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 first time I saw it I was a little repulsed. I have to be honest. The Old City was packed, packed like tinned sardines. It felt like the New Years Eve millennium night. I tried to press my way to the front of the pack in a vain hope that I would see what everyone else was seeing. An elbow in the stomach, an umbrella in the back and quite a few apologetic words and I had made it to the front line. As it turned out being on the front line wasn’t the place to be…but how would I know that. Banners of all shapes and sizes waved in the sunshine. Colourful costumes filled the Stradun. It was an explosion of noise, colour and people. And then came the gold.
I could see it glinting in the sunlight. I can still remember thinking to this day “I wonder what they are carrying.” I still couldn’t quite make out what it was but I could see people from the crowd rushing to kiss it. Babies were lifted above the heads just to kiss the gold, pensioners pushed forward and embraced it, everyone in the front line took their turn. And then the turn came my way. Blimey that looks like someone’s head...and that looks like a bit of an arm...I’m not bloody kissing that. Everyone has slobbered their mouths around a golden arm and head and now it was my turn. Yes, this was my very first experience of the Day of St. Blaise.
I can remember it like it was only yesterday. The glittery body part held by a waiting priest in front of me in anticipation that I should kiss it. All I could remember at that time was a story that my wife had told me a few days before hand. “You know,” she started, “one of the most dangerous things to eat in a bar are the peanuts.” “How do you figure that out,” came my question. “Well, think of how many people touch those bowls of peanuts in one evening. Now if you bear in mind that only a half of men actually wash their hands when they go to the toilet then just think of all the bacteria transferred onto those peanuts,” she concluded. Yes, she was right, I mean I wash my hands, but probably I am one of the few. After she told me that little story I have never eaten peanuts in a bar again, unless I am blind drunk.
Now, as the dead golden arm of St. Blaise was presented in front of me to kiss all I could think about were peanuts in a bar. I quickly flicked my gaze down the rest of the front line and saw their solemn faces. The priest was getting slightly impatient. So I bent my face down. I made a huge, probably too huge, kissing noise and got as close to the shining arm without actually touching it. I remember the priest saying something, I am hoping it was a small prayer for me, but I have a feeling it was probably something along the lines of “disrespectful idiot.”
As I didn’t understand Croatian at the time I hope it was the first option, but I have my doubts. What a precious tradition the Day of St. Blaise is. It is a day that should be an official public holiday in Dubrovnik and not just left hanging in the balance and open to the interpretation of employers. These traditions need to be cherished. It is also an opportunity that should be exploited more. Exploited in a commercial way as a real tourist offer, but in a classy way. It falls at a perfect time. In the so called off-season when we are crying out for tourists, any kind of tourists.
Yet I think that every festival I’ve been to since my first one has been almost exclusively full of local people. I can’t help feeling that this is a missed opportunity. Away from the tacky “made in China souvenirs” and herds of cruise ship passengers searching for an ice-cream this festival is as traditional and authentic as the walls that surrounded it. This is exactly what tourists are looking for. A real, true local tradition that has survived almost untouched for centuries.
And yet every year it goes on almost hidden away from the prying eyes of tourists. The Dubrovnik Summer Festival, the Klapa vocal choirs, the Linđo folklore ensemble and, of course, St. Blaise, these are the events that need to be cherished. The Old City looks as it should do, full of locals, laughing, happy in a festive mood, celebrating and respecting a tradition that deserves its position as one of the most important days in the city.
Its Dubrovnik’s big day, let’s not hide it away in the shade, let’s put it out in the sun so that all the gold can glitter as it should. Although my advice would be to potential tourists, come and enjoy the festivities but don’t get to close, don’t stand in the front line.
Hundreds of thousands of feet pass down the steps from the Pile Gate into the historic core of the Old City of Dubrovnik on a weekly basis. And over time the rough limestone is polished down to a marble like finish.
In fact many visitors to Dubrovnik believe that the main street, the Stradun, which runs through the heart of the city, is made of marble due to its gloss finish. In fact it, and most of the rest of the streets and buildings, is constructed from limestone. But with the millions of flip-flops, sandals and boots that slide over the stones every year the limestone is buffed up to a marble like finish.
Whilst the “shining” Stradun may look nice on photos it can also be slippery, especially when the spring rains fall. So regularly the busiest streets in Dubrovnik are “roughed up” by workers hammering away to form better grip. It is a long and tedious process, as of course everything must be done by hand, but the end result is better grip and the hopeful prevention of injuries. This work was started yesterday on the steps leading down from the Pile Gate in preparation for another busy summer season.
The director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Romana Vlasic, held a working meeting with the Ambassador of Albania to Croatia, Ilir Melo, and the Honorary Consul of Albania to Dubrovnik, Ivan Gjurasic, at the head office of the tourist board yesterday.
The aim of the meeting was to encourage cooperation between Dubrovnik and Albania. It was also agreed that representatives of the Dubrovnik's tourism industry would visit Albania to present the tourist offer of Dubrovnik. And at the end of March business workshops will also be held between Albanian and Dubrovnik tourist agencies to forge closer links.
As Albania is within driving distance of Dubrovnik it is a relatively untapped market that could help to increase tourism in the shoulder seasons, as well as the winter period, in Dubrovnik.
“I'll make a special collection of jewellery in honour of Saint Blaise,” last year promised the famous Israeli designer Michal Negrin. And last week in the Michal Negrin concept store on the Stradun in the centre of the Old City of Dubrovnik this specially designed jewellery arrived.
“2016 was declared the Year of St. Blaise and so I decided this year to make a special collection of jewellery,” commented the famous designer. Adding that while she was working on the new collection she had images of the city in her mind, “I am very pleased with how the collection turned out.”
The St. Blaise inspired jewellery features five different models in different sizes along with the recognisable design of Michal Negrin and is available to purchase at the store on the Stradun.
“I hope that the people of Dubrovnik will like the new collection,” concluded the designer.
Photos - Tonci Plazibat
For the past month reconstruction works in the Rector’s Palace has been underway with the maintenance of the stone pillars and arches of the atrium.
The first phase of the investment is around 10.5 million Kunas and will be funded by the City of Dubrovnik.
The last time the Rector’s Palace was renovated was in the early 1980s. This first phase is planned to be completed by April and the continuation of the further phases are scheduled to take place at the end of this year.
Dubrovnik Museums added that the museum shop, inside the Rector’s Palace, will remain open every day from 9.00am to 4pm, and from the 22nd of March until 6pm. For those of you looking for an authentic Dubrovnik Christmas present the museum shop has a wide range of gifts.
The UK based low-cost airline easyJet are making great strides in the Croatian market for this summer season. After news that the airline has introduced two new operations for Dubrovnik, from Bristol in the southwest of England and Toulouse comes news of another new flight. From the 3rd of July easyJet will launch flights from Toulouse to Pula.
This new Croatian link will fly twice a week into Pula Airport, on Thursdays and Sundays, until the 28th of August. Ali Gayward, easyJet’s Commercial Manager, commented that, “We’re really pleased to be adding yet another destination to easyJet’s growing portfolio for our Croatian passengers and we’re confident this new route will be a popular choice. The routes will also provide increased inbound tourism opportunities for visitors wishing to visit Croatia and the large variety of attractions and events the country has to offer”.
easyJet handled the second largest number of passengers into Dubrovnik Airport in 2015, and in total handled around 600,000 passenger to and from Croatia.
Did the earth move for you in Dubrovnik last night? At exactly 10.47pm last night a mild earthquake rumbled through Dubrovnik.
The Croatian seismological service has reported that the earthquake as of moderate intensity and the epicentre was 34 kilometres southeast of Dubrovnik in the Adriatic Sea.
The earthquake measured 3.3 on the Richter scale and the tremors were felt in Konavle and Dubrovnik. No material damage has been reported as yet.
On this day, the 31st of January, in 1808 the Republic of Dubrovnik was disbanded with the annexation by the French armies.
The French General Auguste de Marmont without the approval of Napoleon abolished the Republic of Dubrovnik’s government and senate therefore abolished the independence of Dubrovnik. At the same time Marmont was awarded the title of Duke of Dubrovnik.
After the abolition of the Republic of Dubrovnik in 1808 the Dubrovnik region was under the rule of Napoleon's Italian Kingdom. And from 1810 to 1814 it was incorporated into the French Illyrian provinces. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815 the area of the former Republic of Dubrovnik was placed into the Habsburg Empire in which it remained until 1918.
Marmont died in Venice 1852.
General Auguste de Marmont