Thursday, 27 February 2020
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.


Travel+leisure has just published 2016 destination of the year nominees and Croatia is one of them! Their editors have chosen couple of destinations and now everybody can vote for their favorite – the winner will be known on November 14. 

Croatia is in the competition with America's national parks, Canada, Hawaii, Iceland, Ischia (Italy), Korea, Mallorca, Mexico City, New Zealand, Orlando, Paris, Pittsburgh, Portugal, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore and Washington D.C. It will be interesting to see who'll be the winner!

When it comes to our beautiful country, this is how Lila Battis, Associate editor has described it:
- With fantastic food and wine, an abundance of historic sites, and bone-white beaches, Croatia has something for every traveler—and since appearing as a frequent Game of Thrones backdrop, it’s more in-demand than ever. Stroll the port cities of Dubrovnik or Split, which have all the beauty of King’s Landing without the risk of Wildfire. Just a short boat ride from Dubrovnik you’ll find the craggy cliffs and waters of Lokrum, where Qarth scenes were filmed. And the town of Sibenik has so many soaring cathedrals and medieval fortresses that you won’t even miss the Titan of Braavos statue.

Winners of last two years are Myanmar and Cuba.

Third ear festival is starting today in Dubrovnik for the sixth time and it's dedicated to Australia under the name 'Aboriginal culture in Dubrovnik'. It's an artistic and educational festival that brings a taste of foreign culture every year.

From today to 6th of November organisers will try to bring Australia closer through workshops, lectures, exhibitions, music, pub quiz and film screenings. Third Ear Festival is a volunteer project and admission to all events is free.

The program starts at 2 pm with a dot painting workshop for children in library in Mokosica, but the official opening is at 7 pm in the Dubrovnik City library with the opening of the exhibition The Canning cattle path as well as the “Australian Corner” with donations of Australian books. Day one ends with a movie Satellite Boy from 2012 in Visia Cinema.

Tomorrow at 11 am there will be an exhibition opening 'Shipwreck of Stefano' at the University of Dubrovnik, Maritime department. At 6 pm, again at the City library, there will be a lecture 'Aboriginal culture in Dubrovnik' by Iva Polak. Night full of fun is ahead of the participants of the festival, with a pub quiz with Australia theme in Lazareti, with a later 'Down under – sound of Australia' party.

Third day starts at 6 pm with multimedia travelogue 'My Australia' by Pero Kojan at Art workshop Lazareti and continues in Visia Cinema at 9 pm with multimedia lecture 'Development of Aboriginal films in Australia – Black Wave'. Sunday is casual with a movie 'Mary and Max' in Visia Cinema at 9 pm.
For all the extra details there is an info pult in front of the Sponza Palace from 11 am to 5 pm.

When it comes to movies, I am a big fan of horror. I love being scared and respect the science behind frightening people. This is why I enjoy Halloween. Not necessarily the part about the costumes and house decoration, that I really don't care for, but the celebration of the horror culture is something I revel in.

Horror is such a rich genre, and might as well be the oldest one in human culture. Since the dawn of time we have fantasized about what is unknown to us and it's in our nature to assume all sorts of scary things about what exactly lurks in the hidden corners of our surroundings. There is something profoundly creative about it. Next time you are walking to your house at night, take a look at one of the dark hallways or streets along the way and think about what could possibly be there, hidden in waiting. You will be amazed at how creative you can be.

There is also one very important thing that those who dislike horror and scary movies need to know. It's all for fun. Horror is an immensely fun genre and the rush you get from it is exhilarating. Those who believe horror fans in general have a tendency for violence in real life are sadly mistaken. There is nothing interesting or fun about real life violence and gore seen daily on the news. That's the beauty of horror; you get to imagine all sorts of fantastic things about the world around us. It's much nicer than actually seeing what the world around is really like. There is no make-believe horror more disturbing than the reality of what people are capable of. In fact, some of the most famous cult horror movies very serious in criticism of human nature or human society, like Dawn of the Dead (original one), Godzilla, Hellraiser, and many others. This is where horror and comedy genres are very much alike. They are both rich, they are both focused on entertainment, but they can also be anything from very silly to a very serious works of art.

This year we've seen Halloween getting more popular in Croatia, along with the rise of anti-Halloween sentiment, mostly from the Catholic Church. Now, I am trying to be respectful about everyone's religious beliefs, but I fail to see the big controversy. What Halloween boils down to in practise is eating sugary treats, watching horror movies, and sometimes, dressing up as a killer clown or Catwoman and attending a standard Saturday night party at your local bar. Hardly the stuff of satanic conspiracies! However, there are still people that are very vocal against this practise, saying it offends the religious, and this saddens me. Not because I really think it’s a controversial matter, but rather because this is just one of the recent indicators Croatians are losing their sense of humour and thirst for entertainment. We don't know how to have fun anymore and those that try, we judge, saying they offend the rest. That is both sad and scary, as nothing is more prone to acts of aggression than dissatisfied, humourless people with no emotional outlet. Those protesting Halloween are saying these practices are imported, they clash with our local culture, and cater to consumerism. They are right about the last part, although I seriously doubt anybody's Halloween budget is going to outweigh their Christmas shopping budget anytime soon. As for the local culture statement, saying Croatia doesn't have a rich and beautiful horror folk tale legacy is truly insulting. If you think we've imported dressing up in monster costumes from American suburbanites, just write „zvoncari“ in your favourite search engine and enjoy discovering a beautiful local tradition universally loved and cherished by all Croatians.

What I’m trying to say it that next time you want to be truly scared, watch the news. On the other hand, if you just want to have some fun, get a few friends together, make some finger food, buy a nice bottle of wine and treat yourself to a horror movie marathon. I promise, the Devil will not take your soul because of it.

Bozidar Jukic, AKA The Restless Native, 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.

The internationally praised Grammy-winning American house music DJ and producer David Morales will play in Zagreb on the 11th of November as part of the DJ Legends program at the Boogaloo club.

The world popular DJ has already visited Croatia on several occasions thus expressed his desire to spend his retirement days in Croatia one day.

''Croatian people always make me feel welcome wherever I go, whether it is a restaurant or a local shop. When I'm in Zagreb, I usually eat at the restaurant on the old square. Every year when I come here I feel like I'm visiting my family'', said Morales.

Morales is one of the most prolific remixers of all time, transforming many pop music songs of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Mariah Carey, U2 etc. into club-friendly dance tracks. He was born in New York City, but is of Puerto Rican ancestry. He won a Grammy Award for Remixer of the Year in 1998.

“For me the Croatian audience is one of the best in the world, not just in Europe. They love to have fun, they are warm and always in a very friendly mood. I keep saying that I would really like to come and live here in the future. I have also visited Split and some of the Dalmatian islands. The lifestyle here is unbelievable, and quality of life is something that is very important for me”, concluded Morales.

Good news for all drivers looking to park their cars in Dubrovnik. From the 1st of November the parking charges across the city will be halved. This now means that parking in the zones one and three the winter price will be five Kunas an hour as opposed to ten throughout the summer.

Whilst the parking charge closer to town, in the second zone, will now be ten Kunas an hour as opposed to twenty. And finally the zero zone on Pile will now be twenty Kunas an hour.

This new parking regime will be in force until the 1st of April 2017 when it is expected the higher prices will be back in force.

Dolphins were spotted today playing in the Adriatic Sea near Dubrovnik.

These photos show a group of dolphins messing around in the water in front of the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace and were snapped by Diana Panda who uploaded the joyous photos on her Facebook account.

It is relatively rare to see dolphins in the seas around Dubrovnik, but they always bring a smile to the face when we see them so close to the coastline.

dolphins dubrovnik 1

dolphins dubrovnik 2

By the end of this year the Croatian-Ukrainian business forum will be organized in Kiev by Ivica Piric, the honorary consul of Ukraine in Croatia and the head of the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Kiev forum will gather representatives from the government and the business sector and will mainly be devoted to food processing and production, as well as to opportunities of increasing trade with this huge market of 45 million consumers. The forum will also provide an excellent opportunity for 25 to 30 Croatian companies to present their products as currently there are almost no Croatian products sold in Ukraine, with the exception of Podravka.

''I have already held discussions with some of the largest retail chains in Ukraine which offer exclusive food products, thus I can say that there is a huge interest in Croatian products, primarily in ham, cheese, bacon, sausages, olive oil, wine, various alcoholic beverages, as well as in canned fish, olives, various fish products, lamb etc. The Ukrainian diet is very similar to ours so I think we have a great opportunity to be competitive on that market”, says Piric.

The country of Ukraine is very strong in the production of sunflower oil, fertilizers, metals and coal, thus Piric believes that Croatian companies may also be interested in buying goods from that market. “I believe that the forum will result in first large contracts for our exporters, but also for other forms of cooperation.”

Until the Croatia's accesion to the European Union, every week several charters from Ukraine operated to the Croatian coast. The number of tourists from Ukraine could rise again, especially because visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens should soon be abolished by the European Union.

From life in the hustle and bustle of a major European metropolis to the wilds of Dalmatia, when Blanka Pavlović, née Čechová turns the pages of her life she never knows where the plot will take her. Born and raised in Prague she wrote her first book at the tender age of sixteen whilst she was studying in Canada, it was a best seller in the Czech Republic, and she was hooked on writing. She graduated from the Law Faculty in Prague and then studied creative writing in Oxford University. After becoming disillusioned whilst working as a legal assistant at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and subsequently as legal officer at a civilian mission in Kosovo she turned her back on law and pushed on with her pen. In total she has written six books, three inspired by Dalmatia. And Croatia didn’t only inspire her to write, it has also added a new chapter in her life, a family. She has swapped her address in Prague for the slower pace of life in Brgat a small village near Dubrovnik. We caught up with Blanka to discover how she went from an “old maid” to the belle of the ball and how Dalmatia continues to motivate her pen to flow.

Let’s start at chapter one of your life in Croatia. How did you first become introduced with your new home?
I started coming to Croatia, well more precisely to the Pelješac Peninsular, with my family when I was eighteen years old. Then I kept on coming every year. I basically came to write. I found that the peace and tranquillity of this gorgeous part of Croatia was very conducive to writing. I would always rent the same apartment every year in a tiny village with only around ten houses, a charming part of the world.

Pelješac was not only your writing base but it also seems it was your inspiration?
That’s true. I have written two books as part of a trilogy that is fictionally based in a small village on Pelješac. They are romantic comedies, or romantic adventures, and many of the people that I met along my travels gave me ideas for characters. In fact the fictional name for the village in the book is Dingač, which as you know is a popular red wine from the Pelješac region. I am very inspired by the Balkans; I worked in Kosovo for a year and a half in an international court. In fact the book I wrote before the Pelješac books was called Total Balkans, it is a bitter comedy set in a civilian mission, a vague parallel to the American TV series MASH but based in Kosovo. So three from the six books I have written have been based around this region.

And you met your husband as well on Pelješac, another new chapter of your life as the book unfolds?
Yes, as I said I had been coming to this little village on Pelješac since I was eighteen. And then one day the family who owned the apartment said to me “You have been coming all these years with just your note book for company, so please come with a man next year or we will not rent you the apartment.” It was a little tongue in cheek, but the next time I came without a man, they added “We really have to find a man here for you, you haven’t succeeded on your own; you are thirty and almost an old maid now.” They did the match-making, I fact it was more complicated than that, I think they had hoped that I would fall in love with a wine maker or fisherman from Pelješac so that I would stay in the village. But in a strange twist of fate I met Tonci, my future husband, as he is the Godfather of their son. Quite by chance he came to visit to celebrate a birthday; he is an accordionist and played at the party. He met, fell in love, got married and we now have two wonderful children. So their wish came true, the only problem was that Tonci comes from Brgat and not their village, so let’s say half their wish came true.

blanka 3

Blanka and Tonci on their big day in Dubrovnik 

You could write a book about that whole experience, there is a romantic comedy in the making.
Ha-ha, so here is the theme of one of the books set in Croatia – “The Handbook of the Adriatic Bride”, you tell me if you can see any similarities. A skinny Czech girl comes from Prague to attend a wedding on Pelješac as the maid-of-honour for her friend. For the first time in her life she sees this “festa” the typical Croatian wedding, and she just wants to escape, she sees the singing the food, the wine and it is just all too much for her. Then she falls in love with the best-man and he takes her to his tiny village on Pelješac. Her first impressions are that it is a lovely place, so she decides to stay a little longer. The family have a traditional rural tavern and are all involved in the business. Right at the beginning of the summer season the mother breaks her hip and can’t work. The family start to panic. How can they run the business without the mother? So the best-man asks this skinny Czech girl if she can stay longer and help. And depite all odds, she stays – no matter that she can’t cook even a pot of spaghetti, no matter that she doesn’t know a thing about fish and wine, or, more importantly, the unwritten rules in a traditional Dalmatian home. But then he realises that there is a problem. They are a strong Catholic and conservative family and they can’t just move this Czech girl in without good reason...people will talk. So he tells her they have to get engaged, to keep face in the village. But he says don’t worry this is only an imaginary engagement, it isn’t for real it’s just for the neighbours. Even though she is concerned at first she falls in love with the arrangement, she loves her independence and knows that she can leave whenever she wants. But then she realises that leaving and escaping is the easiest thing to do so she stays and finally really falls in love with the best-man.

How do you find the time to write, are you a disciplined writer?
It’s interesting my first Pelješac based book took me three months to write and that was before I had children. But the second one took only three weeks and then I had two children. I might seem strange because you would think that I would have less time with children to look after, but I had a three-week window when my husband was taking care of them so I really put my foot down and wrote like crazy, writing to a deadline.

I understand that in one of your books you have translations of the lyrics from the popular Croatian singer Oliver Dragojević?
I am a huge fan of Oliver. In fact I once drove from Prague to the Royal Albert Hall in London to attend one of his concerts. I came across his music on a trip to Croatia and I really adore him. One time many years ago I was heartbroken and listening to the songs and the lyrics of Oliver made it even worse, you know how he “talks” to the broken-hearted. So I bought a ticket to see him in London but then that was the time when the volcano exploded in Iceland and all air traffic was stopped. So I jumped in my car and set out on the long drive, I was so determined to see him. I came to London, booked a cheap bed and breakfast in the centre, and then I thought to myself I have to meet him. After all I was the mad lady who had driven half way across Europe on her own to get here. I contacted his PR person not really thinking he would answer, but to my surprise he did and when he heard my story he invited me to come to rehearsals in the Royal Albert Hall. So I got to meet him and we had a chat even though I didn’t speak very good Croatian then. But that isn’t the end of the story. Because I had to drive I didn’t have much money left to get back to Prague, I had even parked my car in Calais to save money. When Oliver heard this he immediately invited me to come back with him and his orchestra on his official coach after the concert. So there I was sitting with the whole band who were singing all the way from London to Calais, it was an unforgettable experience. And now I love Oliver even more. Several years later, he helped me track down the authors of his songs I needed to translate for my book. I gave him a copy of the book at a restaurant in Vela Luka, he read out a page that describes the Peljesac winemakers and their loud ways of using the local dialect. Everyone including the waiters laughed. So maybe I should translate the books into Croatian.

You mentioned that when you met Oliver you didn’t speak Croatian very well, but now you are fluent, was it a difficult process picking up this complicated language?
I picked up some of the language when I worked in Kosovo, but not to any great degree. I think I only really started learning when I met my husband and started spending more time here. In the beginning we only spoke English, but his family only speaks Croatian so I had to at least try to communicate. It’s a little tricky because Czech and Croatian have some similarities, but on the other hand some words have the complete different meaning. For example “užasan” means beautiful or wonderful in Czech but in Croatian it means terrible or horrible. Imagine this situation, I came for the first ever “meet the mother-in-law” meal and when she asked me how was lunch I said, “That was really užasan.” An embarrassing moment.

Your books have opened the eyes of people in the Czech Republic to another dimension of Croatia, especially the Dalmatian lifestyle. What do you think it is that fascinates your readers about Croatia?
Tourists get to see a superficial side of the country but very few people know the details, to dig under the surface. I think it’s the people that fascinate my readers. People in Dalmatia, compared with the Czechs, are really always in a good mood and are positive. I guess they are heavily influenced by the sun and the sea. In the Czech Republic people tend to be ironic, sarcastic and negative so the dramatic difference of life here is what intrigues them. I have to be honest and say that I don’t really miss Prague. I was just there and I saw that I have totally got used to life here in Dalmatia. I was in the Prague underground and I thought “Oh my God where did all these people come from?” The whole way of life here is “Manjana,” why do something today when you can put it off until tomorrow. At first the slow pace of life was irritating, you just want to speed things up, but then I got used to it and learned to love it, to love life. When I saw people taking two hours for lunch and then have a nap afterwards,it would have infuriated me a couple of years ago – I stack to the city stereotype “grab your lunch and get back to work”., But now I understand they are living, living a full life. People here take the time to visit each other, without planning in advance or running a social diary. This never happens in Prague, people just don’t seem to have the time, the time to live.

You mentioned that the two Pelješac inspired books were part of a trilogy, when can we expect the final part, the final chapter the book?
I just need to find the time to write. The third book will be the wedding. I have just recovered from our own wedding last year, with two children and three hundred guests, so I am full of ideas. Experiencing a Dalmatian wedding was such a fantastic, fantastic time, the two dozens of Czech guests just couldn’t believe it – just like the skinny girl, the protagonist of my books: they loved the constant singing, the atmosphere, the hospitality and the way people really know how to set up and enjoy a huge event like this. I remember I was so nervous, trying to organize everything and I even asked Tonci if we should get a wedding planner. He looked at me with a puzzled look and said “Darling don’t worry the whole village is on our side, they will all help.” And then I saw these people just bringing things, organizing things, preparing drinks and invites. They basically did everything for us. This is the spirit, the spirit of community that I love about this place.

blanka 2

Blanka has made a new home in Brgat, Dubrovnik 

The Voice of Dubrovnik


Find us on Facebook