Saturday, 25 June 2022
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

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

 

In the last 48 hours in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, 65 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded.

These new cases are 42 people from Dubrovnik, ten from Župa Dubrovačka, seven from Metković, four from Konavle and two from Korčula.

49 people recovered in the past 48 hours - 31 from Dubrovnik, seven from Metković, six from Župa dubrovačka, three from Konavle and one from Dubrovačko Primorje and Opuzen.

In the last 48 hours, 185 samples were processed, and since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 248,358 samples have been analysed.

Seven people tested positive of Covid-19 are hospitalised in the Dubrovnik General Hospital.

 

As countries across the world remove travel limitations and relax their borders, the global tourism industry is on track to fully recover after two years of restrictions. With this in mind, the experts at money.co.uk were curious to find which European countries are returning to their pre-covid levels of tourism the quickest?

To do this, money.co.uk analysed each country’s tourism levels in 2019 before the pandemic, and compared this with 2021, to measure how well their tourism industry has recovered.

European countries where tourism is recovering the quickest

 

#

Country

2019 Tourist Numbers (million)

2020 Tourist Numbers (million)

2021 Tourist Numbers (million)

2021 Volume Compared To 2019 (%)

1. 

Albania

5.9

2.5

5.3

89.8%

2.

Luxembourg

1.0

0.5

0.7

70.0%

3.

Iceland

2.0

0.5

1.3

65.0%

4.

Montenegro

2.5

0.4

1.6

64.0%

5.

Andorra

3.1

1.9

1.9

61.3%

6.

Croatia

17.4

5.5

10.6

60.9%

7.

Turkey

51.2

15.9

29.9

58.4%

8.

Bulgaria

12.6

2.7

7.2

57.1%

9.

Serbia

1.6

0.4

0.9

56.3%

10.

Austria

22.7

15.1

12.7

56.0%

Placing sixth is Croatia. The country received approximately 10.6 million tourists in 2021, which is 60.9% of its 2019 total (17.4 million).

Albania leads the rankings with an almost 90% tourism recovery rate. This south-eastern European nation saw 5.3 million tourists in 2021 which is close to matching its 2019 levels (5.9 million). With a varied blend of mountainous and coastal regions, this country will hope to return to its pre-lockdown visitor peak soon.

Luxembourg sits in second place as it welcomed over 700,000 tourists in 2021, which equals 70% of its 2019 total. The small landlocked central European nation lost only half of its usual tourist volume when the lockdowns began in 2020. 

Completing the top three is Iceland. The land of ice and fire saw 1.3 million visitors in 2021, which was exactly 65% of its total for 2019 (2 million). Regarded as one of the world’s premier tourist destinations, this Nordic island nation will hope to continue to attract holidaymakers to its dramatic volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields.

European countries where tourism is struggling to recover post-pandemic

 

#

Country

2019 Tourist Numbers (million)

2020 Tourist Numbers (million)

2021 Tourist Numbers (million)

2021 Volume Compared To 2019 (%)

1. 

Estonia

3.3

1

0.8

24.2%

2.

Finland

2.9

0.9

0.8

27.6%

3.

Netherlands

20.1

7.3

6.3

31.3%

4.

Germany

35.2

12.4

11.7

33.2%

5.

Malta

2.8

0.7

1

35.7%

 

James Andrews, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, commented on the research:

“After around two years of lockdowns people are again looking abroad for their next holiday. While some consumer trends have changed forever, a lot of the usual things people look for in a potential destination remain the same. At the top of this list is affordability, no matter the location and type of holiday. There are a number of ways to keep costs down when taking a vacation, while still getting the break you need:”

  • Shop around - Compare packages from various travel agents to just booking every step of the trip yourself, as sometimes that extra effort can equal more spending money in your pocket.
  • Analyse traveller reviews - Advice from your fellow tourists who have done it before is invaluable. Most major attractions are rated on affordability as well as giving information on what you will experience, which should let you know if it will be worth it.
  • Be wary of tourist traps - While some are inevitable when exploring a location's major landmarks and attractions, don't be afraid to venture outside of the hustle and bustle. Finding some local gems will usually result in better prices and a more authentic experience.
  • Set yourself a daily budget - This can be difficult but planning and tracking your spending when on holiday allows you to stay in financial control. Give yourself a realistic daily allowance that will still leave you with money for emergencies, or even that new piece of clothing that caught your eye. 

tourism recovery europe money.co.uk

The final playoff tournament of this year's edition of the Croatian flag football league will be held for the first time in Dubrovnik on Saturday, June 18, starting at 10:00am, at the city stadium in Lapad. The Sharks, who are the the hosts of this tournament, are hoping that, like in previous years, they can be successful and win the brightest medal.

The dates of the matches and semifinal pairs are - 

10:00 Sharks vs Greenhorns

11:00 Seawolves vs Cannons

12:15 Match for third place

13:30 Final

Dubrovnik Sharks 4 

The Sharks are hunting for gold for the fourth time, and we believe that the team, with the help of large support, will keep the trophy in Dubrovnik!

Given the time of the event, we ask all guests to protect themselves well from the sun. There will be a couple of parasols in the stands, and if you want, bring them yourself. Be sure to bring water to moisten your throats so you can cheer on your Sharks!

Admission is free of charge.

 

After a two-year break, the Libertas Choir will perform again. The first performance will be on the occasion of World Music Day, June 21 at 8:00pm in front of the Sponza Palace, in collaboration with the Dubrovnik Tourist Board. The choir will perform some of the songs from its long rich repertoire, and they have rehearsed some new songs. There will be, as always, something for everyone in the program.

The choir will have its next performance on June 25 at 9:00pm in Slano, in the church of St. Jeronimo, in cooperation with the Slano Tourist Board. For this performance, the artistic director of the choir is Viktor Lenert, and the audience will hear some traditional and Dalmatian tunes.

zbor koncert Dvor

The Libertas Mixed Choir is one of the symbols of Dubrovnik's cultural offer. Audiences have long recognized the enthusiasm and quality of work of these hard-working amateur singers and always follow their appearances The choir has successfully toured throughout Croatia and abroad, where, with excellent reviews, it has established friendly relations with other choirs.

During 2015, the Libertas Choir marked the 35th anniversary of its successful and uninterrupted work. The highlight of the celebration was an all-night concert held on June 9 at the Rector's Palace, during which the singers thanked their audience for their support in the way they know best - with a song. The choir was planned to mark its 40th anniversary in a similar way, but the pandemic imposed a break of just over two years.

 

Agreements have been signed on the joint financing of additional medical teams across the whole of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County for this year's tourist season.

The contracts were signed by the prefect of the county, Nikola Dobroslavić, with the representatives of the local self-government units, the Institute for Emergency Medicine of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County and the competent health centres.

“After a two-year break, we can proudly point out that the tourist season has returned to us and thus the importance of these contracts is very great. Of course, this is our program that we run every year and which we are very proud of, and as the mayors and leaders of our health care institutions pointed out, these co-finances are of great importance in the summer when the number of people in our area is several times larger. The county was and will remain a partner to our health centres, our institutions and our municipalities and cities,” said the prefect Nikola Dobroslavić.

This summer, visitors to Župa dubrovačka will be able to "Walk Through Mlini's History", on free guided tours through one of the most beautiful places in the Dubrovnik area. Last year, the series of walks event aroused great interest among tourists, but also the local population. This was a sufficient reason for the Tourist Board of Župa dubrovačka to renew the program for this summer.

"Walk Through Mlini's History" will be held every Saturday from June 18 to August 27, starting at 10 am. The meeting point is in front of the lower entrance to the Astarea Hotel, and takes around 1h 30. The program is in English and is free of charge.

Walk Through Mlinis History 2022

I was pleasantly surprised by the interest of the guests as well as the reactions of the participants related to the program - Photo Vedran Mezei 

The program initiator and host Vedran Mezei is the author of the historical novel "The Third Key", which was also a topic of our conversation when we sat down.

Almost four years have passed since our last interview. Can you tell me what has happened in that time in relation to your literary work?

Yes, a lot has happened in the last few years. Because of my first book, “I Am Here!", I even ended up in prison. Fortunately for me, it was to promote the book, which was organized in cooperation with the administration of the Dubrovnik and Zagreb prisons. The services of these institutions considered that some topics from the book could be useful to prisoners on their way to rehabilitation.

I used the time in the pandemic the most to work on a new novel. Although it was published in the "Year of Corona", it did not significantly disrupt plans to promote the book. It seems to me that "The Third Key" has successfully found its way to domestic and foreign readers.

Tell us about your The Third Key. What’s the story about?

The Third Key is a novel in which two plots intertwine; historical and contemporary. The historical part follows the witnesses of the most tragic event from the time of the Dubrovnik Republic, the great earthquake of 1667, while the modern part talks about the relationship of two young people who through their short adventure discover many interesting facts from Dubrovnik’s history. Both parts of the story are connected by a historical document colloquially called "Charta Libertatis" ("Paper of Freedom").

Although it is fiction, I sought to base the novel on historical facts so that it could serve as a reliable source of information related to the City’s past. Some of the characters are also real historical figures and the novel reveals many interesting facts from their biographies. At first glance, "The Third Key" may seem like a historical novel, but that is not its main feature. The book questions the ideal of freedom as a universal value through various historical and social circumstances, which seems to me to be one of the very important topics in the time in which we live.

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What has been the reaction to the English edition of the book from those who do not live in Dubrovnik or do not know much about it?

I think that the English edition of the novel served as an interesting and educational read for all those who wanted to get to know Dubrovnik and its surroundings or preserve the memory of their stay in our city.

I have heard that “TheThird Key" was often a suitable souvenir gift for lovers of the written word. Some readers revealed to me that they read the novel very quickly, in a day or two or even in just one night, which I was very glad to hear.

There are also two maps in the book; one of the Old Town, and the other of the wider Dubrovnik area, where the places mentioned in the novel are particularly prominent. Some readers toured the city or its surroundings according to these maps and thus visited most of the locations where the novel takes place.

Where did the idea for the title of the novel come from?

The title comes from an interesting line of Dubrovnik history, more precisely from the treasury of the Dubrovnik Cathedral. It is known that this extremely valuable treasury was kept with three different keys; one key was held by the rector, another by the archbishop, and the third by the secretary of the Republic. In this way no one could access the treasure on their own. The three keys in the book represent the three basic elements of the human being, but we will leave the finer details to those who choose to read the book.

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The book launch for The Third Key was held in an unusual place. Tell us more.

It is about the Bettera summer house in Župa dubrovačka, where the plot of the novel is mostly located. This extremely interesting historical site has long been neglected, which in a way gives it a special charm. Three promotions of the Croatian and two promotions of the English edition of the "Third Key" were organized on the terrace of “the old house” in Beterina. I was pleasantly surprised by the interest in these events, which in addition to promoting the book had a charity fundraising aspect, and we organized tastings of fine local wines, live music and presented the more than five centuries old summer house in its historical context.

What makes the place special is its connection with one of the great scientists of the 18th century - Ruđer Bošković. It is assumed that as a child Bošković came here to the countryside to his uncle Ruđer Bettera. Also associated with this place are rumours of ghost summoning sessions as well as a tragic story about the life of a young woman whose death is associated with these events. The Bettera summer house is also the last destination of the "Walk Through Mlini's History" program.

The last promotion of the "Third Key" was before Easter at the Rector's Palace in Dubrovnik. How did that come about?

We marked the 355th anniversary of the great Dubrovnik earthquake, so the Rector's Palace seemed to me the perfect place to organize such an event given its historical significance and the unique ambience it provides visitors. I organized it in cooperation with Dubrovnik Museums and the Association of Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities "Dva Skalina". All the income from the sale of books, wine tasting and hand-painted Easter eggs was intended for them. I'm grateful to all the locals who attended and supported this charity initiative.

What are your first impressions of the ‘Walk Through Mlini’s History’ tours you have launched?

I was pleasantly surprised by the interest of the guests as well as the reactions of the participants related to the program. Because this is not a classic tourist tour, but the idea was that in addition to historical attractions from the Republic of Dubrovnik and Župa dubrovačka, we present tourists with places, events and historical figures mentioned in the novel. This is in a way a presentation of a book in motion, i.e., an encounter with the author through a special walk.

third key vedran mezei

Tell us a little more about the program itself, what can visitors expect if they decide to take a walk through the history of Mlini?

The meeting point is in front of the Hotel Astarea, where before going for a walk, the participants get acquainted with the plot of the novel as well as basic information about the history of Dubrovnik and the Republic of Dubrovnik. During the tour of the place, the parish church of St. Hilarion (Sv. Ilar) is presented and the details related to the great earthquake of 1667 in which this sacral building was completely destroyed.

The story of the church of St. Roch (Sv. Roko) tells of the various epidemics that have plagued the Republic for centuries, after which the walk continues along the nearby beach. It reveals details about the stay of St. Hilarion in the Župa dubrovačka and the famous legend associated with the name of this saint. Upon arrival in Beterina, we talk about the Russian-Montenegrin siege of Dubrovnik from 1806, when the Bettera mansion was looted and burned. The terrace of the "old house" presents details about the rich history of the summer house, where we reveal stories of ghosts and the how a young woman met her tragic end.

vedran mezei walks

And finally, what would you say to the readers of the Dubrovnik Times at the beginning of another season of "Walks Through Mlini's History?

I would like to invite your readers, as well as all guests who plan to spend their vacation on the Dubrovnik Riviera, to join us on one of the "Walks Through Mlini's History" which will be held every Saturday from mid-June to late August, and perhaps throughout September. All are welcome!

 

From classic fiction to mysteries, the ever-rising popularity of books means readers are able to dive into more enticing page-turners than ever before – with global book sales expected to exceed 129 billion USD by 2023Still, the impending question lingers – which European cities are home to the biggest booklovers?

 

Interested to find out, TheKnowledgeAcademy.com identified the number of libraries and bookshops across European capital cities, aswell as Eurostat expenditure on newspapers, books and stationery to reveal the best and worst cities to be a bookworm.

Top 10 worst European cities to be a bookworm:

Rank City Country

Library score

(/10)

Bookshop score (/10) Eurostat expenditure on newspapers, books, and stationery score (/10) Final index score (out of 10)
1 Skopje North Macedonia 0.31 0.31 - 0.31
2 Bucharest Romania 2.18 0.62 0.76 1.19
3 Belgrade Serbia 1.56 3.75 0 1.77
4 Madrid Spain 0.93 3.43 2.30 2.22
5 Minsk Belarus 3.12 1.56 - 2.34
6 London UK 1.25 0 6.92 2.72
7 Sofia Bulgaria 0 8.12 0.38 2.83
8 Brussels Belgium 0.62 1.25 6.92 2.93
9 Tirana Albania 1.87 4.06 - 2.97
10 Tallinn Estonia 4.06 0.93 4.23 3.07

 

Zagreb among Europe’s worst capital cities for booklovers

Taking the 15th spot in the study is Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, with a final score of 4.35/10. Earning just above the median score for its libraries (6.25/10), Zagreb's low scores for its bookshops (2.18/10) and expenditures (4.61/10) contributed to its overall low ranking.

TheKnowledgeAcademy.comcan also reveal that the worst European city for booklovers is Skopje, North Macedonia which earned a final bookish score of 0.31/10; as it tallied the same underwhelming scores for both its libraries and bookshop (0.31/10).  

Subsequently, the second worst European city for booklovers according to the study is Bucharest, Romania - which earned a final bookish score of a mere 1.19/10. Bucharest earned disappointingly low scores for its libraries (2.18/10), bookshops (0.62/10) and expenditures (0.76/10), which contributed to its overall rank.

Another Balkan entry in third position is Serbia’s capital, Belgrade with a final bookish score of 1.77/10. Belgrade earned 3.75/10 for its bookshops, 1.56/10 for its libraries and zero for expenditures – collecting low scores across all categories.

 

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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