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.
Autumn is still on hold in Dubrovnik! Temperatures over the past week have been constantly in the mid-twenties and blue skies and plenty of sunshine have replaced the autumnal conditions. Yesterday Dubrovnik was the warmest city in the country and this weekend that trend is expected to continue.
Highs today will reach 25 degrees and as the Adriatic Sea, warmed over the summer months, is still a tempting 21.5 degrees the city sparkled in the autumn sunshine. With only 79 days to the New Year Dubrovnik is enjoying an Indian Summer and the iconic Banje Beach, just a stone’s throw from the historic Old City of Dubrovnik, saw swimmers and sunbathers today as tourists cashed in on the October sunshine.
“I came here for a long weekend and I packed warm jackets and sweaters, I can’t believe how warm it is, we’re loving it,” commented an English couple standing above the beach.
And, according to the Croatian Meteorological Society, we are in for more high temperatures and bright sunshine for the whole of next week. Whilst most of the rest of Europe is wearing thick winter coast and carrying umbrellas Dubrovnik is proving it’s a city for all seasons.
This headline really caught my eye recently "There are not so many femme fatale women today because women-barbies prevail, and just mummy’s boys love barbies!" And how could it not catch my eye when I saw who wrote it. As usual he had hit the nail firmly on top of the head, Mr. Luko Paljetak, or if he was born an Englishman Sir Luko Paljetak. He continued in his indomitable style "Do not tell me that barbies are femme fatale! Not at all! Femme fatale women have disappeared because society is no longer producing situations in such women can stand out, so distinguished because it does not allow them either a way of life or fashion."
It’s a question of fitting into the mould. Women today are dressing like they wear uniforms, having make-up and hair like Kim Jong-un gave them a choice, behaving as if pre-programed and don’t start me with the sunglasses. It’s a mould that seems unbreakable. And a mould that is quite frankly extremely boring.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking from a position of strength. I know as much about fashion as I do about nuclear physics. I am merely speaking as an onlooker, an observer, which is what most of us men are. And honestly the Barbies are getting dull.
I understand that it is always harder to swim against the current. Running with the rest of the pack is always less frightening. “True elegance for me is the manifestation of an independent mind,” once said a true dame, Isabella Rossellini. Walk into any bar in the city, any restaurant or in fact just sit on the Stradun or in Uvala Lapad and you’ll be witness to a parade of copy/paste females.
And Dubrovnik doesn’t hold the monopoly on equilateral women, yes it seems the days of creativity and individualism are long gone. Just look at Instagram, you can type in pretty much any search word you like and I guarantee you you’ll be met with a regurgitation of identical proportions.
Are these so called “influencers” the new Gods? Women follow them unquestionably and worship their every word, so yes maybe they are the new Messiahs. But as Sir Luko was also quick to point out woman shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for the mould that has been created. Men, or to be more precise mother’s boys, help to circulate the myth that the “mould ladies” look attractive.
I had to hold back a laugh when an elderly journalist once said to me “The Old City is absolutely enchanting but why are there so many prostitutes walking along the Stradun.” Of course they weren’t “ladies of the night” (at least not all of them) but you could forgive me for being confused. I wouldn’t have blamed me if he thought there was only one clothes shop in town.
But it’s the younger generations that are the most worrying. They, unfortunately, have picked up the baton from the older generations and continued the mould look. Where are the rebels? Where is the punk generations? We’ve had the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of the hippies in the 1960’s. The glam rock and heavy metal of the 1970’s. The 80’s were really the last decade of mass culture when people didn’t use the internet to get together but rather festivals and it was a decade of crazy colours and large hair.
What will this decade be remembered for? I asked Google the same question and was depressed with the answers as they were all regarding the internet, smartphones, social media and emojis. Where is the fight? How did we all become so passive? The outlandish fashions of decades passed have been replaced by conformities. To stand out, to stamp your own style, your own look is frowned upon. Conventionality is the new keyword. If you can’t find a hashtag to describe your outfit or an emoji to brighten your description you are a black sheep.
F*** hashtags and f*** emojis. Mother’s boys should grow a pair and ladies should break the mould. As the legendary Helen Mirren, sorry Dame Helen Mirren, once said “At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words “f*** off” much more frequently.” Well said Dame Helen…maybe I should introduce her to Sir Luko. Now that would be an interesting dinner party!
Croatian property prices are continuing to rise with the latest figures showing that prices in Zagreb have risen by 10 percent this year.
According to new survey, conducted on a sample of 155,000 active real estate ads, by the Croatian website Njuskalo, prices are growing at a steady rate across the country.
Apartments are, compared to the same month last year, have risen in price by 7 percent whilst houses have 4 percent. Again Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in Croatia for real estate with the average price for an apartment 3,811 Euros per metre squared. The second most expensive city is Split, where an apartment will cost you 2,744 Euros, followed by Zadar and Zagreb.
In fact, Zagreb has seen one of the largest rises in prices this year in Croatia, mainly on the back a massive demand, with prices rising by ten percent on a year-on-year basis.
Croatia will soon have its first Novotel hotel. By the end of 2020 the first Novotel in Croatia will open in the capital, Zagreb, and will include 170 rooms, a wellness centre and business centre.
The company ROX from Zagreb have signed contracts with the hotel chain Orbis, the exclusive holder of the Novotel license for eastern Europe.
"Croatia has become one of the most attractive countries for hotel sector investors. We are very proud that the local partner has decided to cooperate with the Novotel brand and has chosen Orbis as the manager of this top project. Zagreb is one of the most important business centres in South East Europe - a very dynamic and creative city. Guests seeking relaxation and relaxation, as well as business users, will truly enjoy Novotel," commented Gilles Clavie, the CEO of the Orbis group.
The new brand name hotel will be located around 20 minutes from the city centre and 15 minutes from the airport.
IKEA Croatia has reported figures which show that Croatia was the third biggest growth market in Europe for the Swedish furniture chain. In its fourth year of trading in Croatia the company has seen a bumper year with turnover in their retail stores jumping by almost 15 percent and over the internet they had a massive 204 percent growth.
“Compared to other countries in which we operate, Croatia is third in Europe and eighth in the world for growth in sales which makes us extremely optimistic. What makes us especially happy is that in the last financial year we created 500 new jobs,” commented Stefan Vanoverbeke, the IKEA Croatia Director.
Over the past financial year IKEA Croatia had a total turnover of over 680 million Kuna and sold 13 million products with around 1.8 million customers visiting their store in Zagreb.
The British Days in Dubrovnik continued today with a lecture on the legend of Richard the Lionheart’s connection to Dubrovnik and the island of Lokrum in particular.
A special ferry took the numerous visitors to the island and the lecture from Dr Judith Everard from Cambridge University was held in the courtyard of the monastery on the island, a truly spectacular venue which was completely packed for the event.
According to legend whilst returning from The Crusades Richard the Lionheart’s ship sunk in heavy storms and he vowed to build a monastery on the first place his feet touched solid ground. That place was the island of Lokrum just 600 metres from the Old City of Dubrovnik.
A mixed audience of tourist guides, students, locals and tourists attended the lecture and posed questions afterwards.
“We are extremely satisfied with the attendance, the boat to Lokrum was completely full and it was nice to see a mixture of ages and people from different professions,” commented a representative of the British Embassy in Croatia. Adding that several of the attendants had asked for Dr. Everard to produce a written copy of the lecture.
“To my delight the representatives of the local tourist guides and tourist board gave me a very positive feedback to the talk. I felt very humble talking to them about their own history, but I thought that I could give a British perspective on Richard and his career,” commented Dr Everard for The Dubrovnik Times.
So is it a legend or is there some truth behind it? Was the question that was asked at the end of the Lokrum lecture. “There is certainly some truth behind it. We can say that Richard the Lionheart certainly visited Dubrovnik in 1192. He might have given money to construct the Dubrovnik Cathedral but beyond circumstantial evidence we have no real proof.”
As the director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Romana Vlašić, is truly in the front line of the city’s tourism industry. And as another successful summer season draws to an end we caught up for a coffee with Vlašić to find her conclusions for this season and suggestions for next year. We discovered what the international press is writing, where our next travel market is opening up and what is happening to winter tourism.
How would you best describe this past season?
This season, if we look at the statistics, was certainly better than last year. The total figures that we have show that the number of tourist arrivals in Dubrovnik was 7 percent more than last year. However, what I really have to emphasize, and what really makes us satisfied, is that we achieved great results in the pre-season. One of our main aims is the extension of the main tourist season from the summer months, which is why I think we can all be proud of the results from the beginning of the year. As far as the tourist market in the city is concerned there isn’t any real great changes, once again guests from the UK are the most numerous. However, it is interesting to note that in second place are tourists from the USA.
Yes, the fact that American tourists are the second most numerous is interesting. We don’t have any direct flights from the US to Croatia, at least not this year. How have we managed to attract so many American tourists?
We have been working intensively on the US market for years and it seems that this work is starting to bear fruit. There have been a whole series of promotional events that we have carried out in the US, from the New York Times Travel show to specialised travel fairs in Las Vegas. Secondly we are connected with a luxury tour operator in the US who have proved to be very professional and have brought many guests to Dubrovnik over the past few years. Then we have used a range of advertising possibilities, from classic to newsletters, and I have participated in a webinar in front of hundreds of American tour operators. Evidently all of this work has paid off. And now after 28 years we will finally have direct flights from the US again, with American Airlines announcing flights from Philadelphia.
I am sure that this “pilot” project from American Airlines will grow over the coming years to include more American cities as well as new airlines.
Is the Dubrovnik Tourist Board already in contact with American Airlines?
Of course, through our representative office in New York we have made contact with the airline and the travel company that represents them. We have already arranged joint marketing opportunities and co-operation. We are only too happy to help fill these flights and make sure that this new link is successful.
Has Dubrovnik as a destination found a solution for the overcrowding problem?
I think we can see from this season that the beginning of a solution and the beginning of our work on this problem has started to work. With the project “Respect the City” which has its long-term and short-term goals, we have started on the right foot and this year has seen a much better flow of tourists. One thing that has certainly helped this year is the changes made to coaches bringing cruise ship passengers to the Old City. By rescheduling their departure from the Port of Dubrovnik we have managed to ease the pressure slightly on the infrastructure. And this rescheduling of cruise ship passengers has helped with the number of people trying to enter the Old City. The City of Dubrovnik is in contact with Cruise Lines International Association, who have been co-operative with the plan to reschedule the arrival and departure times of cruise ships. This measure has also largely worked. The aim of the city isn’t to cram more and more tourists inside the Old City, quite the contrary, our goal is to make sure that the tourists who arrive have a pleasant and memorable stay. When a satisfied cruise passenger later returns to the city on a vacation then we have done our job.
The tourist board is in constant contact with international media outlets and I can say that this year we have seen a shift in their opinions about overcrowding in Dubrovnik. The positive vibration about Dubrovnik is slowly spreading across the globe again.
How will our winter season be? Are we working on further extending our main tourist season in to the winter months?
Dubrovnik has the longest season of any destination on the Adriatic. We are intensively working on extending the season even more, as you can see from the slogan of the tourist board “Dubrovnik – a city for all season.” We have been working closely with Dubrovnik Airport to ensure that we have more flights for this winter. In fact, this year we have never made more flights into Dubrovnik through the winter, we will be directly connected to seven major European cities, from Warsaw to Istanbul. We are also interested in having connections with European hubs that have connections to Asia and the US. One new market that has proved interesting is Australia. The Croatian National Tourist Board will, for the first time, carry out an educational presentation in Sydney next year as this new market continues to grow. Also this post season we can look forward to a number of events that should prove interesting for guests, such as the Good Food Festival and the Dubrovnik Winter Festival. In fact, we have joined with British Airways to market and promote the winter festival and Dubrovnik through the winter months.
What changes to the tourist season can we expect for next year?
Next year we can certainly expect an even better organisation and flow of cruise ship passengers through the city as our project kick in. Of course it takes time for such a project to work, but I’m sure that we will feel even more advantages for next year. We will see American Airlines coming, an increase in tourists from Asia, as well as more tourists deciding to come to the city in the pre and post seasons. And of course our main goal is to concentrate on sustainable tourism for the whole city.
The Croatian captain and Real Madrid midfield star has been nominated for this year’s Ballon d’Or and could make it a clean sweep of all the major football individual awards this year. In fact, Modić could become the first player since Kaka to break the dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
A total of 30 nominees have been selected for this prestigious award and the winner will be revealed on the 3rd of December in Paris. The votes are cast by a group of international journalists, with one vote coming from each country.
Modrić had an amazing season last year, and has already won the Golden Ball at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and well as the FIFA award as best man player in the 2017/2018 season. However, he will face stiff competition from Messi and Ronaldo who have won every Ballon d’Or since 2007.