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.
Last week was very busy for me and it was around Wednesday that I noticed that I was having problems talking and felt like I was coming down with a cold or flu. Seeing how my work prevented me from resting for a day or two, I firmly decided I would not let myself get sick and got ready for a full on war. After a few hours of medicine stockpiling, I felt confident in my defences and positive final outcome of the conflict. At one point during my pharmacy crawl I ran into my mother and told her about my war plan. She looked at me unimpressed and simply said: “If that’s a cold, you are just going to have to let it do its thing, that’s the only way it will pass.”
Well, that’s my old school mother for you. She is still thinking in 20th century terms. She doesn’t know how us modern people have evolved beyond letting diseases “do their thing” and we now have a wealth of modern medicine at our disposal to help us. I paid no attention to her, but instead proceeded to work hard for the following few days while combating symptoms of what was turning out to be some sort of a super-cold with various remedies in my arsenal. It worked like a charm for the first two days, but by the end of the third one I started realising I am not winning this battle. If anything, I had merely forced my enemy to regroup and get reinforcements.
In the evening of the third day I was an absolute mess and had completely lost my voice. I spent the next few days in bed barely able to get up. Funny thing about those few days was that I decided not to take any medicine outside of hot tea and homemade honey. There was simply no point. So, not only did I have go through the ordeal of being sick, I was also lessoned in how to take care of myself by my mother. It’s so frustrating she still gets to do that. Oh well, at least she can’t read English, so she won’t know I admitted this publically.
After getting back to work it took me quite a few days to get back to the normal productivity levels. In the past this recuperation period would be much shorter. I would like to think diseases are evolving, but I fear it might be just me getting older. “Old age is the worst disease” – my father used to say. Oh God, I guess he was right too. This week just keeps getting better and better. However, I’ve noticed he never says it anymore, now that he’s old.
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.
According to data from the Croatian Financial Agency (FINA) the top ten commercial retail chains in Croatia generated an income of 35.4 billion Kuna in 2015. The leaders in the top ten group were and still are Konzum, Plodine and Lidl. Obviously encouraged by the recovery of the retail market and a record tourist season seven out of ten leading retailers had an increase of little more than 10% last year. After merging with the supermarket chain Mercator in 2015 Konzum reached 14.94 billion Kuna of income, almost 1.5 billion Kuna more in comparison with 2014.
Plodine the commercial retail chain from Rijeka successfully increased its income by 10% last year and managed to hold its position as the second largest commercial retail chain in Croatia. The third position is reserved for Lidl from Germany which has been growing very fast. Only last year Lidl increased its income by 11.5%. Apart from Lidl the real strength of Schwartz group from Germany is even more visible with Kaufland in the market. Although with little less income and a modest increase of 6.2 %, Kaufland managed to avoid operating 'in the red' in 2015. SPAR from Austria Spar Group is one of the commercial retail chains which also recorded growth in the Croatian market. Even though it had the biggest increase of income by 14.6% in 2015 Spar is still operating 'in the red'.
FINA's data of company’s financial reports show that even smaller Croatian commercial retail chains managed not only to survive among foreign retail giants but to strengthen their position in the market. The most successful were ''retailers from Dalmatia'', Tommy from Split and Studenac from Omiš. Obviously they managed to take advantage of the tourism growth and consumption.
Folklore weekend is ahead of us. Four cultural and artistic associations, contestants from the festival ''Na Neretvu misečina pala'' (Moonlight fell on the river Neretva) will perform in the Old Town. They come from four Croatian counties: Vukovar-Srijem, Osijek-Baranja, Brod-Posavina and Bjelovar-Bilogora.
They will perform in front of the Saint Blasius church by this schedule:
On Saturday at 11 am ''Seljačka Sloga'' from Gradište (Vukovar-Srijem County) and ''Zora'' from Piškorevci (Osijek-Baranja County). On Sunday, at same hours and place, ''Berislavić'' from Novi Grad (Brod-Posavina County) and ''Ivan Vitez Trnski'' from Nova Rača (Bjelovar-Bilogora County).
Ivan Vitez Trnski
The first solo photography exhibition of Slavica Gavranic called 'Individuum’ will be opened in the Sponza Palace, on Saturday, May 21st, beginning at 8 pm.
Each photographer has something that he prefers on the photographs. For Slavica Gavranić that are definicely the people and their emotions. A leitmotif of the exhibition is the image of a woman in various states of mind, from the pain and grief all the way to satisfaction and happiness. The author will present 24 photographs in black - white.
The exhibition has a humanitarian character. The funds raised from the sale of photographs will be paid on the bank account of the Center for Rehabilitation Josipovac. The exhibition will be opened until July 10th
About the Author:
Slavica Gavranićc s born on February 19, 1965 in Župa. For some time she has lived in France. She’s engaged in photography ever since her youth. She points out that love happened in elementary school, where she was developing the photographs in a small darkroom every week with a dozen of students and professor Vlaho Baničević. A more serious approach took place eight years ago when at the urging of Igor Brautović she started hanging out with photography enthusiasts and professional photographers like photojournalist Željko Tutnjević. She has won several awards, and this is her first solo exhibition. She lives and works in Dubrovnik.
“I didn’t know that Dubrovnik had so many sides, I thought it was a sun, sea and sand holiday destination, how wrong I was,” observed the tourist from Newcastle to me as we stood in a vineyard in the heart of the Konavle countryside looking up at an impressive mountain range.
Experience the traditional and original village ambiance on this marvellous excursion to Konavle; this was the first sentence from the website of Gulliver Travel about their wine tour in Konavle, or to give it its full name “Scenic train ride through Konavle valley.” This award winning tour takes guests through the rolling countryside of the Konavle region, often described as being like Provence, and sampling some fine local wines.
I have always been a fan of wine tours, well who isn’t. Rambling the countryside tasting the fruits of a wine producer’s labour, heaven on earth. You are always met with the first problem – who is going to drive. With this excursion that question is answered immediately – not you. With a luxury coach picking guests up from their hotels, a train running them from vineyard to vineyard, before jumping back the coach, what could be more pleasant?
We started the tour in the Brajkovic vineyard, a family concern that can trace its roots back over 400 years. A delightfully light white wine opened the day and then a full-bodied red. “We had guests from France just the other day and they were falling over themselves to praise our wines,” explained the owner of the vineyard to me, yes one of the long list of Brajkovics! He seemed particularly proud that a group of French guests had praised his wine.
Many of the grape varieties in Konavle have been grown here for centuries; they are loaded down with knowledge and it shows. The tour was starting to warm up, we made our way onto our transport for the day, a motorised train. “This is the best way to get to know the Konavle countryside,” explained our driver for the day Bozo. He wasn’t wrong. The sounds of cameras flashing coming from the train was enough for me to know that Bozo knew what he was talking about.
The wine tour takes in four different vineyards and also gives an insight into the traditions and history of Konavle. Our next stop was to a water mill and a demonstration of how flour was produced in years gone by. As the train pulled up we were greeted by ladies in traditional national costume handing out cold drinks and sweets. The mill is set in gorgeous countryside, next to a bubbling river and surrounded under a green canopy of Mediterranean flora. “It is so interesting to see this other side, to get off the beaten track a little,” continued the guest from Newcastle as we walked up the river side. We were then given a description of how fabrics used to be softened and produced hundreds of years ago. I looked at the fabric and then at the ladies who had greeted us, it was the same material. Some traditions in Konavle will go on forever.
Back off into the lush green landscape of Konavle and our second vineyard. This was another small family concern, land and knowledge that had been handed down through the ages, the Vodopic family vineyard. “In fact Vodopic means Water Drinker in English,” the guide mentioned to the delight of the party. Again a stunning white and a solid red wine, I am a little bit of a wine buff, but you don’t have to be with this tour the guides were explaining things in minute detail. And if you want to purchase a bottle of wine...or two...at any of the vineyards feel free.
I was feeling slightly peckish, so when I heard that we were going to be served brunch at the next vineyard I once again had a spring in my step. The Ivo Karaman vineyard was out next stop, which apart from having a really generous host also had some great wines. All of the vineyards that we visited were small, “we produced between 5 and 7 thousand litres a year,” was the standard answer when I asked about production. That is small. The Karaman family served a “Farmer’s Brunch,” healthy servings of bacon, onion, eggs and bread. “This is how the farmers in Konavle would have eaten hundreds and hundreds of years ago,” said the friendly guide. This is how I would like to eat every day, I thought to myself.
The last stop on our wine tour was the Karaman Malvasija vineyard. This award winning family vineyard produces some high-quality sweet white wine made from the Malvasia grape variety. The family are a wealth of information on this autochthonous grape; they have evidence of wines being served in the times of the Dubrovnik Republic in the 16th century. The wines of Konavle and the history of the region are intertwined.
This was a day-trip in the Dubrovnik sunshine that I would remember for a long time. All the components, the wine, the countryside, the train, the information, the hospitality, all these components made for a perfect afternoon, highly recommended.
By Mark Thomas
The scenic train ride through the Konavle valley is a half-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.
May is traditionally a very warm month of the year with pleasant temperatures and sunny days but this year it is colder than average. According to the weather data the first half of May was much colder than average in the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe. Just to remind you, last year we had summer temperatures over 30°C in some parts of Croatia already in May.
This heat wave in the coastline region brought a real summer to the continental regions. But apart from this incredible warm weather cities in the continent had one more problem to fight with – mosquitoes! There were swarms of these little summer pests which are usually not frequent at this time of the year. On the other hand, last year also brought some cold weather with heavy rain that chilled the air and temperatures plummeted to only 10°C.
According to the weather data three years ago Croatia measured the lowest air temperature in May at St Jure peak (the Biokovo mountain), only -3°C whilst at Zavižan (the Velebit mountain)the temperature was -2°C. All regions in Croatia measured air temperatures much lower than average for that time of the year. For instance, the highest air temperature of 13°C was measured in Dubrovnik but Split measured only 8.6°C on the 26th of May what was 2.1°C lower than the lowest daily minimum ever measured in Croatia since 1991.
We can only hope that the bad weather is behind us now and expect a nice and pleasant summer.
With our inside information and local knowledge The Dubrovnik Times not only brings you news and views but also travel tips. Here are our TOP 6 Dubrovnik travel tips for this week.
#1 A bus ticket in Dubrovnik costs 15 Kuna on the bus and 12 Kuna at the kiosks.
#2 The walk on the City walls usually lasts from ninety minutes to two hours. Wear comfortable shoes, take a bottle of water and avoid the hottest hours of the day.
#3 The Dubrovnik Cable Car whisks you to the top of the Srd Mountain in under five minutes. Price for an adult return ticket is 140 Kuna and 60 Kuna for children. Why not get a single ticket up the mountain and walk down. The pathway is good and the walk to the Old City takes aroound 40 minutes.
#4 The "Green Market" in the Gundulic Square in Dubrovnik opens from the break of dawn until exactly midday. Fresh fruit and vegetables all locally grown. As the bell tower rings twelve o'clock the pigeons are fed in the square.
#5 The Dubrovnik Card is a unique pass allowing entry into 8 cultural-historical monuments, the top attractions of Dubrovnik. Depending on the length of stay, you can buy 3 types of cards: 1, 3 or 7 days. By purchasing a Dubrovnik Card, you will get a bus card that is valid throughout the city of Dubrovnik and some discounts too. You can buy it in tourist board offices, hotels, etc. but the easiest way is online - where you also get 10 percent off.
#6 When booking plane ticket to Dubrovnik reserve a seat on the left hand side of the plane. On arrival you will have a superb view over the Old City of Dubrovnik, whilst the right hand side of the plane will be left to look at the endless blue of the Adriatic Sea.
It's no secret that Croatians are wine lovers, but the new list of the Wine Institute shows that they are one of the top wine drinkers in the world.
While Vatican City is absolute winner with an average resident consuming an impressive 54,24 liters a year, Croatia won a bronze medal and ended up on the third place, with 44,20 liters. No need to be surprised – Croatian wines are known around the world because of their taste and quality, maybe that's why Croatians like to drink a glass or two more than their neighbours.
It's interesting that 14 of the globe’s top 15 nations for wine consumption are in Europe, along with Uruguay.