Monday, 16 December 2019

It is a widely known fact in this town that the good burghers of the Republic of Dubrovnik were amongst the most enlightened of their time and banned slavery as early as 27 January 1416, which was a long time ahead of other European countries. It took one of the last countries, the United States of America, a further 450 years to ban slavery. Our former mayor, Andro Vlahusic, gave a speech in 2014 in that particular country boasting about this fact. Writing in the Huffington Post after the speech, journalist Regina Fraser said;

“I can’t help feeling that Dubrovnik showed us something — everyone should take a stand against slavery. Each of us needs to remember that there are people who stood for justice, equality and freedom despite pressure to do otherwise. Maybe we need to search for other countries and people like those from Dubrovnik, Croatia. “

Well here's the thing Andro and Regina, unfortunately slavery is alive and thriving in present day Dubrovnik.

I don't need to spend too much time discussing the abhorrent nature of slavery except to say in this day and age we all are evangelistic about our right to be free to do what we want when we want; including, unfortunately, driving whilst on the mobile phone in this town!

Of course slavery has at its core the profit motive. Its origins are lost in antiquity but some of its most successful proponents were the Vikings and the Romans. But none benefited more than the English who perfected the art of abusing less powerful people. From their small insignificant island they were able to build an empire which spanned the globe and were often heard to boast that “the sun never set” on it.

This heinous practice still finds a place in many countries and it has been suggested that the industry is worth some $35 billion today while the United Nations estimates that 30 million people are presently enslaved.

Most of us see slavery applying only to humans. But in my view, if you deprive the freedom of a wild animal then this too is slavery. Sure it is cruelty to animals but it also is tantamount to slavery particularly when it is done to ensure a financial gain for the slave master. Now if you take a walk down Stradun on any day during the season, you will witness the hideous sight of birds who have had their wings clipped and mutilated to ensure they can't escape. Indeed, some days it is more than a koala can bear! Imagine if you saw souls from your homeland harmed for the purpose of financial gain. I refer of course to the individuals who ask tourists to pay for photos with the birds they have disfigured.

The eastern Europeans seem to have a penchant for this kind of cruelty and I am sure you have all seen those terrible photos of bears who are chained and tortured so they will perform for the amusement of their cognitively challenged audiences. Thankfully there is widespread condemnation of this practice with numerous organisations and celebrities speaking out against this outrageous behaviour. When it comes to what occurs to the birds in Dubrovnik, the silence is deafening. Imagine what it would be like to have your leg cut short so you could not walk. Then try, if you can, to imagine what it would be like to be able to experience soaring through the sky and to have that taken away from you. In fact I have meet some locals that think abusing these birds is a good thing for the town.

What possible relevance can a bird from a country from a land which is on the other side of the world and was not discovered by white man until some 200 years ago have to a tourist’s experience in the Old City of Dubrovnik?

On the whole this is bad enough but when you realise that I grew up with one of the type of birds currently enslaved on Stradun, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, flying free around my house. I am presently in the poor animal’s homeland: Australia, and I can hear its fellow comrades where they belong, outside in the garden chattering happily. These magnificent and highly intelligent birds can live to over one hundred years of age, often learning to say as many as 200 words and living for over 100 years. They exhibit some amazing behaviour in their natural habitat, including posting sentinels in a tree to warn off impending danger while the rest of the flock is vulnerable during feeding on the ground. In Australia our language has incorporated the word “cockatoo” to mean one who gives a warning.

australian bird

Free as a bird

These birds form part of my cultural heritage and I take great offence at their treatment in Dubrovnik when I see their wings mutilated for people's amusement and one selfish person’s financial gain. They are often cruelly smuggled out of Australia and the law demands that these birds must not be taken out of the country except if they are owned and kept by an Australian citizen. Perhaps this Dubrovnik local should consider getting a more productive job instead of praying like a parasite on the suffering of these creatures. In the end, of course, karma ensures that every act of cruelty is ultimately accountable.

So, what can we do to end this blatant act of animal cruelty? Well it would help if you joined me in suggesting to the gathered tourists every time you walk past the spectacle, that they should not encourage this slave master by giving him money.

The Wizard of Oz

Among the 600 best cafe bars in the world, according to the Phaidon guide ''Where to Drink Coffee'', Eliscaffe from Zagreb has also found its place in this prestigious group.

''Where to Drink Coffee'' is a famous guide made by professionals. Around 150 best baristas and coffee experts selected 600 places across the globe where the best coffee is served.

Since the opening in 2005, Eliscaffe and its owner Nik Orosi have received a number of awards. It is the first specialized coffee bar in Croatia and was the first smoke-free coffee bar opened in the region.

where to drink coffee

Reputable newspapers such as the New York Times and the Financial Times wrote about Eliscaffe and its owner, however, including the cafe bar on the list of the best coffee spots in the world is perhaps the greatest recognition for their work.
It is interesting to note that Eliscaffe made it to the prestigious list thanks to the rating of Tim Wendelboe, a top-class and most award-winning barista from Norway.

''For a long time Eliscaffe was the only place in Zagreb where you could have a good cup of coffee, however, after winning numerous awards, Nik has never stopped improving the quality'', wrote Wendelboe in his review.

''I bought that book last week and when I went through its pages, I saw that Eliscaffe is on the list'', commented Nik, who was thrilled with the fact that his coffee is among the best in the world thanks to Tim Wendelboe. ''He does not praise very often. On the contrary, sometimes he is very harsh and speaks his mind’’.

Orosi also added that there are 1,300 cafe bars in Zagreb; however, Eliscaffe was the only one selected. ‘’Austria is not even on this list, and only six cafe bars from Italy were selected by the Phaidon Guide. Look at the size of Italy, and look at the size of Croatia!'', commented Nik Orosi with delight.

All electric car fans now have a new place to charge up their vehicles in Dubrovnik.

In July 2016 the Croatian Electrical Company (HEP) and the City of Dubrovnik signed an agreement to construct two more electric chargers in the city. The first was installed in front of the main swimming pool in Gruž and now this week the second has been installed in front of the “Solidarnosti” building in Lapad.

The total investment was 140,000 Kunas and allows two vehicles to be charged at the same time on a four-hour charge depending on the battery. At the moment the charging will be free of charge until the test period has been completed. So far HEP has installed 21 charging stations all over Croatia.

elen dubrovnik

In recent years, many international film production companies have recognized Croatia as a country teeming with great filming locations.

Blockbusters such as Star Wars, Robin Hood, Mamma Mia 2, the globally popular TV series Game of Thrones, Knightfall, Borgia, McMafia and many more all found a picture perfect scenery in Croatia.

Last year, the BBC film crew filmed the new series ''McMafia'' in the Croatian capital of Zagreb, a TV drama about the Russian mafia in London starring James Norton.

At the recently held ''Industry'' program as a part of the Zagreb Film Festival, the producer of the TV series ''McMafia'' James Watkins commented, ''Apart from a great and diligent film crew, the best thing in Croatia is a variety of locations, landscapes and arhitecture. You should make the most of it, and with good film studios, your country would be invincible''.

Watkins went on explaining, ''When we first came to Croatia, we were taken to a tour of the best restaurants and almost immediately were thrilled with this beautiful country, especially when we found what we looked for and saw the variety of locations hidden here''.

The eight-part BBC drama ''McMafia'' is based on the bestseller of the Guardian's reputable journalist Misha Glenny about organized crime. It was filmed more than nine months in ten world countries such as Great Britain, Turkey, Russia, India and Croatia. While in Croatia, the filming took place on various locations in Zagreb, as well as in Split, Rovinj and on the island of Pag.

''McMafia'' is to be broadcast this winter and will surely be another great tourist promotion of Croatia.

The low-cost airline Flydubai could soon be operating flights to Dubrovnik. According to a report on the specialised website EX-YU Aviation the airline is considering launching flights to both Dubrovnik and Ljubljana.

“In the next one month we will be announcing our set of new summer destinations and a lot of European routes are coming, especially in the South. We can't talk about them right now but some of them that have been mentioned, like Dubrovnik and Ljubljana, may be in our network,” commented the Vice President for Commercial Operations, Jeyhun Efendi to EX-YU Aviation. Adding that discussions between the airline and Dubrovnik Airport have already been held.

An interesting Chinese TV show entirely dedicated to Croatia will be broadcast in China in mid-December.

Last month the Chinese TV crew of the TV show titled Tian Tian Xiang Shang (‘’Learn well and progress more every day’’) visited Dubrovnik and Zagreb, where they filmed funny stories about Croatia, its people, culture, food, music etc.

While filming in Croatia, the Chinese were accompanied by the legendary Croatian football coach Miroslav Ćiro Blažević, the singer Jelena Rozga, the Croatian cellist Ana Rucner and the famous pianist Maksim Mrvica, who has already had a star status in China.

A few days ago, the second round of filming about Croatia titled ‘’Croatian Rhapsody’’ was recorded in the city of Changsha. It is interesting to note that ‘’Croatian Rhapsody’’ is one of Chinese fans’ favourite compositions of Maksim Mrvica.

The filming was held in the studios of the Chinese TV station Hunan TV. Apart from Mrvica, the TV show also featured the Croatian Ambassador to China Nebojša Koharović, the owner of the restaurant ‘’Stari Puntijar’’ Zlatko Puntijar with his daughter Matea, the Xiaoting Chen-Li family, owners of the well known Chinese restaurant ‘’Asia’’ in Croatia, as well as the Croatian singer Lana Jurčević.

The 90-minute long TV show about Croatia will be broadcast on the 15th of December and it is expected to attract the audience of one billion viewers, as much as the TV station Hunan generally covers in China. However, this number could be even larger because many people will watch the TV show online via internet links and social media.

This TV show will surely be a great tourist promotion of Croatia considering the fact that the new Chinese middle class, which can be hardly compared to any other in the world, spent $261 billion while travelling across the globe last year.

In its latest issue, The Economist has looked into the matter of naming airports in the Balkan region.

The British weekly newspaper considers that airports in the countries in the region were named in a way to annoy each other, thus, as a first example, they singled out Zagreb Airport describing it as a ‘’new futuristic edifice’’.

‘’It was renamed after Franjo Tudjman, the father of the Croatian independence movement. In the bloody war, Tudjman fought against Croatian Serbs who were supported by Serbia and who established a short-lived and separated Serbian republic on a third of Croatian territory. In 1995, most of these Croatian Serbs were exiled’’, wrote The Economist.

‘’Among victims of the ethnic cleansing were also cousins of the world’s most famous Serb and inventor Nikola Tesla. He was born in a Serbian family in 1856 on the territory of today’s Croatia; however, he immigrated to America. Both Serbs and Croats consider him as one of their own. In 2006, the airport in Belgrade was named after Nikola Tesla, which some of Croats found disturbing’’, continued The Economist.

The British newspaper stated a few more examples such as Priština Airport in Kosovo, which was named after Adem Jašari, the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army who was killed by Serbian forces. ‘’For Albanians he is a hero, and for Serbs he is a devil’’, wrote The Economist. Of course, there are no flights operating between the airports Nikola Tesla and Adem Jašari.

Interestingly, this whole story with naming airports started with Greeks in 1992 when they named the airport in Thessaloniki after Macedonia in order to spite the newly established independent Republic of Macedonia. Later in 2007, Macedonians did the similar thing; they named their airport in Skopje Alexander the Great. However, the new Macedonian government wants better relations with Greece thus, it is possible that the Macedonians will change the name of the airport in Skopje after all.

In addition, The Economist commented that there are still exceptions to this practice stating a failed attempt of Bosnians to name the airport in Sarajevo after the former Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović. The airport in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica is simply called Podgorica, but it still bears the TGD code, meaning Titograd, as was the name of the Montenegrin capital while Montenegro was a part of the former Yugoslavia.

Dubrovnik is really getting into the winter spirit! Programme of the Dubrovnik Winter Festival has been successfully promoted all around – in Ljubljana, Zagreb and Split.

Dubrovnik Tourist Board promoted one of the most lovalble Dubrovnik festivals in Slovenia, or more precisely in Ljubljana in Stritarijeva street on Thursday, November 10th. Promotion continued at Cvijetni trg in Zagreb on Saturday and ended on Sunday, November 12th at Peristil of Dioclesians Palace in Split.

Vocal group Kase was entartaining everybody with traditional Christmas charol from Dubrovnik - Kolenda and everybody got the chance to try prikle, arancini and other Dubrovnik delicacies while learning the rich programme of fourth Dubrovnik Winter Festival. Dubrovnik Tourist Board made sure that everybody knows that Dubrovnik is the city for all seasons.

The Dubrovnik Winter Festival offers a rich and varied gastronomic, cultural and music program and this type of promotion has proved to be excellent considering the number of people gathered and interest of foreign and domestic tourists for Advent in Dubrovnik.

zimski2

The Dubrovnik American football club, the Dubrovnik Sharks, have released a new promo video. Cheerleaders, fully padded players and stunning scenes of the historic Old City all set to their very own song, written especially for this new video.

We were certainly impressed with this great video, which was produced by LMT Studio, and we’re pretty sure that you’ll all love it.

Check out the video

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? And when the last citizens of the Old City of Dubrovnik yawns loudly will they actually have yawned at all.

Every year I go through this dilemma. Every year I scratch my head and worry how many years it will be before the end finally comes, before the city inevitably remains an empty shell, bereft of children’s laughter. When do we stop calling the Old City a city? For can it even be described as a city if next to nobody lives there.

I know why this time of the year, at the end of the tourist season, it hits me. During the summer months the influx of tourists give me an artificial feel that the city is alive. Well indeed it is alive but only on a temporary basis, like being put on life support for a few months. But as soon as the swallows fly home the city empties like a cup with a hole in the bottom and the reality hits home again. The once vibrant Stradun now only needs some tumble weed rolling down to give it the complete picture of a ghost town from a cowboy movie.

“90 percent of the apartments and houses I have sold recently have been to people to use as apartments for tourists and not as homes,” answered one real estate agent to me the other day. He was talking directly about the Old City as he closed a deal to sell yet another classic terrace stone house to a company in Zagreb to make three apartments. “No, let me correct that 99 percent,” he added. The more he remembered the more depressing it became. When he finally dug through his memory banks and some paperwork he discovered that the last property he had sold for people to actually live in was seven years ago.

The Old City will soon have a sign as you enter that reads “Sponsored By Airbnb.”

The figures are just as heart-breaking. In 1961 around 5,500 people called the Old City home. Forty years later, 2001, that number had halved to just over 2,700. Although during that time there had been a war as well as lots of new development. But another five years pass, in 2006, and the number of citizens halves again to 1,100. And over those short five years no wars and limited amounts of new housing. It is clear that capitalism murdered the Old City.

empty steps in dubrovnik

 

Today I guess that figure is down to 700. The last stubborn few are still hanging on but as time goes by and nature takes its course these stubborn few are getting to be like endangered species. Has it lost its charm? Of course it has. The City is charming and unique because it is just that a City. How many more years before we have the largest museum on the Adriatic?

The last stubborn few make their way to the cemetery and the death bell tolls for Dubrovnik.

I can’t help thinking that we didn’t do enough, well didn’t really do anything, to stop this catastrophic event. What incentives did people have to stay? We should have been bending over backwards to think of ideas to entice citizens not to leave their homes. The short-sightedness is shocking. We are a city that lives from tourism and yet the jewel in the crown has been left to wilt and die like an under watered plant. I can’t help thinking that any measures now would be “too little too late.”

I am pretty sure that in my lifetime I will live to see the Old City empty. And I can remember when it was not only the heart of the city but also the soul. It is now merely an afterthought that is visited on special occasions. I am constantly being told by Croatian diaspora that I shouldn’t call it Old City just City. This may have been true 20 or 30 years ago but not today. Like I said pretty soon we won’t be calling it city at all, then what “Old Museum.” How long before we start charging people entrance tickets to actually get through the gates? That would certainly be the final nail in the coffin of this once proud city. A city that took many centuries to build and yet was destroyed in only a few decades. Never underestimate the stupidity of man.

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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