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.
If you’ve ever visited a Croatian family home and you're not Croatian yourself you might think people there are plotting to kill you by trying to induce a lethal surge of cholesterol in your system. Especially if the home is populated by a granny or two. They can be pretty relentless in offering homemade food to all those who venture over the threshold.
Traditionally, when it comes to feeding our guests we tend to go a bit overboard as a nation. Our intentions are good, homemade food is usually nothing short of mouth-watering, but you better leave your caloric intake guidelines at home. Recommended serving size? Hah! We laugh in the face of international nutritionists. Yes, you can always choose not to eat what’s put in front of you. If you like causing international scandals, that is.
The lifestyle of Croatian Millennials may be similar to their Western counterparts, which was not the case with past generations, but we are still keen on putting out a decent spread when entertaining guests. My wife and I are no different. Just the other day we were expecting company and were preparing more food than would be humanly possible to eat. She was in charge of most of the preparation so she retreated in the kitchen some two hours before the guests were due to arrive and began churning out dishes as if we were catering a Christmas party for the European Parliament.
Ten minutes before guests arrived we packed the table with food until there was no more room for a toothpick. When our friends finally showed up, my wife did another very Croatian thing when hosting a dinner party:
“Hi! Welcome. We’ve had one hell of a day at work so I just whipped up a little something to eat at the last minute. Gosh, I hope it’ll be enough.”
Bozidar Jukic 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 Dubrovnik Police Authority carried out an action yesterday to crack down on drivers using their mobiles phones. The penalty for taking on your mobile phone whilst driving in Croatia is 500 Kunas, unless you are using a hands free device.
In yesterdays police action 132 drivers were stopped for driving offences with a 120 of them due to talking on their mobiles phones.
Zadar is looking to forge ahead in the Croatian tourism market; it is already one of the fastest growing destinations in the country and has just been awarded the prestigious “Best European Destination in 2016,” recognition.
However the city isn’t resting on its laurels, plans have been released of a project to construct five new hotels in Zadar. According to an article published by a local media outlet kalelargainfo.hr the first hotel to be built will be a five-star Hyatt in the centre of the city.
After the Hyatt hotel comes news that a Hilton is planned to be constructed in Zadar as well, as the destination attracts another international brand name. The plans for the city centre don’t stop there as apart from the new hotels there are plans to add other tourist attractions.
The Hyatt Hotel in Zadar should be completed by the summer season of 2018 and will be the first Hyatt hotel in Croatia.
The news in Dubrovnik is being dominated by the upcoming filming of Star Wars Episode VIII and as the set goes up along the main street, the Stradun, the excitement is rising. Already the scenes of Dubrovnik as a location for Star Wars have filled social media and the international press, with even a report on the BBC today.
Check out our photo gallery by Tonci Plazibat
As Star Wars starts preparing for filming in Dubrovnik, some scenes on the main street through the Old City are already being built, the production company are trying their best to keep away from prying eyes. Already key members of the Dubrovnik City Council have signed contracts of silence and tents have been erected in the Old City to hide away cast and crew. However according to reports in the media the levels of security will be even higher than for the Game of Thrones filming.
Filming of the eighth episode of Star Wars in Dubrovnik is due to begin on the 9th of March and will continue for seven days, but if you were thinking of grabbing an exclusive with an aerial view from a drone – think again. The security team hired to protect the Star Wars set will deploy a team of drones that will remove uninvited drones from the recording area. We are not quite sure how the drones will be removed safely, but as there will be an estimated 500 security guards around the set it could just be a case of hunting down the controllers.
“I know there is a capture system, like a net, that looks like a spider’s web that can be used to snare drones; however this would be very dangerous over populated areas. I am not sure what rights the production crew of Star Wars has to bring down personal drones over the skies of Dubrovnik,” commented a Dubrovnik drone owner for The Dubrovnik Times. Adding that “If the drone is not being used for commercial purposes, and is compliant with all the laws and conditions, then surely bringing down a drone is illegal. Does Star Wars own the airspace over Dubrovnik?“
A statement from the Dubrovnik Tourist Board has asked for people to have consideration whilst Star Wars is filming, "For couple of days in March, movement in the old city centre shall be subject to special regulations. We trust that this situation will not cause you any inconvenience and that you will have a pleasant time in Dubrovnik. Scene preparations for filming will take place on March 9th and 10th from 6 pm to 12 am (midnight). Filming preparations and filming itself will take place every day from March 11th to 16th. Preparations will be carried out from 4 am to 4 pm and filming itself will take place from 4 pm to 4 am of the following day."
The Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic presented the strategic projects of his government and main cross-border energy and infrastructure investment projects at the Western Balkans Investment Summit of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London on Monday.
“We will pay special attention to all activities that encourage economic growth, create jobs and a positive investment climate, and raise the standard of living of our citizens,” stressed Oreskovic said at the summit, which brought together government officials and business executives from the Western Balkans region.
Oreskovic said that his government would unveil a well-balanced budget in mid-March, with the focus on fiscal consolidation and budget deficit reduction.
“The next step will be to reduce public debt by activating 500 million Euros in dormant capital, and our aim is to improve the credit rating so as to ensure lower costs of borrowing,” commented the Croatian Prime Minster.
Among other priorities, the Croatian government will create a EUR 500 million fund for small and medium enterprises, and will concentrate on drawing of EU funding, he said. Last year Croatia drew EUR 500 million from EU funds and this year it aims to draw between EUR 900 million and 1 billion to use for infrastructure, tourism and agriculture-related projects.
Source - Hina
If you have ever had a guided tour of Dubrovnik there is a good chance that you have bumped into Ivan Vukovic. For the past decade Ivan has been leading visitors around Dubrovnik, thousands and thousands of guests have been captivated by his local insight and wealth of knowledge. From Game of Thrones to walking tours and even Star Wars tours Vukovic is always thinking ahead of the game. Believe it or not, and we find it hard to believe, he has also organised shopping tours to SUB City in Dubrovnik! The Dubrovnik Times caught up with Vukovic and he opened our minds to another side of life in the front line of tourism in the city.
Being a guide in Dubrovnik is like being in the front line of tourism, what were your motivations for following this profession?
Firstly I love my city, that is extremely important, and to be able to introduce Dubrovnik to visitors is always a thrill. I have always been a communicative person and had an ear for languages. I started working as a guide exactly ten years ago, before that I was in the corporative travel business. Although many people say that working with people is the hardest job I enjoy meeting people from all over the world on a daily basis.
We are sure that you have thousands of questions from visitors every day, what are some of the most common questions?
To be honest it depends on the nationality, for example the most common question from American tourists is the Homeland War in Dubrovnik and the effects on the city. They also ask on what it was like to live in Croatia, or Yugoslavia, when Tito was in power. Mostly people ask about legends, history and everyday life in the city. I have to empathize to visitors that life in Dubrovnik is completely different to other parts of Croatia.
Always ready with an answer
How realistic is it that in an hour a half tour of the Old City guests can understand the “Dubrovnik Experience.”
In many ways I am a teacher, a professor, in a short period of time I try to explain the basic facts and help visitors to at least get a feel of Dubrovnik. There are many, many sights in the Old City but in an hour and a half I concentrate on the main landmarks. I also add that it is interesting to see the city in the spring and the autumn.
We keep hearing that Dubrovnik needs to extend its tourist season into the winter, what are your opinions?
The season is relatively long already, but of course there is room to have all year round tourism. I start with my tours at around the middle of March each year and the effective season is around eight months.
If you are so busy in the middle of the summer would you want to have winter tourism?
Dubrovnik has a name and a brand as a summer destination, but absolutely I would love to see the city busy all year. When you have a reputation as a “sun, sea and swimming” destination it is hard to shake that off. The city can offer so much more than that, but opening potential tourist’s eyes to those beauties is hard. People like to travel, if you give them the opportunity to come here in the winter they would. But the biggest problem is that Dubrovnik just isn’t connected with flights through the winter. We need direct flights to Dubrovnik, end of story. Tourists don’t want to make two or three stops to get here, make it easier and they will come. I can see that winter tourism is picking up, it is a slow process but there have been some positive steps. Of course it is a shame when guests do come in the winter that many of the restaurants are closed.
Opening the city to young eyes
Maybe one of the biggest problems with our lack of winter guests is a lack of creativity?
I would agree. There are so many options and possibilities all you need is an idea. When I realized that there were very few flights in the winter period I then turned my attention to neighboring countries. Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are winter target markets. For example I brought six coach loads of tourists from Montenegro here for Valentine’s Day.
What other tours do you organize out of the summer season?
Believe it or not we have shopping tours to Dubrovnik. Through January and February we have organized shopping tours to the new shopping centre in Zupa, SUB City. Coaches from Albania and Montenegro come to shop in the SUB City centre and then sleep overnight in Dubrovnik before having a tour of the Old City the next morning. As soon as the Albania travel agencies heard that the shopping centre had H&M and other brand names they loved the idea. Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia are three countries that have great interest for shopping tours in SUB City.
You are one of the only guides in Dubrovnik who has a dedicated website, a website that features many themed tours.
Yes I have Game of Thrones tours, Star Wars tours, walking tours, plus many others. These film productions have brought Dubrovnik to a whole new level. This is the kind of marketing that we could never afford in a million years. And the exposure on the screens has also opened the city to another age group. In the past few years the number of younger people visiting Dubrovnik has doubled, we can say that this is thanks to Game of Thrones, what Star Wars will bring us is still unknown.
During the summer we are sure that you find it hard to have a day off, so how do you spend your winters?
I travel! Last year Japan, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Korea. As you can see I love to travel. When I am travelling I always like to take a guide to explain me the highlights. Without a guide a destination often remains undiscovered.
Making friends in the Sahara
In these days when everyone has a Smartphone or tablet how important do you believe it is to use a local guide, isn’t it easier just to search online?
The biggest difference between “guiding yourself” using online travel sites and using a local guide is interaction. With a local guide you will get to dig under the surface of a destination, get to understand what makes it tick, whereas with a digital service you remain passive.
You can find more information on Ivan Vukovic and his tours at his website - dubrovnik-tourist-guides.com
Looking for a break in the sunshine this March, well according to a recent survey by the popular travel website “GoEuro” the place to be is Dubrovnik. “February has come to an end, the worst of winter is behind us and as the temperatures begin to ascend we can’t help but feel our feet itch, yearning for a getaway,” opens the article.
With the Dubrovnik tourist industry looking for ways to extend the season this type of publicity will help to make potential visitors aware of the beauties of the city outside of the summer period.
Out of the seven destinations recommended by GoEuro the favourite was Dubrovnik. “Whether you’re a fan of the sunshine or a Game of Thrones fanatic, Dubrovnik is a promising holiday spot. Dive into this beautiful white-stone walled city, enjoy the spring harvest and fresh seafood from it’s the crystal blue coastline,” adds GoEuro.
Prague, Venice, Galway, Seville, Amsterdam and the Amalfi Coast were also recommended.