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.
You can trust me on this one: I’ve been there. I’ve been there many times, varied roles (bride, bridesmaid, guest, musician, observer). The major advice I can give when it comes to Dalmatian weddings is this: don’t attend one!
That is, don’t attend one if you are a well-behaved specimen of the western virtues, you have a reputation to lose and you don’t have a spare week that you can do nothing but eat and party, because there is a high risk you will have the time of your life and that you will laugh at whatever you called manners and reputation before.
1. Weddings are an institution in Dalmatia. Wait – no. They, in fact, are the central event of an individual’s life: as soon as you are born, your parents get worried and obsessed about your future wedding. Then there is your wedding. And then your children are born and you start worrying and obsessing about their wedding.
2. The volume of attention, time and money invested into the event is scandalous. If you wonder, how can a family of average or under-average earnings afford an opulent wedding for 300 guests in the finest hotel in Dubrovnik, here is the answer: the wedding gifts. – If you are a guest, don’t come with a box of expensive pots and pans. Come with an envelope that includes a tasteful card and 200 EUR (the maid of honour and the best man usually give multiples of this sum). Your gift will not be forgotten.
3. Actually, talking gifts: the wedding gifts are so important, that there is usually a special separate party a few days before the wedding, intended for the wedding guests to drop by at the bride’s and the groom’s parents’ house and hand over the envelope. A special trustworthy person will sit behind a little table like an accountant and scribble your name and the value of your gift into a large notebook.
4. The notebook is worth gold in many families. It keeps track of every single gift the family ever gave or received on occasions like weddings, baptisms, birthdays, etc. In case somebody gave the parents a gift years ago on the occasion of their son’s birth, the same value is expected to get returned in the other direction. It’s the parallel shadow economy, that secures that even the poorest families never reach the bottom. (Long ago, I read an article in the Economist about poverty in the Balkans – the author was puzzled how people in war ragged areas can live on nothing for years. Well, the tradition of giving reciprocity is part of the answer.
5. Here it comes – the wedding day: you join in either at the groom’s or the bride’s parents’ house, depending on which side of the future family invited you. This would be around noon. Avoid shock upon arrival to the rather modest village house you used to visit: it will have changed into a gourmet catering show for the coming few hours. Expect best food. Best wines. Countless delicious home-made cakes. And about a hundred people who will wear the absolute best of what they can afford.
6. Yes: the dress. You, too, should wear your best. Hint: “the best” in Dalmatia is some two or three financial and style categories higher than “the best” in London. Some local ladies actually do spend their monthly salaries on outfits when invited to weddings. As regards the bride’s wedding dress and look, it is likely that you won’t recognize the girl when she comes out of her parents’ house. Some of the dresses would make Kate Middleton just stare in awe and disbelief.
7. The music: in case you actually want to talk to someone at the wedding, use the total of ten or fifteen minutes you have throughout the day. The rest of the time, everybody, but EVERYBODY will sing (and dance, at the later hour). Music is a crucial element at a Dalmatian wedding and the best musicians get sometimes booked a year in advance. The basic ensemble that will accompany the wedding until dinner consists of accordion, guitar and double-bass. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, hum along and have a drink. You’ll get into it eventually. At dinner, there will usually be a pop band (don’t count on them playing international hits, though; domestic pop is a requirement at weddings). Oh, and don’t expect anyone to have a speech. Why talk? Love is in the air, everything else is in that wonderful red wine.
8. There will be at least fifty cars that will need to drive, park, depart and arrive in a long glorious uninterrupted chain in various locations. – First, the guests from the groom’s parents’ house need to get to the bride’s house. In the bride’s house, the party continues, while all of a sudden there is commotion and chaos – quick, everyone! – the entire flock of guests must hurry to their cars, parked in zig-zag pattern all around the house, form a convoy and drive to the church for the actual wedding ceremony. And from the church, you still need to drive to the hotel, for the dinner party. It is a lot of driving of a lot of cars with a lot of drivers who can’t be sober – and the roads around Dubrovnik are dangerously curvy. Close your eyes, if you are one of the terrified passengers and don’t expect the random policeman to stop anyone: he would probably lose his job.
9. If nothing else got you on your knees, the dinner will. It is endless heaps of delicious food. Five or six courses. Often, there would be home-made wine. And in between the courses, there is dancing. Go dance even if you can’t dance at all! Anyway, it is unlikely that the crowd will let you sit or stand in the corner like poor Baby Housman. This is the one great thing about being a foreigner at local weddings: people don’t regard you as a foreigner. They want to make sure you enjoy the wedding just like them. So expect that somebody will just grab your hand.
10. In case you are kum or kuma, i.e. the maid of honour or the best-man: be prepared to travel to Croatia for future birthdays, baptisms and wedding anniversaries. Because you are now part of the family – no joke. (Logistically speaking, it might be easier for you to marry a local and stay.)
Blanka Pavlovic a.k.a. the Adriatic Bride is a Czech writer. She studied law (Prague) and creative writing (Oxford). As a lawyer, she specialized in international human rights law, first working for the European Court of Human Rights, then for a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. She wrote five books, among them Total Balkans, The Handbook of the Adriatic Bride or The Return of the Adriatic Bride. She now lives with her family between Dubrovnik and Donji Brgat. More information and English translations of her work are available through www.blankacechova.com
Croatian start-up Juvo Home Friends attracted public attention last year when they came up with an idea of using modern technologies to help modern parents in everyday challenges.
The Juvo Home Friend, a team of young innovators, designed a toy to make things easier for parents in the period when their small children make their first steps and begin to explore things around them.
Matija Srbic, the initiator of the idea, and his colleagues Igor Armus, Stanko Krtalic Rusendic, Sara Bajlo, Viktor Viljevac, Ivor Turcin and Ivan Kunjasic came up with this innovative solution after watching an American advertisement in which a boy says that he will never learn to ride a bike, fly or get married because he lost his life in an accident in his home. After that, Matija Srbic did some research that led him to the fact that several million children were injured in their homes only in the United States.
The Juvo toy, which got its name after a Latin word ''juvo'' which means ''to protect, to guard, to help'', is a platform of smart sensors placed on key areas in a house ( kitchen, bathroom, balcony, stairs, and front door). In a case of an unplanned movement of a child, the system sends a signal via a mobile application to parents' bracelet to notify them about child's movement so they can go and check up on the child. At the same time, the Juvo plush toy with a speaker activates in order to distract the child by singing or by a previously recorded voice of the parents in order to give them time to get to their child.
At first, the Juvo toy will be manufactured in Croatia, however, the team does not hide their ambition to target the US market and American citizens due to their spacious houses and higher purchasing power. The product will also be available on the internet, whilst the application will be available for Android and iOS devices.
It is interesting to note that Microsoft chose the Croatian start-up as one of the teams with a promising idea for improving everyday life in the Microsoft ''Imagine Cup'' finals in Seattle last year.
In the future, these innovative sensors could be used for monitoring the elderly or those suffering from Alzheimer's.
Game of Thrones has released a new teaser video for the upcoming seventh season of the globally popular series.
The new teaser gives a little more insight into the penultimate season of Game of Thrones. The season was partly filmed in Dubrovnik, which acts as King’s Landing, with three of the main characters filming in the city for a few days.
Season seven will be released on the 16th of July this year.
Jamie Lannister in Dubrovnik filming for season seven
Considering the fact that the new tourist season is just around the corner, it is high time to think about the perfect destination for your summer holidays.
For those who have pets, especially dogs, we are sure that it would never occur to you to leave them behind to wander around the city while you enjoy your holidays somewhere on the beach.
However, it is not always an easy task to find a beach where dogs and other furry family members are welcome to enjoy refreshment in the sea.
To make things easier for you, here is the list of the TOP 10 beautiful in Croatia beaches that are dog friendly:
The Seagull beach (Plaza Galeb) at Duce near Omis in the Split-Dalmatia County
The Cypress beach (Plaza cempresa) at Bol on the island of Bol
The Kazela beach (Plaza Kazela) at Medulin, Istria
The Duboka Draga beach (Plaza Duboka Draga) at Lozice on the island of Vir in the Zadar County
The Kijac beach (Plaza Kijac) at Njivice on the island of Krk
The Simuni beach (Plaza Simuni) at Simuni on the island of Pag
The Mel beach (Plaza Mel) at Kampor on the island of Rab
The Stobrec beach (Plaza Stobrec) at Stobrec near Split
The Podvorska beach (Plaza Podvorska) in Crikvenica
The Lucina beach (Plaza Lucina) at Pasman on the island of Pasman
It certainly felt like summer had come early to Dubrovnik today, blazing sunshine and clear blue skies made for rising temperatures. At 3 o’clock this afternoon in Dubrovnik a mercury breaking 26.6 degrees was measured which is a new record temperature for the month of March in Dubrovnik.
The previous record was not only broken it was shattered, the warmest March day until now was on the 26th of March 1977 when temperatures hit 23 degrees.
And it wasn’t only Dubrovnik that was sunbathing today, a warm front with an unusually warm north wind brought high temperatures to the whole of Dalmatia. Split also had record breaking temperatures as midday saw thermometers rising to 24.1 degrees a new record for March.
The Dubrovnik Tourist Board is in the process of installing installed two new city clocks in Dubrovnik. The first one was put in place today in front of the Hotel Petka in Gruz, opposite the Port of Dubrovnik, and the second will be installed on the main traffic intersection into Dubrovnik by the end of next week.
The city clocks were completely funded by the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and the City of Dubrovnik and are placed in positions were knowing the time is important, near to the port, bus stops and traffic intersections.
According to a survey on product quality in Croatia, almost 83 percent of Croatian citizens believe that products intended for eastern European markets are of poorer quality than those sold in shops in western EU member countries.
Furthermore, more than 70 percent of Croatian citizens believe that in the eyes of large European corporations in Western Europe, they are still the second-class citizens.
In order to examine this situation, the Croatian MEP Biljana Borzan and the Croatian Food Agency will carry out a comparative analysis and testing of 27 seemingly identical products sold in Croatian and German supermarkets.
The project has three phases. The first phase has already defined the list of 22 food products and five cleaning and personal hygiene products such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nestea ice tea, Heineken beer, Rio Mare tuna, pasta Barilla, Ariel laundry detergent, Silan laundry softener, Domestos household cleaning products as well as Nivea and Colgate products.
In addition, these products will be sampled in Germany and Croatia for further chemical analysis in order to determine their quality.
The second phase includes the selection of adequate quality parameters such as basic raw materials, taste, smell, share of sweeteners etc. The third phase refers to data processing that will help compile a report.
‘’Sampling and part of the analysis will be conducted by the Andrija Stampar Teaching Institute in Zagreb, because this institute is recognized as the leading institute in Croatia and in the region’’, said Borzan.
Zvonimir Sostar, the director of the Andrija Stampar Teaching Institute emphasized, ‘’The safety and high quality of food is our priority, thus we do not want double standards when it comes to the quality of seemingly identical products in Croatia and countries of Western Europe. All the research will be carried out professionally, and the results will be transparently presented to the public’’.
Summer isn't even on the horizon, spring has only just begun, but already the swimming season in Dubrovnik has begun. The iconic Banje Beach with panoramic views over the Old City of Dubrovnik was just too tempting today for some tourists in the city. Temperatures touched 27 degrees today and a handful of sunbathers took full advantage.
And even thought the Adriatic Sea is only around 16 degrees it didn't seem to deter some brave swimmers from diving in. From coats to shorts and T-shirts, just a couple of months ago the whole region was gripped in a polar front with heavy snow and temperatures down to minus 15, what a difference a couple of months makes.