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 summer is slowly approaching and the beaches in the Dubrovnik region are preparing for another busy season. The Copacabana Beach in the Babin Kuk suburb of Dubrovnik has announced that their access lift for people with disabilities is now up and running and ready for the 2017 season.
“We would like to inform our fellow citizens and guests that today the disabled lift has been set up and is in function” commented the Copacabana Beach Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik is well-known throughout the world as a summer destination, but have you ever thought about visiting in the winter. The Jetsetting Fools did and we caught up with them to find out why Dubrovnik is a city for all seasons.
Tell me a little about the Jetsetting Fools. Are you professional travel bloggers, writers and journalists? Why did you decide to make this life choice?
We are Sarah and Kris – better known as JetSetting Fools. We became full-time travel bloggers in April 2014 and we have no plans of stopping any time soon! We are intent on navigating the corners of the earth to discover places we never knew existed, interact with fascinating cultures and meet extraordinary people. For our readers, we provide travel stories, information, advice and tips on sights and walking tours, but include off-the-beaten-path adventures, history and culture along the way.
How did you start this journey and became the JetSetting Fools?
We both have long had a passion for travel and travelled extensively together, but our travelling was limited to weekends and short vacations. Like most of our off-the-wall (yet fabulous) ideas, we hatched our plan to travel the world over a pitcher of beer. It was 4th of July weekend 2011 and we were escaping the oppressive Phoenix summer heat with a quick trip to the California coast. At the time, we were travelling as often as our schedules would allow us and with Kris’s job with the airline, free flights made travelling easy. We both have a passion for discovering new places and meeting new people. And, while Kris loved his industry and I loved my job, we were both running ragged. With my job, I was on 24/7, focusing the majority of my attention on work, rather than on living life. That day, sitting in a tavern in Manhattan Beach, we drained one pitcher and ordered up another and started playing the ‘What if’ game. What if we could go anywhere, where would we go? What if we had more vacation time? What if we didn’t have jobs? What if we saved money and budgeted our travel? If we did, how much could we save and how long could we travel on it? I grabbed a cocktail napkin and we ran the numbers. If we continued to save money for two years and remain in our situation (no kids, no debt and a fairly inexpensive lifestyle) the dream of travelling the world for 3-5 years was actually attainable. When we walked out of the bar, I walked away with a plan; Kris still called it a dream. As the weeks and months rolled by, the plan stayed intact. Rather than going shopping for new clothes that I didn’t really need, I would put the money into my savings account. We started doing research, seeking out other people who quit their jobs to travel the world. In April 2014, my plan and Kris’s dream became a reality. We left our jobs (Kris took early retirement, thus keeping his coveted travel benefits) and set out on our journey.
I believe you have been to Dubrovnik before, how has the city changed, if at all. Did you visit before in the summer season?
Since our first visit to Dubrovnik in October 2011, we have returned three times…but never in the summer. We have noticed a few changes in the city – like the popularity of Game of Thrones tours – but, we’ve noticed the biggest change between seasons. When we have visited in the spring or fall, the city is full of tourists, but not crowded. During the winter, the city is vacant of tourists…and many restaurants and shops are closed because of that. On the other hand, the winter is when locals return to the Old Town, which is a nice change of perspective from our point of view.
How difficult was it for you to actually get to Dubrovnik at this time of the year?
We travelled to Dubrovnik from Kotor, Montenegro by bus and it was our easiest travel day to date. The bus travels between the two cities twice a day (morning and afternoon). It was affordable, spacious and comfortable – and the views throughout the trip were amazing. We were glued to the window the entire trip. We travelled on a Friday afternoon and feared a bit of a delay at the border crossing, but had absolutely no wait. The process was seamless. We had done just a bit of research prior to arriving, and were able to easily locate the local bus stop, purchase tickets in advance and hop on one of the several buses to the Pile Gate.
What were your first impressions as you arrived in a wintery Dubrovnik?
We arrived during a glorious sunset and the entire city was cast in an orange hue. We thought, “This is winter? It’s beautiful.” We were slightly surprised at the number of eating establishments that were closed for the off-season, but understandably so as the lack of tourists is quite noticeable. On the other hand, strolling down the Stradun amongst locals, rather than in a herd of hurried tourists has been wonderful. The weather is about what we expected: mostly sunny with a few periods of rain. It is too cool to hop in the sea for a swim, but it’s also not dreadfully hot and humid which make other outdoor activities (like hiking or even just visiting the sights) much more enjoyable. In our nine months of travels, we have intentionally visited cities in the off-season, so we’ve become accustomed to less activity. We actually prefer it. It gives us an opportunity to better understand the daily lives of the people and places we are visiting. Restaurants and bars are filled with locals instead of other tourists. We are able to interact more with the people who are actually from the city ~ learning about the customs and culture from them rather than from a book.
How have you found the tourist offer in the close season? Was there something that you would like to see that you think would improve our winter offer.
As far as we can tell, the same offerings are available now as in the high season regarding sights. We’ve even taken note of the effort made to engage more winter travellers. We, unfortunately, discovered the free tour a day too late (our own fault for not doing research ahead of time!), but that is something we definitely would have participated in. As long-term budget travellers, we are not able to partake in as many for-pay activities as the short-term tourist. Seeing that many budget conscious people purposely travel in the off-season, having a more deeply discounted Dubrovnik Card or free admission days/times to specific sights might be a way of enticing more people to come during the lesser-visited months.
Would you recommend potential tourists to come to Dubrovnik out of season?
Definitely. For people who like less crowds, the ability to experience the same offerings as the high-season and cooler, but still beautiful, weather, this is an ideal city to travel to in the off-season.
Croatian Kennel Club in cooperation with the Kennel Association Libertas Dubrovnik opened international dog show CACIB Dubrovnik 2017 today in Solitudo autocamp.
Exhibitors come from 31 countries and 3 different continents. In two days, around 800 dogs will be shown, and will be evaluated by international experts.
Program of the show:
Tuesday, 25 April
09.45 Opening of the show
10.00 Evaluation of dogs
15.00 - 16.30 Selection of the most beautiful dog
Wednesday, 26 April
10.00 Evaluation of dogs
15.00 - 16.30 Selection of the most beautiful dog
This could quite easily be a section “strange but true.” For a four metre squared souvenir stand in the heart of the historic Old City of Dubrovnik a company will pay 319,990 Kuna or around 43,000 Euros or $47,000 a year in annual rent!
The outdoor space, which is directly opposite the Rector’s Palace in the centre of the city, achieved this monumental price at public tender and is the highest rent being paid to the City of Dubrovnik for a stand this year. The starting price at public tender was 180,000 Kuna, or around 24,000 Euros, but quite clearly the position is considered worth a lot more. Imagine the amount of magnets, cups and other souvenirs you have to see just to pay the rent, let alone the salaries, costs and goods.
In total twelve different stand positions were available for rent in the public tender held by the City of Dubrovnik and prices ranged from 22,000 Kuna to 180,000 Kuna. The final result means that the City of Dubrovnik will collect over a million Kuna from the annual rent of these small stands.
And if you thought that was expensive there was another public tender that was even more shocking. For those tiny stands on the Pile entrance into the Old City of Dubrovnik that offer walking tours, kayaking and Game of Thrones tours the starting price was 80,000 Kuna or 10,700 Euros. These small desks are only 1 metre squared making them the most expensive real estate rental in Dubrovnik.
The BBC premiered a documentary about a remarkable love story of two storks from Croatia on prime time on the 24th of April.
The documentary ‘’A Long Distance Love Affair for Storks’’ was filmed within the BBC’s series Nature’s Weirdest Events and is a result of a three-month cooperation between the BBC and the Croatian Radio and Television (HRT).
Thanks to the footage from the HRT the story about the two long-legged birds from Brodski Varos in eastern Croatia, whose love story has lasted almost two decades, will become popular all around the world due to the large BBC audience.
‘’A Long Distance Love Affair for Storks’’ brings the history of the relationship between the two storks from the day when Stjepan Vokic found a stork with an injured wing and named her Malena, and her encounter with Klepetan, who returns to her every year despite many challenges in their relationship.
The two storks made their nest on a chimney in Brodski Varos in eastern Croatia more than two decades ago and used to fly together until poachers injured Malena’s wing which left her flying capabilities restricted. As storks are migrating birds, this caused a problem because Malena could not fly anymore. Every winter for the last 15 years Klepetan would leave Croatia and fly more than 13,000 kilometres to warmer regions of Africa. And every spring he would come to her Malena in Croatia.
However, this year hope had been given up for Klepetan failed to arrive two weeks after his expected arrival. Luckily, he appeared on the Croatian horizonand the two lovebirds have been reunited again. So their love story goes on.
The Croatian Radio and Television is very pleased that its footage enabled making this documentary film of the most prestigious world public television BBC. ‘’This is also a great acknowledgement to the HRT and our employees’’, said the HRT.
The Spanish low cost airline Volotea has been negotiating new seasonal routes to Croatia for the summer season 2018.
Volotea is in talks with the Croatian capital of Zagreb, as well as with Rijeka and Pula airports. On the other hand, the Dalmatian city of Zadar has also expressed interest in being included in the negotiations for the next summer season.
The Spanish air carrier from Barcelona with bases in Spain, Italy and France currently maintains seasonal flights from Nantes, Bordeaux, Marseille and Venice to Dubrovnik and Split. The air carrier has also announced its new service from Strasbourg to Dubrovnik from the end of May.
Volotea flies to a number of scheduled European destinations on a summer seasonal, winter seasonal and year-round basis. It also operates a small number of charter flights on behalf of tour operators.
On the other hand, a French low cost airline Transavia France has also expressed their interest in seasonal flights to Croatia, thus they are currently in talks with Zagreb and Pula over potential services from next year.
‘’Croatia is a hit in France this year, thus we are currently in talks with French air carriers over expanding their network to Croatia’’, recently said the Croatian Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli.
The sixth edition of Aklapela Festival will take place in Dubrovnik, from 28th to 30th of April 2017. This year’s festival gathered 13 vocal groups from different parts of Croatia - Cakulone, Armorin, Basca, Bosket, FA Lindo, Kase, Mriza, Pinguentum, Skontradura, Subrenum, Teranke, Tragos and Vincace.
The first night of the festival will be held on Friday, 8 pm, at Lazareti, will continue on Saturday and will have a big finish on Sunday in the beautiful Franciscan Church. You can see the detailed program here. Ticket price per concert is 50 kuna.
In case that you didn’t know, Aklapela Festival got its name by combining words a capella and klapa, which means ‘vocal group’ in Croatian. For a six year in a row this festival brings a taste of tradition by combining enchanting a capella singing with beautiful venues of Dubrovnik. In the last six years audience recognized the importance of this type of festival and we’re sure that 2017 will be a successful year for Aklapela too.
The interesting fact is that the klapa singing has been inscribed to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012., which emphasized the importance of this traditional form of harmonious singing.
So, if you are lucky enough to be in Dubrovnik this weekend, make sure that you visit Aklapela Festival and enjoy the performances of 13 vocal groups from different parts of Croatia.
The Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic visited Qatar in order to open the door of the rich emirate market for Croatian companies.
During her visit to Doha, Grabar-Kitarovic met with the Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani, as well as with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. Representatives of Croatian companies Crosco, Djuro Djakovic, Koncar, Jadranka Hotels, and Podravka also accompanied the President.
Qatari hosts expressed their interest in cooperation between the two countries in various fields, from tourism to military, IT and food industries. Besides, Qatar, which is the third world country for gas supplies, has long wanted to cooperate with Croatia on the project of the LNG terminal.
''Qatar is one of the countries in which decisions are made at high levels, therefore the exchange of visits is an opportunity for our economy. I hope that the talks with the Qatari leadership and businessmen will lay foundations for the participation of Croatian companies in Qatari projects as well as increase the potential for the Qatari investments in Croatia'', commented Grabar-Kitarovic.
It is interesting to note that Sheikh Abdulah Al-Thani interrupted his holiday in Rome due to the arrival of the Croatian delegation, whilst the President was privately received by the former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who spent his summer vacations several times sailing along the Croatian coast.