Sunday, 22 September 2019
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

The crew of the Qatari yacht "Fateh Al Khair" which is currently sailing the Mediterranean to promote the 2022 World Cup in Qatar visited the island of Korcula on Friday. The crew was greeted by the mayor of Korcula with his associates and the ambassador of Qatar in Croatia with his associates.

In fact, Korcula is the only Croatian port on the route for the Qatari ship, and the crew handed out special 2022 World Cup presents to help promote the biggest football event on the planet.

The Qatari crew were treated to a special performance of the traditional Korcula sword dance, Moreska, which dates back hundreds of years. And whilst the arrival of this World Cup ship was good promotion for the World Cup it was also superb marketing for the island of Korcula as the Qatari crew filled their social media accounts with photos of the picturesque island.

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On the 31st of August 1878, exactly 141 years ago to the day, the esteemed British newspaper, The Illustrated London News, ran a front cover featuring Dubrovnik. The rather detailed illustration shows the crowds on the main street through the historic core, the Stradun, with the caption “The Austrian provinces of Dalmatia: street scene in Ragusa.”

The Illustrated London News was first published in 1842 and was the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine. It continued on a weekly basis until 1971, but then finally stopped in 2003.

Dubrovnik, or rather Ragusa as it was known in those days, featured on the front cover of this illustrious publication as the magazine was following the Austrian army’s military campaign in Bosnia. And the newspaper writes “As for Ragusa, that city was, and still is full of distressed refugees from the neighbouring Turkish provinces, who has sought Austrian protection.”

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The Congress of Berlin of 1878 assigned two Ottoman provinces, the Vilayet of Bosnia and the Sanjak of Novi Pazar to administration by Austro-Hungary. In July of the same year Austrian troops began the occupation of the two provinces but encountered widespread resistance from the Muslim population of Bosnia. During a campaign that lasted until October 1878 the Austrian forces suffered casualties of 946 dead and 3,980 wounded.

In fact, 1878 was the first time that Muslims started arriving in great numbers in Dubrovnik. When Bosnia and Herzegovina - following the Vienna Congress territorial agreement and the will of the world powers at the time - was integrated into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, so that Dubrovnik and its Bosnian and Herzegovinian hinterland became parts of the same state.

Interestingly the magazine cost “sixpence” back in 1878, which is roughly the same value as £7.00 today, which is a little more expensive than Time magazine costs today.

Plenty of mega yachts have dropped anchor in and around Dubrovnik, and indeed Cavtat this summer season, but today was a day for no ordinary mega yacht. The Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich, is not a man for cutting corners when it comes to splashing the cash, but with an estimated fortune of over $12.5 billion he probably isn’t counting the pennies.

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The second largest private yacht in the world- Photo Mark Thomas  

And he really dipped deep into his pockets when he purchased the luxurious yacht Eclipse in for a whopping $500 million. In fact, when Eclipse was delivered to the Russian oligarch it was the largest yacht in the world, at a staggering 162 metres, or over half the length of the Stradun.

And this afternoon Eclipse dropped her hefty anchor in the Bay of Cavtat, immediately making all the other yachts look like dinghys.

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Eclipse literally eclipses all the other mega yachts in Cavtat - Photo Mark Thomas 

This is a yacht armed to the teeth with luxury. Not one but two helicopter pads, two swimming pools, countless hot tubs, a mini-submarine, three launch boats and a crew of 70 to operate all the equipment and to make sure that the passengers are treated like royalty. And armed to the teeth it certainly is as it is reported that the Eclipse even has a missile detection system. And if you feel like a bogie then the monster ship even has its own disco. The floor of one of the swimming pools can raise and turn into a dance floor, in fact not just one of the swimming pools but the largest swimming pool on any private yacht in the world.

Abramovich is no stranger to Dubrovnik, in fact he has been a regular visitor to the city for the past decade. However, it has yet to been confirmed that the ninth richest man in the UK is actually on board.

If there is one thing that truly and utterly sums up what it means to be English, then it is without doubt the sport of cricket. They literally stop the game to have a cup of tea, yes the tea break is an essential part of a day of cricket. And I say a day of cricket because the full form of the game last for five days! Imagine that, one game lasting five full days. Of course you need a few tea breaks.

This is a sport that I have tried on numerous occasions to explain to my wife and a few Croatian friends, but to no avail. The legendary actor Peter O’Toole once said “The only thing I've ever been interested in teaching anyone in life is cricket.” But to be fair there are people in England who don’t understand the rules of the game.

“So it is basically baseball for the English,” my Croatian nephew once commented. Ah, no. Although the beginnings of baseball did actually start with cricket, brought to the New World by English colonists. But today baseball and cricket are about as similar as water polo and ice hockey. And although football really rules in England, and indeed the world, cricket for me is a very, very close second. And the beauty is that the cricket and football season don’t overlap too much, meaning I have plenty of time to enjoy this “confusing” (as my wife says) game.

I grew up with cricket from a young age. My mother is nuts for the game. The first sports uniform I ever wore (and she still has the photos to prove it) were the all-white cricket strip. Unfortunately, I was as good at cricket as I am at origami, basically terrible, probably to the huge disappointment of me mother. But that didn’t stop me from catching the cricket bug.

 

 

 

I am not going to try to explain to you the rules. I basically don’t have enough paper and quite frankly they can be quirky. Its yet another sport that the English invented and the spread to the rest of the world, mainly through the former British Empire, and then the rest of the world started beating us at. And in fact this is how cricket came to Croatia. In the early 1800’s part of Lord Nelson’s fleet was anchored on Vis. Yes, another of our regular battles with the French. The ship’s crew were bored on the island so the Admiral basically said “there’s a flat piece of grass, go play cricket.” And they did. And the same club is still functioning today.

It is an extremely eccentric sport, another reason why it’s just so English. Cricket is basically the sport version of Brexit. Nobody outside “the island” can understand why we do it and yet that’s one of the reasons why we love it. It isn’t supposed to make sense.

Only the British could invent a sport that takes five days to play and could well end in a draw. Although cricket is actually the third most watched sport in the world, but that’s mainly due to the fact that it is the number one sport in India, the second most populated country in the world. In fact the current Prime Minister of Pakistan is a former cricket great and captain of his country, Imran Khan. And the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, started his life as a cricket player.

It’s a game played in the English summer, which of course means that due to rain games are frequently delayed or even stopped completely. Why we couldn’t invent an inside sport I don’t know?

And one of the biggest matches is currently underway. So imagine this. England against Australia in a series of matches called “The Ashes.” Firstly, there are five matches in the series, and each game lasts for five days, so rain permitting it is a competition that could last for 25 days, or almost a month, or roughly the same length of time as the complete World Cup in Russia took. And again at the end of the month the result could well be a draw. In fact, the result now is 1 – 1.

And what do these cricketers receive as a prize after exhausting themselves over that month, maybe a huge trophy. No, they actually receive the smallest trophy in worldwide sport, only 15 cm tall. And in contains, or according to legend contains, the ashes of an early wooden cricket ball, hence the name The Ashes. I did tell you that cricket was a quirky and quintessentially English sport.

I am completely gripped by the action; I am actually listening to cricket over the radio. How mad is that! “I understand cricket - what's going on, the scoring - but I can't understand why,” once wrote my favourite author, the American Bill Bryson. That “why” is about as hard to explain as the actual rules.

Luka Modric is quite clearly a multi-talented athlete, not only is he one of the best football players in the world but he is also quite handy at American football.

 

 

 

In a new video released by the NFL features three Real Madrid players, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Thibaut Courtois, join up with Washington Redskins stars Landon Collins and Josh Norman in a competition to show off the skills on the gridiron and the football pitch.

Check out the video

Dubrovnik could well have a new American flight connection next year with flights from Chicago from American Airlines in the pipeline. After a long 28-year break with any direct flights between Croatian and the US American Airlines started flights this summer season from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik. And they proved extremely successful, so much so that the biggest airline in the States have already announced that they would seriously upgrade the service for 2020 to a daily one. “Dubrovnik went really, really well for us,” commented Vasu Raja, the airline’s vice president of network and schedule planning, for the American Airlines podcast “Tell Me Why.”

Clearly American Airlines have used these flights from Philadelphia as a test to see the interest in flights from other American destinations. “We can try things from Philadelphia that gives us a rapid approach to route development. As we develop things in Philadelphia and they work it is a means to develop routes for Chicago,” added Raja.

 

“Barcelona, Venice, Athens, Prague, Dubrovnik, Prague, and Budapest - all of those started in Philadelphia,” he said. “We realised they could also work in Chicago given where the traffic was coming from.”

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More American tourists in Dubrovnik than ever before - Photo Tonci Plazibat 

There seems to be concrete data from the airline as to when flights from Chicago to Dubrovnik could start and indeed the frequency of such flights, however news that the vice president of schedule planning is talking about flights from Chicago to Dubrovnik clearly means that these flights are in the pipeline.

Speaking to The Dubrovnik Times Romana Vlasic, the Director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board stated that “It’s great news, and we are glad that American Airlines have recognised Dubrovnik as a popular tourist destination with huge interest from the American market. We hope that in the future American Airlines extends flights from the summer season into an all year round service.” American tourists are the second most numerous in Dubrovnik this year, which undoubtedly is thanks to non-stop flights from the US, and the city has seen an increase in 16 percent in American tourist numbers and overnight stays.

 

 

August is certainly ending as it began in Dubrovnik, with raging temperatures and high humidity. Temperatures in Dubrovnik today are around 30 degrees, however due to the humidity the real feel is closer to 36 degrees.

In fact, humidity levels are extremely high in Dubrovnik today with measured levels at an amazing 81 percent. The forecast for the weekend shows similar weather patterns with scattered clouds and high temperatures, meaning once again humidity levels will be high. Experts are warning people to drink plenty of fluids as the real feel temperatures are very high.

And night time temperatures in Dubrovnik will not drop much below 25 degrees, meaning a rather warm and sticky night on the way.

For the weekend the wider Dubrovnik region can once again expect close and muggy weather, with highs on Saturday predicted to touch 32 degrees and on Sunday 31 degrees Celsius. However, at the beginning of next week the weather could change slightly with a few thunderstorms predicted for Tuesday and even Monday evening. Although the long-range weather forecast for the whole of September shows warm and sunny weather with average temperatures in the high twenties or low thirties.

The Adriatic Sea is currently a very pleasant 24.5 degrees and is offering some respite from the humid end to August.

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Croatia’s population could well shrink to 2.2 million by the end of the century according to findings from the UN. The data shows that Croatia’s population is decreasing rapidly at estimated predict that the current population of around 4.1 million could drop on an annual basis to reach 2.27 million by 2095.

The UN’s World Population Prospects figures highlight one of the most concerning issues to face Croatia for decades. Croatia’s population has been ever decreasing since the early 1990’s, coinciding with the Homeland War. In 1990 4.77 million people lived in the country, but just twenty years later, in 2010, that number had dropped considerably to 4.32 million. Now in 2019 it is hovering around 4.1 million.

Projections from the World Population Prospect indicate that the population will dip below 4 million by 2025. As the number of people living in the country decrease by around 0.6 percent every year this would mean that by 2050 Croatia would be down to 3.3 million and by the end of the century to 2.2 million.

“Croatia is in demographic crisis and losing people each year. Its fertility rate is just 1.5 children per woman, one of the world's lowest, and its death rate has exceeded the birth rate since 1991,” states the World Population Review. Adding that “Croatia is now ranked as the 14th fastest shrinking country in the world. It's predicted that Croatia's population will shrink to 3.1 million by 2050, after reaching its peak of 4.7 million in 1991.”

 

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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