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 good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination,” famously said the American psychologist Carl Rogers. Well I am not sure whether these guys have any direction, their boats seem to be floating adrift on the tide, but they are certainly enjoying the ride. I really don’t know how they do it! Hats off to them for I can’t understand their methods, but they seem to work.
“Ah, I recognisee youuuu,” I heard a drunken growl as I neared the small shop. It almost sounded like a bear awakening from winter hibernation. I looked around with some trepidation, not knowing what strange creature would greet me.
“Youuuu areee the Englishman, aren’t youuuu?” said the growling bear. Oh crap! Not only is he talking to me but he also recognises me. Not wanting to upset the bear I replied “yes, that’s me,” as I turned to see the bear was in fact a man sitting on an empty beer crate outside the shop. I wasn’t sure if the beer crate had been full when he first sat down and he had managed to empty it singlehandedly or if his friends had helped him.
“I readddd your columnnnn,” he murmured whilst at the same time slugging down another neck full of beer. I hope that I haven’t upset this bear, I thought to myself. “You areeee smart forrrr an Englishman,” another neck full of beer disappeared. Was that a compliment? Or had he just insulted an entire nation? I wasn’t sure but as it made me feel better I decided that he probably meant the first option. “Thank you,” I throw into the wind as I hustled into the shop door.
“I see that the government is in session today,” I joked with the shop assistant inside. She grinned back. “They get through five or six bottles a day,” she complained. “Don’t complain, these guys are great business, they are loyal customers and they always purchase the same products, beer and cigarettes, so they are easy to please,” I replied. “Yeah, I guess you are right,” she shrugged her shoulders in acceptance.
I jumped back in the car and then started to think. She said five or six a day, well that’s fifty Kunas a day. Add to that a packet of cigarettes and you are up to seventy something Kunas a day. At that’s before they have had something to eat, although maybe they prefer a liquid lunch, if you know what I mean. Seventy-five Kunas a day is 2,250 Kunas a month or 27,000 Kunas a year! Even if they have some days off, weekends and holidays, so let’s say half that amount, that’s still almost 2,000 Euros annually! That’s before they have paid the bills, the rent, the mortgage, their taxes, the food bills, etc. How on God's sweet and green earth do they afford it!
Forget David Copperfield, these guys are the real magicians. Forget Donald Trump, these guys are the financial wizards! There is no way that I could afford to do this; I would be homeless, hungry and bankrupt in a month. They seem to rarely work, if at all and yet they have money to burn. They are living the hedonist dream. Days filled with social encounters, cold beers, resting in the shade and a seemingly endless supply of money. Sounds like the script of a Hollywood movie where Tom Cruise would be in the leading role. The film could be called “The High Life.”
What is their trick, their scheme? I used the word government to describe them, but it seems they are closer to the government than I first realised. They spend most of the day putting the world to rights, they know everything about everything, a bottle or three of cold beer and they transform into Noble prize winning scientists, golden boot footballers and Winston Churchill trained politicians. There must be magic in those bottles. The bottles of beer are like the telephone box that would spin Clark Kent into Superman. A few sips of the brown liquid and they are world beaters, Einstein is in first grade put side by side with these heroes.
They seem to have no cares in the world, no stress from work (an obvious answer to that one), no pressures from society, no real care about their appearance, they are basically living for pleasure alone. Once again how do they do it? What is the magic formula? And why the hell can’t I find it! I just hope the bear doesn’t read this column as he might not be a gentle bear the next time we cross paths.
Dubrovnik is twinned with the following cities
Ravenna, Italy (since 1967)
Vukovar, Croatia (since 1993)
Graz, Austria (since 1994)
Helsingborg, Sweden (since 1996)
Ragusa, Italy (since 2000)
Bad Homburg, Germany (since 2002)
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (since 2007)
Monterey, California, United States (since 2007)
Rueil-Malmaison, France (since 2011)
Venice, Italy (since 2012)
Vancouver, Washington, United States (since 2013)
Since mid-September, when they first started arriving, 581,590 migrants have passed through Croatia and 31 persons are in the process of readmission, caretaker Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told reporters at the refugee transit centre in Slavonski Brod on Saturday.
He said the readmission was not easy but that Croatia's eastern neighbours were abiding by it. The 31 persons do not meet the conditions introduced on November 16, when Slovenia notified Croatia that it was accepting only refugees from war-hit Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Croatia is applying the same conditions and has notified Serbia and Macedonia, and since new rules were enforced, 1,110 persons were prevented from entering Croatia, he said.
Ostojic reiterated that Croatia would not enter refugee data into the Eurodac system so as not to become a return hot spot for all refugees which were not granted asylum in the rest of the EU. He reiterated that for the data to be entered into Eurodac, refugees should be first registered in the hot spots in Greece, in accordance with an EU plan.
From distant Lapland, from Rovaniemi on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Santa Claus arrived in Dubrovnik this morning. Santa and his elf helpers are on a journey around the world and Dubrovnik was chosen as another stop along the way.
Santa Claus walked through the centre of the Old City of Dubrovnik and, of course, was the main attraction for locals and tourists who took the opportunity to have their photo taken with him and his loyal helpers.
This afternoon Santa will hold a thematic workshop from 15.00pm to 19.00pm in the Lazareti complex just outside of the Old City.
Welcome to Dubrovnik Father Christmas!
Croatia Airlines is among the safest airlines in the world according to research by international specialized Internet portal AirlineRatings.com. The research by the website awarded Croatia Airlines six stars out of a maximum of seven stars.
In total 407 international air carriers were analyzed and were allocated between one and seven points in terms of safety.
For the third consecutive year, Qantas was named the safest airline in the world and among the top twenty there are American Airlines, Emirates, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
In compiling their assessments the experts from AirlineRatings.com took a number of factors into account, such as the number of plane crashes, whether the staff were ever punished for endangering the safety of passengers, and if the airline has a certificate from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). 148 companies were awarded with the maximum number of stars, while more than 50 companies had three or fewer stars. The worst offenders were from Nepal, Indonesia and Suriname.
Most of the airlines that cooperate with Croatia Airlines were granted the maximum seven stars for safety, including Air Canada, British Airways and Alitalia. While on a par with Croatia’s national carrier were Air Serbia, Air France and Turkish Airlines.
The Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, reached a new record today with 300,000 Facebook friends. “I can boast that I have 300,000 Facebook friends. Thank you for that!” wrote the President on her Facebook page. She becomes the most popular Croatian President on social media.
“We have the most beautiful president around the globe. Our pride of Croatia, we are proud of you,” commented one of her Facebook friends.
Directory of the tourist boards inside the Dubrovnik region
Dubrovnik-Neretva County Tourist Board
Address: Šipčina 2, 20000, Dubrovnik
Tel: + 385 (0)20 324 999 Fax: + 385 (0)20 324 224
Dubrovnik Tourist Board
Address: Brsalje 5, 20000 Dubrovnik, Croatia
Tel: +385 (0)20 323-887
Branch offices of Dubrovnik Tourist Board
Address: Obala S. Radića 32
Tel: +385 (0)20 417-983
Župa Dubrovačka Tourist Board
Address: Šetalište dr. Franje Tuđmana 7, Srebreno, 20207 Mlini
Tel: +385 (0)20 486 254
Fax: +385 (0)20 487
Konavle Tourist Board
Address: Zidine 6, 20210, Cavtat
Tel: +385 (0)20 479 025
Fax: +385 (0)20 478 025
Ston Tourist Board
Address: Pelješki put 1, 20230, Ston
Tel: +385 (0)20 754 452
Orebić Tourist Board
Address: Zrinsko-frankopanska 2, 20250, Orebić
Tel: +385 (0)20 713 718
Fax: +385 (0)20 714 001
Vela Luka Tourist Board
Address: Obala 3 br. 19 20 270 Vela Luka
Tel: +385 (0)20 813 619
Smokvica Tourist Board
Address: Brna b.b., 20272, Smokvica, Island of Korčula
Tel: +385 (0)20 832 255
Fax: +385 (0)20 832 188
Lastovo Tourist Board
Address: Dolac 3, 20290, Lastovo
Tel: +385 (0)20 801-023
Fax: +385 (0)20 801-391
Mljet Tourist Board
Address: Zabrježe 2, 20225, Babino Polje
Tel: +385 (0)20 746025
Fax: +385 (0)20 746 022
Half dead like a half-zombie, sleepy like Snow White and with my ear-phones in my ears, my brain in “flight mode” I made my way to work. But shortly before I managed to turn off all of my brain activities, a guy with a bag and a map of Dubrovnik came to me and asked me a question. My first reaction was very informative and constructive: Eh? What?! Oh yes, I still had my ear-phones in my ears and Till Lindeman was about to mention the sentence “Du hast” for the 128th time in the song of the same title. I pulled out my ear-phones and was able to hear the guy who apparently was a tourist. First, I thought that I didn’t hear the commonly used “Excuse me, could you tell me” – part. No wonder, there wasn't any “Excuse me part” there was just a roughly asked question: “This!?” Yes, the word “This” can be very well used as a very useful interrogative question. I have to mention that his English was broken like a Scandinavian Glacier.
My English isn’t in such devastated condition, just somewhere halfway between Chernobyl and Fukushima. The guy was not alone. Besides the fact that he was very grumpy, very sleepy, brain-dead and without a plan, his nationality and my name were connected to each other. He was Italian. My name means “brown” in Italian and his nationality means: “I don't speak any English only Italian, chiaro?!” He showed me the location of the Tommy market in Gruž and at that point I knew that I had to tell him or show him the brutal truth. He and his friends would have to hike the whole way back from where they had come from because we were in Lapad near the football ground. No thank you, no grazie, no grazie mille, nothing. He just turned to his friends, looked expressionless like Kirsten Stewart and scratched his head with his fingers. How many times in a minute he repeated “Merda” or “Cazzo” after I left him I don't know but I think it was enough for a lifetime of a Galapagos giant turtle! The point of the story is the fact that Italian tourists usually don't speak English.
The French are able to speak it but they won't. A couple from France asked me once without any introduction: “Vous-êtes d’ici?” (Are you from here?) ‘cause “tout le monde” speaks French. So if you just say two words in French they continue to speak with you like with a native speaker. I made the mistake so many times and said “Oui”. Dare to make a grammatical mistake while you’re speaking French and Robespierre will cut your head off with a guillotine! They will correct you immediately because your French must be perfect, sorry, not perfect - PARFAIT s’il vous plaît! In opposed to that, if a German tourist asks you something and you speak some German he ignores that and continues to speak English. They don’t force German but I think that is because of history.
Last time when the Germans forced German somewhere abroad the things went “a little bit in the wrong direction”. I must admit that I learned the easiest and best option for the people from Spanish-speaking countries. If they ask me something I just say: Yo no hablo español! Ear-phones - in, Till Lindemann - back, brain - good-bye! Amen!