Tuesday, 04 August 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.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

It is a day of mourning for Dubrovnik. Today, the 28th of April, has been declared an official Day of Mourning in Dubrovnik to remember the citizens who lost their lives in the boat accident that occurred on Tuesday the 25th of April.

The State Commissioner, Nada Medovic, issued a decision to recognise this day and flags throughout the region will be at half-mast, and all entertainment programs and concerts have been cancelled. Television and radio stations have been instructed to adjust their programs to mark the Day of Mourning.

The terrible accident occurred when a fast response boat from the Dubrovnik Harbour Master struck a smaller speedboat in the Sipan Channel. There were nine people in the speedboat, all returning from the island of Sipan, six passengers lost their lives, two were injured and one is still missing. The group of nine people in the rubber speedboat were the management and staff of the restaurant Bowa on the island of Sipan who had travelled to the island to prepare for the upcoming season.

Dubrovnik is already a magnet for cruise tourism, film tourism and sunseekers but it also seems that we are a hit for naked tourism. This naked group photo (not often that we can write that) was taken on the Srd Mountain overlooking the Old City of Dubrovnik by a group called Liberté de la fesse, which translates as “Freedom of the buttocks.”

Getting naked all over the world is groups goal, or as they say “aiming at removing clothes in the most beautiful places in the planet... in a very strict position.”

This trend of getting naked in popular travel destinations has been going on for a few years now and Dubrovnik has been the focus of various bare behinds on social media. However this the first time that a naked group has appeared, we can only presume that this photo was taken in the summer time and certainly not when the colder north wind was blowing.

naked lokrum

Naked on Lokrum 

There can be no doubt that online businesses have transformed the way we live today. Airbnb has changed the accommodation scene, Uber the way we take a taxi and Facebook the way we consume news. Travelling to exotic destinations is now all available at the swipe of a finger. And now there is a new guy on the block – Loculars – a way to connect with professional photographers all over the world. Whether you are a complete novice or an experienced pro Loculars aims to connect you with local professional photographers in a destination, so that you can “travel, experience and shoot like a local, with a local.” The nuts and bolts of this service is that Loculars offers photo experiences, often in the way of an under the skin view, with locally based photographers. You book your photographer online on their simple to use website and “hey presto” your photographer is waiting for you when you arrive. If you can use Airbnb then Loculars will not prove any more demanding. And now Loculars is expanding onto the Croatian market. After New York, Amsterdam and India, the next location for Loculars is Dubrovnik.

The Dubrovnik Times caught up with Ayash Basu, founder and CEO of this New York based company, to get the big picture (sorry about the pun).

loculars around the world

Can you explain a little more about the concept of your services and your website?
Professional photographers usually have deep local insight, access to stories, events, communities that most travellers do not have. They also have some amount of spare capacity that they are looking to monetize. So, they can use this time, not replacing what they normally do photographically, to offer photo experiences for a fee, at their schedule. On the demand side, are travellers and photo enthusiasts, who have a serious bent for travel photography. They enjoy photography, it is a key part of their travel plan and they are spending serious money on equipment, photo tours and workshops. They are looking to improve their photography, but also experience "offbeat locations, communities, events" and so on. They enjoy shooting the popular touristy locations, i.e. the top 10 Tripadvisor list, or stuff that pops up on a simple Google search and they can do that on their own or use some other tourist guide service if they want.

So, if someone is visiting New York - they will obviously do all the common sights like Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square etc, but they might also want a highly immersive local experience such as visiting a lesser known neighbourhood, a hidden market, an event that usually only locals know of etc., in other words a highly curated experience. This is when they would use Loculars to connect with that photographer.

ayash basu 2

Why would you recommend guests to use your service?
For three reasons. First, by design, a Loculars experience is a locally immersive, offbeat experience. It is not, taking pictures of "the London Eye, Times Square, or the top/popular touristy destinations." The idea is to give them an experience that - they would not know of or find, or even if they know of it, is hard to execute and do without some local insight and access. Second, Loculars offers single group experiences only. Meaning, a photographer works only with your group. Unlike a tour company, there aren't multiple groups comprising of 15 people. An experience is highly personal, and individually catered so you really get to engage with the photographer.

The intent is to have a setup where a small group of people go out and shoot, enjoy the experience and make a personal connection. The maximum group size allowed on a Loculars experience is up to 5 people. Third, Loculars photographers can join by invitation only. These photographers are not anyone with a camera saying "hey I can take you to some places and shoot pictures." These are screened photographers, very often some of the leading street, travel and documentary photographers, whose work and portfolio we have reviewed. So a guest is working with a real professional with credibility.

loculars experience

Essaouira fisherman - Photo by Sandy Gennrich

How does Loculars stand out from the crowd and what makes you different from the competition?
Today, there are two basic categories of photo experiences available, where one can truly work with professionals and not be a part of some tour package or group. First, there are the 8-15 day photo expeditions that companies like National Geographic Expeditions, Lindblad etc. offer, You work with a top professional, but it's weeks of shooting, can cost up to $20k, and needs 8-10 months of advance planning and booking. This is a huge industry and works great but is only for people who have that kind of money and time and don't mind photographing for 2 weeks straight in locations like Antartica, Africa etc. The focus is usually wildlife, extreme nature etc.

The second is photo workshops which typically run 4 to 7 days, are also with top professionals, but again cost $3k to $5k and need a few months of advance planning. The setting can be more learning based but someone's entire trip revolves around photography only. But, what if I want to work with a pro, and I want a few hours, half a day or maybe a day, don't want to spend thousands of dollars, and still have a highly tailored experience. That's where Loculars fits in. So, this can work for people who are on personal vacations, business trips etc, where their entire trip isn't about photography.

I go to Amsterdam for a week, I do a bunch of different things for 6 days, but on one day I want to connect with a local photographer for 3-4 hrs and have a compelling photo experience. I can book it a few days or weeks in advance and am happy to spend $300 for it.

Why is it important to you to be present on the Dubrovnik market?

We want to work with photographers across the world, and open travellers to new destinations and experiences. Dubrovnik is a consistently growing travel market, has lots of local history and flavour. It can also be a difficult place for people who don't know it or are visiting for the first time. For sure we want to work with local talent there who can offer the best of Croatia beyond what's advertised on the common tourist brochures. We've seen that even in the most touristy cities like Paris, Amsterdam and New York. There are many quiet gems, lesser known places, events, neighbourhoods that are waiting to be explored.

Sure, every tourist goes to the Times Square in NY, but then they don't need to pay a photographer $300 to go see that. Or replace Times Square with its equivalent in any city - Google and Google Maps, Trip Advisor, Rick Steve’s, Lonely Planet, and a host of other services usually do a great job in telling people what they need to see or do. To the extent we can bring out those "only a local professional would know this" type of experiences in Croatia, we absolutely want to offer more and more of them on Loculars.

And in Dubrovnik, Loculars have selected Craig Derrick as their photographer. Derrick has been living in the region for many years and over that time has immersed himself into the culture, traditions and way of life; he is also an award winning photographer who runs a successful photo company – Adriatic Images. “I am looking forward to the opportunity of working with Loculars and their clients. Dubrovnik, and the whole region, has so many highlights that it proved a challenge to narrow down my tours.” Derrick is currently offering two different tours in Dubrovnik, check the Loculars website for more details, and is adding a Homeland War tour. “The passion and sheer courage with which local citizens defended their homeland in the war deserves to be in the spotlight and with this new experience I aim to give photographers from around the world the chance to see another side of Dubrovnik, far away from the one tourists see.”

homeland war dubrovnik kupari

A glimpse into the scars of the Homeland War in Dubrovnik with Craig Derrick 

The Dubrovnik Summer Festival (DSF) and the telecommunications company Tele2 have signed a two-year contract on sponsorship, which includes providing telecommunications services and the sponsoring of two dramas in the festival "Kafetarija" and "Othello." The contract was signed today by the Executive Director of DSF, Ivana Medo Bogdanović, and the President of the Board of Tele2 Viktor Pavlinić.

- The Dubrovnik Summer Festival enjoys the support of the business sector, but new sponsors are not found every day, and it is a special honour to partner with a company that enjoys such a great reputation among its customers and whose business philosophy is focused on customer satisfaction and succeeds in achieving - said Ivana Medo Bogdanović.

The Dubrovnik Summer Festival will host around 80 dramatic, musical, ballet, opera, film, art, folk and other programs in more than 10 locations in the period from the 10th of July to the 25th of August and host around 2,000 artists from all over the world. One of the highlights of this year’s festival will be Shakespeare’s Othello which will be held in the atmospheric Lovrijenac Fortress from the 31st of July to the 3rd of August.

The fifth Portugieser world contest Portugieser Du Monde 2017 held in Pécs and Palkonya in Hungary last weekend, brought great news for Croatian winemakers.

In organization of the Tourist Board of the Zagreb County and the Croatian company VinOliva, 16 samples of portuguese wine from Plesevica, Kutjevo and Ludbreg were presented at this wine contest. Members of the international jury were renowned wine experts from South Africa, China, Japan, Canada, Austria, Latvia, Italy, Spain and Hungary.

After the wine evaluation in Pécs in the Mokos winery, the director of Portugieser Du Monde world contest Gyõrffy Zoltán, the mayor of Pécs Páva Zsolt and a wine academician József Kosárka awarded the participants of the contest. The best portuguese wine makers from Croatia are;Vinarija Ivancic Plesivica, Vinogradarstvo i podrumarstvo Mihalj Kutjevo, OPG Franjo Gregoric, OPG BrankoPušcak, DanijelGolubic, PG Jagunic, OPG JosipBraje, and Vinarija Strucic.

The Croatian company VinOliva Wine & Food Communication has been promoting Croatia in Hungary for years, as well as Hungary in Croatia. Over the summer, almost half a million Hungarian tourists visit Croatia, especially along the Adriatic coast. This year, the food and wine magazine Pécsi Borozó will publish a wine guide dedicated to Croatia, with interesting tips for tourists from Hungary on where to stay and which local specialties and wines to enjoy while in Croatia.

At the latest freedom of press list from non-governmental organization “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF), Croatia fell eleven places and placed as the 74th among 180 world countries.

Published by RSF annually since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries using the following criteria – pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses.

In comparison to other countries in Southeast Europe, the World Press Freedom Index 2017 shows that Croatia is following Bosnia and Herzegovina (65th place), Serbia (66th), Romania (46th), and Slovenia (37th). However, Croatia placed better than Albania (76th), Kosovo (82nd), Montenegro (106th), Bulgaria (109th), and Macedonia (111th).

"Journalists investigating corruption, organized crime, or war crimes are often subjected to harassment campaigns. Defamation is criminalized and insulting "the Republic, its emblem, its national hymn or flag" is punishable by up to three years in prison," RSF said.

It is interesting to note that the Nordic countries such as Norway, Finland and Sweden topped the RSF list, whilst the worst country in terms of the world press freedom is North Korea.

The final concert of the Dubrovnik Musical Spring will be held on Friday April 28th in the Cathedral. On that occasion, the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by its honorary conductor Pavle Despalj, while the first bassoonist of the orchestra, Matija Novakovic, will perform as a soloist. The start of the concert is at 8.30 pm.

A distinguished master and academician Pavle Despalj has been awarded numerous awards for his work during his career: Milka Trnina, Nazor, Stolcar Slavenski, Orlando, Judita, Lovro pl. Matacic, the City of Zadar award, a series of Porin... He was always a frequent guest in Dubrovnik and several years ago Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra awarded him the status of honorary conductor.

The concert will be performed on a day of mourning for a serious maritime accident that happened on Wednesday night, and therefore will begin with appropriate Adagio for strings by Samuel Barber. On program there is also the Serenade for Strings in C major by Peter Iljic Tchaikovsky, while the bassoonist Matija Novakovic will perform the Papandopulo Concert for Bassoon and Strings.

Matija Novakovic started his education in Dubrovnik and continued it at the Zagreb Academy of Music and in Moscow at the famous "Tchaikovsky" Conservatory. In 1996 he graduated from the Zagreb Philharmonic Academy, where he became the first master of her instrument in the history of the Zagreb Academy of Music. He is particularly interested in Croatian composers and their bassoon and orchestra concerts, and is also co-founder and president of the Art Association "Konavle Art" and the Festival "Music and Word" Konavle.

Concert for bassoon and orchestra is another piece of Dubrovnik Musical Spring that the audience has no opportunity to hear very often and is a great finale of this beautiful festival.

Win with The Dubrovnik Times. This weekend sees the opening of the sixth annual Aklapela Festival and we are offering you the chance to win tickets. We have a pair of tickets for this Saturday’s performance available.

Saturday will feature fourteen different Klapa groups and the evening starts at 8.00pm and will be held in the Lazareti complex near the historic Old City of Dubrovnik.

To win tickets for the Aklapela Festival 2017 simply follow this link

Winners will be informed on Saturday the 28th by midday.

The Voice of Dubrovnik


Find us on Facebook