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.
We all remember in our childhoods being dragged around historic buildings, castles and churches with the vague promise of ice-cream or a ride on a slide afterwards to sweeter the deal. If you looking for historic buildings then Dubrovnik has them in abundance, and while they are sure to capture your imagination it will be tough to promise that amount of ice-cream to your children. Don’t worry Dubrovnik has plenty to offer for all the family, all you need is some inside information.
Children friendly beaches
In these days of modern technology it’s good to get back to nature and what could be better than a day out on the beach. Although Dubrovnik sits on the turquoise Adriatic Sea there is a surprising lack of “real” beaches, especially children friendly beaches.
Here are some recommendations:
Banje Beach: a stone’s throw, or should I say a pebble’s throw, from the historic Old City of Dubrovnik, the Banje is an iconic beach in Dubrovnik. Voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world the Banje is THE beach for holidaymakers in the city. This pebbly beach is walking distance from the old city and has a café bar, showers, a restaurant and sun loungers. Copacabana: no, not Rio, but Dubrovnik. The Copacabana beach is located on Babin Kuk (around 15 minutes bus ride from the Old City) and is a true sandy beach, great for the kids. Like the Banje it can get crowded in the middle of summer but there are plenty of amenities, including a water park. Uvala Lapad: the bay of Lapad is one of the main tourist sections of Dubrovnik and has a few beaches that have relatively shallow water. If you looking further out of the city then Mlini in Župa (around 15 minutes by bus) is a great choice, the area has a multitude of clean beaches with plenty of sand. And even further on the island of Lopud there is the Šunj beach. This is a wonder of nature with around 150 metres of shallow seas and glorious golden sand.
Mummy I’m bored!
After you’ve hit the beaches and topped up your tan why not take the family on a cable-car ride to the top of Srđ Mountain. Not only will the ride get the children screaming in delight but the panoramic views from the top are mind-blowing. Feel like being a bit more active then try a riding a horse in the Konavle countryside. The Kojan Koral in Konavle, near the Dubrovnik Airport, offers something for every one, no matter how much experience you have. And the unspoilt countryside really gets you back to all the joys that Mother Nature has to offer. And don’t forget Dubrovnik’s green oasis the island of Lokrum, just a short fifteen-minute ferry ride from the historic centre the island is one huge playground for children. But for all the amenities that Dubrovnik has to offer by far the biggest advantage is the safety and security that comes with a holiday to the city. Children can play and run freely in the Old City without parents having to constantly shepherd them. It’s safe and secure at all times of the day and night, and after just a short time in Dubrovnik you’ll have “free-range” children.
With so many sights and sounds it is sometimes hard to see the wood for the trees in Dubrovnik. So to help you navigate around we have compiled our “top five” choices.
Korčula - A true gem of the Adriatic Sea the island of Korčula is a must visit. A delightful walled city, stunning beaches, rolling countryside and a wealth of traditions...not to mention great wines, Korčula is truly magnificent. Lopud - A favourite summer destination for Dubrovnik citizens, Lopud is part of the Elaphite archipelago and is home to arguably the best beach in the region, Šunj. Easy to reach with a short ferry ride from the port. Lokrum - The garden of the Old City of Dubrovnik, fifteen minutes from the city and you are in paradise, green heaven. Take a blanket, picnic, water and a good book find your olive tree and unwind in the shade. Mljet - Home of one of the most breathtaking national parks in the world, god was having a good day when he created Mljet. Spend a long weekend on the island and you’ll feel five years younger. Šipan - The largest of the Elaphite islands and an unspoilt beauty. Nothing much has changed here for the last few centuries and that’s the charm of the island.
Spend the time
Enjoy the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra – Dubrovnik’s orchestra was formed over a hundred years ago. The orchestra plays regularly in the Rector’s Palace in the heart of the Old City. Discover the glorious wines – on the doorstep of Dubrovnik there are two famous wine growing regions, Peljesac and Konavle. Take a wine trip and treat your palate. Dive into seafood – Dubrovnik’s national dish is fish and seafood, with the crystal clear Adriatic on the doorstep it isn’t a surprise. Climb up to Lovrijenac – the fortress that stands alone outside the city walls is very popular at the moment after starring in Game of Thrones...the views over the city are magnificent. Dive, dive, dive – slide beneath the surface of the Adriatic and discover a new world. The sea is renowned for being one of the cleanest in the world and is a mecca for divers from all over the world.
Find a memento
Lavender - The Queen of fragrances, Lavender, has a long tradition in Croatia. Its pastel purple blossom is a part of the Dalmatian landscape. Today dried lavender in small canvas bags is sold as an authentic souvenir. Olive oil - Olive oil is the most used fruit juice drained from a plant. The Mediterranean people have considered olive oil as sacred for thousands years. Some souvenir shops will sell homemade olive oil from the villages around Dubrovnik and this although normally darker in color has a stronger and clearer taste. Cravat - Handmade silk ties are among the best-known Croatian souvenirs. At the beginning, the cravat (tie) was a kerchief worn by Croatian soldiers in the 17th century. In the 18th century, in the form of a broad white scarf, it became part of the traditional male national costume. Fine wines - Croatian wines certainly belong to some of the best wines in the world. Croatia boasts more than 300 geographically-defined wine regions which produce 67 percent white, 32 percent red and the remaining 1 percent rose wines. Embroidery from Konavle - The embroidery from Konavle, so - called "Poprsnica", is a basic decorative textile element of female national costume. It is made in technique of the counting of the threads of the basic fabric tissue.
What is the connection between Dubrovnik, Napoleon, Russell Crowe and the grand old English sport of cricket? I can almost hear you scratching your heads and calling me mad but there is a link, however tenuous. The thread that connects all these pieces together is Sir William Hoste.
Nelson’s boy comes good
Born in 1780 in King’s Lynn in Norfolk, England, Hoste was a protégé of the great Admiral Lord Nelson. He actually attended the same school as Nelson and was born to follow in the great man’s footsteps. As early as the age 12 Hoste was at sea which coincided with the outbreak of war with France in 1793. After a stunningly successful early career Hoste was given the command of HMS Amphion in 1805 under Nelson and was sent to patrol the Adriatic Sea. His mission was basically to disrupt enemy movements and harass Napoleon’s fleet and coastal defences. Under his ingenious command HMS Amphion had managed to sink or capture around 200 enemy ships in the Adriatic Sea by the end of 1809.
Onwards and upwards
His superiors were so impressed with his endeavours that he was sent reinforcements in the form of three extra frigates, HMS Volage, HMS Active and HMS Cerberus. Now with his slightly larger “mini” fleet he set up base on the island of Vis on the Croatian coastline near the island of Hvar. Hoste continued to wreck havoc on shipping lanes in the region and in April and March of 1810 managed to sink or destroy 46 enemy vessels. During his time on Vis Hoste and his crew would relax and what better way to relax than with a game of cricket. “We have established a cricket club at this wretched place, and when we do get anchored for a few hours, it passes away an hour very well”, commented Hoste during his six-year posting on Vis. There are some doubts as to whether Hoste actually played the game himself on Vis but he certainly gave his blessing to the sport that his fellow Englishmen loved. To this day cricket is still played on Vis and “The William Hoste Cricket Club” has recently played a friendly against the MCC. Hoste’s cricket legacy is living, breathing and thriving with a mix of ex-pats and Croatians involved in the club.
The Battle of Lissa
The French were so annoyed with Hoste’s success that they sent a large fleet to the island of Vis, or Lissa as it was known then, to destroy the cocky English captain. A total of seven frigates and four warships attacked Hoste’s fleet on the 13th of March 1811 in what became known as The Battle of Lissa. To rally his men and raise morale Hoste turned to his mentor and famously shouted “Remember Nelson.” The golden boy of the English fleet used all his experience and in a bloody battle destroyed the French fleet with the loss of only 50 men. In honour of the great victory the islanders of Vis named an island after the English sea captain. And so today as you sail into the main Vis harbour you’ll sail past Host Island, obviously the locals dropped an E somewhere. In an interesting twist of fate the only building ever built on Host Island was a lighthouse, to keep sailors safe on the sea. That same lighthouse has now been converted into tourist accommodation and many English tourists stay on Host Island.
Unsportsmanlike combat in Dubrovnik
During the French attack in the Battle of Vis Hoste’s own frigate HMS Amphion was so badly damaged that he was forced to return to England. However this was not the end of Hoste in the Adriatic Sea, he was soon sailing back in the command of HMS Bacchante in 1812. And in 1814 Hoste attacked the French garrison in the Imperial Fortress above Dubrovnik (then Ragusa) on the Srđ Mountain. He had already previously successfully defeated French forces in Kotor in Montenegro and used a similar tactic to defeat Napoleon’s troops in Dubrovnik. Allegedly he hauled the ship’s cannons to the top of Srđ and fired on them, with the French complaining that his tactics were unsportsmanlike. Soon after this victory British and Austrian forces controlled the Imperial Fortress.
Master and Commander
So now I’ve answered the question of Dubrovnik, Napoleon and even cricket, what about Russell Crowe you may be asking. Well the famous English author Patrick O’Brian wrote a series of novels with the fictional character Captain Jack Aubrey. There are a whole host of suggestions as to who the character jack Aubrey was based on but lots of the evidence point towards Sir William Hoste. The 1969 novel Master and Commander set in the Napoleonic Wars was made into a box-office Hollywood hit in 2003 and starred Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey or was it Russell Crowe as Sir William Hoste. And so the mystery is solved Sir William Hoste connects Dubrovnik, Napoleon, Russell Crowe and the sport of cricket.
If its peace and tranquillity you’re after then the Trsteno Arboretum is a must. Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens which contain more than 300 species of trees and numerous plants from around The Mediterranean and the world. Together with the architecture from the Gothic-Renaissance period this makes The Trsteno Arboretum one of the finest gardens in this part of Europe. The pride of the arboretum, two Oriental Planes located on the central market place of Trsteno, survived both disasters undamaged. They are over 500 years old and are unique specimens of its kind in Europe. The ancient trees are both about 45 and 60 metres tall and their trunks are 5 metres in diameter.
Exotic plants in magical surroundings
The Trsteno Arboretum is about 25 minutes from Dubrovnik by car. It is located in the small hamlet of Trsteno, and the Arboretum covers an area of 63 acres. It was established by the end of the fifteenth century as a park and summer residence by the family Gučetić. It has been the property of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts since 1948, when it was donated. The Arboretum reserves a very special place among the old Ragusan, Dalmatian and Mediterranean parks due to its five-century-long continuous development from Gothic-Renaissance, Renaissance-Baroque and Romantic forms to the present. It includes a Gothic-Renaissance park surrounding the fifteenth-century summer residence. Its collection of exotic and decorative trees and shrubs includes over 300 species and cultivars. The arboretum passed into Yugoslav state ownership in 1945, and was declared a natural rarity in 1948. Since 1950 it has been managed by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In 1962 the Arboretum Trsteno was registered in the list of protected natural monuments list as a monument of landscape architecture. The protected area covers around 255,000 square metres.
Under fire from all sides
On October 2 and 3, 1991, the Serbia -Yugoslav army launched a series of gunboat and air attacks and set the Arboretum ablaze. Most of the Arboretum was destroyed by the fire. Fortunately, the summer residence and the oldest part of the Arboretum were only partially damaged. The arboretum was further severely damaged in 2000 by a forest fire during a drought, when around 120,000 square meters were lost in fire.
In the spirit of the new time, today the Arboretum of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Science in Trsteno is open for visitors again. I have recently visited the Arboretum and the gardens have recovered well from the fires of 2000. The gardens are extremely tranquil and the assortment of trees offers plenty of shade for the wandering guest. After you have spent some time admiring the Arboretum I would suggest dropping down to the coast. There is a marvellous small bay under the gardens and although there isn’t a real beach the rocks give you plenty of swimming opportunities. The whole scene is set by a waterfall that cascades down into the bay refreshingly. In recent years the Arboretum has been the location for the popular television series Game of Thrones.
In September 2015 Croatia's public debt was reduced by 1.4 billion kuna to HRK 285.9 billion, however, the public debt growth rate remained high on the year as the debt increased by HRK 15.9 billion mostly as a result of the need to finance the high budgetary deficit generated by the central government, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said on Monday.
The HGK said that public debt in September 2015 was up 5.9% on the year, caused mostly by the central government whose debt increased by 6.1%. Local government debt at the same time was reduced by 5.2%.
In the first nine months of 2015, public debt was up HRK 6.3 billion, with domestic general government debt going up by HRK 6.2 billion and foreign debt by HRK 100 million. During that period central government debt increased by HRK 6.4 billion while local government debt decreased by HRK 412.4 million.
The HGK said that the state had borrowed the most on the domestic market by issuing bonds -- in the first nine months the debt increased by HRK 9.7 billion. Loans were up by one billion kuna in the said period, while short-term financing through treasury notes was reduced by HRK 4.4 billion.
The HGK said that a high budgetary deficit and strong public debt growth kept the country's credit ratings by all three main credit rating agencies below the investment level with negative outlooks, which increases the costs of borrowing.
The director of the Korcula Port Authority, Vedran Lelekovic, has stated that the cruise ship season on Korcula last year was slightly down on 2014. In 2015 128 cruise ships arrived on Korcula carrying with them 42,355 passengers. In 2014 there were 175 cruise ships and 52,500 passengers, which means that there were 47 fewer cruise ships and around 10,000 fewer passengers last year.
“The movement of cruise ships in the world market is unfortunately like that, and we had a small number of ship arrivals and therefore passengers,” said the technical director of the Korcula Port Authority, Zarko Klisur. He went on to add that this year there will be more cruise ships on Korcula but fewer passengers. In 2016 there will be a total of 175 cruise ship arrivals to Korcula with around 37,797 expected.
Dubrovnik has once again found itself on the radar of Hollywood! After the success of the popular HBO Game of Thrones serial comes news that Dubrovnik will be the backdrop for another film production. The film series Alexandra will be shot in Dubrovnik from the 24th of January and features actors from all over the world.
The film production company Star Life Films will bring actors from India, Croatia, the UK and the US together in their latest project.
“Alexandra is a story of the events happening during the dark ages in ancient Greece,” commented the film makers. Adding that “they excited and looking forward to filming in Dubrovnik.”
The average age of vehicles driving on Croatian roads is 13 years now, while in 2007 it was 9.95 years, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) says, adding that this is a direct consequence of the prolonged economic crisis.
The Vehicle Centre of Croatia (CVH), which is in charge of technical inspections of vehicles in the country, has stated that the median age of cars that underwent technical inspection in 2014 was 13.07, as against 9.95 in 2007 when it was close to the median age of cars in the European Union.
In 2014 the average age of cars used in the EU was 9.65, according to statistics provided by the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA).
The HGK says that Croatians are increasingly buying used cars, as evidenced in the fact that in 2014 as many as 39,124 second-hand cars were brought by their new owners for their first technical inspection as against 35,315 brand new cars.
The number of brand new cars undergoing first technical inspections is decreasing, while the number of second-hand cars undergoing technical inspection upon purchase is redoubling, according to the HGK.