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.
Once again Game of Thrones has brought international media attention to Dubrovnik. This time the German television station Deutsche Welle has released a short video about Dubrovnik’s role in the globally popular series.
“Croatia's most popular old town has been dubbed the 'Pearl of the Adriatic.' Among the many tourists are 'Game of Thrones' fans, because several scenes in the show were shot in Dubrovnik,” writes this popular German media channel about King’s Landing, or Dubrovnik.
The video, which was clearly recorded through the winter, highlights the Game of Thrones tours that have sprung up and talks to local Dubrovnik guide Robert Simic. “It is a commercial that no one could pay for. We are the capital of the most famous show ever filmed, which is amazing,” comments Simic.
Check out this video!
If you only have one day to spend in Dubrovnik then you are going to need a constructive plan. Although the Old City is a car-free, self-contained entity and is relatively easy to navigate around you are still going to need some hot tips to maximise your stay.
Here are a few recommendations on our “must see” list. The best way to familiarise yourself with the city is by getting a bird’s eye view. Climb 432 metres over Dubrovnik with a ride on the cable car. The views are to die for, why not have a coffee in the Panorama Restaurant which offers aerial panoramas, it’s all in the name.
After an hour on the Srd Mountain you’ll need a swim, one of the most iconic beaches in Dubrovnik is the Banje Beach. You can either rent a sun bed or go to the public side of the beach, to the east, and roll out your towel for free. Time for lunch and the Old City offers over 100 restaurants, but beware there are many tourist traps, our choices are Kopun (home of capons), Proto (for an upmarket fish meal), Nista (vegetarian), Horizont (great service) or Kamenica (fresh fish and reasonable).
After lunch why not catch some Dubrovnik culture, there are many museums in the Old City but you only have a day so the Rectors Palace will give you a brief insight into the power of the former Republic of Dubrovnik. Have you got time to walk the city walls, probably not, but you could walk half of them. For a seaside view get on at the Pile Gate and for an over the roof tops view get on at the Ploce Gate, unfortunately the price is the same if you walk a half circle or full. If you don’t fancy walking anymore then relax with a long drink on the Stradun, the main street that runs like an arrow through the heart of Dubrovnik. Try cafe bar Cele or the close by La Bodega for a real “live like a local,” feel. And the island of Lokrum, a stone's throw fom the Old City, is a must visit. Great location for a swim or a walk around the botanical garden.
Dubrovnik City Card
Save time and money on your daytrip to Dubrovnik with the one-day Dubrovnik City Card. The card offers you entrance into all of the city’s museums, city walls, bus travel and discount in many stores and restaurants. You can but the card at over 50 outlets throughout the city, including hotels, restaurants and travel agencies. We would suggest buying at the Dubrovnik Tourist Board office on Pile just by the main entrance to the Old City. We would suggest buying at the Dubrovnik Tourist Board office on Pile just by the main entrance to the Old City. A one-day card costs 170 Kunas but if you buy online you will receive a 10 percent discount.
Cable car - Ride to the sky in three minutes
The Dubrovnik cable car offers 360 degree views that will leave you breathless, almost as breathless as if you had walked to the top of the 432 metres high Srd Mountain. The ride lasts around three minutes and tickets can be bought at the lower station of the cable car, an adult return ticket costs 120 Kunas and 50 Kunas for children. At the top is an observation deck, a restaurant and souvenir shops. You can also catch buggy ride over the countryside if you are feeling adventurous, it’s fun and dirty! In May the cable car runs from 9am to 9pm and leaves every ten minutes. Get to the back of the car for the best views over Dubrovnik as you climb the mountain.
The Banje Beach is great fun for all the family although be careful as the Adriatic gets deep relatively quickly!
Where to park
The public parking garage, Zagrebačka Street, is probably the best bet. Or park out of town and get a bus in and out.
“I remember watching Prince Charles on the television when he was at the opening of the restored old bridge in Mostar,” exclaimed the Scottish tourist sitting next to me on the coach. We were on our way to the city where east meets west, a city divided by a river and absolutely humming with history – Mostar. And the iconic symbol of the entire city, and some would argue the whole region, is the 16th century bridge that spans the Neretva River. In fact the city takes its name from the Croatian word “Most” which means bridge in English. This would be a day to remember as we snaked through the green countryside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was travelling on a Croatia Excursions day-trip to discover Mostar and The Old Bridge Story.
Wherever you are in Dubrovnik you are pretty much within eyesight of a foreign country, the city is an island surrounded by borders. So on this full day-trip to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina it didn’t take long before we left Croatia. Contrasts - that is the word that I am sure will stick in your mind when you travel on this tour. Soaring mountains, wide open plains, historic monuments, an explosion of different cultures and religions, white-water rivers and gastronomic adventures, Bosnia and Herzegovina has it all in bucket loads.
Our first stop was the town of Trebinje, a half an hour drive after the border, and the stunning Hercegovačka Gračanica monastery. The monastery is located on Trebinje’s version of Sugarloaf Mountain. The city sits on the Trebišnjica river valley and is wide and flat, however a dome of a hill dominates the skyline and this was our first stop and a visit to the monastery. Do not forget your camera or leave it on the coach, as I nearly did. The views are expansive and well worth a selfie. A tour of the charming monastery and we were on our way to Mostar.
“Have you been to Mostar before,” questioned a couple from Holland. I had been many times, but not for a few years. “Yes, but I don’t want to give too much away, you will discover the city for yourselves, but please remember your first impressions,” I answered.
As the coach wound its way through gorgeous rolling hills we were treated to an education of the region from the pleasant guide. Most people on the coach, well no almost everyone on the coach, had never been to Mostar or Bosnia and Herzegovina before. This was going to be a steep learning curve for them. Well to be honest for me as well. I have travelled to 47 countries in my life so far and countless cities and I can honestly say that Mostar is the one city that has the starkest ethnic and cultural differences. When they call Mostar the “melting pot of cultures” they have certainly hit the nail directly on the head.
“Wow, that should be on the list of the Eight Wonders of the World, there should be nine wonders,” said the couple from Holland as they laid their eyes on the iconic Old Mostar Bridge for the first time. It is indescribable, a world famous piece of history that links two cultures. On one side of the river towering church spires of the mainly Catholic population and on the other needle-like minarets puncturing the skyline. Quite clearly the bridge was more than just a means of transportation; this was a symbol of bringing together two cultures. Issac Newton once famously said that “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
A guided tour of the breathtaking old city followed. Turkish style bazaars, wooden façade homes, bright colours, culture clashes and history and traditions gushing as the Neretva River. “I never dreamed it would be like this, it feels so exotic, I feel like I am on an adventure and not a day-trip,” laughed a tourist from England. He was right. It was a million miles away from the Dalmatian experience of the Dubrovnik coastline, and yet physically only a few hours’ drive. “This is a memory that will stay with me for a long time,” he added.
The aroma of food drifted from every corner, which was just as well because I was in need of sustenance. Not only was the city a culture shock but so was the cuisine, in a very positive way. My tip – try some of the typical Turkish delights and do not take the familiar option with international menus, your taste buds will thank you.
“Well I hope you enjoyed your trip to Mostar,” commented the guide as we made our way out of the city. I sensed there was a mutual agreement of awe. Mostar wasn’t what they had expected and it had left them fumbling for a description. It does that to you, it is a city that always leaves an impression.
By Mark Thomas
The Mostar: The Old Bridge Story is a full-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.
Celebrity spotting in Dubrovnik, and blimey it has certainly been a week for spotting the rich and famous in the city. “Can you get me a photo of Bono if you bump into him,” asked a friend from London. The chances of me bumping into the lead singer of U2 were, well relatively limited, but to get a friend from London asking for his photo just endorsed the power of “A” level stars.
And although Bono was probably the most sought after star on the list this week there have been plenty more, Reese Witherspoon, Ivanka Trump, Nicole Scherzinger, the Black Eyed Peas…all stars in their own right.
They have all been cruising in fancy yachts, dripping with designer clothing and desperate to flaunt their overall “gorgeousness” on social media. They all look like they have just slipped out off the pages of Cosmopolitan. They are living large on Instagram, well at least that’s the message they are trying to convey. There is a real star in all of these social media photos that have been appearing, but it isn’t in the foreground! Just look over the shoulder or under the armpit of a celebrity and you will see the true VIP – Croatia, and in many cases Dubrovnik.
And it isn’t a photo-shopped, cropped, Botox filled, filtered star, no, it is a naked beauty that doesn’t need any artificial help. Dubrovnik has always had an unusual relationship with celebrities, well not so much strange more aloof. It isn’t that people don’t recognize the world icons; far from it, it’s just that they aren’t that bothered by them.
We all know the story about Ivo Labaš and his brush with Elizabeth Taylor, when he offered her a piece of paper to take his autograph, he considered himself more famous as he was a citizen of Dubrovnik. However there is something to be said for the celebrity endorsement, it may be a pain in the arse but it brings plenty of publicity with it. Of course you get the “old farts” who just grunt like a sleeping dog when you tell them a celeb is here, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
The amount of international media outlets that have been filling their pages with photos of celebs on vacation in Croatia over the past months is priceless PR. I don’t really know who half of these people are, I am guessing that half of them are famous just for being famous, they may have inherited fame not earned it. But who cares, they are loved by the media and therefore are plastered all over the front pages. It is also kind of cool to be in the spotlight, I mean for Dubrovnik to be in the spotlight, where it fully deserves to be.
“Celebrities like to come here because people treat them as normal people and don’t hassle them,” I remember a local telling me a few years ago. I half agree with that statement. True mega stars probably love the anonymity, to be able to fade into the crowds and not be constantly asked for autographs or selfies. But the “nouvelle riche” shooting stars probably absolutely hate it, they want to be seen and adored. That is probably exactly the reason they take to Instagram to promote their instant-fame. “I am here...over here...look at me...look at me,” one can hear them screaming through their media channels.
Starlets with their entourage of mini-starlets are bombarding us with bikini-clad images. And the latest trend to make sure that you rise on the Facebook charts, Belfies! I kid you not, Belfies! I can hear you asking what the hell Belfies are, I asked the same question. Apparently it is a selfie of your arse! I am guessing it got the name as a combination of selfie and B from bum, bottom or backside. Whatever next? One minute tiny asses were a hit and now its behinds the size of a bus, who could keep up with this fashion. I open my Twitter account and am greeted with a whole array of bums!
Normally I wouldn’t be complaining too much, but it isn’t only women who are taking Belfies! This new term even has an unofficial entry into the Oxford English Dictionary “a photographic self-portrait featuring the buttocks, usually posted by female celebrities on social media networks.” And just on the market belfie-sticks! They are like selfie-sticks that you see tourists waving around in Dubrovnik but they have a mirror stuck on them…so you see your arse of course. And yes, before you ask, we already have Belfie photos featuring Dubrovnik. That’s it I have just thought of a new idea, Delfie, a selfie in Dubrovnik!
The airports of Croatia are having a very busy year, quite possible one of the best on record. The number of passengers passing through Croatian airports in July increased by a massive 19 percent compared to the same month from last year. Split and Pula airports saw the largest increase in passengers; whilst Dubrovnik Airport had a 16 percent increase in July.
Through July a total of 380,326 passengers passed through Dubrovnik Airport, which means that from the beginning of this year until the end of July 1.05 million passengers have used the most southerly airport in Croatia. In the first seven months of this year the number of passengers in Dubrovnik Airport has increased by a massive 15.7 percent and the airport is well on target to break the two million mark.
Split and Zagreb are also having bumper years; in fact Split Airport saw a huge increase of 25 percent in July and 541,000 passengers. From the beginning of the year until the end of July Croatian airports handled 4.3 million passengers which is a 12.4 percent increase over the same period from last year. 2016 is set to be a record breaking year for Croatian airports.
A new innovative product from Croatia is conquering the world market. It is a unique product that protects women's shoe heels while driving.
A right shoe heel that manoeuvres between the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal, eventually or immediately, will get scratched against a rubber car carpet usually full of sand or small pebbles. Due to this problem many women drivers often drive in old shoes.
However, Andelka Toto-Ormuz has come up with a solution. A PR expert and an English teacher from Zagreb who until a few years ago, had no “relations” with the design profession, just wanted to protect her shoes while driving. With a number of experts she managed to develop the ''na5u'', a very simple protector that can be easily and quickly put on the right shoe heel. The outer part of the product was made from a special plastic material, whilst the inner part was made of leather.
Even though this product has been on the market for a little more than a year now, it has already been recognized abroad. The “na5u” is available in 60 stores all over Croatia at the price of 79 Kunas and at 9.90 Euros in Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia.
According to the Croatian newspaper “Novi List” the shoe heel protector ''na5u'' also known on the foreign market as the''4shu'', will soon be available on the US market, as a protected product, as it is on the European market.
''The idea came to me completely spontaneously; after I had realised that all my shoe heels were scratched and damaged from driving a car. However, I couldn't find any adequate solution on the market at the time. Then I decided to make something on my own, naively believing that it would take me 15 to 20 days to design and develop my idea. It took me two years and became a real project which included 42 people such as engineers, technologists, designers, lawyers, medicals...'', explained Andelka.
Even though at first glance this product seems pretty simple, it is not. It complies with a number of parameters –it protects all shoe heels regardless of the type of shoe or heel height, it does not distract drivers while driving, and it also looks nice. ''As it is used only while driving a car, the safety of road traffic and its users was our first priority so we approached this project seriously and took all parameters into consideration'', said Andelka Toto-Ormuz, whose little company is based in Rakitje near Zagreb.
The plastic material for the ''na5u'' or ''4shu'' is manufactured by a company from Zagreb, whilst the leather parts are produced in Varazdin. The final result is a successful product completely ''Made in Croatia.''
A few days ago Archie Hamilton, a 24-year old professional racing driver and You tuber from the UK, came to Croatia to test out the La Ferrari against the first electric super car in the world, the Concept One, produced by the Croatian company Rimac Automobili.
Young Hamilton also brought with him the Tesla P90D with Ludicrous Mode, until recently the most powerful Tesla's model and the fastest accelerating sedan in the world. First he raced the Tesla P90D against the Concept One and then he tested out the cutting-edge hyper-car from Ferrari, the La Ferrari with 936HP against the Croatian car.
Over a quarter mile stretch Hamilton made a number of comparisons and he was more than surprised that Maranello's best car ever was beaten by the car without a combustion engine made by a small Croatian company from Sveta Nedjelja near Zagreb.
As stated in a press release from Rimac Automobili, the Concept One accelerated from 0 to 100km/h in 2.69 sec, whilst a quarter of a mile it ''flew over'' in 9.92 sec.
“As you can see in the video, the Concept One is already pretty fast. But we’re working hard to make it even faster. Of course, this is not the only thing we’re doing. Not by a long shot,” said Mate Rimac, the founder of Rimac Automobili.
Interestingly, the founder and the CEO Mate Rimac started to convert his first car when he was only 19 years old: “I owned an old BMW E30 from 1984 which I used for drift and circuit races. At one of these races, the gas engine blew up. Then I decided to try building an electric vehicle (EV). After a year or so the car was able to drive but I was not satisfied with the result. It was heavy, not very powerful and the range was very limited. I started to gather a team of experts to develop our own components since I believed that electric propulsion can give much more compared to what was available on the market. At that time, I already had a very clear vision of my ultimate goal. Today, hard work is making my dream come true.”
The first copy of the Concept One was delivered in January 2013 to a Spanish customer, the company Applus + IDIADA. The car was completed in four months, and the price is unknown.
His other commercial model of the Concept One, which Rimac Automobili presented at the International Motor Show in Geneva on the 1st of March 2016, will be produced in only eight copies.
Dubrovnik has many attractions away from the magnet of the historic Old City centre and it seems that the Dubrovnik Bridge and the cruise ships are proving just as popular as the monuments and beaches. Today on the observation point that overlooks the bridge and the Port of Dubrovnik tourists gathered to have their photos taken with the mega cruise ships in the background.
There were plenty of cruise ships to choose from as three cruise ships carrying over 6,000 passengers docked in the port today. This weekend will be slightly less crowded, as far as cruise ships are concerned, with seven ships expected brining around 8,000 passengers will arrive.