Tuesday, 23 July 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 British just love Zupa. In the month of June over a quarter of the overnight stays achieved in the region of Zupa, just south of Dubrovnik, were made by guests from the UK. 23,362 tourists arrived in Zupa in June and, 13 percent more than the same month from last year, and 88,425 overnight stays were achieved, which is a 10 percent increase.

After tourists from Great Britain the most numerous were from Germany and then the United States. In fact, the number of guests from America has risen drastically not only in Zupa but all over the Dubrovnik region. With direct flights from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik with American Airlines tourists now have a connection and it would seem that this is proving popular.

However, Zupa’s tourism industry is still facing the same problems it has for the past 30 years. Today, almost three decades after the end of the Homeland War, Zupa still has less accommodation in hotels than it had before the war. The Kupari resort, Plat Hotels and Hotel Zupa are just three hotel objects that are still out of function since the Homeland War. Because of this Zupa very much relies on private accommodation in apartments, villas and houses to cover the shortfall of hotel beds. And this can be seen in the figures from June this year. 36,445 overnight stays were achieved in private objects, whilst in hotel accommodation there were 35,182 overnight stays.

 

Dubrovnik became the first ever city in Croatia to set special restrictions on ATM machines inside the historic city core after a huge growth in their numbers and now another city has followed suit.

Rovnij has now put special conditions on ATMs on the facades of ancient buildings, with the goal of preserving the façades in the historical city.

Basically the City of Rovinj have copied the regulations introduced by the City of Dubrovnik last week and stated that ATMs must have prior approval from the Conservation Department, and all the necessary documents and approvals, otherwise they will be removed.

All ATMs placed without the appropriate approvals of the relevant departments must be removed as soon as possible and within 15 days from the date of conclusion. ATMs that will not be removed within the prescribed deadline will be removed by the city authorities.

The chief economists of Croatia's five largest banks have upgraded Croatia's economic growth forecasts for this year to 3 percent and expect it to decrease to 2.5 percent in 2020, according to a Croatian Banking Association (HUB) outlook report published on Monday, reports HINA. 

The economists revised upwards their forecasts for this year after GDP grew 3.9% in Q1, which ranked Croatia sixth in the EU after Hungary, whose GDP in Q1 went up 5.2%, Romania (+5.1%), Malta (+4.8%), Poland (+4.7%) and Estonia (+4.6%).

The mean forecast for this year was revised to 3% after the 2.6% growth forecast last December. The latest forecasts ranged from 2.8% to 3.2%.

The mean forecast for 2020, of 2.5%, is tied to lower contributions from all components of aggregate demand in comparison with forecasts for 2019.

The growth should still suffice for unemployment to continue to decrease below 7%, with real salary growth to 1.4%, mildly slower due to inflation. The public debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to stay below 70%.

The biggest hurdles to growth are the unreformed institutional framework, tax and similar burdens, and the lack of foreign direct investment.

The five economists said it was very likely the global economy would slow down at the end of this year and early the next.
Asked when they expected Croatia to introduce the euro, two said in 2023, two in 2024 or 2025, and one in mid-2024.

Is the heat getting to you, feeling a little under the weather or have twisted an ankle of the slippery stone streets? The Dubrovnik Red Cross is on hand to help. The City of Dubrovnik and the Dubrovnik red Cross have, for a fifth year in a row, organised special points around the historic old City to help tourists and fellow citizens.

During the summer months, the young Red Cross team with basic medical equipment helps fellow citizens and tourists who experience problems of weakness, exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburn, dehydration, burns, sprains and wrists, cuts, blisters, fractures, contusions, insect bites, headaches, panic attacks, etc.

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The first aid teams are made by the young employees of Red Cross who have undergone a basic and advanced course of providing first aid and basic knowledge about the Red Cross and communication skills.

The project is being carried out for the fifth year in a row, and over the past years, tourists have expressed great satisfaction with this kind of approach to the guests, stressing that the symbol of the Red Cross, which is recognizable everywhere in the world, brings a sense of security.

This year, the entire project is being carried out in the city of Dubrovnik: Stradun, Dubrovnik walls, Dubrovnik beaches, Lokrum island and Ston walls, 60 young people are included, all with advanced knowledge of first aid.

 

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.

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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.

aggy dubrovnik

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

So you think you know something about Croatia? Take our Croatia Quiz and find out just how much you really know.

A dozen questions to see if you are a Croatian winner or sinner.

Have fun and good luck

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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