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 symbol, some would say mascot, of the Dubrovnik Winter Festival is obviously feeling the cold at night. The keep out the chilly evenings the Teddy Bear now has a rather natty new accessory, a red scarf. The Teddy Bear must be the most photographed decoration in the whole of the Dubrovnik Winter Festival.
And he isn’t the only one to have updated his wardrobe; Orlando also has a funky red scarf. Everyone is getting into the festive spirit.
The Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has announced its new airline connection from Denmark to the Croatian city of Zadar for its summer schedule in 2017.
According to the Irish air carrier the new flight from Zadar to Copenhagen will operate twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays from the 3rd of July to the 28th of August 2017. Previously Ryanair operated flights from Zadar to Denmark on the line Zadar to Billund in central Denmark, but the line was cancelled. With this new line Zadar will be connected with Copenhagen for the first time with a regular service. So far only charter flights have operated from Copenhagen to Zadar.
In addition, Michael O'Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, has announced that airline tickets for their flights could be free of charge by 2026. He substantiated his ambitious plan with figures and his calculation was quite clear. Ryanair would generate its income from increased financial offer that they recieve from airports from which their aircraft take off. ''I have this vision that in the next five to ten years, the air fares on Ryanair will be free, in which case the flights will be full, and we will be making money out of sharing the airport revenues, of all the people who will be running through the airports, and getting a share of the shopping and retail revenues’’, explained O’Leary.
Go hard or go home! Kate O’Malley and Mark Williams haven’t gone home yet. This Australian pair took a leap of faith, but if you never take a risk life would be boring. They were at a crossroads in their lives, they sold everything they had in Australia and set out across the globe, a brave move that has paid off. On their journeys they have started a travel and photo blog entitled “Vagrants of the World.” We caught up with these intrepid explorers to discover their “wow” moment in Dubrovnik, what is house-sitting and why a bottle opener is so important.
You describe yourselves as “Vagrants of the World.” What were your motivations for upping sticks and spreading your wings around the world?
Three years ago we had an extended trip to Morocco and Europe booked. Before our departure, our work situation suddenly changed. With no real obligations to return to, we decided to make it a very extended holiday. Within a month we had sold everything in Australia and condensed our lives into a couple of bags. We have been travelling ever since! We discovered house-sitting, caring for people's houses and pets around the world. While this is a great opportunity to live in different countries for extended periods of time, much like vagrants in the traditional sense, we have no fixed address and no set itinerary. Life is pretty good for us.
You have recently been to Dubrovnik. What were your first impressions when you entered the historic Old City?
No amount of pictures will prepare you for how impressive Dubrovnik is. Entering the Ploce Gate for the first time was one of those "Wow" moments for us. We described Dubrovnik as one of the best photography locations in the world because it is so unique and offers so much. The incredible architecture inside the wall of the historic city. The stunning beaches and vistas of the Adriatic coast and of course, the striking scene of the old city from afar. A mosaic of iconic red roofs set against the most striking blue sea - Spectacular.
Had you heard much about Dubrovnik before you arrived and did the destination live up to your expectations?
Dubrovnik has been on our list for some time. Mark had been there 20 years ago and loved it. We had been hearing more and more about Dubrovnik as it was regaining popularity as a "must see" destination so thought it was time to return. We are so glad we did, it really exceeded our expectations and Mark's memory of it.
How would you compare Dubrovnik to other European destinations that you have visited?
Europe is full of amazing destinations but Dubrovnik is unique. Where else can you slip through a hole in an ancient wall to find a bar perched precariously on the rock face on the edge of the Adriatic? It's so much more than just a beautiful walled city. It's the ambience within the walls, the breathtaking natural beauty of the Adriatic, the lovely climate, the list goes on.
If you could only take three items in your rucksack what would they be?
With only a bag each, we now have so few belongings we figure everything we have is essential. If we had to choose, it would be our passports, so we could keep moving, Kate's camera and our bottle opener - Croatian wines are just amazing!
Which destination will you remember with a smile on your faces?
We spent over a month in Croatia and just fell in love with the landscape, cuisine and lifestyle. Dubrovnik was the biggest motivation for visiting Croatia and remains the highlight of our time there. We know we will be back.
What will be your lasting memories of Dubrovnik?
Walking the walls of the old city with the contrasting views. Looking inward over the maze of medieval streets, then turning to see the stunning Adriatic. It is quite spectacular. We also enjoyed strolling the old city at night. The polished limestone streets literally shine under the night lights making everything so much prettier.
How I traded my pumpkin spiced latte for Turkish ground coffee:
I was never a coffee drinker, until I came to Croatia that is. I never fully understood America’s Starbucks obsession and only really started to drink coffee in college. I would force myself to drink half a cup when studying, while enduring the jitters and restless nights.
Things have changed. I write this now while sipping a cup of Turkish coffee, which I now can’t imagine my mornings in Croatia without.
Coffee, cigarettes and cafes are the building blocks of Croatian culture. From Dubrovnik’s antique Old City to the funky streets of Zagreb, coffee culture truly embodies the relaxed and social mentality in Croatia. Not only have I acquired a taste for coffee, the culture has taught me to take time to relax, let go, and sit still.
The role coffee plays in American culture could not be more different. In the United States, coffee is associated with productivity. Most people get coffee to go while heading to work or school. The others that actually stay bring their laptops with headphones to catch up on work. Especially in Chicago, local coffee shops are filled with people in their own worlds, working individually.
The times in America I had coffee with someone else it was almost always work related. I’ve had several interviews, meetings, and study sessions over coffee, but rarely to socialize. Though it’s common to say “let’s grab coffee sometime”, it’s usually a way to initiate a friendship instead of maintaining one. I never went out for coffee with any of my close friends, instead we would go out for drinks, food, or do something active. Rarely do you see people relaxing in coffee shop for hours, and those that do are what we call hipsters.
In contrast, coffee in Croatia is associated with leisurely socializing. No matter the season, the weather, or the day, people can sit for hours with a cappuccino in hand at a local café. Bars become engulfed with hazy smog as people alternate between sipping and burning through cigarettes. Locals chat for hours, but aren’t uncomfortable when conversation runs silent.
Even in the home, coffee is the first thing offered during the morning or afternoons. My boyfriend’s mom is always inviting her friends over for a coffee, as a way of catching up with close friends. It seems Turkish coffee is most always served, which may taste like dirt for anyone accustomed to caramel Macchiatos. Not only is the coffee much stronger in Croatia than in America, it actually tastes like coffee, not some sugar-free venti extra-whip soy milk vanilla latte.
Drinking coffee is not the hard part for me anymore; it’s learning to actually sit still. Though some Croatians trade tea or juice for coffee, everyone is seemingly comfortable sitting for hours on end. I once had coffee with five of my Croatian friends and after sitting for a half hour I asked, “So, what’s next?” They all looked confused. “What do you mean what is next? Just this.”
Even for Europe, I would say Croatia moves at a leisurely pace. People seem to be generally happier with a simpler lifestyle and coffee and cigarettes go hand-in-hand with this mentality. Coming from an action-packed life in Chicago where I was always moving, it’s taken a lot of getting used to. At times, Croatia’s slower pace has driven me to near insanity, where I feel like days will easily slip away from me without getting anything done.
But the culture here has also made me reflect on my own. In America, we use coffee as a catalyst to fuel our obsession with productivity. Even if we actually sit for a coffee, our phones are buzzing and beeping, while we are half listening to our friend, and half going over our daily to-do list. We often are always thinking about what’s next, without looking at what’s in front of us. It then all transforms into internal noise. I see this mentality, still, deeply engrained in myself.
Perhaps America can learn a thing or two from Croatia. I respect the mentality of slowing down, blocking out the chaos, and truly enjoying the company of another. Maybe coffee should be less about doing work and more about being present with the moment. Perhaps our problem is that no one has time to slow down and listen.
However, Croatia hasn’t completely changed me. I still will never smoke cigarettes. I will always choose being outdoors on a beautiful day over sitting in a café. But I’ll gladly trade a pumpkin spiced latte for a simple Turkish ground coffee any day.
Alexandra Schmidt, also known as The Mindful Mermaid, is a globetrotting writer and travel blogger, who finds her self always coming back to Dubrovnik. She was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota and later moved to Chicago to study at Loyola University. She first came to Dubrovnik when she studied at Dubrovnik International University, and has returned to Dubrovnik several times since. She’s a mermaid-obsessed yogi, who passes her time playing guitar, exploring the great outdoors, and planning her next adventure. To find out more about Alex, you can visit her website or Facebook page.
Willis Towers Watson as one of the leading global groups for risk management, insurance brokerage, reinsurance and business consulting has started its operations in Croatia this November through the company Willis Towers Watson JSC, reported the company on the 21st of November.
The direct entry of the Willis Towers Watson company in Croatia is a result of the $18 billion merger of the Towers Watson company and Willis Group Holdings at the global level earlier this year. The latter has already developed operations in Croatia through its network of branches.
Willis Towers Watson emphasizes that they have ''big plans for Croatia'', even though they are currently most focused on insurance and reinsurance brokerage. In the near future they plan to develop other segments of their offer.
Marko Stajduhar, the CEO of the Gras Savoye Croatia JSC (the Willis Towers Watson Group member company) says that the Willis Towers Watson Group generates added value in the development of the domestic market intermediation insurance services as well as in the entire insurance industry.
‘’Our goal is to reduce business risk for our clients and to make them more competitive. On the other side, through access to our global network we create new possibilities for our domestic insurance companies for development of new creative products and offer them the possibility of reinsurance’’, said Stajduhar. He also added that the Croatian market would be directly provided with solutions by the Willis Towers Watson Group to all segments of the business consulting related to risk management including consultancy in human resources management.
Willis Towers Watson is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. It employs more than 39,000 people in more than 120 world countries, whilst its annual turnover is more than $8,2 billion. The company states that they work with almost 90 percent of the world’s most successful companies from the Fortune 500 list.
Children Winter Festival Orlandino opens on Friday, November 25, at 6 pm in the Gruz park. The children programme of the Dubrovnik Winter Festival will be opened by Mayor of Dubrovnik Andro Vlahusic, accompanied by the performance of primary school students. On the same day the amusement park and ice-skating rink will be opened in the Port of Gruz. This year’s novelty is the home of Hansel and Gretel!
Good news are that on the opening day, from 6 pm to 9 pm the ice skating rink will be free and in the amusement park every child will get one token for free with the purchased one.
This year ‘Orlandino’ brings workshops, special holiday film screenings, cake party, Christmas tale with fifteen hundred gifts and much more. The ice skating rink and amusement park will be opened until January 8.
Dubrovnik has been highlighted in the November edition of the Turkish Airlines in-flight magazine “Skylife.” The article entitled “Time stands still in Dubrovnik,” over eight pages in the magazine, and in both Turkish and English, will be placed on 330 aircraft serving 296 destinations in 116 countries around the world.
Turkish Airlines is one of the few international airlines that have continued flying to Dubrovnik through the winter period, along with British Airways from London. The Turkish national carrier connects Dubrovnik with Istanbul. The article describes the delights of Dubrovnik throughout the winter period, including the Dubrovnik Winter Festival.
300,000 copies of the magazine have been printed and with over six million passengers a month travelling on Turkish Airlines it will be great publicity for Dubrovnik. The airline has even offered a special return price of 109 Euros, from the 28th of November to the 19th of December.
“Whole-year flight Istanbul-Dubrovnik is Dubrovnik tourism is important not only for Turkish tourists who come to Dubrovnik, but mostly because tourists from the Middle and Far East which is Istanbul transfer through airport coming from Japan, South Korea, China, India, and the United States and Canada,” announced the Dubrovnik Tourist Board.
Russian edition of the magazine National Geographic Traveler has included Croatia in the top 3 best tourist destinations for family vacations! It is a traditional annual award "Top travel destinations" by National Geographic magazine organizes for six years, and this year's award giving ceremony was held in Moscow. It is important to note that the prizes are given based on the online votes of Russian tourists, and this is the second year in a row that Croatia is entering the top three destinations in this category ( "Best Family Destination"). On behalf of Croatian Tourist Board Rajko Ruzcika, director of the branch office in Moscow, received an award. The importance of this award and the Russian market in general is emphasized by the director of the General office of the Croatian Tourist Board Ratomir Ivicic.
- Russia is the market that is in very specific circumstances in recent years, that are significantly hampered our business in this market. However, the Croatian National Tourist Board has not given up on Russian tourists, and in accordance with our announcements and expectations in this year we stopped the downward trend of Russian tourists in the Croatian tourist destinations. This award confirms that we can count on Russian tourists, especially those who want to have a family vacation - said Director Ivicic.