Friday, 20 April 2018
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

“Wait, wait, I think I can see them,” the passengers neck bent at a painful angle as he pushed his head towards the airplane window. “Yes, no, I am not sure,” it seemed liked he was informing the whole plane, acting as an in-flight guide. I was sitting two rows behind him, but to be honest I could have been sitting next to the pilot and still have heard him. We were arriving over Dubrovnik; in fact we were still flying over Primorje, with the islands out of the right windows and a sea of mountains out of the left windows.

I was unsure what he was so desperate to see, his excitement seemed like he was spotting for the Loch Ness monster. A shriek of ecstasy rang out through the fuselage, was he having an orgasm! “There they are…there they are…look Muriel,” he almost bellowed at his wife who seemed less than excited. “Look the orange tiles, the orange roof tiles of Dubrovnik,” he continued. So that was it, that was the mystery he was looking for, the tiles of the Old City.

I think that this was the first time that I had flown back from London to Dubrovnik on a flight exclusively made up of English passengers. It was probably due to the fact the flight had left at an ungodly hour of the morning, just as the sun was coming up. The flight, and it was a busy one, could probably be considered as one of the first of the season and was full of expectant English holidaymakers, probably after a relaxing holiday on the beach. If they were after a long weekend of sunshine over the May Day holidays then they were out of luck, they had brought the English rain with them.

I was sitting on the end of a row with Mr and Mrs Small from Luton. They might have been small by name but they weren’t small by nature. I felt like I would literally pop out into the aisle as the weight, or overweight of the Smalls, pushed me to one half of my seat. A flood of “oh, I am sorry,” and “you are so kind,” came from the Smalls as they apologized for taking up two and a half seats in a three seat row. To make matters worse Mr. Small, or Mr. Oversized, was either suffering from diarrhoea or had a bladder the size of a hazelnut. In a two and a half hour flight Mr. Small spent most of it in the toilet, how he actually squeezed into the toilet is beyond me.

And the Smalls were also on the lookout for the sights of Dubrovnik from a bird’s eye view. “Oh, look there is a huge white bridge,” Mrs. Small explained to me. I nodded in agreement. “I have heard that a train runs over that bridge,” she added. I had a decision to make, either explain that she was wrong and enter into a long-term conversation with half the plane, or pretend that I was a holidaymaker too. “Oh, that sounds great,” I answered, obviously taking plan B. I really wasn’t in the mood to start being a tourist guide, and it was fun just listening to the comments. “Oh, that looks like a beach…oh, another beach,” the initial in-flight guide was back in control of the plane. “That one looks nice Muriel,” he bellowed whilst looking down at the Bay of Zupa. I was starting to feel sorry for Muriel, another hour with this guy and I would have been looking for the ejector seat.

“Have you ever been to Dubrovnik before,” asked Mr. Small. I felt like saying “Almost as many times as you have been to the WC on this flight,” but caught my tongue, “no, this is my first time,” I lied through my teeth. “Oh, it is great, the people are friendly and the beer is cheap,” he added. Blimey imagine how long Mr. Small would spend in the WC after a few beers! “Sounds great, I can’t wait,” I answered. “We are staying in a small fishing village called Lapad,” he said, adding “made me laugh as it sounds like Lapland.” I hope he enjoyed the small fishing village!

“Wow, look at the castle halfway up the hill,” screamed the in-flight guide. “It is amazing…look Muriel,” again a scream. What was he looking at; I can’t remember even seeing a castle in Zupa. I peered past the Smalls, not an easy task, to find out what he was screaming about. “I don’t think that’s a castle,” I heard from the row in front of me. “Yes, it is, I read about it in the guide book,” replied the in-flight guide. I finally got a glance past Mrs. Small, it wasn’t a castle as I had expected. I am not sure what guide book he had been reading but he had just announced to the whole plane that Zupa had a castle, when in fact what he was looking at was the hydroelectric power station.

After succesful pilot project of the Red Cross in Dubrovnik last summer, when they were taking care of the people in need on their walk around the City Walls and in the Old Town in general, educated volunteers will take the role of lifeguards at the public beaches, including Lokrum this summer.

Volunteers of the Red Cross usually monitor and help in the cases of dehydration, exhaustion and unconsciousness caused often by the very high temperatures, and also help in case of scratches and blisters. Last year, they had over 300 interventions per month. It is expected that they will be a great help on the beaches too.

All programs should begin June 15 and last until September 15 this year.

Dubrovnik was full of strawberries today! Locals and tourists didn't hide their happiness when they saw one of the most favorite fruits being sold in front of the Saint Blaise Church. And those were not just regular strawberries, but the ones that some say are ''the best in the world'', strawberries from Ston, municipality located at the south of the peninsula Pelješac, around 59 kilometers away from Dubrovnik.  Actually, this is so called ''Day of Ston strawberries'', and because of that they were sold at promo price of only 10 kuna. Many people used the opportunity to enjoy this fruit and make this sunny spring day even more perfect.

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On Thursday the mayor of Dubrovnik, Andro Vlahusic, received an official visit from the Governor of the South Korean province of Gyeonggi, Kyung Pil. The governor and his delegation also met with the director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Romana Vlasic. Kyung Pil travelled to Dubrovnik on the recommendation of the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, Chung Ui-hwa, with whom the mayor of Dubrovnik met in mid-April in Seoul. Gyeonggi Province is the most populous province in South Korea.

The interest in Dubrovnik as a holiday destination for tourists from South Korea can be traced back to a hit television show that presented the attractions of the region. The South Korea TV show was broadcast a few years ago and even since then Dubrovnik has been well and truly on the map for South Korean guests. Last year an amazing 46,000 South Koreans visited Dubrovnik, without a doubt one of the largest growth markets for the city. And many of these tourists come outside of the main tourist season, through the summer months, helping to extend the season.

The mayor explained that with the introduction of year-round direct flights by Turkish Airlines to Istanbul tourists from the Far East will have an easier route to European and Mediterranean destinations.

The respected travel publication, Conde Nast Traveler, has placed Dubrovnik on their list of the fifty most beautiful cities in the world. Dubrovnik was placed in fortieth position on the travel list, with Venice voted as the most beautiful.

“There are few places that better capture the grand soul of maritime Old Europe,” wrote the Conde Nast Traveler in a short article on Dubrovnik. Adding that “The city currently plays King's Landing in Game of Thrones, and was formerly the capital of the Maritime Republic of Ragusa, rival to Italy's Venice and Amalfi. Dubrovnik's crown jewel is the sternly lovely old town of Stari Grad, whose convents, palaces, and fountains were cut from the same lightly coloured stone.”

The top three in the most beautiful cities in the world list were - Venice, Hong Kong and Istanbul.

See the full list here

After the recent cold and wet weather the sun broke through today in Dubrovnik and, well, everything seems better when the sun is shining.


Check out our gallery by Tonci Plazibat

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The new resort of Kupari is slowly but surely edging forward. On Wednesday representatives of the majority owners of the former military complex, Avenue Group, of Kupari met with the local government in the municipality of Zupa to discuss the future developments.

Avenue Group attained the 90 year lease on the Kupari resort at the end of March this year and has talked about their plans to bring Marriot on board as a partner. At the meetings on Wednesday the investors presented their plans for further steps regarding the implementation of the Kupari project.

The former military resort has remained destroyed since in the Homeland War in the early nineties. The site contains five hotels, including a hotel which was constructed in the early 1900s, the new plans are that all these hotels will be destroyed to make way for a five-star resort with a Marriott as the centerpiece.

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Meetings between Avenue Group and the local government 

One of the cartoon characters popular in this part of the world when I was a child was Asterix the Gaul. This French made comic strip, cartoon, and finally - movie hero was cunning and courageous, and had access to a magic potion which gave him superhuman strength.

In one of the animated Asterix movies from the year 1976, Twelve Tasks of Asterix, our hero and his big friend Obelix had to complete 12 gruelling tasks put before them by the Caesar in order for the Romans to leave their village alone. This cartoon was one of my favourites, but there was one part of it I never understood as a child. Towards the middle of the film, Asterix and Obelix find themselves in a lovely Roman town talking to a tiny character with a droopy face and monotone voice who is there to explain the next task. As soon as they meet him they realise the entire town is full of crazy people, acting in all sorts of disturbing ways. Upon inquiring why all the residents are so strange, little guy tells them they have all been to the “place that sends you mad”, and that's exactly where they need to go to complete the task. When asked what they need to do there, the character says:

“Oh, nothing much. You just have to obtain a certain permit that will then allow you to the next task.”

“I see“, says Asterix, “nothing but a simple administrative formality.“

“That's right, a formality…“ – says the Roman ominously.

This leads into one of the toughest tasks in the entire film, as our heroes navigate the endless corridors and offices of the Roman administrative building “that sends you mad“, acquiring form after form and battling ever conflicting information fed to them.

Eventually, tired and half crazy, Obelix goes into a rampage, punching through walls of the building and screaming…
…and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what running a business in Croatia is like.

Croatian bureaucratic machinery is fierce and can make a grown man weep if taken on ill prepared. Here, you need a signed and stamped paper for everything. Maybe it’s in our blood. After all, the history of Dubrovnik is so well documented because of the efficient archives of the Dubrovnik Republic. I wonder if this means that one day, in the distant future, there will be a historian giving a lecture on the ancient Dubrovnik, holding a framed faded copy of my request for a building permit or change of address.
He might carefully take the document around the auditorium giving everyone a chance to examine my hastily filled out form.
“For lack of more information about 21st century Dubrovnik, we are left to deduce poor penmanship is indicative of insufficient formal education in the area.” – Lecturer would reveal pompously, completely missing the point.

Oh well, who can blame him? How is he to know the real reason behind my scribbled handwriting are five cups of coffee I had to go through on the morning in question, to prevent myself from going mad and punching through the walls.

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Bozidar Jukic is a Dubrovnik local with too many interests to name them all, with writing being at the very top of the list. He is a lover of good food, music and film, and a firm believer in the healing power of laughter. His professional orientation is towards tourism and travel so it comes as no surprise he spends most of his time alongside Mrs. Jukic running their own local tour company. Their goal is helping travellers from all over the world get a more intimate experience of Dubrovnik and what it has to offer. To find out more about their work, visit their website or Facebook page.
www.insiderholidays.eu
www.facebook.com/insiderholidays

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