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.
This year could well be one of the best ever for the Croatian tourism industry. The start to 2016, the off-season, has begun very well and according to statistics from the Croatian Statistics Bureau there was almost a twenty percent increase in the number of tourists arriving in Croatia in February.
With the height of the season, the summer period, on the doorstep tourism experts are predicting an excellent year for the tourism business, an industry that accounts for just over 18 percent of Croatia’s GDP.
In February the number of tourists arriving in Croatia increased by 18.4 percent compared to the same month from 2015. The number of overnight stays also increased in February, this time by 16.1 percent. In total there were 428,225 tourists in Croatia in February, of which almost 60 percent were foreign guests.
When broken down by nationality the figures show that “neighbouring” countries brought the largest number of tourists, 20 percent from Slovenia, 10 percent from Austria, 10 percent from Italy, 9 percent from Germany, 6 percent from Bosnia and Herzegovina and over 5 percent from South Korea.
The figures in Dubrovnik were also excellent with the massive training program from the German car giant Mercedes brining in over 15,000 guests.
The conceptual design system of introducing an e-moped was presented this week in the city council. The green project could mean that Dubrovnik will become the first city in Croatia that has electric scooters. Prof. Josko Deur from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture University of Zagreb presented the preliminary findings of the study whose completion is expected in mid-June. The project is in the phase of choosing the most appropriate choice of electric scooters on the market, the optimal solution for recharging stations as well as the design for “sharing” the scooters around the city.
The Dubrovnik Development Agency has secured funds for the study from the fund for environmental protection and energy efficiency. The idea is that the public transport company, Libertas, will control the operational organisation of the electric scooters. With the possible introduction of 100 “e-scooters” Dubrovnik will be the first city in Croatia to have these environmentally friendly transport systems. However this transport system isn’t unusual in other major European cities, whilst London has a share a bicycle system for a few years.
The full implementation of the project is expected after the market research has been carried out, and this is hoped to be completed by the late summer. A prototype model will be produced as well as the realisation of the system of sharing the scooters. So far three different models have been tested; all these models have zero emissions and use solar cells on canopies to recharge.
The future of Dubrovnik could well be green.
Another event for oyster lovers in Dubrovnik! This Saturday, the 23rd of April, an oyster and wine event will be held in the centre of the Old City of Dubrovnik, on the Stradun. Following the success of previous events the Dubrovnik Tourist Board has organised a festival of oysters and wine.
Oysters will be sold at the promotional price of only 5 Kuna and a glass of local red wine or white wine will be on sale at 10 Kuna. The musical entertainment will be provided by the vocal group Ragusa.
Construction work has begun on the new animal shelter above Dubrovnik on Zarkovica. The earthworks on the new dog shelter have already been carried out and yesterday the first concrete work was started. In February the site preparation began and the whole process is planned to last for 120 days.
The first phase of the construction work, which is being funded by the City of Dubrovnik, will cost 1.8 million Kunas and according to a statement from the city the shelter for abandoned animals should start operating in the summer.
The latest promotional film from the Dubrovnik Tourist Board is picking up awards from all over the world. After winning the silver award at the prestigious ITB Tourism fair in Berlin the film has now been awarded a bronze medal at the New York Film and Television Festival.
With more than fifty countries competing for the awards the new promotional film “Dubrovnik and Time,” picked up the bronze medal. In fact the stunning new film was the only entry from Croatia, and the award was collected by the director of the Croatia National Tourist Board in the USA, Ina Rodin.
“Dubrovnik and Times,” was recorded in 2015 and produced by the Zagreb based production house “Balducci movie.” The New York jury was made up of 200 media representatives from 30 different countries.
“This year’s awards presented strong competition and we’re thrilled to be recognized for showcasing the richness that Dubrovnik and our country has to offer to guests. We love every opportunity to tell the story that Croatia is an unspoiled, beautiful part of the European Mediterranean region with a multitude of cultural, history and natural beauty,” commented the director of the Dubrovnik Tourism Board Romana Vlasic.
My wife and I met eight years ago. We were a part of the same social circle. She was still in college and we would see each other occasionally during parties or dinners. Once, a few of us were to meet at her apartment and that was when the romance began. I was fashionably late as always and as I was entering the flat, greeting everybody inside, I heard someone making way through the crowd going straight towards me. It was a plump, snow white Maltese dog named Luna. She barked aggressively until she got my attention and as I reached down to pet her it became obvious a new love was being born.
Oh yeah, I conquered the heart of my wife's dog long before I got her to fall in love with me. More surprisingly, that dog really got to me as well. I never owned one while growing up and I wasn't at all prepared for the emotional connection you can get from these animals. Over the coming years, Luna became a part of our lives even though she lives with my in-laws most of the time. Today, she’s in poor health and the years are starting the catch up with her, but she still gets excited when she sees me. As for me, I still can’t resist smiling every time I see that happy little fur ball.
Dogs have that ability. They can get you to forget about your problems and simply enjoy the affection they are so eager to give. That’s a powerful thing, especially in this day and age. Perhaps that’s why the trend of owning dogs is on the rise in Dubrovnik. Even more, it seems adopting shelter dogs is more and more popular as well, which makes me especially happy. This is largely due to some very dedicated individuals in and around Dubrovnik that managed to make the public aware of the problems of shelter dogs over the years.
As the idea for writing about this came to me the other day while I was patiently scraping dog poo off the sole of my shoe, I can honestly say I would be even happier if the trend of picking up after one's pet would also grow stronger in our fair city. It seems not everyone realises these are living beings that require care and dedication. Let's hope we will one day learn to take care of our dogs as well as they take care of us.
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.
Readers of the popular UK newspaper The Telegraph have voted Croatia the fourth most enjoyable country to visit in Europe. Over 75,000 people took part in the newspapers 2015/2016 Telegraph Travel awards, which included reader’s favourite airlines, hotels, destinations and tour operators.
The twenty most enjoyable countries to visit in Europe were also chosen and Croatia came in at a lofty fourth position.
“Famously short on sandy beaches, Croatia makes up for it with dozens of holiday islands scattered along its fractured coastline. It's also helped by its excellent Italian-influenced cuisine, a short flight-time from the UK, and general all-round good value,” wrote The Telegraph about Croatia.
The top three in The Telegraph list were Greece in third place, Iceland in second place and Italy in first place.
“You’ve left the bloody head on!” I had to laugh this week whilst sitting with a colleague in the Old City over a coffee. He is involved in the hospitality business in Dubrovnik and it soon became clear that he has a wealth of juicy information about the tourists that visit the city. He reminded me of something, something that I have been thinking about after another conversation with a tour guide, and that is how much do tourists really want the local experience.
Pick up any holiday brochure, open any travel blog or flick to the travel section of most newspapers and I guarantee you’ll see this sentence, live the local experience! It is the “in” phrase, the fashionable piece of advice.
Long gone are the days when tourists travel to foreign lands and imitate lizards by spending two weeks soaking up the sun on the beach. No, now it is all about diving into the local culture, the local traditions, learning how the locals live and of course the local cuisine. Tourists aren’t….well they aren’t tourists anymore, now they like to describe themselves as travellers. Like Indiana Jones they cross the globe looking to discover lost civilizations and maybe uncover hidden gold.
The internet is mainly to “blame” for this new trend, well the internet and budget airlines. Now you can book your flights, hotel and excursions from your armchair and thanks to Ryanair reach a foreign land for a handful of Euros. All you need is an Indiana Jones hat and a travel guide and the world is your oyster! But there seems to be a slight problem with this trend, do people actually want it, or more importantly are they ready for it. Are they being sold something they don’t really want or need, like when we all rushed out and bought Betamax video recorders only for VHS to win the day! And the conversation I was involved in only brought home this theory.
So you want the local gastronomic experience in Dubrovnik? Ok, let’s start with the most traditional of local dishes, fish. You want to eat like a local, well firstly that means that the fish has to be fresh, not processed and coated in breadcrumbs. When it lands on your plate it will look like a fish not a dinosaur or a cartoon character. If I had a Euro for all the times I’ve beheaded a fish for family and friends in a restaurant I could pay the Croatian national debt...well not that much but you get the idea. And apparently I wasn’t alone in beheading fish; my friend across the table had had more than his fair share of chopping heads off.
A fish wouldn’t swim very far without a head! You want the local experience well this is part of it. And bones, yes just like us fish have bones, otherwise they would be jellyfish. The amount of times I’ve heard “Mummy this fish has bones in it,” coming from the next table. Probably the only other experience of fish these children have had is when the fish has been mashed up, squeezed into a block shape and covered in breadcrumbs, fish fingers. You want the local experience, well here is some news for you, in reality fish have bones but they don’t have any fingers. How many fish have you seen wearing gloves? Or playing handball? You want the local experience, well we eat fish with our fingers, and those tiny little fish well we eat them whole with the heads and we colour our risotto with squid ink. Still want the local experience?
And when we spit roast a lamb or goat we leave the head on as well. So when you sit down and see a perfectly formed lamb twisting over a fire, that’s a local experience, it might not be want you read in the guide book but that’s it. Oh, and with our fish we normally eat boiled vegetables, such as Swiss Chard, no, there is no chips, no tortilla, no processed food at all. Are you still ready for this?
Olive oil is the main seasoning, along with some rosemary, garlic and basil. You can forget any tomato sauce, chilli powder, artificial colourings and flavourings, sugar, E numbers, preservatives, additives....the list goes on and on. This is fresh fish caught on the day you are eating it a few hundred metres from where you are actually sitting. That’s the local experience, now if you still want that, and my advice is to grab it and embrace it, then we have plenty of that.