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.
The height of the main tourist season in Dubrovnik is behind us and the results are coming in thick and fast. In more ways than one it has been a record breaking year for Dubrovnik’s tourism industry.
From the beginning of the year until the end of August a grand total of 1.05 million tourists visited Dubrovnik, an increase of a huge 14 percent compared to the same period from last year.
And subsequently the number of overnights stays in Dubrovnik also rose in the first eight months of 2019 with 3.23 million achieved, an increase of 6 percent over last year.
Since the beginning of the year, the majority of guests, in terms of nationality came from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Australia, Ireland and Finland.
The number of American tourists is certainly on the rise, this is a trend that has been continuing for a few years, and this year the number of US tourists is up by 16 percent on last year, putting Americans right behind the British. And with the introduction of direct flights with American Airlines from Philadelphia, and the possibility of new flights from Chicago in 2021 this number will only continue to rise. And if it does then Americans could soon be the most numerous guests in Dubrovnik, taking first position that the Brits have held for around a decade.
During August, one of the peak months for Dubrovnik’s tourism industry, 236,375 tourists arrived in the city and 817,667 overnights were achieved, according to data from the Dubrovnik Tourist Board. And in fact August was a record breaking month, as on the 12th of August 28,554 tourists stayed in the hotels, villas, and private apartments of the city, which is the most ever number of guests recorded staying in Dubrovnik on one day.
The three millionth overnight stay in Dubrovnik this year was realized on the 21st of August, a full seven days earlier than in 2018, and the one millionth tourist arrival occurred on the 24th of August, three weeks earlier than last year.
Work has begun on repairing the stone streets of Dubrovnik in one of the most well-trodden areas of the historic Old City. An area of around 300 metres squared directly in front of the St. Blaise Church in the very heart of the city core is having the ancient stone slabs repaired.
Repairing any building or construction inside this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a long and arduous process. The stone pavement will be repaired after the careful removal of the existing stones in order to preserve as many undamaged stones as possible. It is estimated that only around 15 percent of the stones will be new ones.
The value of the investment is 845,312.00 (VAT included), and the estimated duration of the works is 90 calendar days.
The start of the work was originally planned for the 15th of September, but was brought forward by the City of Dubrovnik, along with the contractor, a full two weeks in order to ensure that this part of the public square is fully prepared for this year’s Dubrovnik Winter Festival.
The works are being coordinated by the Institute for the Restoration of Dubrovnik, which, based on the recommendation of the Conservation Department, included the restoration of the stones in front of the St. Blaise Church in their 2019 reconstruction program.
Looking for a tasty burger this September, why not try the Zagreb Burger Festival. The Zagreb Burger Festival is a dynamic eleven-day gastronomic program, accompanied by attractive music events that always attracts interest from local and foreign visitors. This popular festival will be held this year in Zagreb's Strossmayer Square from the 12th of September to the 22nd of September.
The festival always welcomes all lovers of delicious and juicy burgers, and this year the latest trends in making many of your favourite delicacies will be presented by some twenty burger masters from Zagreb, Rijeka, Osijek and Ljubljana.
And if you are a vegetarian this isn’t a “meat only” festival, far from it. Vegetarians will have the chance to taste some speciality burgers. Gastro competitions are also prepared as well as a selection of the best burger masters with additional fun and games for children.
The festival will be open from Monday to Thursday from 12am to 11pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 1am, and Sundays from 11am to 11pm. Admission to the Zagreb Burger Festival is free of charge and you can find more information on the website burgerfestival.hr
Dubrovnik has had a rich and at times complicated history and whilst the archives of the city are packed to the rafters with papers, documents and dusty books dating back from the 12th century to get a unique view you sometimes need video evidence.
This video highlights Dubrovnik in the early 1920’s and gives an interesting insight into the city at that time. Whilst the architecture might not have changed much, apart from the public street lighting along the Stradun, the people, and especially the fashion has changed considerably. It would seem that everyone wore at hat of some description in this decade. And spotting horse on the cobbled streets, presumably delivering goods to the shops, is also interesting.
Check out the video below
Every week through the height of summer we are hitting the streets of Dubrovnik to discover what you, our visitors, think about the city as a tourist destination. This week we caught up with Terry from Switzerland who was on a tour of Croatia and was visiting Dubrovnik for the first time.
Terry – Switzerland
How long have you been in Croatia and what have you seen so far?
First I went to Zagreb at the beginning of August and then I travelled onto Split, which was really very nice, and then I picked up with a travel group here in Dubrovnik. I have been from island to island along the southern Adriatic, basically island-hopping, and it has been amazing.
What are your impressions of Dubrovnik?
Yes, it is seriously beautiful and I absolutely love the Old City. The centre looks medieval and I also love the nature, the sea with those glorious and high cliffs dropping down is spectacular.
What do you think about the prices in Dubrovnik? Is it more expensive than you thought it would be?
Yes, they are a little expensive. As I said I have been to the capital, Zagreb, and the prices in Dubrovnik are certainly much higher than there. In fact, both Split and Dubrovnik are relatively expensive compared with other Mediterranean destinations.
How satisfied are you with the level of service that you have received on your travels through Croatia?
In general, everyone has been really friendly and the service has been of a high standard. I have found that whatever I have decided to do, or in fact buy, has been available, and all of the staff I have met have been more than willing to go that extra mile to help me.
Nolan Funk got his big break into the world of acting with leading role in an award winning Broadway show at a relatively young age, and he never looked back. This multi-talented Canadian born actor broke teenage hearts when he starred in the smash hit serial Glee as Hunter Clarington, highlighting not only his acting but also his dancing and singing skills.
The list of films and serials that he has appeared in, and indeed the actors he has played with, fills a far too many pages for us to list. And he his boyish good looks he has also created an impressive modelling career, including being the Face of Versace alongside the legendary Lady Gaga. We caught up with Funk in the five-star Hotel Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, where he was staying for a few days’ break, to dig a little deeper into his amazing story.
Nolan Funk soaking up the Adriatic sunshine - Photo Bozo Radic
Is this your first time in Dubrovnik and what are your impressions of the city?
I have found all the people to be really genuine and kind. I really love this cool beach town vibe that I pick up here, I wasn’t expecting that at all. I have been to the beaches and to the island of Lokrum, and they really blew me away. The nature on the island is amazing. Although I did laugh to myself on the island as I have a little phobia of rabbits, as I was bitten as a young child, but at least I enjoyed the peacocks. This is my first time not only in Dubrovnik but also in Croatia.
Did you have any preconceived ideas of what Dubrovnik would be like?
I have a friend who told me that when I’m next in Europe I need to visit Dubrovnik because it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is right up there with Paris in terms of beauty. I really didn’t expect it to be so impressive and that the Old City was so big. Seeing such an old walled city right next to the sea is truly a sight I will never forget. It is magical. I will definitely come back.
"One of the most beautiful cities in the world" - Mark Thomas editor of The Dubrovnik Times interviews Nolan Funk - Photo Bozo Radic
Are you in Dubrovnik on business or pleasure? Might we expect to see you on screen soon with the Old City as a background?
I am in Europe on some business, but my trip to Dubrovnik is purely pleasure. I would love to film something in Dubrovnik in the future, we’ll see. It kind of works like that. I recently went to Charleston, South Carolina, and a few weeks later I ended up doing a movie there, so you never know.
Out of all of the films and serials that you have acted in which are you proudest of?
It is really hard to pick to be honest. I would say that sometimes the work that you see on screen you’re more proud of, but the experience of filming wasn’t as enjoyable. Whereas sometimes you are having a great time filming and then when that show hits the screens it doesn’t do as well as you thought it would. I had some luck when I was young, I was the leading star of a major Broadway show when I was quite young. I love doing stage. I had a lot of fun filming the serial Glee of course. I also liked playing an assassin in Riddick with Vin Diesel. That role really pushed my acting skills and it was hugely enjoyable.
What’s your main passion, the big screen or Broadway?
Acting on Broadway was something I have only done once but it was a great experience. So for me probably film and television are closer to my heart, but saying that I would love to go back to the theatre and do a straight play. It certainly is much harder work on the theatre. But I love those constant challenges.
"I love constant challenges" - Photo Bozo Radic
You were the face of Versace along with Lady Gaga. What was it like working closely with her?
Yes, it was a crazy time. I remember we went to the Vanity Fair Oscar party together. What I love about Gaga is that she is so creative and innovative. So is always transforming. And that’s what I am trying to do with my acting career. People will Google me and get one impression, maybe think of me as a teen television character, but the reality is that I have taken on so many different and unusual roles. I have to say that when you walk into a room with Gaga the whole room stops; she has such a presence.
What advice would you give to budding young actors looking to break through into what is a pretty tough industry?
The first thing is to stop telling yourself that it is tough! People would always say to me at the beginning of my career that it is a tough business, but I would respond positively and answer “No, it really isn’t”. Obviously there are challenges, I have a long list of jobs I didn’t get. First of all, don’t do it unless you can’t see yourself doing anything else. You have to push 100 percent. Then I would say do it as much as possible. And try to enjoy yourself. I was once on the cover of the New York Times Arts and Leisure and instead of just enjoying that moment I was thinking about the next job.
Who are your idols or mentors in the industry, someone that you hold up as a shining example?
Obviously I love George Clooney and Michael Fassbender. I would love to work with both of those, I have been lucky to have acted with some great people, such as Jennifer Lawrence.
If you had the choice to work with any actor tomorrow who would they be?
Probably with Fassbender and then Emily Blunt, she is amazing. I would also love to work with Matt Damon.
What projects are you working on at the moment, where and when can we expect to see on the screens again?
I am committed to do a film in January next year. And I have just finished doing a movie shot in the southern part of America which should be out soon. Also a film called “Berlin I Love You” which I played alongside Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley. That should be coming out in Croatia soon.
All photos by Bozo Radic
After news broke that American Airlines could well connect Dubrovnik with another American city soon the popular specialised aviation website EX-Aviation have reported that flights from Chicago could be launched in 2021.
The biggest airline in the States introduced direct flights from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik this summer season, with three non-stop flights a week. This service has proved extremely popular, so much so that the airline added an extra weekly flight in September. And then went a step further by upgrading flights next year to a daily service. In many ways this American connection is historic, as it is the first time in 28-years that Croatia has had direct flights from an American destination. And the upgrade to a daily service seems to prove that the airline has made a sensible business move.
The number of American tourists has been growing steadily in Dubrovnik over the past five to six years, in thanks partly to the success of the HBO serial Game of Thrones and Dubrovnik’s leading role as the location of King’s Landing.
Speaking to the American Airlines podcast “Tell Me Why” Vasu Raja, the airline’s vice president of network and schedule planning, stated that “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.”
First American Airlines flight greeted at Dubrovnik Airport - Photo Tonci Plazibat
EX-YU Aviation have reported that after Philadelphia the next American city to have direct flights could well be Chicago. This would tie in with the business thinking of Raja, who has clearly made this move before. American Airlines test out a destination through Philadelphia were it seems that costs are lower, if that test works then they upgrade the service, with the next step being introducing more expensive airports, such as Chicago.
Presumably if Chicago then goes according to plan other cities could open flights as well, however there is clearly a limit on the number of American destinations that Dubrovnik could receive flights from due to the limited size of the destination. There have been calls from many for direct flights from New York and Dubrovnik, however such flights seem a long way down the road as the airport costs from New York are restrictive for such flights.
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.