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.
When is a cake not a cake – when it has been created by Aggy Dadan. From making a teddy bear cake in her kitchen to appearing on all of the major TV networks in the UK and producing artistic real-life pieces of cake art for leading Hollywood actors, it has been quite a journey for Aggy. We caught up with Aggy as she visited Dubrovnik to take some home-grown local recipes and give them her own special treatment.
This isn’t your first visit to Croatia, and indeed to Dubrovnik, what keeps bringing you back to our city?
I should have been born Croatian. I just love the weather, the people and the beaches, you know I have been to many countries in the world and this is certainly for me one of the most beautiful. Dubrovnik is just so unique. I would love to eventually move to Dubrovnik and live here. I was born in Poland but my business really keeps me in the UK at the moment.
Enjoying time (and a cake) with her daughter in Dubrovnik
In fact, this time you aren’t in Dubrovnik for a family holiday, but you are on a working break. Can we expect to Dubrovnik on the screens in the UK in the near future?
Yes, I am recording a new program, but at this time it’s a little secret so I can’t really say which UK channel it will be broadcast on. Sometimes you just have to keep some secrets. The working title is “European Bake-acation” like a play on words. I am taking traditional Croatian and regional dishes and putting my own twist on them. I want to keep it a little simple so I am trying to create dishes that can be prepared on the balcony or with as little equipment as possible. I am trying to source all the ingredients locally. I have been collecting these ideas by speaking to locals and reading and researching. So I have dishes such as rostule, burek and baklava.
Why baking? What brought you into the world of baking?
I have always liked food. Since I was little I would stand by my grandmother and mother and watch them cook and bake. I was always sticking my nose into pans and picking up the smells and that’s probably where it all started. When I came to live in England I never forgot these skills but I was just so busy with other jobs that I didn’t have time to bake. I used to work in an office in the UK and when the recession struck I was the first to get made redundant. Then I fell pregnant.
One day I just opened the cupboards in my kitchen and found flour, sugar, butter and eggs and I thought “I can bake.” So I decide to be a stay at home mum and look after my child. I started making cakes and then uploading them onto my social media accounts. Pretty quickly there were more and more people following me and copying the recipes. I then saw that these people were actually using my ideas to start their own businesses so I then saw that I had to change tactics, that’s when I started carving cakes and making artistic cake sculptures. Loving colours and loving art the sculptures seemed to be the right path, and I have been lucky to be so successful, although there has been lots of hard work along the way.
You have been extremely successful with these cake sculptures, with countless appearances on TV shows and thousands following you on social media. But it’s a long jump from making cakes in your kitchen to presenting them to Hollywood stars. How did this happen?
All the steps over a six-year period seemed to connect in a big way. Eventually I surprised myself. I went from making a teddy bear, which was my first ever attempt to presenting a cake to Jason Momoa the star of Aquaman and Game of Thrones. It was a long journey and lots of hard work. The first celebrity cake I made was for the British comedian and presenter Leigh Francis. He actually spotted me on Instagram and sent me a direct message asking if I could make some special cakes for one show he was doing on ITV. I had a short deadline, but when he asked I just couldn’t say no. When you get opportunities like that you just run and run and make sure it happens. Of course I was panicking but with only five days before the show was due to be recorded they finally confirmed they wanted the cake. It was a lot of work and a lot of sleepless night, but we got there and my cakes were a huge hit. I think I had three or four hours sleep a night for five nights.
What is your most famous celebrity cake?
That’s not a difficult question to answer, especially being in Dubrovnik. Jason Momoa obviously starred in Game of Thrones which was filmed here so everyone here probably knows who he is. He inspired me a lot. I always wanted to meet him. Not only because of his acting but also because of his strong environmental views.
I am myself environmentally crazy and I try to do as much as I can for charities and good causes. Because I am in a position that a lot of people follow me on social media and through my TV work I am fortunate that I can use this to influence people to think about our planet. So working with him was a dream. A little secret, he has a birthday coming up and he will be in London for it so I hope to make a birthday cake especially for him.
A proud moment with Jason Momoa - Photo Instagram
How did you manage to get in direct contact with a Hollywood star? You are clearly a fan on Marvel films but I can’t imagine you have the actor’s mobile numbers.
Again it was the power of social media. He saw me on Instagram and I contacted him with a special cake carving of him. Presenting it to him in person was an absolute dream come true.
You put so much time and effort into making these cake sculptures. Are you then a little frustrated or disappointed when people actually cut them apart and eat them?
No, not at all, quite the opposite I feel really happy. I love it when they cut the cake open. I once made a cake for the BBC TV personality Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and when he saw it he said “Oh my goodness this is art.” Although when he cut it apart I felt just as happy as when I was making it. My cakes live as long as they should live and then people enjoy them, that’s their purpose.
Aggy hard at work on a TV show
Do you have a sweet tooth yourself?
Oh yes! I have to have cake every day, and if I can’t find cake then I’ll take some chocolate. If I can’t find a cake to buy, then I’ll just make something myself.
There is a rather interesting video of you baking a cake with Deadpool. We already know that you are a Marvel fan but was that really Ryan Reynolds?
It was Ryan but not Ryan Reynolds. Yes, that was a video that we made for charity in the UK. We actually made the whole video in Kate Moss’s house, she was very generous to let us use her home for the video. We donated all the money we made to a charity that is very close to our hearts.
The future Peljesac Bridge has "emerged" from the Adriatic Sea for the first time. After all 148 pilots were installed in May, just under the surface of the sea, the first parts of the bridge appeared above the Adriatic this morning.
After less than a year since the Chinese company, China Road and Bridges, won the contract to build the new Peljesac Bridge the first signs of the bridge have arisen from the depths of the sea. The Chinese company are working flat out to complete the bridge, and indeed finished the first stage, the installation of the pilots, a full 12 days ahead of schedule. According to a report in Vecernji List there are 21 floating vessels, from cranes to ferries and transport ships, currently working on the project.
There are 385 workers on site, of which 341 are Chinese and 44 Croatian staff, as well as one of the largest cranes in the world. At the rate the work is being completed there is a good chance that the Peljesac Bridge will be completed ahead of schedule and quite possibly before any of the access roads are ready.
The purpose of the bridge is to achieve territorial continuity of the Republic of Croatia; namely, by connecting the southern exclave comprising the bulk of Dubrovnik-Neretva County with the remainder of the Croatian mainland. The bridge achieves this by spanning the Pelješac Channel between Komarna on the mainland and the peninsula of Pelješac, thereby passing entirely through Croatian territory and circumventing any border crossings with neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina at Neum.
It’s a big week for the cultural scene in Dubrovnik with the opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. And not just any Summer Festival but a special birthday one, the 70th anniversary of the most iconic festival in Croatia. On Wednesday the 10th of July with the raising of the Libertas flag in the heart of the Old City of Dubrovnik at 9 o’clock the Dubrovnik Summer Festival will be officially opened. And as it’s a big birthday the organisers have put on a program to remember.
The opening night will see a gala event, but as its invitation only you’ll probably have to watch from the sides. But don’t worry you’ll still see a show, a magical fireworks display that not only lights up the whole of the walled city but also can be seen for miles, it’s one of the most impressive fireworks displays you’ll ever see. The first firework will whiz up into the night sky at around 10 o’clock and the whole event lasts for a good few minutes.
The Dubrovnik Summer Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious European festivals, a member of the European Festivals Association since 1956, will present its numerous domestic and international audiences with over 80 theatre, music, ballet, film, folklore and other performances over 47 days.
The conceptual guideline of the seventieth Dubrovnik Summer Festival is based on the slogan City Myths.
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As romantic cities go Dubrovnik is pretty high on the list, so what better place to celebrate International Kissing day than in the pearl of the Adriatic.
The 6th of July is traditionally International Kissing day and this day for lovers was marked in a rather special manner in Dubrovnik.
A kissing bench was set up on Porporela along with a musical duo and photo booth and it proved a magnet for locals and tourists. By adding the hash tag #kissfromdubrovnik to photos the lovers sent their photos out as part of the International Kissing Day event.
Where Dubrovnik leads the Croatian capital follows. Dubrovnik became the first Croatian city to have direct flights from the USA in 28 years when American Airlines organised flights from Philadelphia, and the next Croatian city looks like being Zagreb.
According to a report on the website EX-YU Aviation two different American air companies have shown an interest in flying to the Croatian capital. The Director of the Croatian National Tourist Office in New York, Ina Rodin, stated that "We are in serious talks with two large carriers and we hope that within the next two to three years we can establish nonstop flights between New York and Zagreb".
Zagreb Airport and the Ministry of Tourism have been lobbying for some years to start direct, or non-stop, flights between the two capitals although so far nothing has materialised. However, with American Airlines reporting a huge demand for seats to Dubrovnik, in fact so much so that an extra weekly flight will be laid on for the last month of connections, other American airlines could have seen the financial benefits of such an operation.
The Director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Romana Vlašić, commented that "In the future, we expect for American Airlines to extend its seasonal operations, but also introduce some other destinations from the United States to Dubrovnik".
The owner of the American football club, the Dallas Cowboys, sailed into Dubrovnik this morning on board his mega luxury yacht “Bravo Eugenia” which set him back a tidy $250 million.
Jerry Jones (76), the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and believed to have a net worth of $8 billion, actually paid $100 million more for this super yacht than he did when he purchased the Cowboys back in 1989.
Bravo Eugenia certainly turned heads as she dropped anchor near the island of Daksa, in front of the Port of Dubrovnik, with her sleek lines. And as the yacht is 109 metres in length, holding a crew of 30 and room for 14 passengers she isn’t difficult to spot. The yacht is named after his wife, Eugenia Jones.
The Croatian government sent this week to the parliament the Road Safety Bill, which provides for much stricter fines in a bid to reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities.
"Based on numerous analyses and in close cooperation with the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences, we have proposed amendments that significantly increase fines, define the minimum duration of driving disqualifications and regulate and increase negative points for the eight most serious traffic offences," Minister of the Interior Davor Bozinovic said while presenting the new bill.
Under the new bill, present fines of between HRK 5,000 (EUR 675) and 15,000 (EUR 2,000) would be increased to between HRK 10,000 (EUR 1,350) and 20,000 (EUR 2,700) for the eight most serious traffic violations - driving in the opposite direction on motorways, exceeding the speed limit in a built-up area by over 50 km/h, deliberately running a red light, refusing to take a test for alcohol or drugs, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a blood alcohol level of 1.5 g/kg and higher, driving before acquiring a driving licence or while the driving licence is suspended or revoked.
Bozinovic said that a task force had already been set up to monitor the effect of the proposed measures and propose changes and additional improvements if necessary.