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.
In the early 1970s, when the Hotel Croatia was being built, excavations at Supetar revealed something fascinating, leading to a crucial decision: the hotel would be constructed not right there but above it. That's why today, just beneath the hotel, lies an archaeological site known as villa maritima, a place that has borne witness to a distant history for over two millennia. This Saturday, it became more than just a historical site - as part of the 17th Epidaurus Cavtat Festival, an event called 'De Epidauro' took place this Saturday. In front of a select audience, a successful double "exclusive" event unfolded - a lecture by the curator of the Museums and Galleries of Konavle, Helena Puhara, and a performance by the excellent accordion duo, Accoladies duo magics. Danijela Gazdić Kljajić and Azra Halitović presented the program 'De Natura Sonorum,' taking us on a true music-historical journey through this mythical place. This historical-artistic encounter had been simmering as an idea in the mind of the artistic director and founder of the Epidaurus Cavtat Festival, Ivana Marija Vidović, and it has now been realized.
'We are witnessing a unique evening where, for the first time in two thousand years, an artistic event is being organized. It is my pleasure, but also a great joy, to introduce our wonderful artists and curator Helena Puhara. This evening reminds me of the power of music, of what music can bring. It was the same two thousand years ago - when people wanted to communicate with other nations, they sang, played music, and used ancient instruments. That's how they understood each other, connected, and invoked with music or prayer,' said Ivana Marija Vidović, the founder and artistic director of the Epidaurus Cavtat Festival, before the event, expressing her gratitude to the 'exceptional collaborators' - the Adriatic Luxury Hotels and the director of Hotel Croatia, Mario Japarić, as well as the commercial director Luka Radović, and the Municipality of Konavle for constructing the stage at the site, and other supporters of the arts through this unique festival.
Helena Puhara, through an engaging lecture to the audience gathered at the Sustjepan site, shared her insights about this magical place in her own words, as well as through verses from the Dubrovnik writer and humanist Ilija Crijević. It was Crijević, as curator Puhara emphasized, who, in 1504 and 1505 when he served as the castellan of Sokol Fortress at that very location, wrote the poem De Epidauro in Latin, describing the ancient Epidaurus and the Konavle valley.
'I thank Ivana Marija Vidović and the Epidaurus Cavtat Festival team for their interest in promoting heritage through - we can now say - an institution that has been running for 17 years. Tonight's event is named De Epidauro - about Epidaurus, precisely after the title of Ilija Crijević's epic poem, one of the greatest Latinists and humanists of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The poem is dedicated to Epidauro, its fall, and the eschatological destination in the formation of the new city of Dubrovnik. Humanists throughout the fifteenth century showed interest in the archaeological heritage of Cavtat, and throughout the seventeenth century, the Dubrovnik government conducted a series of archaeological research and excavations in this area. So, we can say that Sustjepan is actually a relic of the past,' highlighted Helena Puhara. She further explained that the toponym Sustjepan suggests some structure, possibly a church, associated with St. Stephen, but there are still no material remains or archival confirmations for it.
The audience of the Epidaurus Cavtat festival, primarily composed of art and history enthusiasts, both local and many foreign visitors, also learned a part of Supetar's history, and in this way, they fell in love with our region.
Accoladies duo magics performed a program featuring works by Cesar Franck, Vivaldi, and even took the audience on a stroll to Monti's 'Czardas,' rewarding them with an encore performance of Piazzolla's 'Libertango.' As highlighted by Franica Vidović - Krampus, expert advisor and assistant director of the Festival, it was an "elegant female accordion performance, which also brought subtlety to the entire environment, location, and showcased the synergy between the professor and the student, deeply connected through music." The duo also performed pieces by Croatian composer Davor Bobić, director of the Varaždin Baroque Evenings, as well as works by Richard Galliano.
The Epidaurus Cavtat Festival extends sincere gratitude to all sponsors, donors, performers, and the audience, with the note that in case of bad weather, alternative locations for the Dom kulture in Cavtat and Čilipi will be used.
Information about the Epidaurus Cavtat Festival can also be found at www.epidaurusfestival.com and on the Festival's social media channels.
This morning, a fire broke out on the island of Mljet, fortunately without serious consequences.
Thanks to the quick response of the Mljet Public Fire Brigade, the fire near the village of Prožura was swiftly contained and extinguished.
The fire was caused by the fall of an electric utility pole.
According to the e-visitor system data, in August 2023, the Dubrovnik-Neretva County recorded 414,551 tourist arrivals and 2,102,871 overnight stays, which is a 4% increase in arrivals but a 1% decrease in overnight stays compared to August 2022.
The largest number of overnight stays came from guests from the United Kingdom, Croatia, Poland, Germany, and France. Analysing the overnight stays in August, a significant increase was noted among guests from Australia (+138%), the United States (+21%), and Canada (+20%).
In terms of accommodation types, the most overnight stays were in household facilities with 1,026,416, followed by hotels with 620,508 overnight stays.
From the beginning of the year until the end of August, there were 1,546,654 arrivals and 6,541,447 overnight stays. This represents an 18% increase in arrivals and a 7% increase in overnight stays compared to the same period last year.
According to the e-visitor system data, there are currently over 47,000 guests staying in our county.
This year, the Croatian Tourist Board has signed a cooperation agreement for the implementation of a special research project called "Portrait of European Meeting & Convention Travel." Croatia is among seven countries participating in collecting and analysing the latest trends and indicators in the field of business and MICE tourism in Europe. The research report is being developed in collaboration with the IMEX congress market and MMGY Global agency. The results of the first round of research, conducted in May and June, have been released, while the beginning of the second round is scheduled for September this year.
The results of the first round of research indicate that 2023 is an exceptionally good year in terms of international business meetings and conferences, with a significant increase of 38 percent compared to the previous year. The data also show that after the pandemic, in-person meetings are making a strong comeback, while virtual and hybrid meetings are still present but have noticeably decreased in popularity.
Regarding Croatia, our country is among the top 15 European destinations where organizers of business meetings and conferences plan to hold events in the next two years. Croatia is in the select company of the most popular MICE destinations such as Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Austria, Switzerland, and others, while countries like Poland, Sweden, Hungary, Norway, Finland, and others are positioned behind the top 15 destinations.
"Croatia's participation in this research provides us with a detailed insight into the state and trends of business travel at the European level. We have access to valuable indicators related to meeting formats and the most sought-after places and locations for holding them. This allows us to measure the impact of combining leisure and business travel, which, when combined, significantly contributes to the further development of this segment in terms of its economy, quality, and sustainability," said Kristjan Staničić, director of the Croatian Tourist Board.
A particularly interesting finding from the research is the general impression of the destination, which is considered the most significant factor when choosing a location for hosting a business event. Other important factors include transportation connectivity, distances between locations within the destination, safety, event organization costs, and more.
We know him from the series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as the introverted assistant Greg Sanders, without whom the series, one of the longest-running and most popular, just wouldn’t be the same.
And actor Eric Szmanda he is spending his summer vacation in Dubrovnik. For relaxation and a break, he chose Dubrovnik, recommended by one of his colleagues who has visited the city several times, Eva La Rue from CSI Miami.
Szmanda decided to have a meal at the Wanda restaurant in Prijeko, and he happily posed for photos with fans who immediately recognized him, as well as with the restaurant staff.
The new school year across Croatia begins today for approximately 445,800 primary and secondary school students. According to the Ministry of Science and Education data, in the 2023/2024 school year, around 300,300 students will attend primary school, while there will be a total of approximately 145,500 students in secondary schools.
Estimates indicate that around 35,000 students will enrol in the first grades of primary schools, which is less than last year when 35,794 first graders took their seats for the first time, and even fewer than two years ago when nearly 37,000 did.
This year, a total of 39,961 students enrolled in the first grade of secondary school, about 500 fewer than the previous year and more than two years ago when 38,229 enrolled.
The school year will end on June 21, 2024. In addition to winter holidays divided into two parts, students will have autumn and spring breaks.
In the Ston Saltworks this summer, they haven’t been having much luck with salt production due to the unfavourable weather conditions.
Not only was it delayed by a month, but due to heavy rain on Wednesday, it had to be interrupted and effectively ended.
Nevertheless, despite the unfavourable weather conditions, they managed to harvest 62 tons of high-quality salt for wide consumption.
This was done on the first day, Tuesday, with 50 tons from the Frano basin, and on Wednesday, before the heavy rain, an additional 12 tons from the Mundo basin. Therefore, this year's salt harvesting campaign in the Ston Saltworks will be remembered as one of the worst so far.
For comparison, last year, they collected 70 tons in the first harvest from the Frano basin alone, and a total of 360 tons of high-quality salt.
This year, volunteers and friends assisted the permanent employees in this work. The saltworks state that despite the meagre harvest this year, they have enough salt, including the stock, to meet the needs of consumers in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.
It seems that celebrities in Dubrovnik are like buses, you wait for one to turn up and then two turn up at the same time.
A few years ago, well before the pandemic, we welcomed a new well-known person on almost weekly basis. Whether it is due to the stars wanting to see where Game of Thrones was filmed, whether the rich and famous have been put off by our over-tourism or whether we simply aren’t “in” anymore, I don’t know. But the celebrities are certainly rarer.
I remember once walking the Stradun and bumping into Bob Geldof and a Princess from the Middle East on the same street.
And just when we thought we were going to have a season off from the front covers of Cosmopolitan and Hello! Magazine we get the richest man in the world and the most famous couple turn up within days of each other.
So it appears that the Beckhams have fallen in love with Dubrovnik, or more precisely Lopud. “It is extremely rare that celebrities return to the same destination in consecutive years,” explained one foreign journalist.
Could it be that David and Victoria will celebrate every wedding anniversary with us? Could they even be thinking of buying some villa here? What would be cool is if David comes next summer with Messi, a player that plays for the club he partly owns, Inter Miami.
Now, one of the biggest bonuses of the eminent names coming to Dubrovnik is the free publicity we receive. Every, and I mean every, newspaper in the UK (our most important market) has published tonnes of articles and photos of the Beckhams on vacation. And then there is the huge boost on social media. Even comments of "we don't care they are here," help to boost the algorithm, making them the most read story.
We see them so often in the media that we almost fell we know them.
And while the vast majority of celebrities crave attention they also want privacy. A delicate balance.
So a few days after Posh Spice and Becks had arrived in Dubrovnik I received an email that I honestly though was SPAM. It isn’t every day you receive and email from David Beckham! OK, just to be completely honest, the email was exactly from David himself, although it was from davidbeckham.com, it was from his PR and marketing. It wasn’t SPAM!
Basically the email was in regard to the fact that some paparazzi had been taking photos of the Beckhams youngest daughter, Harper, on the beach in her swimsuit. Bearing in mind that Harper is only 12 years’ old this is not only disrespectful but also illegal.
I can vividly remember the time when celebrities could walk through the city and nobody would bother them, in fact they would almost be ignored. Social media and newspapers looking for clicks on websites probably changed all that.
“If any picture agencies offer you any photos of Harper on the beach, or in swimwear, please may I request that they are not printed/circulated and that the agencies responsible are reminded that she is 12 years old and has a right to privacy,” was one line from the email. She does, I agree.
And just the next day I saw photos of her on a website in her swimming costume.
It must be traumatic living under a spotlight the whole time, with every move you make in the spotlight. Having a normal childhood is certainly priceless.
The email then asked if I have any question to contact them. So I did. Carpe diem! I explained that I hadn’t been offered any photos and I would never dream of publishing them anyway. “Oh, and by the way, is there any chance of interviewing or at least meeting Victoria and David,” was my cheeky question.
I didn’t receive an answer, and I am not surprised. But it was worth a try. Maybe there is a chance when they come back next year? Yes, I think they’ll be back again. They, like me, have clearly been bitten by the Dubrovnik bug and will be regular guests here, on their beloved Lopud. And once again we’ll wallow in the free publicity.
I’ll leave the last word to David “It's so important to have manners and treat people from all walks of life the way they should be treated.”
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik