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.
Dubrovnik got the title of the champion of tourism by the national newspapers Vecernji list. They have their tourism patrol from 1975, in which they circle around the touristic towns and places in Croatia.
Vecernji has written:
- The champion of tourism in 2016 is like George Clooney, different and better in everything – and unique. That's the town that makes trends, has Game of Thrones and Star Wars, soon will have Robin Hood... And it will always be like that: the town that everybody knows about and the only one that hits right in the heart.
Dubrovnik Tourist Board is thankful for this kind of recognition, which came while Dubrovnik is having 2millionth stay four days earlier than 2015.
- In the successful tourist Croatia this summer, where Dubrovnik is the most visited tourist destination, standing out with the quality of the offer too, this award really makes us happy and proud - commented the good news Romana Vlasic, the director of Dubrovnik Tourist Board.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are our top ten photo reasons why you must visit Dubrovnik.
The crystal clear Adriatic Sea, go on dive in
The unique Dubrovnik City Walls that run unbroken for almost 2 kilometres
Trsteno and its fascinating arboretum, one of the oldest in Europe
Lokrum, the green oasis within a stone’s throw of Dubrovnik
Seafood, fish, anything and everything from the sea, packed with Omega 5
Island-hopping around the Elaphite archipelago
Stone facades everywhere, the architecture of this medieval city will leave you lost for words...so take a photo
Running straight as an arrow through the heart of Dubrovnik, the Stradun is the place to see and be seen
Whiz to the top of the Srd Mountain in under four minutes with the cable car...don’t forget your camera the views are spectacular
In vino veritas, the whites and reds are gorgeous...our tips – for reds try Dingač, for whites try Pošip
Make your own memories in Dubrovnik...and don’t forget to share them with us!
“I want to go where the locals go” - is one of the more popular sentences uttered by travellers to Dubrovnik when inquiring about how to spend their holiday. The problem with Dubrovnik's historical district is that the places where locals go to are becoming less and less – local.
You see, the question posed by our guests isn't “Where do locals eat/drink/have fun/relax?“, it is “How do I avoid tourist traps?“. Guests are wondering about what is authentic, what is not overpriced, and what is generally worth seeing or doing here. In Dubrovnik, as in any other established destination, one can find plenty of overpriced goods and services aimed at tourists, but there are also great places that offer good value for money. However, the real problem here comes with that “authentic” part of the definition. This is turning out to be our Achilles’ heel.
Not everything tied to local culture can be exploited commercially. This is why so many business owners choose to shy away from trying to implement local character into their tourism and hospitality products. Instead they opt for “bells and whistles” over substance, or they simply copy ideas that have worked elsewhere. This is not just lazy, but is in fact the opposite of what promoting your destination really means. In fact, this is a way of diminishing our local culture in general, making it less and less important as it becomes slowly forgotten over time. One day we might wake up with no more local culture...or locals...or culture. We might end up with nothing more than a glorified parking lot where a great city once stood.
It’s not all that bad, though. There still are young, honest working people who recognize the need to re-imagine Dubrovnik and they are doing it. Little by little, we are seeing more interesting spots to go out to, wonderful new restaurants, cool shops, and even some new activities and entertainment festivals that are not only attractive to our foreign guests, but also to us – perpetually sceptic locals. Pretty much all of us have at least one friend or family member who is trying to make a difference. Some have excellent ideas, some only dreams, but there are also those who have already put their financial security on the line and invested their savings or signed for a bank loan in order to make their ideas a reality. Those people deserve our support and help, not just criticism. So, if you care about this city and its people, don't think you need to save it yourself. Not everyone is cut out to start and operate businesses. What you can do is to raise your voice when small businesses and young entrepreneurs need better laws and regulation, you can take an interest in these new businesses and perhaps become their client, and if you have no other options, you can at least promote them on your social networks.
If we, the citizens of Dubrovnik, don't stand together, we will not put up much of a fight when faced with large national and international business interests that care little about what remains after the summer season is over and our guests have flown home.
Bozidar Jukic, AKA The Restless Native, 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.
Croatian theatre festival Midsummer Scene boasts a large international recognition. After finishing the third season, during which the festival marked the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death by staging Hamlet, Midsummer Scene is recognized around the world and moves on international guest performances. Last year's success, the play Twelfth Night directed by Helen Tennison, was included in the main repertoire of the Vienna English Theatre in prime Advent period where it will be running daily from 7 November to 22 December.
Vienna's English Theatre is the oldest and most prestigious theatre with a repertoire in English in continental Europe. Since its founding to the present on the stage of this theatre performed Linda Gray, Larry Hagman, Princess Grace of Monaco, Leslie Nielsen, Anthony Quinn, Benedict Cumberbatch and Judi Dench.
Eight members of the cast that have originally played this show at the Fort of St. Lawrence will play it in Vienna too, including Croatian actor with a London address Philip Krenus, who participates in the transfer of production to Vienna with the Festival Producers Darija Mikulandra and Jelena Marzic. Rehearlsals to rebuild part of the show will partly take place in London, again under the auspices of the Croatian Embassy and Ambassador Ivan Grdesic. Set designer Marin Gozze joins the creative team and with the lighting engineer Sasa Mondecar he will try to transfer the charm of the original performances from Lovrijenac to Vienna with visual identity.
After Vienna the play is moving to guest performance on the Bermuda Festival from 23 to 26 January 2017, where they will perform the play at the Earl Cameron Theatre in the centre of Hamilton, capital of Bermuda. Theatre is located in the old complex of City Hall and the Art Centre. For that occasion, Marin Gozze and Sasa Mondecar will also join the creative team.
These guest performances are a big step forward for the Croatian theatre festival and the only English festival in this part of Europe. This is a confirmation of the quality and the start of the spreading of the Midsummer Scene festival, which from the beginning has distinguished international character.
Famous Hollywood actor Reese Witherspoon is on vacation in Croatia! On her social media platforms she has published photos and video from cruising along the Adriatic coast. Her friend Mary Alice Haney, fashion designer, has published a group photo from Croatia showing a bunch of happy ladies on the cruise.
According to Croatia Week, famous actor and her friends have first been to Rovinj and then headed to Kornati. It seems they are having 'ladies vacation' because there are no men or children on the photos. First, ladies went to Italy and now they are cruising in Croatia.
Just a reminder, Witherspoon's breakthrough role came in 2001 in Legally Blonde, in the famous role of Elle Woods, for which she received international recognition and her second Golden Globe nomination. The following year, she starred in the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama (2002), which emerged as her biggest live-action commercial success. In 2005, Witherspoon received worldwide attention for her portrayal of June Carter in Walk the Line, which earned her the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and the Critics Choice Award for Best Actress. Her other films include Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003), Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) and Water for Elephants (2011). In 2014, Witherspoon produced the thriller Gone Girl and received critical acclaim for portraying Cheryl Strayed in Wild, for which she earned her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
Commuting every day by tram or by bus is a daily routine in the life of many people thus waiting at bus or tram stations sometimes seems really endless. In order to change that the Croatian company Energomobil came up with an idea of creating a bus station that will keep up with trends and which would be technologically advanced and aesthetically attractive. They have developed a new product entirely designed and manufactured in Croatia – the solar bus station Easy Bus.
This green bus stop gives commuters the possibility to charge their cell phones and tablets, and to use Wi-Fi while waiting for the bus. The lighting on the bus stop is powered by photovoltaic modules and smart system ENERGOSMART. The maintenance of the Energomobil bus stops is minimized; the electrical equipment does not require any maintenance, only to eventually change the battery. The price of this solar bus stop ranges from 25,500 Kunas and is made from materials that are extremely resistant to all weather conditions.
''We have been contacted by the United Arab Emirates whose Ministry of Transport was presented with our solar bus stops and which showed interest to place them in Abu Dhabi. There has also been interest from Egypt, Greece, many African countries and from all over the world for this product because there are not many solar bus stops currently on the market and if there are any, they are very expensive”, said Marija Mrvelj, the director of Energomobil.
Energomobil, the company which employs 25 young engineers and managers also manufactures solar trees, solar street lights, solar benches and solar canopies.
“Our vision is simple, to bring renewable energy sources closer to each individual and to improve and make life easier for our citizens'', concluded Mrvelj.
Ten years ago just the thought of selling one of the Croatian islands was perceived as a catastrophic and shameful sale of a national and family treasure mostly to the world's billionaires, but the final result was not so impressive – only five of 1,224 Croatian islands were sold within 14 years.
Among the first islands that were sold was a small island of Smokvica near Primosten in the Sibenik-Knin County which was sold for 9 million Kunas to a domestic buyer in 2003. The islands Frasker and Fraskeric in the Istria County were sold to the Russian tycoon Vladimir Jevtusenko for 1.1 million in 2000 , whilst a small island of Jakljan near Dubrovnik was sold to the Croatian businessman from London, Goran Strok for 6 million Euros in 2005.
Although Croatia has 1,244 islands, only 65 islands are inhabited, whilst 85 percent of them are the property of the state and are thus not for sale.
To buy an island in Croatia is not as easy as it may seem. If the owner decides to sell his island, he must first offer the pre-emption to the municipality, county and state. In the case that they are not interested in purchasing the island, then it can be offered to private individuals. If the potential buyer purchases the island and becomes the island owner, his newly acquired property will not guarantee him, or her, complete isolation and enjoyment in pristine nature because a minimum of 6 metres of the coastal strip remains as “common good,” meaning to be open to the public. Thus the owner would own the island but not the beach. In order to become the owner of the whole island, the buyer has to get a concession for 6 metres of the coastal strip, and that isn’t so easy.
According to the words of Jasminka Biliskov, the director of a Croatian real estate agency, they have 15 islands ''in stock'' of a total of 20 Croatian islands on sale. ''To own your own island is a sign of prestige among members of the world's elite, but the Croatian legislation and bad infrastructure conditions on the Croatian islands have a negative effect on their intention of buying. That's the main reason why such buyers as Bernie Ecclestone and the Princess Caroline of Monaco were put off. The thing is that if there is no infrastructure built on an island, then it is not allowed to build any, only the adaptation of the existing infrastructure is allowed. This means that new island owners can only lay their beach towels on the island's beach'', says Jasminka Biliskov.
She also emphasizes that there are always potential buyers who are interested in purchasing Croatia's Adriatic gems but not all the islands are equally attractive thus the price ranges from 11 to 70 Euros per square meter. ''Croatian owners are not always in the mood for selling their islands because they consider them a part of their family treasure unless they have some financial problems. But when rich foreigners buy an island with old infrastructure, they adapt it in accordance with legal regulations and take care of the environment. We don't have to worry, Croatia's islands will always be Croatia's, the new owners can't carry them away'', concluded Jasminka Biliskov.
Here is the list of some of the Croatian islands on sale:
Tajan (Dubrovnik), 150,000sqm, 750,000 Euros
Crkvina (Dubrovnik), 170,000sqm, 850,000 Euros
Kosmec (Dubrovnik), 26,000sqm, 130,000 Euros
Mali Kosmac (Sibenik), 5000sqm, 700,000 Euros
Sridnja (Zadar), 130,000sqm, 6 million Euros
Srednja Klud (Trogir), 18,800sqm, 1.2 million Euros
An island in the Kornati archipelago, 200,000sqm, 3.2 million Euros
An island near Hvar, 209,000sqm, 2.3 million Euros.
Just the name intrigued us, “Once Real...Now Novel – A Little Taste of the Hinterland.” To be honest, and to steal a line from the movie Jerry Maguire, “You had me at Once Real!” And as the story unfolded my curiosity was raised even more, an evening intertwined with stories and tradition. Right up my street. We were headed into the wild Dubrovnik hinterland, for it is relatively wild. Pretty much as soon as you leave the main coastal road and get off the tourist path the landscape takes on a rugged look. This was an excursion with Croatia Excursions, and yes you already know the name - Once Real...Now Novel – A Little Taste of the Hinterland.
I have lived in Dubrovnik for almost two decades. And over that time have been lucky enough to experience the vast majority of what this region has to offer. However one thing that still to this day fascinates me is the hinterland, the interior of Dubrovnik away from the beaches and the Adriatic. As we made our way with a luxury coach away from the coastline I could almost feel the clock turning backwards. Every mile we pushed into the mountain felt like another century in reverse. Untouched, untainted, real – just three adjectives that sprung to mind. A simpler way of life, a way of life deep in culture and traditions, where values were still cherished and nurtured. This half-day excursion took us fifteen kilometres into the countryside; we were headed towards a small village, well hamlet, called Ljubač. “Look at those olive trees, they must be hundreds of years old,” pointed the couple from Belgium next to me. We carried on through more olive groves, vineyards and fields of vegetables in between the rocks and undergrowth. They were like small, manicured oases surrounded by uncontrolled Mediterranean flora.
“Have you been here before,” asked the English tourist as we descended from the coach in what felt like the middle of nowhere. To my embarrassment I answered, “My first time.” And I had no excuse as this was a truly picturesque valley, the valley of Ljubač. Our guide lead us to a collection of small stone outbuildings, “these have been here since the beginning of time,” joked the Belgium man. He wasn’t far wrong. Quaint and delightful they resembled those small stone houses you see for sale as souvenirs. “I would like you to introduce you to our blacksmith, Pero, or to anglicise his name Peter,” smiled the guide. My mind raced, this was probably the first time I had ever met a blacksmith! In one of those cute stone buildings was his workshop, a workshop that hadn’t been changed for centuries. Think I said things move slowly in the hinterland.
An interesting display of how to make tools, yes of course metal tools, followed. It all looked like hard work, but these villages and their inhabitants were not shy of hard work. And all that hard work, sorry I mean watching that hard work had made us hungry. Which was just as well as we were off to eat, well eat is too small a word; this would be a dining experience.
If I ever win the lottery I have now found the house that I want to buy, although I have a feeling it isn’t for sale. Our next stop was the Musladin household, again stone houses but this time with a residential touch, and the views from the terrace were to die for. Traditional aperitifs were waiting for us, lots and lots of aperitifs! The evening had begun in style. We were shown around the property, a labyrinth of delicious buildings all in harmony with their surroundings. They even had a small chapel. And here is a tip for when you go on this excursion, ask the hosts about the chapel, it has an interesting story.
We were shown how the smoked ham was made, how the vegetables were basically picked right out of the soil and served to us and the story of the production of olive oil.
And the terrace with the million dollar view was our “restaurant” for the evening. A British real estate tycoon named Lord Harold Samuel was once asked what the three most important factors were when buying a house; he answered “location, location and location.” I have a feeling that the English Lord would have been extremely happy with our dining location. Traditional dancing, named Lindo, followed. And even a few members of the group were happy to join in; in fact for a debut performance they were pretty impressive.
And the food, oh the food, food glorious food! An open-kitchen which was working overtime to deliver gastronomic delights to our tables. I am not sure if I want to give the game away too much as to what we were served, just so you will have a few suprises, but let’s just say it was finger-liking good!
“I can’t understand why you have never been here before; it’s so gorgeous and the people are so friendly,” asked the English lady at the dining table. A hard as I might I couldn’t come up with a good answer. “It has taken me two decades to find it, but I have a feeling we will be friends in the future,” I replied.
By Mark Thomas
Photos Ivana Smilovic
The Once Real...Now Novel – A Little Taste of the Hinterland 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.