Wednesday, 19 September 2018
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

Sometimes you find a gem in the most unlikely of locations. And to find fish and chips in Dubrovnik, well that would be like finding English wine in Paris. So imagine my surprise when we came across a story, or was it a legend, of a Dubrovnik hotel serving the ultimately English dish.

In fact, it’s surprising that someone hasn’t thought about this already. OK, we realise that it isn’t an authentic Dalmatian delicacy but with so many British holidaying in the city they might just fancy a taste of home. And if you fancy a “comfort blanket” dish whilst here on holiday follow this.

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Hotel Komodor, one of the hotels in the Maestral group, is located in the Lapad suburb of Dubrovnik. Right on the main road and next to the newly developed Sunset Beach it can be reached by bus and there is plenty of parking nearby, just ask your Uber driver or your smartphone for directions.

And this unassuming hotel is the home to the best fish and chips in Dubrovnik. Ok, just to keep it completely honest it is the only fish and chips and Dubrovnik so the competition is rather weak. But seriously it is pretty good. The fish is extremely fresh and falls apart on the fork, the ships, well they aren’t the thick ones you’d find from a chippy in Margate but they are fresh and plentiful. You’ll have to bring your own bottle of Sarsons vinegar with you though. “It was a joint idea to joint idea to add fish and chips to the menu for this year,” commented the Head Chef at Hotel Komodor, Božo Dadić. “We selected six or seven dishes from the main menu and made a short lunch menu and fish and chips found its way onto that,” he added.

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And at only 85 Kunas for a portion which included three fillets of fish it is more than reasonable. “We only serve it at lunch from midday to 5.00pm,” said Dadić, adding that it has proved a popular dish for guests this year. You even have a view, although a little restricted of the sea, so add in your own seagull cries and pretend you are on the pier in Blackpool. Fish and chips in Dubrovnik is a winner at Hotel Komodor, we know…we tried it!

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If your Uber driver doesn't know the way show him this map! 

One of every two transactions in European stores is made with contactless technology as this electronic form of payment continues to spread. New research from MasterCard have shown that the growth is also strong in Croatia. In the first eight months of 2018 the amount of payments paid for with contactless cards has increased by a massive 90 percent compared to the same period from last year.

In Croatia, 54 percent of transactions in August this year were inextricably linked, Mastercard said, and cited Poland as the absolute leader of this trend with over 80% of contactless transactions in 2018.

"These results clearly show that Europe is a leader in a contactless revolution. In addition to ease of use and convenience, users are looking for security and protection when it comes to payment technology. With the increase in the use of contactless payment methods, confidence is growing, so more and more users feel that contactless technology is as safe or safer than classic forms of payment," said Sanja Žigić, MasterCard Director in Croatia.

ou have to be a special type of person to win an Ironman World Championship, but to win twice and to set a new world record on the way, well you have to be Luc Van Lierde. We caught with this incredible athlete in Dubrovnik as he prepares to jump into another venture. Van Lierde (49) has long list of awards behind him, a host of gold medals and world records he won the world’s most prestigious Ironman race in Hawaii in 1996 and again in 1999, and is now a full-time triathlon coach. And as Dubrovnik is also on the verge of its inaugural triathlon event it was once again perfect timing from this Belgium Ironman. We discovered why one of the leading triathletes of all time is in Dubrovnik and why he thinks there should be a Hawaii Evening in the city.

Have you been to Dubrovnik before?

I have been coming to this area since I started coaching a triathlete from Russia who lives in Montenegro. I have been his coach for three or four years and that has brought me to Dubrovnik.

And you have been touring and training the region with a purpose?

We have made a tour, where we start in the mountains of Montenegro, then move down to Kotor, onto Dubrovnik and then towards the local islands around Dubrovnik. The reason for this tour, or should I say training camp, is that in the future we want to organise a training camp for athletes. This trip has been a try-out to see which things we need to change but I can see lots of potential. I also have a new app coming out soon, which is a coaching system, so this tour has also helped with publicity. I coach athletes all over the world, but of course I am limited with time, so I designed an app with artificial intelligence, it is called 3GO.

3go app

Potentially you will have triathletes from all over the world coming to this training camp?

Yes, we hope so. The camp will last for one week, and when we go online and invite all our members I see this as a very interesting venture.

 

Are the geographical conditions in Montenegro and Dubrovnik suitable for this kind of training? We aren’t really Belgium; this is a mountainous region.

They like to test new places and new locations. There are fixed locations where athletes go and train but they also like variation because the sport also has a lot of variation. An athlete from Spain might do an Ironman event in Spain but then he will want to travel to another country to participate in an another event. This is the mentality of a triathlete. At first the dream is to do a triathlon, a short one, and then to progress to an Ironman. And once they have done an Ironman the dream is to qualify for Hawaii, where the sport originated back in the late 1970’s. If they want to qualify for Hawaii, then they have to find the right race to prepare themselves. If they know that there is an “adventure camp” or triathlon camp that they haven’t tried before then of course they will be interested. There are many ways to fly into this area, so getting here isn’t a problem.

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So this future camp will be an adventure for triathletes?

Absolutely. The first day we start in the mountains and then we have our first bike ride, then we sleep in huts up high in the mountains, before moving on to Kotor where we cycle around that stunning coastline. The next stop is Dubrovnik where they will get to relax in a five-star hotel and then onto the islands where they can swim in the sea. Bike rides, swim sessions in the sea and running in spectacular countryside, I think people will really like this. I will put my name behind this and we also have partners from Dubrovnik and Montenegro.

Dubrovnik is preparing itself for the first triathlon event, “Earth, Sea and Fire” which will be held on the 13th of October. Is there a chance that you will also attend this event?

I will actually be in Hawaii when the Dubrovnik triathlon event is held. Even though these two events clash on the calendar I also think that it could be good timing for Dubrovnik. When the race is held on the 13th the same day at 6.30 pm here the race starts in Hawaii. So when the prize ceremony is being held here the organisers could have large TV screens broadcasting the event from Hawaii live. Participants could then follow this through the night and make a “Hawaii Evening” in Dubrovnik.

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It seems that Ironman is a little like golf, it is addictive.

Yes, the more you train golf the better you get and then you want to train more and more to keep getting better, it gets in your blood. And triathlon is very much the same. It is three different spots, the biggest endurance sport in the world, for the best athletes in the world it will take 8 hours to complete and for many other athletes it will take as long as 17 hours to finish. Believe it or not every year in Hawaii there are 80-year-olds who enter the race, and not only enter but finish inside the allowed time.

How does a country like Croatia, whose sporting scene is dominated by football and other team sports, increase the popularity of triathlon?

If you want triathlon to become really popular in your country, you need a local athlete to win Hawaii. When I won the race, and I won in twice, the popularity went through the roof. You need a face; you need a name. To get to the media, in the small sport that Ironman is, you need to be the best of the best. You need to win. I was even invited by the King of Belgium for a meeting when I won, because I was the first European to win in Hawaii.

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Winning Hawaii Ironman 

How much of this sport is mental and how much physical?

You need to have a good “engine” but you also need to have something between your ears. This is a sport that takes 8 hours at least, so you need to make the right choices at the right times. Three different sports all have their own challenges, challenges for your body and for your mind.

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The recently introduced flights between Zagreb and Seoul have proved an overnight success with Korean Air reporting that the flights are 99 percent full.

These new flight connections were introduced only weeks ago but seem to be an immediate hit with travellers. Korean Air flies three times a week from the Croatian capital to the South Korean capital with scheduled flights.

And with a 99 percent cabin occupancy rate the new route has proved to be the most popular for the airline. According to a statement from the company Zagreb is the most popular, ahead of Barcelona with 98 percent and Zurich with 92 percent. And on a global scale the Zagreb route is the fourth most popular for Korean Air with only Okinawa, Phuket and Sydney more popular.

New rules to the Croatian pension scheme could see the retirement age extended a further two years to 67. The government have put forward a range of proposals and changes to the current pension scheme and one could see the age limit pushed forward a further two years.

And even when you reach 67 pensioners will still have the right to work under the new laws. Pensioners could work up to four hours a day and still receive a full pension, if the proposals are accepted.

There are also fundamental changes to the size of state pension. Under the proposal those with an average salary would receive a pension of some 2,980 kuna (€401), if they receive it from both pillars. Should they switch only to the first pillar, their pension would increase by 603 kuna (€81), reaching 3,583 kuna (€482).

It is estimated that there are some 1.2 million pensioners in Croatia, opposed to some 1.4 million full-time employees whose contributions finance the pension system. Some 19.2 percent of the entire population is estimated to be older than 65, and the average pension is around 3,400 kuna (€461).

It’s one of the city’s newest traditions: for the last eight years, Dubrovnik residents and visitors have looked forward to the annual Second Hand Sale organized by the Dubrovnik Foreign Circle, where a wide variety of gently used household items are available at bargain prices and proceeds are donated to a local charity.

Plans for the annual sale are now underway, so mark your calendars for early April 2019. It’s never too early to start looking through your closets for clothes, toys, kitchen equipment and household items that you no longer need, but could be useful to someone else.

More information about exact dates and arrangements for drop off and collection of donated items will follow in the months ahead. For more information, visit www.dubrovnikforeigncircle.com.

Croatia have reached the finals of the Davis Cup after a dramatic victory over the United States in Zadar. Borna Coric fought a marathon match against Frances Tiafoe, which lasted over four hours, to secure the game and a 3 – 2 victory for Croatia and a place in the finals.

The day began with Croatia leading 2 -1 but after the strong favourite Marin Cilic lost to Sam Querrey in five sets the tie was balanced 2 -2 before the final match.

In front of a boisterous crowd in Zadar Coric held his nerve and took Croatia into the finals where they will face France.

Dubrovnik has found itself on another international list for the best filming locations to visit in the world, this time for Star Wars.

“Dubrovnik, Croatia is not just a popular filming location for Star Wars, but also an important one for Game of Thrones. The location apparently lends itself to particularly otherworldly settings in both franchises,” writes the Canadian website thetalko.com.

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Dubrovnik was used as a location for the Casino City of Canto Bight in “The Last Jedi” and has already attracted many fans of the franchise. There are specialised tour companies offering tours of the city and many of the souvenir shops also sell merchandise from the film.

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“Dubrovnik's iconic stone-wall defences regularly invoke platitudes of otherworldly-ness, according to Time Out. Built in the 12th century to ward off invasions from seafaring foes, the walls of Dubrovnik slot nicely into Star Wars multiverse,” concludes thee website which also lists the Yuma Desert in Arizona, Guilin in China and the Mayan Ruins in Tikal, Guatemala as must visits for fans of Star Wars.

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THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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