Monday, 18 June 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

After the success of direct flights from Toronto to Zagreb the Croatian capital is optimistic of attracting direct flights from the US. According to a report on the specialised website ex-yu aviation the General Manager of Zagreb Airport, Jacques Feron, commented that “New York would be an excellent destination.” However he added a note of caution by saying that “although it is true that this metropolis is well connected to all major European airports.”

The management of Zagreb Airport have been targeting flights to the US for some time; in fact they openly state that New York is the “most desired route” for the Croatian capital. And the fact that the recent introduction of flights from Canada to Zagreb operated by Air Transat are proving successful seems to have added fuel to the fire for flights to the US. There are even talks that the seasonal summer service that Air Transat had first negotiated will be extended into the winter period, thus extending the tourist season in Zagreb. "On the first flight there were 140 passengers flying from Toronto to Zagreb and 280 passengers back,” commented Feron.

And it isn’t only Zagreb Airport that are pushing for flights to the US, the Croatian Ambassador to the United States is also working hard to “explore the possibility” of direct flights to Croatia.

 

Every weekend our resident "Style Guru" will be scanning the streets of Dubrovnik for the latest and greatest in fashion.

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Croatia were knocked out of the Euro 2016 in France last night after a mammoth battle against Portugal. Portugal beat Croatia 1-0 to win a place in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals with a goal in the 117th minute.

In a tense game in Lens that was dominated by two strong defensive displays chances were few and far between. The game went into extra time after a 0 – 0 stalemate in which there were only a attempts at goal. In fact the 117th winner from Ricardo Quaresma for Portugal was the first shot on goal in the whole match. To say it was a cagey affair would be an understatement, Croatia were on top for most of the game and Cristiano Ronaldo was kept quiet by a strong Croatian defence.

But then with only just over two minutes of extra time remaining the Portuguese counterattacked and broke Croatian hearts with a late, late winner.

“We dominated the game but we didn’t score,” commented the Croatian coach, Ante Cacic. Adding that “So the best team lost. It happens in football.”

Portugal now go into the quarter-finals where they will face Poland whilst the Croatian team fly home wondering what could have been.

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Fans in Dubrovnik after the final whistle - Photo Tonci Plazibat 

The British have always had strong connections with Dubrovnik and the region. Starting when Richard the Lionheart was returning from the Crusades in 1192 and according to legend was shipwrecked near the island of Lokrum. From those early beginnings the British have had a love affair with the city.

Kings and Queens, high-ranking politicians, actors, sportspeople, the list goes on. Dubrovnik is a magnet for British guests, over the past decade the most numerous tourists every year have come from Great Britain, this year once again British guests are leading the way. This year, for the first time ever, the City of Dubrovnik will organise the “British Week in Dubrovnik,” from the 27th of June to the 3rd of July. The rich program, which is jointly organised with the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Lokrum, Midsummer Scene and Dubrovnik Cinemas, includes all of the best of Britain.

From Hamlet on Lovrijenac Fortress, an exhibition of Richard the Lionheart on the island of Lokrum, British film classics under the night sky, an exhibition of famous British people who have been in the city, plus much, much more. Every day has a highlight event, and every day has at least four separate events. There will even be an iconic red London double-decker bus parked on the Pile entrance into the Old City of Dubrovnik serving English tea and biscuits. With the British the most numerous guests in the city, and the strong links between the UK and Dubrovnik the first ever British Week in Dubrovnik is guaranteed to be a success and for sure just the first in a traditional event.

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Due to strict UEFA rules the Croatian national football team had to wear their blue jerseys in their opening three group matches against Turkey, the Czech Republic and Spain. As these three group opponents of Croatia had red and white on their jerseys, UEFA made a strict decision before the tournament that the Croatian football players would have to play in their blue jerseys in order to avoid clashes.

The Croatian red and white checkerboard design, which has become famous throughout the world and even has inspired Marc Jacobs for his new collection of slip up shoes, was voted the best looking jersey before the championship even started.
As the Portuguese footballers will wear their green jerseys in the match against Croatia on the 25th of June at the Bollaert-Delelis stadium in Lens the Croatian players will finally have the opportunity to run out on the field wearing their jerseys in the red and white cubes.

Apart from the UEFA's strict rules regarding the Croatian jersey this football organization didn't apply such rules to the Croatian player Vedran Corluka, exactly the opposite.

After having injured his head in the opening match against Turkey the Croatian defender donned a water polo cap in the match against the Czechs in order to prevent opening up of his head wound. In the match against Spain Corluka run out on the field wearing the water polo cap again after UEFA gave him the green light that it was all right for him to play with his cap on. UEFA only advised him to remove the ear protectors from the cap but anyway Corluka made history as the first player ever to play in a water polo cap.

UEFA asked Corluka a permission to take a photo of the Croatian defender wearing water polo cap so it could be kept in the UEFA's museum as a part of the football history.

Croatia is preparing for the big game tonight against Portugal in the last sixteen of the Euro 2016 in France. The game kicks off at 9pm in the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens a battle that will see both Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic return to the side, however they will be up against a back in form Cristiano Ronaldo.

“We are facing a team consisting of extremely talented individuals. They perhaps weren't exceptionally impressive in their group in terms of points won, but they really played well. If we look back, we will remember that they were the dominant team in their matches and created many opportunities,” commented the Croatian coach before tonight’s match.

History is not on Croatia’s side, Portugal have won all three previous matches against Croatia without conceding. However many are backing Croatia to progress further in the competition and a win tonight would open up a relatively straight forward path into the finals, as all the main seeds and favourites are grouped in the other side of the draw.

Many UK journalists have been backing Croatia to do well in the tournament, the respected BBC sport journalist Alan Green said that Croatia was the best team in the competition this year. And praise has also come from the England captain Wayne Rooney who said that “I think they are the team I have enjoyed watching the most.”

French DJ, David Guetta, has recorded a special song for the Euro 2016, the official UEFA Euro theme song, and there is a Croatian video version.

“Can you just drop down to the bus station and buy a ticket for Zagreb,” asked my sister-in-law at the weekend. It was a fairly harmless question and one that I was happy to oblige. “Of course I will go on Saturday morning,” I answered. Mistake! In all my time in Dubrovnik I can’t remember going to the bus station on a Saturday morning in the summer. It isn’t something I physically avoid I just don’t have the need. It was a summer’s weekend, probably like any other summer’s weekend. I drove around a corner and was met by three gigantic floating white bricks. They blocked out the early morning sun. “MSC something,” “Costa something else” and “Celebrity who knows what” was printed in letters that looked like a giant had spray painted graffiti.

Ants busily poured from the white bricks, some scurrying in all directions and some seemingly following a mother ant. Bing...bong...bing...bong echoed around and a man’s voice that sounded like he was talking directly into the toilet bowl filled the air. I could pick out the words “Dubrovnik” and “food” and quite possibly “zebra” although my ears could have deceived me. I parked in the near the shade of a brick and made my way to the ticket office.

As I turned a corner I was greeted with the biggest crowd of ants I have ever seen. It looked like someone had dropped a half-eaten Mars bar on the floor and all the ants were frantically feeding. I waded through the crowds. “Where the hell is the ticket office?” I couldn’t see it anywhere. And then a whole hole opened in the crowds and TICKETS could be seen. This was a bad idea. Unless I could find Moses there was no way of parting this sea of people and reaching the gold at the end of the rainbow.

I moved to the side and decided just to observe, this was people watching on a monumental scale. The vast majority of the ants seemed to be fluent in Italian. Arms were being waved, overweight ladies in brightly coloured outfits, young men with Italia branded T-shirts and children screaming for gelato! Half of the population of Bari had been dumped on the shores and were looking to get to the “città vecchia.”

And if I thought that the queue for the bus tickets was impressive that was nothing compared to the rugby scrum forming around the taxis. Although this was no queue! It was a survival of the fittest. Whistles, flapping arms, screaming and leaping out in front of passing taxis, this was a drama unfolding before my eyes, a Greek tragedy or comedy. Taxis constantly flowed in at high speeds, almost squashing ants in their paths, pulling their handbrakes whilst performing a 180 degree turn, ejecting the passengers and scooping up more without even stopping. How nobody got hit by the Mad Max taxi drivers I will never know.

I stood, rooted to the spot, watching the street theatre unfold. One Italian waved a bunch of Euros at the half open window of a taxi and received a nod from the driver. Another couple followed and wafted dollars at another taxi, another nod of approval. World currency was being waved around as if the ants were bidding at auction for an original Picasso.

Tensions were getting frayed, nerves were close to breaking point, this had all the ingredients to be a Shakespeare classic. A quick look back over my shoulder and the other ants were still busy “feeding” at the ticket booth. Although to tell the truth I had given up getting a bus ticket, at least until the Mars bar had been consumed.

I wandered off to grab a coffee, bemoaning my bad luck and muttering a few swear words at the “MSC who knows what.” All it took was one espresso. The time it took me to drink one tiny cup of coffee. To be honest I had given up on getting the ticket, but as I was wandering back to my car I threw a glance at the ants nest. Empty! Where had all ants gone? Had someone throw boiling water over the bus station? Was anti ant powder being sprinkled from the sky? One espresso and the crowds had evaporated. The taxis were all neatly lined up and the ticket office empty, no sign of the ants. Of course they hadn’t disappeared; they had simply moved their nest to the Old City.

Ancient ships, scenery, flags and props, Dubrovnik is getting ready for another major international film production. The American historical series “Knightfall” is about to be filmed in Dubrovnik. The series follows the fall, persecution and burnings at the stake of the members of the ancient order of the Templars. The History Channel is behind the latest film production in the city and the famous American actor Jeremy Renner will play one of the main roles and is also the producer.

The series follows the life one of the Templar leaders in search of the Holy Grail. And the History Channel has been recently searching for extras who are “bearded men with long hair between the ages of 25 and 50.” There will be, according to info from the History Channel, ten episodes in this new series and it is hoped that it will be just as successful as the recent “Vikings” serial which was also a History Channel production.

After the success of the Game of Thrones and Star Wars, which were partly filmed on location in Dubrovnik, Knightfall will also bring international publicity and recognition to the city.

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