Saturday, 25 September 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.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

According to the website Timeout.com Korcula and Mljet in the top 10 Croatian islands. Korcula is situated on the fourth place on the list, while Mljet is 6th.

The author praises Korcula because its white wine, enchanting woodlans, and calls it ''a mix of quiet hamlets and vineyards tangled up in the woods, and fishing villages dotted along the winding coast.''

- Korcula town is often dubbed ‘Little Dubrovnik’ because of its formidable medieval walls, but it has its own attractions to offer, too: you can visit a dedicated Marco Polo gallery (Croats claim he was born here; Venetians vehemently disagree; the museum is edifying either way), and a beautiful cathedral – adds the author at Timeout.com.

When it comes to Mljet, on this website it got a title of 'one of the most edenlike spots in the Dalmatian archipelago'.
- Mljet is improbably green and salubriously lush, and is home to an expansive variety of sea creatures that swim (like the cast of Finding Nemo, we like to think) off the island’s coast. Two salted lakes – Veliko and Malo Jezero – lure swimmers into their still waters, and an especially delicious local variety of goats’ cheese lures them into the restaurants afterwards – writes the author.

The passenger railway line between Sarajevo and Zagreb will soon be improved by introducing Talgo modern tilting trains, announced Federation Rail of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a statement.

Rifat Cabric CEO of the company confirmed for Sarajevo newspaper Dnevni Avaz that the final preparations for Talgo coaches to be put into service are in the process and that two capitals will be connected within two months.

‘’Talgo maintenance team is already in Sarajevo performing technical inspection of the trains’’, said Cabric adding that all necessary permits have been issued in Croatia.

The existing railway line between Zagreb and Sarajevo operates with old coaches in poor conditions and takes more than ten hours.

The Federation Rail of Bosnia and Herzegovina bought nine sets of Talgo coaches from Spanish Talgo train company for 67.5 million Euros almost ten years ago. Even though the Spanish manufacturer delivered the coaches in 2010 they haven’t been put into service until now. This delay was accounted with various reasons mainly of a technical nature.

‘’After so many years of waiting the most important thing for us is to put these coaches into service’’, said Cabric. He also added that due to the limited capacity of the passenger railway traffic it might be necessary to rent a part of the coach sets to Turkish Rail.

The Talgo coaches are modern equipped with comfortable seats, internet, TV and shower cabins.

The first formal flight between Zagreb and Lisbon with 97 passengers was welcomed with water cannons in colours of the Croatian flag at Lisbon Airport yesterday. This route will be operated three times a week during summer until the end of October. But if there is demand flights between these two capitals will be operated during the winter months, too.

''We are convinced that direct flights will enable stronger cooperation between our two countries in business terms. We are delighted to enable Croatian people more access to natural, cultural and historical beauty of Portugal'', said Krešimir Kučko, the CEO of Croatia Airlines at Lisbon Airport greeting all guests in Portuguese. Lisbon Portela Airport officially known as Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport handles around 20 million passengers annually. The first happy landing of the Croatian carrier with 97 passengers was also welcomed with a song recited by a Portuguese poet.

''If we compare the number of Portuguese tourists in Croatia with the number of flights that have been operated so far between two countries, it seems that Croatia Airlines flights on this route will be fully booked'', said the Croatian Ambassador to Portugal Ivan Maričić. This year Croatia Airlines operates direct flights from Croatia to 35 destinations in twenty European countries. Apart from Lisbon new destinations this year are Prague, Milan and Sankt Petersburg.

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The largest ever Chinese delegation to visit Croatia arrived in Zagreb on Monday the 30th of May to attend a business summit organized by the Chinese Embassy in Zagreb, the Croatian Chamber of Economy (HGK) and China's Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). The representatives of more than 50 companies from the Chinese region of Zhejiang met their counterparts in Croatia in order to explore new business opportunities, develop stronger economic relations and expand cooperation between these two countries.

The region of Zhejiang with a population of over 54 million is also known as the 'Land of Fish and Rice' and introduced the 'Zhejiang model' which combines supporting small businesses and entrepreneurship whilst undertaking large investments in public infrastructure.

The Chinese companies from this region previously cooperated with Croatian companies in the fields of tourism development, cultural education, shipbuilding and harbour construction. Today they cover a spectrum of industries such as trade, communications, chemicals, energy, car-making, electronics and food industry. The most famous company is Alibaba the biggest Chinese online store.

Croatia and China had trade worth 585 million Euros in 2014 with Croatia importing eight times more goods from China than exporting to it.

A vice president of CCPIT Wang Jinzhen said that economic cooperation between China and Croatia was getting stronger and that Croatia had the biggest chance in tourism.

''Chinese people travel more and more these days. In a few years China will 'produce' around 100 million tourists and that is a great opportunity for Croatia. You have to make your beautiful coastline more accessible to Chinese people'', commented Mr Jinzhen.

The outstanding geostrategic position of Croatia as well as developed infrastructure in the country was also emphasized at the summit as one of the country's advantages in the faster transportation of goods.

Luka Burilovic president of the Croatian Chamber of Economy (HGK) said that two countries could achieve major cooperation in many fields and pointed out that HGK was to open its branch in Shangai.

Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra announces a concert of baroque and film music tomorrow, 31 June at the Rector's Palace. String Chamber Orchestra will be conducted by Slobodan Begic and this combination has already become a favorite program among the audiences.

It is a program that includes works by A. Corelli , Dubrovnik composer Luka Sorkocevic, but also by Piazzolla, with the famous sounds of blockbusters such as Titanic, The Godfather, Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond, theme song of the Game of Thrones series and others. This concert is popular because it combines baroque music and modern sound of your favorite blockbusters, and because of that it always gathers great number of visitors.

The concert is scheduled for 9 pm and tickets for the concert can be purchased at the office of Dubrovnik symphony orchestra from 9 am to 2 pm, online at www.dso.hr and www.ulaznice.hr, in the gift shop Dubravka on Pile, the KIC Luza, the agency Perla Adriatica on Ploce, and at the door one hour before the concert.

Couple of days ago The Guardian has published a list of the top 10 best alternative city breaks in Europe for 2016 and Dubrovnik found its place on the list too with cities like Valetta, Marseille and even Sarajevo.

The Guardian beautifully describes why you should visit Dubrovnik:
- A picturesque city – and the main shooting location for King’s Landing in HBO’s Game Of Thrones – Dubrovnik’s terracotta rooftops tumble down to the blue Adriatic. Among them there’s lots to enjoy, from drinking fresh pilsner in the bars of the old town to a visit to an ancient (still working) apothecary at the Dubrovnik monastery. For history, it’s also worth visiting the Homeland War Museum, which you can combine with a cable car ride to the top of Mount Srd Also, the Museum of Modern Art is excellent – writes The Guardian and adds that Dubrovnik isn't short of accommodation choices but having your own apartment to go back to as an escape from the tourist bustle of the old town is a good choice.

Victoria Sparrow and Ocean Jangda are the young students of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Victoria came to Dubrovnik from Rochester, New York, while Ocean comes from Alaska. Since their Dubrovnik adventure came to the end, they shared their experiences and impressions about the town, as well how it is to study in the country completely different than places that they come from, with many more interesting details.  
Why did you decide to come to Dubrovnik?
Ocean: I’m passionate about travel. I was looking for opportunity to travel while taking classes. RIT bends over backwards to help their students from Rochester to come to Dubrovnik to have that experience, because it really gives you a competitive advantage when you graduate. I was able to work with my advisor to make it happen. Since I was a kid I really wanted to come to Mediterranean, the Adriatic region. I grew up in Alaska and the water there is very cold so we don’t do very much swimming, we don’t have much nautical culture. I was always into boats, so coming to Dubrovnik, the heart of boating, was amazing. Specifically I came for geography and the way the geography was included into culture and history trough here. And because we had a campus here it was like win-win.
Victoria: I really wanted to come to Dubrovnik since my first year. My department really pushes people towards here, they offer a lot of funding, a lot of help. When I first took a tour of my department, they show you around and when you walk in there are pictures of Dubrovnik all over the floor. It looks so amazing. I’ve never heard of Croatia, as sad as it is, I didn’t know Croatia was a country before I came to RIT. Seeing this place seemed magical to me, I needed to know more about it. I knew I wanted to study abroad and when I was thinking of places to go I was like ‘I could go to Spain, Italy, Germany’ but those are places that people go frequently, that is something that everyone talks about and I wanted to have more of an unique experience. This was exactly what I was looking for!

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How did your family react to your decision?
Victoria: First day was so exciting to me seeing all those photos and I was talking to my mum, I was 17 at that point, and she got so nervous. I’m the oldest in my family and the idea of me being so away was kind of new. My mum said that she tried to put a brave face, but that night she had a nightmare that I got sick and something bad happened to me and nobody was there to take care of me and she told me about that years later. She said: ‘I’m trying to brave, but I am nervous, I am afraid’. My family had these notions about Croatia and they were afraid for me and I didn’t have those kind of fears. I’m lucky that they didn’t transfer that to me, so I didn’t second guess it or question it. It was easier for me than it was for them, definitely.
Ocean: My family reacted in a very different way. I grew up in Alaska and we’ve traveled a lot while I was growing up. Travel was always important to my family. After I’ve graduated high school, I’ve took a year off and I’ve traveled to Australia and that was my first adventure of traveling internationally by my own. So I did have experienced doing that before coming here. My mother traveled a lot while she was young as well, so she was very encouraging. She said: ‘If you can do it, do it!’ We’ve always had a very symbiotic relationship, in terms of encouraging each other to travel and experience new things, which is really cool.
How was your Dubrovnik experience?
Ocean: I tried to go into it with no expectations, because I think that’s a really good way to travel. As soon you have expectations you hold yourself to certain things which maybe would limit your experience here. When I came here I was like ‘Whatever works, whatever works’. When I got here it turns out that our mentor Andela Petra Cvitanovic, student of the third year of the RIT Croatia in Dubrovnik, was super cool, very knowledgeable. Our apartments are beautiful and they are so conveniently located. It was an amazing learning experience. I didn’t come here with much knowledge about Croatia, or with Dubrovnik specifically so the culture classes that we were taking with professor Domagoj Nikolic were incredibly enlightening. It’s a class with no required attendance and no homework but we come, have an interesting conversation, learn things. So enlightening to speak about culture, about the people and go out and experience it all.
Victoria: I was, again, very opposite of Ocean. I have been told a lot of stories of lot of people that have been to Dubrovnik and I’ve seen pictures, I had this notion of what it would be like. For me it was odd, because usually several people for my department come at the same time and they bond as a group and explore, they experience Dubrovnik together. And now – it was just me. Initially I was very discouraged by this but then I thought: ‘You know what? I’m not going to let other people dictate what I’m going to do with my experience’. The way that they were talking about Dubrovnik showed it as a party, four month vacation, you don’t have to do anything. I was thinking that there’s got to be more to it than just that. I came thinking that it would be like a party scene. We talked a lot about this before at culture classes, it’s not quite like that way. It took a long time for me to adjust, first few months here was like an adjustment period, letting go and relaxing and experiencing this on my own. That was the hardest part for me, being by myself. Once I’ve adjusted to that, I was able to enjoy it and now I feel much more comfortable here. It took some time, but I’ve got there.

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What do you think about people here, did they accept you?
Victoria: Yes, for the most part they were really wonderful. I’ve only had maybe one or two cases where people were not very kind, but that’s definitely an exception. Our mentor was great when we met her, making it comfortable to talk with her and other Croatians, getting to know the students. The classes were great because the other students got to know you. Once you gain that kind of confidence it’s much easier to interact with other locals. It was really a network, it started with just one and built up my confidence so I could talk with anybody.
Ocean: I’ve made some really good friends. Obviously it’s a short period to get close to people, especially for me, I’m very independent. I really like my privacy and my space. As much I came here for friendships, I also came here for a lot of introspection and self development because that’s important to me. Making relationships with students here was a very unique experience from all the travel experiences I’ve had. Croatian people are very culturally introverted. They definitely prefer to stay within their national comfort zone, in terms of the culture and language. One of the most challenging things was just the language itself because it’s very challenging to learn. I’ve learnt a few words, but in terms of having a conversation in Croatian – it’s very hard.
Victoria: It took me a long time before I could even hear the sounds that people were saying. It sounded like… Nothing. I couldn’t even think what letters they are saying.
Ocean: I think that made some types of social interactions more challenging. For example, I’m that kind of person that will get to know a person when going out to the town and having some drinks with them. In a situation when you are doing that as an American student they will generally prefer to speak Croatian, rather than having entire group switch to English. In lot of situations that was a barrier to becoming more close. It really requires a lot of effort on a Croatian part to get to know me as well. More challenging than traveling to Australia, where everyone speak English. In addition, I think there is a lot of pro American propaganda in the educational system around here. We talked a lot about that. I think having that in the educational system, in the formal manner, makes the Croatians less naturally curios about American people. Unfortunately, I think that all of that propaganda doesn’t necessarily reflect reality in America, it’s definitely not a promise land, it’s very diverse. That’s an additional barrier.
I must ask you Ocean, how do people react to your name?
Ocean: It’s hard getting now somebody sometimes, because their initial enthrallment with my name is a barrier to be genuine in interacting with people. I’ve heard all the jokes, so if you come up with a new one I’ll shake your hand. My older brother’s name is River, so there is kind of a theme going around in my family. My mother is really inspired by nature and she wanted us to be connected to it. Kind of a hippie thing! (laughs)
Victoria: He looks like an Ocean.
What’s difference in lifestyle?
Victoria: To me there’s a vast difference in terms how I lived my life in New York. I was very, very, very busy person. I worked three different jobs and then I was constantly on the run. I didn’t have a moment to sit down and relax, sit by the ocean and have a coffee. The fact that people have coffee here for two, three hours stunned me. First time I went I thought it was going to be like a half an hour, but we were there for two hours and but it was a cathartic experience. It felt wonderful to sit back and relax, not being constantly rushing and I really enjoyed that. The feeling of just no having to be stressed all the time, I look at it as a bonus. And there is also a feeling of a community, everybody help each other around here. People are friendly and if somebody needs help, he is able to reach for help within the community. I was able to watch this because I look like an outsider, but over time people have mistaken me for Croatians for few times. Old people tried to talk to me, other people were very friendly and I couldn’t respond but I got a genuine, relaxed community kind of feeling.
Ocean: My original lifestyle in America was very different from Victoria’s. I did stay very busy but having learned from the experiences of my older brother with him going through college and then starting a business, running a business in Las Vegas, it was a chaotic business atmosphere. The experience that he had with stress in his life made me very decisive about where I’m reducing stress in my lifestyle. It’s a constant challenge but I think it’s definitely worthy of the attempt. Stress is no good on any level. Coming here I felt like I was home. I was chilled out. I personally can’t do the two hour coffee, I tried it when I came. I’ll sit down with you for coffee for a ten minutes or so. I’m not as social, it didn’t work with my personality.
What was your favorite thing in Dubrovnik?
Victoria: I think the thing that I enjoyed the most was being so close to water. I’ve never lived in a town like this where you can walk out and there’s the Adriatic. That was so nice for me. For once I’ve felt like I could take a break and enjoy that. I’m going to miss that when I go home because we don’t have the same kind of scenery from where I’m from so it was nice to me to see a different landscape.
Ocean: It’s similar to me. I grew up in Alaska, surrounded by mountains and living by the coast, and I loved that. I grew up hiking and camping and in Rochester there’s not much of that lifestyle. Coming here, seeing the mountains again, being on the coast again was really cool for me.

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What are your future plans, is there a chance of coming back to Dubrovnik?
Victoria: I don’t think I could stay away, honestly! I don’t know if I would spend as much time in Dubrovnik. One of the questions that we were asked was ‘Would you do the same study abroad experience again?’ and I’ve enjoyed my time here but I want to see the rest of the Balkans. I definitely want to come back.
Ocean: I wouldn’t do the study abroad in Dubrovnik as well, because why do the same twice if you can have another experience? It has a very little to do with a city itself, but with the fact that I want to explore the world and see as many places as I can. I definitely want to come back to Dubrovnik for vacation. Once I can afford to rent a yacht and eat in some nice restaurants – there’s no better place for that kind of lifestyle than Croatia.

Every Sunday our resident "Style Guru" will be scanning the streets of Dubrovnik for the latest and greatest in fashion. 

 

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The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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