensory overload is down to a plant called Helichrysum italicum, more commonly known as the curry plant or immortelle. In Croatian it’s called Smilje. Clearly it takes the first nickname because of how some people perceive its smell; the second common name derives from the fact that the flowers seem to last for ever, whether still attached to the plant, or dried, or on their way to making a health giving elixir.

Lošinj has long been known for its health giving attributes, no doubt partly because, although sheltered by Kvarner bay, it lies a long way out to sea. It may also be because of this native plant which is attributed with immense health giving powers. In fact, if you google it, you’ll find that, in the form of an essential oil, it’s pretty well all you need in your medicine cabinet! It’s supposed to be particularly good for skin rejuvenation, allergies, liver function, muscle spasms, gallstones, detoxification and as an anti inflammatory. It’s used widely in aroma therapy and, whether its Smilje or something else, I have to say that, whilst I was on Lošinj, I barely touched my considerable stock of tissues when, normally, there’s always something around to give me the sniffles.

Todays photo is of a clump of Smilje at the back of the Croatian Language School premises. Linda Rabuzin, my teacher, tipped me off about a tour of Mali Lošinj, including a visit to an organic small holding, where I was able to bring back my own small bottle of the elixir of youth and immortality – more on that particular trip soon.

 Be right back


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