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 31st Summer Olympic Games were definitely the most successful for Croatia so far.
At the Rio Summer Olympic Games 2016 Croatia's athletes won a record breaking total of 10 medals. Three of them were in athletics (two golds and a bronze), one bronze medal in boxing, a gold and silver in rowing, a gold and silver in sailing, a gold in shooting and a silver medal in water polo.
Croatian sports now has five Olympic champions; the discus thrower Sandra Perkovic, the javelin thrower Sara Kolak, rowers Martin and Valent Sinkovic in the men's double sculls, sailors Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic in the men's 470 (dinghy) and the shooter Josip Glasnovic in the men's trap.
Three silver medals were won, by the rower Damir Martin in the men's single sculls competition, the sailor Tonci Stipanovic in the men's laser class, and by the men's national water polo team.
And female high jumper Blanka Vlasic and the boxer Filip Hrgovic in the men's super heavyweight category won bronze medals.
At the end of this Summer Olympic Games 2016 Croatia has found its place in the prestigious group of countries that won Olympic medals. Croatia ranked as the 17th among the 78 world countries, following the US, the UK, China, Russia, Germany, Japan, France, the South Korea, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Brazil, Jamaica and Kenya. And interestingly by size of population Croatia finished third on the gold medal list behind Jamaica and the Bahamas.
At the Olympics in London in 2012 Croatia won a total of six medals, three of which were gold, one sliver and two bronzes, and placed as the 26th among the 85 country participants at the Summer Olympic Games in London.
Every weekend our resident "Style Guru" will be scanning the streets of Dubrovnik for the latest and greatest in fashion.
Even though there's been quite a buzz all over the foreign media about the 'bikini ban' in Dubrovnik it seems that some of the tourists haven't heard of did or if they did – they don't care. Plenty of them walked around yesterday in bikinis or just in shorts and honestly we can't blame them since it was hot as hell.
Just a reminder, because of the decision of the City Council showing your skin could cost you 1000 kuna, or around 133 euro or 146 dollars. If you decide to pay right on the spot you will pay half the price.
As we could see, there are still no signs that are planned to be at the entrances of the Old Town of Dubrovnik, so maybe that's a reason why tourists can walk around ''half naked'' freely still. Soon, as it will get colder, there will be no need for a 'bikini ban' because nobody will wear a bikini anymore.
One of the icons of the world of fashion, Diane von Fürstenberg, took a walk in the Mljet woodland today. Fashion designer and formerly Princess Diane of Fürstenberg is currently on a cruise on a luxury yacht with fashion editor who currently writes for Vanity Fair.
The fashion duo went for a walk around the national park of Mljet and three photos appeared on social media, one of them clearly showing Diane von Fürstenberg with her Nordic walking sticks.
Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) is a global luxury lifestyle brand available in over 70 countries and 45 free-standing shops worldwide, with the company's headquarters and flagship boutique located in Manhattan's Meatpacking District.
Once again Game of Thrones has brought international media attention to Dubrovnik. This time the German television station Deutsche Welle has released a short video about Dubrovnik’s role in the globally popular series.
“Croatia's most popular old town has been dubbed the 'Pearl of the Adriatic.' Among the many tourists are 'Game of Thrones' fans, because several scenes in the show were shot in Dubrovnik,” writes this popular German media channel about King’s Landing, or Dubrovnik.
The video, which was clearly recorded through the winter, highlights the Game of Thrones tours that have sprung up and talks to local Dubrovnik guide Robert Simic. “It is a commercial that no one could pay for. We are the capital of the most famous show ever filmed, which is amazing,” comments Simic.
Check out this video!
If you only have one day to spend in Dubrovnik then you are going to need a constructive plan. Although the Old City is a car-free, self-contained entity and is relatively easy to navigate around you are still going to need some hot tips to maximise your stay.
Here are a few recommendations on our “must see” list. The best way to familiarise yourself with the city is by getting a bird’s eye view. Climb 432 metres over Dubrovnik with a ride on the cable car. The views are to die for, why not have a coffee in the Panorama Restaurant which offers aerial panoramas, it’s all in the name.
After an hour on the Srd Mountain you’ll need a swim, one of the most iconic beaches in Dubrovnik is the Banje Beach. You can either rent a sun bed or go to the public side of the beach, to the east, and roll out your towel for free. Time for lunch and the Old City offers over 100 restaurants, but beware there are many tourist traps, our choices are Kopun (home of capons), Proto (for an upmarket fish meal), Nista (vegetarian), Horizont (great service) or Kamenica (fresh fish and reasonable).
After lunch why not catch some Dubrovnik culture, there are many museums in the Old City but you only have a day so the Rectors Palace will give you a brief insight into the power of the former Republic of Dubrovnik. Have you got time to walk the city walls, probably not, but you could walk half of them. For a seaside view get on at the Pile Gate and for an over the roof tops view get on at the Ploce Gate, unfortunately the price is the same if you walk a half circle or full. If you don’t fancy walking anymore then relax with a long drink on the Stradun, the main street that runs like an arrow through the heart of Dubrovnik. Try cafe bar Cele or the close by La Bodega for a real “live like a local,” feel. And the island of Lokrum, a stone's throw fom the Old City, is a must visit. Great location for a swim or a walk around the botanical garden.
Dubrovnik City Card
Save time and money on your daytrip to Dubrovnik with the one-day Dubrovnik City Card. The card offers you entrance into all of the city’s museums, city walls, bus travel and discount in many stores and restaurants. You can but the card at over 50 outlets throughout the city, including hotels, restaurants and travel agencies. We would suggest buying at the Dubrovnik Tourist Board office on Pile just by the main entrance to the Old City. We would suggest buying at the Dubrovnik Tourist Board office on Pile just by the main entrance to the Old City. A one-day card costs 170 Kunas but if you buy online you will receive a 10 percent discount.
Cable car - Ride to the sky in three minutes
The Dubrovnik cable car offers 360 degree views that will leave you breathless, almost as breathless as if you had walked to the top of the 432 metres high Srd Mountain. The ride lasts around three minutes and tickets can be bought at the lower station of the cable car, an adult return ticket costs 120 Kunas and 50 Kunas for children. At the top is an observation deck, a restaurant and souvenir shops. You can also catch buggy ride over the countryside if you are feeling adventurous, it’s fun and dirty! In May the cable car runs from 9am to 9pm and leaves every ten minutes. Get to the back of the car for the best views over Dubrovnik as you climb the mountain.
The Banje Beach is great fun for all the family although be careful as the Adriatic gets deep relatively quickly!
Where to park
The public parking garage, Zagrebačka Street, is probably the best bet. Or park out of town and get a bus in and out.
“I remember watching Prince Charles on the television when he was at the opening of the restored old bridge in Mostar,” exclaimed the Scottish tourist sitting next to me on the coach. We were on our way to the city where east meets west, a city divided by a river and absolutely humming with history – Mostar. And the iconic symbol of the entire city, and some would argue the whole region, is the 16th century bridge that spans the Neretva River. In fact the city takes its name from the Croatian word “Most” which means bridge in English. This would be a day to remember as we snaked through the green countryside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was travelling on a Croatia Excursions day-trip to discover Mostar and The Old Bridge Story.
Wherever you are in Dubrovnik you are pretty much within eyesight of a foreign country, the city is an island surrounded by borders. So on this full day-trip to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina it didn’t take long before we left Croatia. Contrasts - that is the word that I am sure will stick in your mind when you travel on this tour. Soaring mountains, wide open plains, historic monuments, an explosion of different cultures and religions, white-water rivers and gastronomic adventures, Bosnia and Herzegovina has it all in bucket loads.
Our first stop was the town of Trebinje, a half an hour drive after the border, and the stunning Hercegovačka Gračanica monastery. The monastery is located on Trebinje’s version of Sugarloaf Mountain. The city sits on the Trebišnjica river valley and is wide and flat, however a dome of a hill dominates the skyline and this was our first stop and a visit to the monastery. Do not forget your camera or leave it on the coach, as I nearly did. The views are expansive and well worth a selfie. A tour of the charming monastery and we were on our way to Mostar.
“Have you been to Mostar before,” questioned a couple from Holland. I had been many times, but not for a few years. “Yes, but I don’t want to give too much away, you will discover the city for yourselves, but please remember your first impressions,” I answered.
As the coach wound its way through gorgeous rolling hills we were treated to an education of the region from the pleasant guide. Most people on the coach, well no almost everyone on the coach, had never been to Mostar or Bosnia and Herzegovina before. This was going to be a steep learning curve for them. Well to be honest for me as well. I have travelled to 47 countries in my life so far and countless cities and I can honestly say that Mostar is the one city that has the starkest ethnic and cultural differences. When they call Mostar the “melting pot of cultures” they have certainly hit the nail directly on the head.
“Wow, that should be on the list of the Eight Wonders of the World, there should be nine wonders,” said the couple from Holland as they laid their eyes on the iconic Old Mostar Bridge for the first time. It is indescribable, a world famous piece of history that links two cultures. On one side of the river towering church spires of the mainly Catholic population and on the other needle-like minarets puncturing the skyline. Quite clearly the bridge was more than just a means of transportation; this was a symbol of bringing together two cultures. Issac Newton once famously said that “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
A guided tour of the breathtaking old city followed. Turkish style bazaars, wooden façade homes, bright colours, culture clashes and history and traditions gushing as the Neretva River. “I never dreamed it would be like this, it feels so exotic, I feel like I am on an adventure and not a day-trip,” laughed a tourist from England. He was right. It was a million miles away from the Dalmatian experience of the Dubrovnik coastline, and yet physically only a few hours’ drive. “This is a memory that will stay with me for a long time,” he added.
The aroma of food drifted from every corner, which was just as well because I was in need of sustenance. Not only was the city a culture shock but so was the cuisine, in a very positive way. My tip – try some of the typical Turkish delights and do not take the familiar option with international menus, your taste buds will thank you.
“Well I hope you enjoyed your trip to Mostar,” commented the guide as we made our way out of the city. I sensed there was a mutual agreement of awe. Mostar wasn’t what they had expected and it had left them fumbling for a description. It does that to you, it is a city that always leaves an impression.
By Mark Thomas
The Mostar: The Old Bridge Story is a full-day excursion offered by the Gulliver Travel agency. For more information, including prices, dates and how to book, please visit the Gulliver Travel website here.
Celebrity spotting in Dubrovnik, and blimey it has certainly been a week for spotting the rich and famous in the city. “Can you get me a photo of Bono if you bump into him,” asked a friend from London. The chances of me bumping into the lead singer of U2 were, well relatively limited, but to get a friend from London asking for his photo just endorsed the power of “A” level stars.
And although Bono was probably the most sought after star on the list this week there have been plenty more, Reese Witherspoon, Ivanka Trump, Nicole Scherzinger, the Black Eyed Peas…all stars in their own right.
They have all been cruising in fancy yachts, dripping with designer clothing and desperate to flaunt their overall “gorgeousness” on social media. They all look like they have just slipped out off the pages of Cosmopolitan. They are living large on Instagram, well at least that’s the message they are trying to convey. There is a real star in all of these social media photos that have been appearing, but it isn’t in the foreground! Just look over the shoulder or under the armpit of a celebrity and you will see the true VIP – Croatia, and in many cases Dubrovnik.
And it isn’t a photo-shopped, cropped, Botox filled, filtered star, no, it is a naked beauty that doesn’t need any artificial help. Dubrovnik has always had an unusual relationship with celebrities, well not so much strange more aloof. It isn’t that people don’t recognize the world icons; far from it, it’s just that they aren’t that bothered by them.
We all know the story about Ivo Labaš and his brush with Elizabeth Taylor, when he offered her a piece of paper to take his autograph, he considered himself more famous as he was a citizen of Dubrovnik. However there is something to be said for the celebrity endorsement, it may be a pain in the arse but it brings plenty of publicity with it. Of course you get the “old farts” who just grunt like a sleeping dog when you tell them a celeb is here, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
The amount of international media outlets that have been filling their pages with photos of celebs on vacation in Croatia over the past months is priceless PR. I don’t really know who half of these people are, I am guessing that half of them are famous just for being famous, they may have inherited fame not earned it. But who cares, they are loved by the media and therefore are plastered all over the front pages. It is also kind of cool to be in the spotlight, I mean for Dubrovnik to be in the spotlight, where it fully deserves to be.
“Celebrities like to come here because people treat them as normal people and don’t hassle them,” I remember a local telling me a few years ago. I half agree with that statement. True mega stars probably love the anonymity, to be able to fade into the crowds and not be constantly asked for autographs or selfies. But the “nouvelle riche” shooting stars probably absolutely hate it, they want to be seen and adored. That is probably exactly the reason they take to Instagram to promote their instant-fame. “I am here...over here...look at me...look at me,” one can hear them screaming through their media channels.
Starlets with their entourage of mini-starlets are bombarding us with bikini-clad images. And the latest trend to make sure that you rise on the Facebook charts, Belfies! I kid you not, Belfies! I can hear you asking what the hell Belfies are, I asked the same question. Apparently it is a selfie of your arse! I am guessing it got the name as a combination of selfie and B from bum, bottom or backside. Whatever next? One minute tiny asses were a hit and now its behinds the size of a bus, who could keep up with this fashion. I open my Twitter account and am greeted with a whole array of bums!
Normally I wouldn’t be complaining too much, but it isn’t only women who are taking Belfies! This new term even has an unofficial entry into the Oxford English Dictionary “a photographic self-portrait featuring the buttocks, usually posted by female celebrities on social media networks.” And just on the market belfie-sticks! They are like selfie-sticks that you see tourists waving around in Dubrovnik but they have a mirror stuck on them…so you see your arse of course. And yes, before you ask, we already have Belfie photos featuring Dubrovnik. That’s it I have just thought of a new idea, Delfie, a selfie in Dubrovnik!