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 Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, said on Tuesday that "we can be very satisfied" with the current part of the tourist season, with Croatia currently at 94 percent of overnight stays of the record breaking 2019.
In a statement before the Government session, Brnjac pointed out that tourism is recovering well, including domestic guests, which are four to five percent more in June than in the same month before the 2019 crisis.
The value of fiscalized accounts is also an indicator, which was 20 percent higher than in 2019, said Brnjac.
In addition to the preparation and realization of the season, the Ministry is also turning to long-term strategic goals, i.e. green and digital transformation, the Minister pointed out.
"I hereby call on everyone in the tourism sector to respond to the public consultation, with the aim of making the applications as good and concrete as possible, because all projects must be completed by the end of 2025," Brnjac appealed.
The focus is on quality and sustainable tourism, and the goal is to distribute the arrival of tourists evenly throughout the year, both on the coast and on the continent, said Brnjac, citing the example of spa tourism as one that creates opportunities for developing Croatia as a year-round tourist destination.
Mea Culpa is certainly one of the most iconic pizzerias and trattorias in Dubrovnik. Located in the very heart of the Old City Mea Culpa has been a magnet for lovers of good food for years.
So what is the key to their success? You could argue that the great food on offer is the key, and you’d probably be right. You could also say that the friendly service and “food with a smile” approach is the key, again you’d be right. Or maybe it’s the fact that you eating a meal surrounded by the stone façades of historic buildings in a UNSECO World Heritage Site, yes, that could be the case. The truth is that it is probably a combination of all these three, but a few more hidden ingredients that makes Mea Culpa a “must visit” restaurant in Dubrovnik.
But to find the inside story we caught up with the manager of Mea Culpa, Goran Jerković, to see what makes this popular Dubrovnik eatery tick.
Finding the inside story on Mea Culpa - Photo - Mark Thomas
“The restaurant has a long history and tradition in Dubrovnik, we opened in 2000, so with over 20 years of experience we are proud to have served so many customers and to have received so many positive reviews,” explained the friendly Jerković. Mea Culpa specialises in pizzas, burgers, pasta dishes, seafood, fish and fresh salads and much more, the multi-language menu certainly has something for everyone. The whole concept is a combination of Italian and Mediterranean dishes all served by staff that seem to be continually smiling.
“Most of our guests love our pizzas, we are really well-known for pizzas and we often have tourists that come back year after year and even order the exact same pizza,” explained the manager. Adding that, “However, our pasta and risotto dishes are just as popular, so it would be hard to pick out a dish that is the most popular.”
Explore the menu and wine list - Photo - Mea Culpa
“One thing that we are particularly proud of is the positive feedback from guests from all over the world. In today’s digital world it is easy to see what guests think as they’ll leave a review on one of the social media platforms, and I have to say that the vast majority are excellent. However, away from the online world we just love the personal feedback from guests,” stated Jerković. Mea Culpa quite often has guests who after lunch come back for dinner, and that is a recommendation in itself.
Of course running a restaurant inside of a historic Old City such as Dubrovnik has its challenges, especially in the height of the season. “We always make sure that we offer not only the highest levels of food, but also the highest levels of professional service. We handle these challenges, thanks to our great staff and the experience behind us,” said the manager.
What makes Mea Culpa different for the rest? Not only do they invest into their staff, but also fresh and locally sourced ingredients, and of course guests to the eatery can feel this investment. The brand of Mea Culpa certainly helps. And a lot of work goes on behind the scene to build this brand and to create a restaurant that stands out from the rest.
Guests come back year after year - Photo - Mea Culpa
So how have they prepared for this busy season? “We are ready for the new challenges of this year. We put a lot of preparation into everything, for example we send our staff abroad on training courses through the winter months so that they are up-to-date with all the new developments. Also this year we have increased the quality of all our ingredients to make sure that we remain at the highest possible level,” explained Jerković.
So, I had to ask, as a final question, “What’s your favourite dish at Mea Culpa?” With a broad smile he answered without hesitation, “Mea Culpa pizza.” The pizza that carries the name of the restaurant. And what are the toppings on a Mea Culpa pizza – tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, ham, pancetta, are the main toppings. Making me hungry already.
Za Rokom 3,
Old City Dubrovnik
Telephone: +385 0/20 323 430
In the last 72 hours in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, 112 new cases of coronavirus infection were recorded.
These are 81 people from Dubrovnik, 12 from Župa Dubrovacka, 10 from Konavle, 5 from Metković, 2 from Ston and 1 person each from Blato and Orebić.
One male person from Dubrovnik died (born 1949).
91 people recovered: 47 from Dubrovnik, 11 from Župa dubrovačka, 10 from Konavle, 8 from Ploče, 4 from Metković and Vela Luka, 2 each from Dubrovačko Primorje and Trpanj, and 1 person each from Blato, Orebić and Slivno.
In the last 72 hours, 318 samples were processed, and a total of 248,676 samples have been analysed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Currently, people tested positive for Covid-19 are hospitalised in the Dubrovnik General Hospital.
Tickets for more than 60 drama, music, dance and other events within the program of the 73rd Dubrovnik Summer Festival can be purchased from today at the box office of the festival – Festival Palace, Od Sigurate 1. The box office for the festival will be open every day from 10.00am to 6:00pm, and then from July 1 to August 25 from 9:00am to 9:30pm.
Tickets can also be purchased online at the festival's website www.dubrovnik-festival.hr and through the service www.ulaznice.hr.
After two pandemic years and lockdown people seem to have been bitten by the travel bug yet again. Neither the Ukrainian war, nor the enormous jump in prices, nor the rage of inflation has prevented people from travelling. This trend is shown by all the announcements of the upcoming main tourist season in Croatia, but also the actual data on the year so far. It looks like being a season better than most expected.
After the excellent Easter tourist results, the new data highlights the announcements of an excellent tourist season in Croatia, reports Jutarnji List. Corpus Christi is one of the holidays by which one can assess what kind of season awaits us. And data on traffic generated for this public holiday on motorways in the direction towards the sea show that this tourist season could even surpass the record breaking 2019.
According to Croatia Highways (Hrvatske autoceste), 38,387 vehicles entered the Lučko toll station on 16 June. That is 4.4 percent more vehicles than the record 2019. At that time, 36,752 vehicles entered the highway for Corpus Christi. Considering that Croatia is recognized as a car destination due to its developed motorway network, this new data shows just how could the season could be.
The Croatian Minister of Finance, Zdravko Marić, joined the good announcements of the season a few days ago, saying that "the value of fiscalized bills in terms of tourism in the first five and a half months of this year is 22 percent higher than the record tourist year 2019" and that we have every right expect a quality tourist season. "We hope there will be no negative shocks and in that case this year could surpass 2019," said the minister.
The announcements of an excellent tourist season are supported by the data of the Central Bureau of Statistics that 1.5 million tourists stayed in commercial accommodation in the first four months, and achieved 4.4 million overnight stays, which is 184 and 190 percent more than in the same period last year.
It would appear that after two years of stagnation that Croatia’s tourism industry is not only back on track it is in the express lane.
Being in Dubrovnik and not riding the Dubrovnik cable car is rather like going to Paris and not going up the Eiffel Tower or going to New York and not climbing to the top of the Empire State Building. It shouldn't only be on your “must do” list it should be right at the top and highlighted. And often finds itself, along with the Dubrovnik City Walls and the island of Lokrum, in international publications as the three highlights of the city in the far south of Croatia. And for good reason.
Why is timing important?
We could tell you that the ride from the base station in Dubrovnik to the top of the 432-metre-high Srđ mountain is inspiring, and we’d be right. We could tell you that once you get to the top of the peak you’ll be absolutely blown away by the panoramic views and will fill your holiday album with stunning images, again we’d be right. Or we could expand on the fact that there is plenty of opportunities once you actually get to the top, from the history of the region in the Homeland War museum to buggy rides over the rolling countryside, the shops in the top station or the glorious food at the restaurant, again we would be right. But we’re going in a different direction, at it involves timing. Timing is important, and if you can why not make the most of the gifts of nature.
Caffeine or sunsets – the choice is yours
So when is the best time to climb the mountain? When should you jump into the cable car? Inside information is the key, and experience. It really depends what you are looking for, but I’m going to give you my opinion. My first advice would be early in the morning. Why? Well, for a few reasons. Firstly, the hustle and bustle isn’t there at the same level in the morning. The mountain air is fresh and calm, and the views are clear. And don’t forget that apart from the turquoise glint of the Adriatic there is also a “sea of mountains” as George Bernard Shaw, described it, right behind you. Get the first cable car of the day and enjoy breakfast and morning coffee with vistas as awakening as the caffeine. My, and once again these are my opinions, would be later in the day to catch one thing, one gift from Mother Nature that happens every day in Dubrovnik. Sunsets!
I have travelled all over the world, and seen sunsets in both hemispheres, at sea and from the top of the Alps. But I’ve never ever seen sunsets like these in Dubrovnik. And due to the great weather they are pretty much guaranteed every day. You can physically see the sun dip over the horizon. Believe me, it’s incredible. The golden glow over the walls over the historic Old City will stay with you forever.
Jens and his family from the German state of Baden-Württemberg have fulfilled their dream, they now own a luxury villa with a swimming pool and sea views. It all started with a joint vacation of his family and his sister's family in Istria, reports N1. They really liked this region, but the rent for a large enough and well-equipped villa with a pool was quite high. So they decided it would be worthwhile for them to own their own house. They searched for a long time, but failed to find something they liked.
And then they discovered a beautiful construction site on the edge of a fishing village in the south of Istria with magnificent sea views. And they decided to build. "It was simpler than we thought," said Jens, 53. He says the price of construction materials is about the same as in Germany, but that labour is still significantly cheaper. And so last year they finished building their villa with a swimming pool, and this year they already have the first tourists, writes Deutsche Welle.
They took out a construction loan in Germany, and plan to repay it by renting a house in periods when they do not use it themselves.
Oliver, 55, from Bavaria, decided to "build, not rent" with a similar model. "It simply came to our notice then. From Italy we moved on to Istria and there we saw beautiful cities, clear seas and clean beaches. That immediately won me over,” said this German. After that, he says, they spent a couple of years in the south of Istria and decided to buy a house. But they, like Jens' family, could not find anything suitable, so they decided that it was better for them to build according to their wishes and needs.
A few years ago they found one beautiful and large construction site. The original intention was to build for their own needs. But on a plot with a fantastic sea view, the construction of a larger facility was planned. "I asked the seller, 'What am I going to do with a family of three on 500 square meters?' And he said, 'Well, build apartments and rent them!'" said Oliver. And so a larger building was created in which his two-level private apartment with an imaginatively decorated pool and three apartments for rent is located. "I founded a company in Croatia and got 25 percent VAT back when building the facility," he explains. He already has a company in Germany for the sale of machines for industrial plants, so he started sales through his Croatian company. "Everything we did through Croatia, all the way to the motorboat that belongs to the company, these are interesting tax models," says this German entrepreneur.
He admits that renting is worthwhile, but addsed, "In the meantime, it has become difficult to rent in Croatia if you do not have a swimming pool, because the offer is very large."
And really, all over Istria, like mushrooms after the rain, mostly luxury villas with swimming pools are springing up - despite the drastic increase in construction costs. "In the meantime, the pool has become important if you want to make a good living," explains Oliver.
Jens and Oliver are just two of thousands of Germans who own real estate in Croatia. And there are more and more of them every day. According to recently published data from the Tax Administration, foreigners bought 9,514 properties last year, which is 50 percent more than a year earlier. Germans, Austrians and Slovenes buy the most. Real estate sales to German citizens rose by as much as 70 percent last year.
Many foreigners buy for their own needs, but more and more are investing in this way. Because renting real estate has obviously become a lucrative business in Croatia. Tourism is booming again after the pandemic, apartment and house rents are rising, and taxes are relatively favourable for foreigners as well.
Foreigners are mostly buying by the sea, and every fourth buyer on the coast does not have Croatian citizenship. This is especially true for areas that can be reached relatively quickly by car. That is why real estate in Istria and the northern Adriatic is the most attractive for Germans and Austrians.
Of course, the growing demand is also reflected in prices, last year, the price of real estate on the coast rose by 11.7 percent.
Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro. “So if we lock the outer gate and the house door and our room door, that would be three locked doors between us and any intruder,” she said for the fourth time. “Yes, that sounds right,” I answered.
This conversation went on like this with security based questions for at least another half an hour. To explain how I found myself in this situation. Well, a group of Americans were staying at a friend’s luxury villa and he asked me to do him a favour and meet them and show them around and introduce them to Dubrovnik.
They were from all over the states, from Texas, New York, Maine, California, basically from the coasts and the so called fly-over states. However, even though they were clearly a mixed group they had one thing in common, safety and security.
“So do you have cameras on the entrance doors?” they asked. This particular villa is a walled one so it only has two entrances. “We only ask because we were in Barcelona last year and we saw somebody trying to climb the walls of the villa there,” they said.
That was the spark that lit my monologue about Dubrovnik and safety, and 10 minutes later they were satisfied and at ease. I didn’t add that the Republic banned the trade of slaves in 1418, or 369 years before the US Constitution was even written.
We almost all take the sheer and unique beauty of Dubrovnik for granted because we see it every day, but there are many things that we all just assume is normal behaviour, when it fact quite often were are privileged. Safety is one of those.
And as I was talking to these Americans and they were double-checking about locking doors and not walking alone at night I noticed an overwhelming emotion in their voices, fear. I had seen this before in my own voice when I lived in London. It’s a strong emotion. One that can lead you to strange places and to do strange things.
“There are 50 states in the US and 37 had mass shootings in 2021,” said one of the men in the group. That was quite a jump, we had gone from someone climbing the walls and stealing your handbag to mass gun incidents. Fear again was there. I guess it’s understandable.
And whilst the US clearly have a gun problem London has a different one, knives. Around 10,000 knife crimes were recorded in London last year. Now you can maybe understand the fear.
“Can I just that whilst I am speaking to you here my house and car are completely unlocked,” I tried to lighten the mood. “And yes, you can walk around at midnight or 3 in the morning without problems,” that comment raised all of their eyebrows in disbelief. It was the clash of two worlds, and I knew which one I would rather live in.
I didn’t mention the fact that of the houses that are locked in Dubrovnik that the majority have the keys under the carpet or plant pot in front of the door, that’s Dubrovnik “high security.”
There are whole industries based around security, both personal and home, in many countries of the world. An industry that would go bankrupt in a few weeks in Dubrovnik. But like I said we just take this as normal, we get used to the fact that there is more chance of us winning the lottery then being burgled.
However, on a global scale we are certainly in the minority. We are probably the 10 percent and we aren’t even aware of it.
And that got my thinking about the Latin inscription in Lovrijenac and indeed the symbol and flag of the city, Libertas. In times gone by when these were all created they really stood for something else, yes they meant freedom but really freedom of the city.
However, it actually made me rethink, Libertas is still more than relevant today. We have Libertas. And yes, after a long chat with these American guests, but to be honest I would have had a similar conversation with 90 percent of the world’s population, I realised that freedom should not be on sale for all the gold in the world.
We should cherish want we have, our Libertas!
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to