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.
“By the end of the year we will have handled just under 2 million passengers, or about 300 thousand more than last year,” stated the director of Dubrovnik Airport, Roko Tolic, at a press conference held to round up the year at the airport. And of course we an increase in passengers comes an increase in profits, the airport is on course to make 75 million Kunas in profit this year, or around 10 million Euros. In 2015 the airport had earnings of around 55 million Kuna.
“Our results this year are over our expectations and I am proud of all the staff of the airport for their hard work in achieving such a successful year,” added Tolic. Stating that one of the reasons for the massive increase in passengers to Dubrovnik and to Croatia in general was the instability of other markets, such as North Africa, Turkey and Greece. But he emphasized that “This should in no way diminish the work and effort al the staff in the airport have shown.”
2016 was no doubt a record year for the Dubrovnik Airport and also one of the most demanding as at the same time thousands more passengers were landing at the airport construction works to the new terminal, Terminal C, were also taking place. The total investment into the new terminal and other projects is around 225 million Euros, of which the airport has managed to secure European Union funding to the tune of 158 million Euros.
The commercial director of Dubrovnik airport Frano Luetic commented that the massive 18 percent increase in passengers this year was surprising. “For sure one of the reasons is the turbulent situation with terrorism in Brussels, Paris, Germany, Nice, Istanbul, etc. The year began well with the Mercedes promotion in Dubrovnik and next year we can announce that Nissan will hold a major event in the city, so the forecasts for next year are already very positive.”
A masterpiece of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical ''Cats'' is coming to Zagreb in March of 2017.
The famous musical in the original West End production will be presented to Zagreb audience at the Zagreb Arena on the 22nd of March 2017 and it will be the first visit of this musical to Croatia.
The ''Cats'' musical is based on a collection of ''Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'' by T.S. Eliot which returned to the West End stage two years ago.
The original London crew has been touring the world with the old creative team of ''Cats'' – the director Trevor Nunn, the assistant director and choreographer Gillian Lynne, the designer John Napier and the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The ''Cats'' musical is the fourth longest running West End musical and the fourth longest running show in Broadway history. Its debut was in the New London Theatre in 1981 where it was staged almost 9,000 times during 21 years of running. One year later it made its Broadway debut in New York and this production ran for eighteen years.
So far the musical has been presented in more than 30 countries throughout the world, it has been translated into more than 20 languages and viewed by more than 50 million people worldwide. It won numerous awards, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards.
The ‘’Cats’’ musical is also famous for being the first one to introduce the moment of interactivity with the audience so it is no surprise that it has the most fanatical fans.
Only 4,000 people in Zagreb will be able to see this spectacle live due to the capacity limitation of the Arena Zagreb hall. Tickets range from 189 to 499 Kunas.
“I sometimes get the feeling that I don’t even have to speak for the conversation to flow…I feel a little like a passenger,” laughed the Englishman opposite me in a packed Zagreb café bar. “A few gentle nods of the head and the odd grunt is enough,” he added sipping his mulled wine. I knew exactly what he meant.
It is a cultural difference that has always fascinated me, but being here for so long I have got used to it, people finishing sentences for you. And to be fair it is even more magnified in the Croatian capital. “You haven’t been here before, have you…No, that’s right…this is your first time…And how do you like it….It is always busy…yes, you are right it is a little too busy tonight,” and that was the conversation, or maybe I should say one-sided conversation that we had just listened to. And no point did my friend say anything, in fact he didn’t even give a nod of his head, which was probably just as well as his level of Croatian is shaky.
And then “Sorry I need to go to the toilet…do you know where it is…oh, you don’t know do you,” blurted from the busy café bar. “You see what I mean,” laughed my friend, “I am a passive passenger most of the time.” We wandered out into the freezing Zagreb night and into the Advent explosion. Christmas stands on every corner, lights, music non-stop, decorations, mulled wine and sausages. Blimey if you lined all the sausages in the capital next to each other you would reach Dubrovnik and beyond. I actually started to count the festive stands, but gave up when I reached forty odd.
“What are you looking at,” asked my friend as I stood just observing the Advent scenes. “I guess you are thinking what to buy or just soaking up the Christmas feel,” he added. “You will probably think I am mad but I looking at the organization, wondering where the cooking oil goes and how the Christmas stands are so close to each other,” I said. “You have been a journalist for too long, just enjoy the atmosphere,” was his reply. Of course he was right, but I couldn’t. And then from the chilly Zagreb mist came, “Have you bought anything yet…oh, no you haven’t…neither have I…you are right I really should get some presents,” our chatty female companion was back! “Just keep nodding,” I whispered to my friend. I just can’t believe we made such a fuss over a few wooden houses on the Stradun when almost every street in Zagreb has a whole bunch of them. Plus it seems that half of Dubrovnik has moved north for the winter. I saw more familiar faces on Cvjetni Trg than on the Stradun. Every second step was greeted with “Jesi Englez,“ or “Kenova Mark.”
And with temperatures down in the minuses I have to take my hat off to the amount of people sitting outside. My blood must have thinned living here in the Adriatic sun, I felt like a penguin, but every café bar was full outside, a few blankets and the odd electric heater and that seemed enough…not for me. “Are you ok, you look a bit cold,” quizzed my friend as I sucked the heat out of a cup of mulled wine with my hands. “Now I know just how lucky I am,” was the only answer I could offer. I felt like quoting the Game of Thrones author George R. Martin with “Nothing burns like the cold.”
Thankfully my savior was an airplane back to Dubrovnik, “I will call you an Uber taxi,” offered my friend. And sure enough within five minutes an Uber turned up to whisk me to the airport, or at least that was the plan. As I entered the cab I was greeted with a rather depressing looking driver who just said “I can’t take you to the airport.” Well his car did look a little worse for wear, but that surely wasn’t the reason. “What’s wrong,” I commented. “I was at the airport yesterday and a group of normal taxi drivers attacked me and some other Uber drivers and started smashing up our cars, I am sorry but it is just too dangerous,” he said looking apologetic. “Ah, so Uber doesn’t work here either,” was all I could add. It seemed that Dubrovnik and Zagreb had something in common after all, the taxi mafia. We both stuck out arms to wave down a “mafia cab” and within seconds one stopped. “You’ll enjoy your Christmas…I know you will…I am sure you will…and so will I…I am sure I will,” joked my friend as I waved goodbye from the taxi door.
Did you consider buying a brief English/Croatian phrasebook and leafing through it during your flight to Dubrovnik? Nah...You know you won't. And I tell you a secret: you don't need to. As long as you know "hvala" and "dobar dan", it is fine. Most local people speak very good English. But there are words that are worth for you to know and understand before you come here, if you want to unveil how people live and think here. Here is a selection of my favourites.
1. Pomalo. In Croatian, the correct word for "slowly" is polako. Pomalo, the Dalmatian version, upgrades things to another, complex level of slowness: pomalo is the synonym of a consciously relaxed lifestyle, relaxed walking, relaxed eating, relaxed attitude. It is a reminder that you better don't worry and the shield against stress of any kind. Perhaps that is why in Dubrovnik, you don't find rush lines, take aways and other inventions that make a fast life even faster. When locals meet and ask how are you, the answer is pomalo - normal, fine, slow. If you come from areas of the world where life is rather fast forward and - worse - it is considered a desirable standard, the mindset of pomalo would probably irritate you at first, but I guarantee you would get used to it and get addicted. Because when you look at it, in reality there are just very few true reasons to stress out.
2. Gužva. The opposite of pomalo, and undesirable state of mind, work or traffic. It means jam, cram, crowd, scramble. A concentration of people, tasks or vehicles which distracts the peace and calm of a pomalo attitude. The people who are currently at a temporary guzva (for example someone dealing with a tight deadline or with unexpected problems at work) are generally pitied by those who are enjoying their pomalo coffees. The goal in life is to avoid guzva by all means. Those who spend their time rushing and under the never ending pressure of commitments and responsibilities and regarded odd, unhealthy, poor and foreign to local philosophy (which they usually are - it is mostly us, foreigners).
3. Fjaka. A blue, sulky, malicious, desperate and helpless mood, that is believed to be caused by the weather (the southern humid wind called "jugo") when you don't feel like doing anything and if you must do something, you might do it wrong. So it is better not to do anything and let your fjaka pass. In the times of the old Dubrovnik republic, court and public decisions were postponed until the weather switched back to dry and sunny. This prevented fjaka to impact governance and public affairs. (If only this could get implemented in politics throughout the world.)
4. Marenda. A Sunday brunch that takes place any day of the week. A 10,30 a.m. break over a coffee and a set of local delicacies. The point is to chill and to discuss the outrageous discrepancy between the number of working days and the days of weekend.
5. Komin. A traditional part of a Dalmatian house. It is a room that looks like an obscure pantry at first, before you realize that the raw sooty walls accommodate a large open fireplace, long wooden table and generous chunks of smoked ham hanging from the ceiling. Here is where people get together during winter, when it is too cold to get together on their terrace. An open fire at a place where for some reason people ignore central heating, is like a hottub in Siberia. In combination with the plates of grilled meat, home-made wine and the collective singing of nostalgic Dalmatian songs, that inevitably follow after the food, komin is a true spa for the soul.
6. Domaće. This means "home-made" and it is no less than the religion of food production here. In the villages, most families will proudly offer you their home-made wine, sausages, olive oil, or tangerine marmalade, and you will have an epiphany, laughing at organic food that costs you a fortune back home and that doesn't get close to what people eat here on regular basis. Domaći also means local: when ordering squid at a restaurant, locals often make sure with the waiter that the squid is domaći and not Patagonian.
7. Gradele. A grill, another obligatory equipment of a Dalmatian home. Feel like eating fish? Grilled only. Don't launch discussions about steamed fish or sushi. You will earn a worse reputation than a vegetarian. Similar to cars and driving, grills in Dalmatia are the domain of men, each of whom have their ways, tricks and secrets about how to best grill a chunk of meat. (Such as that the best wood to grill on is grapevine or that you must sweep the grill with a sprig of rosemary for taste, etc.)
8. Festa. This is "party", Dalmatian style, so it goes hand in hand with heaps of food, streams of wine and an endless pjesma, which means "song" or rather "singing": if you attend any of the local parties, you will be surprised to see, that most people are good and eager singers who know dozens of songs. Many parties feature live music composed of accordion, guitar and double-bass, so you rarely get the chance to have a conversation with anyone (at least that was what I hoped when I attended the first party at the house of my future husband. "When can I talk to anyone here?" I said, desperate, because the music went on and on and I could barely ask the names of the people next to me. My husband-to-be was puzzled: "What do you think you need to talk about? This is a festa. Just chill and enjoy yourself."). After midnight, a festa often turns into a dernek - a sort of accelerated turbo-party, when an enthusiastic singing crowd entours the musicians and, getting faster and louder, it lasts until 6 a.m.
9. Đir. That's what you do on Stradun: you walk around the beautiful square, you watch what people are wearing, you watch if people are watching you (trying to guess what they think), and you watch out for friends and acquaintances. (If you are local, you meet one of them every twenty seconds.) It is like a continuous meeting of the entire town, a fashion show and an institution: it is good manners to take džir around Stradun every once in a while. If you stay nearby and feel like strolling to a bakery in the morning in your comfy HM fleece pyjama pants, it's a guaranteed fashion suicide. There is a dress code which applies to everyone including babies in prams, and that reads "When in Stradun, wear only the absolute best and the most expensive clothes you own. Don't be shy to show off that handbag which cost like a solid car (be sure somebody will pass by with a bag that cost more).
10. Hajde. This translates like a universal "Let's..." - go, do something, get up, take off, move on. Enjoy!
Blanka Pavlovic a.k.a. the Adriatic Bride is a Czech writer. She studied law (Prague) and creative writing (Oxford). As a lawyer, she specialized in international human rights law, first working for the European Court of Human Rights, then for a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. She wrote five books, among them Total Balkans, The Handbook of the Adriatic Bride or The Return of the Adriatic Bride. She now lives with her family between Dubrovnik and Donji Brgat. More information and English translations of her work are available through www.blankacechova.com.
A Christmas in Dubrovnik without “Prikle” just isn’t Christmas. The easiest way to describe this sweet festive treat in English would be as a doughnut ball, it’s pretty much the same recipe you use to make a doughnut just in a ball shape.
Many of the festive stands along the Stradun and around the Old City sell this sweet balls, and they range from 15 to 20 Kunas for a pot full of them. You also get a choice of sweet toppings, from chocolate to cherry sauce, although many people prefer them just with icing sugar.
They are served hot, piping hot, and you are also given a wooden stick to “stab” them and eat them. The aroma as they are cooking is tempting, and they are normally made freshly in front of you. But you don’t have to come to Dubrovnik to enjoy this delicacy, here is the simple recipe to make your own Prikle!
Ingredients for 4 people
1 kg flour
20 g yeast
30 ml brandy-brandy or rum
40 g sugar
25 g vanilla sugar
Orange and lemon peel
0.8 liters of oil
- Dissolve the yeast with a little lukewarm water, add a little sugar and part of the flour, knead and leave the warm to rise.
- In a separate bowl put the sifted flour and make a hollow and in that place add the risen yeast. Mix all theses together and add a little salted lukewarm water. In the dough add the brandy, lemon zest and orange and cleaned raisins. Cover the dough and leave it for a while in a warm place
- In pan heat the oil
- Using a large table spoon scoop out the dough in ball shapes and place it in the hot oil. Fry them on both sides until they get rosy color. Remove them and drain the oil
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar
Zagreb is in European top when it comes to drug consumption, especially ecstasy. Results were presented by Europe-wide SCORE group, in association with the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). That's clear from the results of the project that analysed wastewater in over 50 European cities in 18 European countries in March 2016 to explore the drug-taking behaviours of their inhabitants.
- From London to Nicosia and from Oslo to Lisbon, the study analysed daily wastewater samples in the catchment areas of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) over a one-week period. Wastewater from approximately 25 million people was analysed for traces of four illicit drugs: amphetamine, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamine – it's explained on the official page.
When it comes to ecstasy consumption, Zagreb is in the very top – it's on sixth place, after Eindhoven, Antwerp, Oslo, Utrecht and Zurich. When it comes to cocaine Zagreb is ranked as 22nd of the surveyed cities, and the consumption of amphetamines (speed) placed it in 13th place. The only drug that doesn't appear in our waste water is methamphetamine. See detailed results here.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood riding through the glen…no this time he will be riding through Dubrovnik! The set for the latest Robin Hood: Origins is almost finished and is looking ready for the main actors Jamie Foxx, Jamie Dornan and the Welsh actor Taron Egerton who will play Robin Hood.
The Dubrovnik Times has learned that the set in Dubrovnik will be completed by the 20th of December. Huge piles of wood from Zagreb have been converted into a seaside set over the past weeks. Wooden piers now jut out into the Adriatic and houses butt up against the ancient stone walls of Dubrovnik.
Filming is believed to begin in the middle of January with the main stars expected to arrive in Dubrovnik in February.
On the 17th of December Pope Francis will celebrate his 80th birthday and he has already been given a special gift from Croatia.
Viktor and Sanda Jeromel, Slovenian spouses who have lived in Prezid, Cabar in the Croatian region of Gorski Kotar for thirty years, presented their unusual and special birthday gift to Pope Francis – the handmade wood-framed glasses made of a 1,600 years-old olive tree.
The married couple have manufactured sports equipment for a very long time, whilst Viktor is especially skilled in working with wood. Encouraged by his friend he came up with an idea of making wooden glasses and so far he has made a few hundred pieces at a local workshop.
''The whole time I thought how nice it would be to make wooden glasses for the Holy Father. I searched for the right material for a long time and I finally found it. We came across a broken branch of a 1,600 years-old olive tree on the island of Brijuni. The island's authority allowed me to take a small piece of the branch and this is how this story began'', explained Viktor.
''He was very persistent and he made these glasses with all his love and knowledge'', said his wife praising her husband.
At the Papal Audience on the 14th of December Viktor and Sanda Jeromel personally presented their gift to the Pope and congratulated him on his jubilee birthday.