Monday, 25 October 2021
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.


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.

Robin McKelvie dubrovnik


Text and photos - Mark Thomas 

Canadian Reader's Digest has published Dubrovnik travel guide with a list of 20 things to do in Dubrovnik. The author did his best to choose and explain what were (for him) the things that you shouldn't miss when arriving to Dubrovnik and made our town even more attractive.
- Once Croatia’s best-kept secret, Dubrovnik is rapidly rising in the ranks of European vacation destinations. Our checklist of 20 things to do in Dubrovnik is the perfect place to start planning your trip to this gem of the Dalmatian Coast – it's written as an intro of an article and here is the list of the things that he's chosen:
1. Drive the Dalmatian Coast
2. Walk the Historic Dubrovnik City Walls
3. Savour Dubrovnik’s cuisine
4. Get Goosebumps on the Cable Car to Srd
5. Stand at the Summit of Srd
6. Take a Guided Tour of Dubrovnik
7. Spot Game of Thrones Filming Locations
8. Wander the Side Streets of Old Dubrovnik
9. Lounge in Luxury at Rixos Libertas Dubrovnik
10. Grab an Ice Cream in Dubrovnik’s Old Town Harbour
11. Take a Boat Trip to Sipan Island
12. Get your Party on at Club Revelin
13. Uncork a Bottle of Croatian Wine
14. Visit Istanbul en route to Dubrovnik
15. Treat yourself to Business Class
16. Take a Stroll Down Dubrovnik’s Placa Street
17. Cruise the Adriatic
18. Sunbathe at Dubrovnik’s Lokrum Island Beaches
19. Catch a Performance at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival
20. Venture beyond Dubrovnik’s City Walls

If you want more details about every single thing on the list, don't miss the article.

Young tennis players from the DUD Bowl International Championship have been a real attraction in the Old City of Dubrovnik yesterday. First when they walked around in their matching shirts, lead by the big racquet and then when they've formed a big heart right in front of Sponza Palace.

Tennis Centre Dubrovnik started an international tournament for children Dubrovnik DUD Bowl in 2014, and since 2015 the tournament has been organized in two categories - up to 11 and up to 13 years. The fact that in its first year this event attracted kids from seven different countries tells a lot about its popularity, while in 2015 that number increased to 20 countries and more than 120 children.

As we can see on the photos, this championship has attracted many children this year too and they are really enjoying their time, sending love all over the world.


                 Photo by: Dubrovnik Dud Bowl Facebook

As the summer and the holiday season are upon us the web portal Business Insider has made a list of 17 small but beautiful and breathtaking European islands that are well worth the detour. These gems of pristine nature cannot be compared to any other Europe's typical destinations that can be found on the European continent.

This prestigious list encompasses many islands throughout Europe such as Juist (Germany), Formentera (Spain), Sardinia (Italy), Colonsay (Scotland), Saaremaa (Estonia), Hydra (Greece), Graciosa (Canary Islands), Mykines (Faroe Islands), Fayal (Portugal), Gozo (Malta), Træna (Norway), Belle-Île-en-Mer (France), Alderney (Britain), Stromboli (Italy), Inishmore (Ireland). And two of the thousand Croatian islands, Mljet and Vis, have also found their place on this list.

The island of Mljet, one of the many national parks in Croatia, is the most southerly and easterly of the larger Adriatic islands of the Dalmatia region of Croatia. It was named after the Latin word for honey – Melita. Only 1,100 inhabitants live on the island so it is a place of utter serenity and tranquillity. Mljet is the most heavily forested Adriatic island and a huge national park offers miles of scenic walking trails. The island's only hotel is named after Homer's Odysseus, who is said to have lingered there, bewitched, for seven years.

The island of Vis is a small Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. It is the furthest inhabited island off the Croatian mainland thus probably the cleanest part of the Adriatic Sea. Vis had a population of 3,460 inhabitants in 2011. According to some journalists, this sleepy Croatian island is the sort of place where a Bond villain might have his lair. The island is known for fabulous local wine, fresh seafood, exciting nightlife activities, kayaking through caves, sailing the bays and lagoons. The highest point of the island is Hum mountain which is 587 metres (1,926 feet) above sea level with a stunning view of Komiza, a small coastal town on the island. The hidden Stiniva beach on the island of Vis has also found its place on the list of the best beaches in Europe for 2016.

''The situation after the referendum in the UK does not affect nor it is expected to affect the arrival of British tourists in Croatia, their tour operators and other Croatian partners are quite satisfied with this year's tourist sales and the increased interest for Croatia'', said the Head Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ).

''According to our market analysis and information we have received from our branch office in London, after the announcement of the referendum results in the UK we have received no information about the cancellation of arrivals of British tourists or a decline of their interest in the booking of the popular world destinations including those in Croatia'', commented from the Head Office of HTZ.

The Association of British tour operators and travel agents (ABTA) reported that 65 per cent of the British booked their summer holidays already in May.

Even though there was speculation that the British decision to leave the EU and the drop of pound in value would bring about a significant decline in the number of British holidays, nothing of the sort has happened so far and according to the information from the HTZ branch office in London, the number of guests from the UK visiting Croatia has been growing constantly, the situation on the British market regarding Croatia is stable and any cancellations of tourist arrangements and travels are not expected to happen in the near future.

The positive trends in the tourist relations have intensified in last four years and the number of British tourist arrivals and overnight stays has reached double-digit annual growth rates. British guests are the most numerous in Dubrovnik where they make up a fifth of all annual tourists.

According to the prognosis of analysts from the Raiffeisenbank Austria (RBA) there might be the possibility of a limited short-term risk. Though, even in case of the weakening of the pound against the euro, the spending habits of British tourists is not likely to change in the medium-term period.

The first ever British Week in Dubrovnik is well underway with four or five events happening throughout the city every day and the red London bus parked on Pile serving English tea and cakes from 5pm to 9pm every day.

And now The British Week in Dubrovnik has launched a photo competition, the surprises in this week keep coming; the best or most original photo with the London bus will win a valuable prize.

It is easy to enter, all you need to do is to tag your photos with this iconic bus with the hashtag # britishweekdubrovnik or #britishweekindubrovnik and share it on your social media accounts, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Visit the bus in front of the Old City of Dubrovnik, enjoy a free cup of tea and a cookie and think up an imaginative photo with the bus, add the hashtags and you are in the draw.

The winners will be announced on Sunday the 3rd of July via the social media channels of The British Week in Dubrovnik. Good luck!

cakes british week

london bus tea

After the disastrous performance by England against Iceland on Monday the 27th of June and being knocked out of EURO 2016, Roy Hodgson resigned as England team manager. The English media have not held back in their criticism and expressed their regret that he didn’t leave the national team job after the unsuccessful World Championship in Brazil in 2014.

The English FA have immediately started looking for Hodgson’s replacement. The favourite candidate for the England bench is Gareth Southgate, the actual team manager of the ‘under 21’ national team but some other names are also in the running such as Alan Shearer, Gary Neville, Glenn Hoddle, Alan Pardew and Harry Redknapp have appeared on the list of possible candidates. However one name stands out Croatia’s own - Slaven Bilic.

The Croatian football expert is a firm favourite in England and after having a great season with West Ham he was put forward as one of the possible replacements for Roy Hodgson. Bookmakers have already opened odds on Slaven getting the role, all the media is talking about him and the portal Football Target, apart for naming him Super Slaven, has released an article titled ‘’Five reasons why England should opt for Slaven Bilic’’. And here they are:

1. Even though Slaven Bilic is a Croat in the UK he knows and understands the English mentality. Slaven played in the English Premier league in his playing days and he’s currently managing the Premier league team, West Ham United.

2. As the English national football team needs a rejuvenation Slaven Bilic is a good option because he knows how to manage young players. Before taking the job as the main national coach of Croatia, he coached the youth team, Under 21, with which he had good results. Afterwards he made a great job with young football players in the main national team.

3. Slaven played for the national team of Croatia during the Golden Generation era and then he coached the Croatian national football team. In 2008, Bilic on the helm of Croatia, celebrated twice against England, thus leaving the Three lions at home during the Euro 2008 competition.

4. On the bench of Lokomotiv Moscow, Slaven did a good job, but he failed to grab the Russian’s league title. A year later he took the job in the Turkish Super Lig and coached Besiktas. In season 2015/16 he had great results with West Ham and qualified for the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League.

5. Whenever Bilic left a team the fans were unhappy. Bilic made strong connections bonds wherever he was playing or coaching. He’s a charismatic and an intelligent person who enjoys football and everything around the most popular game in world.

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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