Tuesday, 05 December 2023
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

After three years of membership in the EU, Croatian cars will finally get new registration plates. The standard number plates in Croatia consist of a two-letter city code which is separated by the crest of Croatia from three or four numbers and one or two letters.

The Croatian Ministry of the Interior has announced that a new Regulation of Registration and Licensing vehicles regarding the new number plates will be enacted by law on Monday, the 4th of July, 2016.

According to the Road vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Regulations, the new number plates will be in accordance with the EU design standards. A blue vertical rectangular has been added on the left side of the standard number plate with a mark of the country's EU membership (''the European logo') on the top of the blue rectangular and a national mark for Croatia – HR on its bottom. Registration space remains as it was so far.

When the issue of the new registration plates starts, drivers will not have to change their standard ones because those registration plates will be changed gradually i.e. in cases of regular changes such as a first registration, a change of issuing region or in case a number plate has been lost, stolen or damaged.

As far as the pricing is concerned, almost all types of number plates will be cheaper with the enforcement of the new Regulations. The price for standard registration plates has been decreased from 76 Kunas to 65 Kunas and the price for customized plates has been decreased from 378 Kunas to 278 Kunas. Transferable licence plates have also become much cheaper; the current price has been decreased from 920 Kunas to 278 Kunas.

SPOILER ALERT - If you are a fan of Knightfall or don’t want to know too much about the filming in Dubrovnik stop reading now!

The American History Channel is currently filming their next blockbuster serial Knightfall in Dubrovnik. Explosions, sword fights and wooden galleons have featured as the production team have turned the Bay of Pile directly outside of the historic city walls of Dubrovnik into a scene from The Crusades.

This new ten-episode production comes hot on the heels of the acclaimed serial Vikings and the History Channel hope that Knightfall will be just as successful. The plot follows the Templars and their quest for the Holy Grail. The renowned actor Jeremy Renner will play one of the main roles and is also the producer; however we have yet to spot Renner in Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik is a fitting location for the serial as according to legend King Richard the Lionheart was left shipwrecked in 1192 on his way back from the crusades and was saved by swimming to the island of Lokrum in front of the city. He vowed to build a cathedral on the place where his foot touched land; however the Republic of Dubrovnik convinced him that the city was a much more suitable location for such a worthy gesture. The legend suggests that the English King then gave gold to build the first cathedral in Dubrovnik, at the time the most expensive cathedral in Europe.

The new History Channel series Knightfall certainly looks like being another hit off the production line. And after the filming of the HBO Game of Thrones and the eighth episode of Star Wars in Dubrovnik this next mega-serial will bring more attention to the city, what will be the next role for “Hollywood on the Adriatic,” we await with bated breath.

Check out the amazing photos from Tonci Plazibat

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Some people are just so overwhelmed with the view of Dubrovnik that they feel they have to get back to nature, to the bare necessities.

This revealing photo appeared on Instagram today with the title “Plotting to conquer King’s Landing in Dubrovnik along the Croatian Coast,” from an obvious lover of the HBO serial. How he was planning to conquer King’s Landing with nothing but his birthday suit on will remain a mystery. Maybe he has a secret weapon?

It is certainly a novel and unusual way to have your photo taken with Dubrovnik, we are just happy that he didn’t decide to take a selfie! The bottom line is he loves Dubrovnik.

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Bottoms up!  

Cavtat Summer Carnival is back again this year and it will last for two days: Saturday and Sunday. The great a way to spend the weekend nights, with colorful masks and unlimited fun in a small town of Cavtat, only 15 kilometers away from Dubrovnik. The first event is Carnival parade at 9 pm on Saturday, continued with the preformance of the band ''Ljetno kino''. At 10 pm in front of the St. Nicholas Church there will be Street circus HRAM , drummers, jugglers and fire spinners SARASWATI. At the same at Bungevila you can listen Cubano Group. And if you don't get too tired at Caffe Bar Samba there's Carnival after party at 1 am.

Sunday fun starts with the Carnival parade at 8:30 pm and continues with Acrobatic dance group Crowd Control at 9. Half an hour later there will be again, in front of the St. Nicholas Church there will be Street circus HRAM , drummers, jugglers and fire spinners SARASWATI. Bungevila brings Flamenco music. The Carnival will end with fireworks at midnight.

I always have two problems when writing about the island of Mljet, firstly I am biased and secondly words fail me. This is nature at its most spectacular. The National Park is without doubt the most stunning cornucopia of natural beauty I have ever seen. “Mljet is my favourite destination in this whole region,” I explained to a couple from Scotland sitting opposite me. We were headed from Dubrovnik towards the Pelješac Peninsula on the first leg of our full-day Mljet excursion with Croatia Excursions. “Why's that, what makes Mljet so special?” they replied. “Just wait and see,” I smiled.

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Mljet is a long, thin island in the Adriatic Sea. It seems to float off the Pelješac Peninsula and is also visible from Dubrovnik, just. The western end of the island is a National Park, and encompassed in that park and two lakes and another island…yes, another island. I have lived in Dubrovnik since 1998, and during that time I have covered every mile of the Dubrovnik – Neretva County. The region is rich in diversity and teeming with sights waiting to be discovered, but Mljet is special. Yes I am biased, there I have admitted it.

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We made our way on the luxury coach to Ston, our first stop of the day. Quaint and charming Ston is around 45 minutes from Dubrovnik and gave us time to stretch our legs, catch a coffee and explore the historical stone town. We continued along the green peninsula, observing the endless vineyards and olive groves. “So tell me why is Mljet so special,” again the Scottish couple were curious. “I really don’t want to spoil the surprise for you both,” I replied. Our rather pleasant boat was waiting in the bay of Trstenik and now a short ride across the channel and the island of Mljet awaited.

“Wow, I can almost feel how peaceful it is,” I heard an English tourist say as we pulled up to dock in the Mljet National Park. We were in the seaside village of Pomena, the coastal entrance to the park. “From here we have a short walk to the lakes,” explained the guide as we disembarked. I have a feeling; no more than a feeling I am sure, that out of the twenty people in our group only the guide and I had ever been to Mljet before. This was going to be fun, to observe their reactions.

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“What a lovely smell,” commented the man in front of me, to which his wife corrected “It isn’t a smell it is an aroma.” Pine is the smell, or aroma, and is permeates Mljet, this is a green island. Over 84 percent of the island is covered in dense forest. Our party had its way through that forest and then view opened up and the lakes revealed themselves in front of us, wow! Cameras were drawn faster than a cowboy drawing his six-shooter on a Western. “Incredible, fantastic, magnificent, splendid,” these were just a few of the words that our group repeated. As I said it isn’t easy to sum up the beauty of Mljet on paper, words are always not enough.

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We made our way around the Small Lake; yes there are two lakes, the rather unimaginatively named Big Lake and Small Lake, where a small boat was waiting for us. Another unique point about Mljet, it has an island on an island. On the Big lake there is a small island called Melita. And on that island is a 12th century Benedictine monastery, history, culture and nature, an intoxicating combination. And that small island on the island was our next point of call. On the island, believe it or not, is a spacious restaurant with a terrace in front of the monastery, a great location for a spot of lunch. And we had time to explore and swim! “I can see right to the bottom,” my Scottish friends exclaimed as they floated in the crystal clear water.

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Mljet is truly extraordinary, no it is extra extraordinary, sorry I have run out of extras. And this day-trip highlighted the amazing gems that the island holds. As I sat drinking a cool glass of wine on the terrace of the monastery the Scottish couple approached me, “Now we understand,” was all the said their faces full of smile. Another pair of Mljet devotees, I thought as I sipped my wine in the Mediterranean sunshine.

By Mark Thomas

The Mljet: Explore the National park 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.

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According to Croatian Radio Television (HRT), Bruce Dickinson the lead singer of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden is coming to Zagreb this fall as a business angel.

After the concert of Iron Maiden scheduled for the 27th of July in Split this summer, Dickinson will visit Zagreb in autumn as a guest speaker at the largest European business angels and investors conference. The Zagreb Connect & EBAN Winter University 2016 conference will be held on the 29th and 30th of November, 2016 and the Croatian and European business angels network expects to gather 1,500 participants, including 400 investors with 100 start-ups from all around the world.

''Apart from being a business angel Bruce Dickinson will be one of the guest speakers at this conference from whom local start-ups will have a great opportunity to learn'', said Davorin Stetner, the president of the Croatian business angels network (CRANE).

Dickinson undertook a career as a commercial pilot and pilots Iron Maiden’s private plane during their world tours. He has also launched his own aircraft maintenance and pilot training company, presented his own radio show, hosted television documentaries, authored novels and film scripts, created a successful beer with Robinsons Brewery and competed at fencing internationally.

The Zagreb Connect & EBAN Winter University 2016 conference will also be a great opportunity for local start-ups to approach investors and twenty of the best local start-ups will be rewarded with special meetings with investors at the conference.

It was a tough week at work for my wife/colleague and I. To make matters worse, I got my heart broken watching our team crash and burn out of EURO 2016. And then there’s Brexit… another current affairs thing I really don’t want to write about it, but it’s so hard to get away from it. It is just there, impossible to ignore like noisy construction work in the upstairs flat during a lazy summer afternoon.

I work mainly with British guests and business associates, and have been for most of my career. Today, they make up probably around 80% of the foreigners I deal with on yearly basis (my job revolves around foreign guests to Dubrovnik). If someone asked me to describe my relationship with British people or their culture, I would have to talk for a long time to be able to cover the whole story. It would begin with listening to my father’s Pink Floyd records back when I was still counting my age in single digits, to discovering over the years all the different British ways I still admire, or even those that I dislike. The list is long and it took a long time to make, but there is no doubt they’ve influenced me plenty. After all, I’m writing in their language, not mine. What I’m trying to say is, Ilike them. There are some wonderful things us Croatians could be adopting into our culture from the Brits (and vice versa, of course). The problem is, no one knows if the process that was set in motion a week ago will make it difficult, or even impossible to do so in the future.

Even with all my understanding and affection for the British, I would never say I feel like we are living in the same country or union of countries, even though both our nations are (still) part of the EU. This makes sense, of course. It would take much, much longer than the time that’s passed since we entered the “European family” to make it really work and you can’t blame some people for being frustrated with the whole process, if indeed they wanted it in the first place.

Personally, I like the idea of European Union. It’s a wonderful concept. One with too many pitfalls to name them all, sure, but when was there a grand idea in the history of human society that was also easy to achieve? This is a grand idea. One of unity on a continent where there never was unity. One of peace, mutual understanding, and cooperation. I like ideas like that, because I strongly believe there is more to us than what’s defined by our passports and birth certificates. It’s a bold idea that needs bold people to make it work, and what better way to describe the British? This is why this new situation makes me sad. There is so much talk with the proponents of “Leave” about taking their country back and taking a stand, as if what they did was really brave, but voting to leave the EU seemed in many cases to be motivated solely by fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the new. Fear of not being great anymore. Well, I believe Britain will remain great, but there was a chance for it to be an integral part of something much greater.

One of my favourite song goes:

“Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say”.

We know the first part is not true, let’s hope the rest of it is false as well.

The international press has a love affair with Dubrovnik. Travel reports, guides and “to do” lists are published on a regular basis. This week we caught up with one of the most influential writers and broadcasters about the city, the Scottish travel writer Robin McKelvie. He has been to the city fifteen times and written six books about Croatia and Dubrovnik in a journey that started 19 years ago.

When was the first time you came to Dubrovnik?

The first I tried to come was in 1993, I was covering the Homeland War in Croatia as a freelance journalist. I say tried because I couldn’t get down through Dalmatia at that time, Dubrovnik remained a dream of a place I had to visit. In fact even now I still get a tingle down my spine when I come to the city; it still has a magic appeal. The first time I actually made it was in 1997.

In the almost two decades that you have been coming to Dubrovnik what has changed over the years?

As I was saying to the taxi driver as we drove into town – absolutely nothing! Dubrovnik is still Dubrovnik, this is Ragusa, it is an entirely cohesive, architectural brilliant, city state and always will be. There is nothing like this city anywhere in Europe. And also this sense more than just normal civilisation that’s what Dubrovnik is for me. It’s living for something bigger, its Libertas, it’s a bigger ideal, it is not just urban living but a suggestion of something more. And none of that has changed over the years.

Over the past five years we have seen a huge increase in the number of British tourists holidaying in Dubrovnik. Can you put your finger on why the Brits have a love affair with the pearl of the Adriatic?

British people love history, we love a sense of the historic, and a lot of European cities have hidden their pasts away in museums. It is something that you can look at through glass, or read about in history books. To be honest you might as well be looking at that history on a documentary on television as you can’t interact with it. In Dubrovnik history is of the living variety. You can feel, touch and put your hands on the rich history of the city. As you walk along the Stradun or enter one of the churches you can feel the history around you, it is not hidden away.


Safety, sun and history are the packages that in many ways make this the perfect holiday destination - McKelvie

How would you compare Dubrovnik to other Mediterranean destinations?

When most people in Britain think about Mediterranean holiday destinations they think about two things, the sun and the beach. That is where Dubrovnik has an advantage, yes you have the beaches and the islands, and of course you have the weather, but you also have a historic town which makes for an intoxicating cocktail. And there are lots of little things that if you live here you probably wouldn’t notice. The Old City being only for pedestrians makes it and incredibly safe destination for young families. Safety, sun and history are the packages that in many ways make this the perfect holiday destination. It is unique within Europe.

One of the hot topics, as far as tourism in Dubrovnik is concerned, is the cruise ship question. In a relatively compact city the arrival of three, or more, cruise ships causes a breakdown of the entire infrastructure. What are your views on cruise tourism in Dubrovnik?

I would be a hypocrite if I massively condemned cruise ships in Dubrovnik, because I have arrived three times on a cruise ship. I can see why cruise ships come here, and certainly in the embryonic days of Dubrovnik’s recovery the cruise ships were an undoubted plus. They brought in revenue to the port, the city and to businesses. But then Dubrovnik became a victim of its own success. When you get ten cruise ships arriving then of course this has an impact, this is a small city with a fragile infrastructure. It is a “don’t shoot the golden goose” dilemma. One way of looking at it is that the number of cruise ship passengers might put off other tourists. But then on the flip side a percentage of the passengers will come back as tourists in the future. If you are staying in Dubrovnik as a tourist for a longer period of time then yes the cruise ships can be a problem. I remember that I was staying here with my family a few years ago and we ended up just going out in the mornings before the cruise ships arrived and again in the evenings when they had left. I guess that is Mediterranean living anyway. I would expect that in the future we could see a cap of the number of cruise ships that are allowed to arrive in one day.

Another “usual suspect” with Dubrovnik tourism is the length of the tourist season. We cram everything into the summer months and are left with a feast and famine situation. In your opinion how can we broaden into the off-season?

In a word not golf. I think it is a disastrous waste of space; I’m on the side of Mark Twain who said that golf was a good walk spoiled. For expanding the market, certainly by attracting more UK tourists, I would suggest exploring the idea of promoting cuisines. The British are very into their food at the moment and it would help the shoulder season if food festivals and events were held. Wine tourism, for example in Konavle and the Pelješac peninsula, would also be a winner. It has to be a targeted approach, rather than just opening the hotels and bringing in flights.

How would you sum up Dubrovnik in just three words?

Epic, Cohesive, Libertas.

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Text and photos - Mark Thomas 

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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