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.
The Peljesac Bridge project will take three years to construct and will be completed by 2022, according to the Minister of Transport, Oleg Butković. The contract between the Croatian government and the constructor, China Road and Bridge Corporation, was signed yesterday in Dubrovnik and the 2.08 billion Kuna project is set to begin.
Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, who attended the signing ceremony, said that this is a "strategic project for Croatia, which will make Croatia's mainland unique, and the south of the country will be integrated with the rest of the country.”
The European Union is co-financing the project to the tune of 357 million euros, or 85 percent of the total costs. The total value of the bridge that will connect Dubrovnik with the rest of Croatia, is around 420 million Euros.
With the signing of the contracts yesterday construction works can now begin, however they could soon be stopped as the Austrian company Strabag has launched legal proceedings in the Administrative Court in Zagreb against the State Procurement Commission. If works aren’t stopped by this lawsuit, then the Chinese construction company will start work where they finished in 2008. The first step will be to make a construction project for the main pillars that will support the bridge, which according to estimates should be completed in six months. This means that if all goes to plan actual construction on site should start by the end of this year.
Croatia is going green as the government have announced an increase in the number of electric charging stations for cars around the country.
According to details from the Croatian Electric Company (HEP) there are currently 46 ELEN vehicle charging stations in Croatia, whilst the company also announced that this year they will install fast-charging stations along the Croatian highways. In 2011 there were only 9,400 electric vehicles in the European Union, but this number has grown rapidly and in 2016 there were 91,000 electric vehicles in the EU.
A senior official in the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy commented that the government has plans to increase the number of charging stations throughout the country. Along with this step the government have also announced state subsidies for drivers wishing to purchase electric vehicles.
Croatia will be the backdrop for a blockbuster Chinese romantic comedy movie next year. The renowned Chinese director Jiang Zhongyuan will direct the movie which will star the famous Chinese actors Ma Su, Jiang Xin and Kou Zhenhai. The love story in Croatia, entitled “Summer in Croatia,” will start filming in the middle of next year and it set to hit cinemas in China in 2020.
“This is a great opportunity for Croatia, especially for Croatian tourism. I expect a significant growth in the number of Chinese tourists in Croatia after the realisation of this project,” commented the president of the Chinese Southeast European Business Association, Mario Rendulic.
According to information from the producers the film will highlight the natural and cultural beauties of Croatia, including the Dalmatian coastline, gastronomy and local traditions. The plot of Summer in Croatia is a love story and tells the story of Deng Mengpi who lost the love of her life and started to dream about the time they spent on holiday in Croatia. Six years after she went to Croatia with her boyfriend she travels back to the country to relive her memories.
Wanda Studios Group will distribute the movie in China, which almost guarantees the success of the project, and the film will be shown at 36 cinemas and with such a large market over 13 million people are expected to see Summer in Croatia.
Cooking is all about passion. Live for the kitchen and the kitchen will live for you. We caught up with one young chef in Dubrovnik who has passion running through his veins. Spasel Krešić has had a diverse career so far, from sushi to fine dining, from hotels to restaurants, from Dubrovnik to Zagreb. And all along the way he has gained invaluable experience, and he has brought all this to the stunning Dubrovnik restaurant, Bistro Tavulin. “Cooking is not only a profession but also a hobby, a way of life,” explained chef.
How would you describe you style? Are you a traditionalist, a fusionist or a modern lover?
My cooking style would probably be best described as a “freestyle.” For example, I often change the look of the meal on the plate each time I serve it. Even though the ingredients and preparation stay the same it’s nice to be able to use some creativity with each different plate. The taste remains the same but the look is different. So I would say that I have a freestyle, or a flexible style. I wouldn’t say that I am fixed with any one style, but instead try to take the best from all of them. Of course I have a Mediterranean background in the kitchen, and this dictates the ingredients that I concentrate on. Focusing on locally grown and produced ingredients that are grown without any chemicals. Making the most of what Mother Nature offers us here in Croatia, and on the Adriatic. And let’s be honest Mother Nature has been very kind to us in this part of the world.
When did you first become interested in food and cooking? Did you watch your mother as a child?
Ha-ha….yes as a child I remember watching my mother prepare the family lunch. One thing that I remember to this day is at school the teacher asked the class “what would you like to study after school?” Most of my classmates answered they wanted to go to economic university or business university. I stood up and answered “I want to be a chef!” In fact, my mother is also a cook, so you could say that I picked a lot of ideas up from her. I honestly don’t know what else I would like to do in life, for me cooking and food are more than a profession.
Who cooks at home?
Mostly I do, but my wife is learning how to cook. I must say that she is really a great cook already. But when I go home to my parents my mother still cooks for me. Mother’s cooking is always mother’s cooking.
Where and how do you get inspiration for new dishes and new meals?
Mostly at home to be honest. Strangely enough after a long day in the restaurant, especially during the summer months, you would think that after I come home I would switch off and relax. The opposite is the case. I get home and think about new ideas, new ingredients that I could try and different ways of recreating something that I already have on the menu. Like I said cooking is not only a profession but also a hobby, a way of life. Of course also when I go to other restaurants I am curious to taste something new. I try not to be too much of a critic, which is always hard, but take the positives out of every dish.
Who are you cooking idols? Do you watch the numerous cooking shows on TV?
Of course I would have to put my mother in the first position. I have to admit I love watching Gordon Ramsay, he has some brought new life into traditional dishes. I also learnt a lot from my first head chef, Steven Peters, who taught me not only the skills needed to prepare a dish but also the tools to run a kitchen. We have regular meetings in the kitchen to make sure that everyone is “reading from the same page.” What happens at home stays at home, but in my kitchen you need to have a smile on your face and be prepared to work.
What is your favourite meal?
The first meal that I ever prepared “solo” was pasta carbonara, so that would be somewhere on the list. I would probably say another pasta dish – pasta pomodoro. Fresh cherry tomatoes, olive oil, homemade pasta…perfect.
Is Croatian cuisine underrated on a global level? Spanish and Italian cuisines are dominating in Europe, so is there space for Croatia?
I don’t think that our cuisine is underrated at all. Maybe before twenty years Croatian cuisine was seen as poor, but over time the interest from the world, and from leading chefs has increased. A lot has been done over the past two decades to improve the dishes on offer. We have everything on our doorstep. Incredible nature and natural products, from herbs to vegetables, and the crystal clear Adriatic Sea. All we needed to do was learn how to use these tools in front of us. In my opinion we are now up to a world standard, in general the level of restaurants has improved and at Bistro Tavulin we are proud to be included in the Michelin Guide for the past two years.
How difficult is it to find good quality ingredients?
Of course this depends on the concept of the restaurant and what you plan to offer on the menu. If you want to have the best smoked salmon, then you’ll have to go to Scandinavia. As we only use ingredients that are locally sourced we don’t have such a huge problem. As I said before use what Mother Nature has already provided and you’ll be fine. I really concentrate on using home-grown ingredients, for example we make our soups the old-fashioned way and not by using any artificial additives. Seafood comes directly from the Dubrovnik Adriatic. If you give to nature, then nature will give back to you. I can see this in the feedback from guests, and after all the highest compliment for me is a happy, smiling guest.
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The Red Arrows made a flying visit to Croatia yesterday, literally a flying visit, and landed at Zadar. The Red Arrows are the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team and one of the world's premier aerobatic display teams, and they showed their skills flying low over the Adriatic coastline where they filmed this amazing cockpit video.
The team uses Hawk jets and act as ambassadors for the United Kingdom is assisting to recruit for the Armed Forces. During the brief visit to Croatia the Red Arrows met with their Croatian counterparts “Krila Oluje” or Wings of Storm.
The video was shot by Sergeant Will Allen, flying in Red 8, as they arrived in Zadar on their way to the Exercise Springhawk in Greece.
Croatia’s economy relies heavily on the tourism industry, and according to latest figures tourism accounts for around 16 percent of the gross domestic product. The Croatian Institute of Tourism have released estimates showing that the tourist industry makes up between 14 and 16 percent of the country’s GDP, but that that figure in reality could be much higher.
Tourism is one of the most important industries in Croatia and directly and indirectly the county relies on the income from tourism. Putting an exact figure on the amount that tourism adds to the economy every year is “educated guesswork” as a number of factors, such as day trips, nautical tourism and domestic tourists are not included in the current tracking system. Also following the expenditure of tourists is generally made through average spending surveys, the real figure could be much higher.
In the presence of the Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, the contract with China Road and Bridge Corporation on the construction of the future Peljesac Bridge was signed today in Dubrovnik.
“This project is of strategic, long-term importance to the whole country. The project is meaningful not only for the long-term development of Peljesac, Korcula, Lastovo and southern Croatia. The project is also important for the supply of goods to southern Croatia which will become faster and more efficient - said the prime Minister at the signing.
The Prime Minister also added that the future bridge will also have a height of 55 metres and a range of 280 metres and therefore “allow our friends in Bosnia and Herzegovina safe passage into the port of Neum.”
Numerous ministers attended the signing ceremony, which was held in the Hotel Excelsior, as well as the Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia.
Hello again summer, hello again parking nightmare. Somehow we all seem to forget about it. As the colder months approach the problem is pushed to the deep darkness of the back of our minds. Or is it that we are all just ostriches burying our heads in the sands and crossing our fingers that the problem will just go away.
“I’m sorry but I am still desperately searching for a parking space,” I apologised to a colleague who I was supposed to be meeting in the Old City. You could say that we were mad for arranging a meeting in the Old City, but we had no choice. I circled around and around the town. Every space full. No signs of hope. It is only the middle of April and already there is more space in a tin of sardines than in the public parking of Dubrovnik. Drastic times call for drastic measures.
Now when I first arrived in Dubrovnik I was a little shocked at the fact that many institutions and businesses have one price for locals and one for tourists. After twenty years I am not shocked anymore, in fact I would actively encourage it.
Of course there is a right way and a wrong way of pricing. It shouldn’t be more expensive for tourists, just cheaper for locals. If a steak normally costs 150 Kuna, it shouldn’t be 200 Kuna for tourists, but 100 for locals. Basically offering a discount and not pumping up the prices. And this is why I am not against parking privileges for locals.
How a foreign tourist can park his car within spitting distance of the Old City walls is beyond me? Try and park your car next to Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower or the Brandenburg Gate and see the response. The parking spaces directly around the Old City must be reserved for locals, full stop! Residents pay taxes here, live here and are of course entitled to some benefits. This isn’t being unfair to tourists; this is being fair to locals, the same as with the discounts on buses, restaurants and museums. You could even take this a step further.
Why not, from the 1st of May until the end of September, introduce a regulation that only DU number plates can park around the Old City, meaning local cars. The public garage, which is somewhat of a white elephant anyway, should be filled. Make all parking spaces on the road from the parking garage to Boninovo for DU number plates only. Is this discrimination? No, this happens all over the world and is a “residents only” style of parking. And there is already a similar system in use here anyway. Try to park on the promenade of Cavtat, you can’t. Ramps block the access and a sign reads residents only, without a card you can’t enter.
So on the road by the public garage you employ a few “security guards” to inform tourists that from this point there is no public parking and the best solution is to use the garage. It would be extremely easy to control. If the number plate isn’t DU then the car can’t be parked there.
Of course, it wouldn’t completely solve the problem of parking around the city, but it would certainly help. Tourists are basically here on holiday, they aren’t working, so for them to spend a few minutes walking to the Old City shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you live around the city and are carrying shopping, pushing a pram, taking children to school or struggling to carry a bottle of gas back home then parking near your home is absolutely important.
If you want to take it a step further, then introduce the “park and ride” system. Again this is not reinventing the wheel, this system is proven. So at the public garage you have a few small mini buses that are constantly driving from the garage to the Old City. You don’t need a timetable and the buses are free. Tourists could walk to the city and catch the bus back to their cars, or vice versa, and everyone is happy. The when the tourist season finishes you open the roads again and go back to normal.
It is an idea that needs ironing out, as I’m pretty sure there are some hitches that I haven’t considered, but at least it is an idea. Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change. It is clear to a blind man that we need a new solution, well we have needed one for the past ten years, and no solutions have been presented in a decade, the time to try is now.