Monday, 10 December 2018
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

If you suffer from acrophobia you might not want to watch this video. Flying high, yes really high, above the ancient Old City of the Dubrovnik is normally limited to birds and helicopters. But you don’t need a drone to get superb aerial footage over Dubrovnik, you could paraglide.

The members of the Dubrovnik Nimbus Aeroclub recently organised the “AERONAUT 3" event and one of the most attractive events was undoubtedly paragliding from the top of the Srđ Mountain overlooking the city to the iconic Banje Beach.

From the top of the 412-metre high Srđ mountain the Banje Beach looked like a postage stamp but incredibly the paragliders showed exquisite skill by floating high with only a thin piece of cloth over their heads and landed directly on the beach.

Incredible video for a once in a lifetime view of Dubrovnik!

The first advent candle in Dubrovnik will be lit this Saturday night. The advent candles will be placed in the historic Old City of Dubrovnik between the Rector’s Palace and the Dubrovnik Cathedral.

The advent program, entitled “Your light gives us hope” will take place every Saturday night at 7:30pm before the arrival of each advent Sunday.

On Saturday, the 1st of December, the prayer part of the ceremony will be led by the Parish of St. Mihovila, Lapad, and representatives of the City of Dubrovnik will light the first candle on the Advent Wreath.

Small stamps, large stamps, old stamps, new stamps, franked & international stamps... we want your stamps! Collecting used stamps is an easy way to raise money and save lives.

The Bone Cancer Research Trust is looking for support for their 2018 Stamp Appeal. The Bone Cancer Research Trust are the leading charity dedicated to fighting primary bone cancer, and now you can do your part to help.

“It’s so easy for your readers to get involved, we would like to ask them to save used and new postage stamps from the UK and overseas, any amount at any time of the year is very much appreciated. In 2018, we are aiming to raise at least £30,000 just from stamps and stamp collections,” commented the UK based charity.

The Bone Cancer Research Trust is the leading charity dedicated to fighting primary bone cancer and they need your help! Please save your new and used stamps for their Stamp Appeal. Christmas is coming and you may be getting lots of lovely Christmas cards, or maybe there’s a birthday coming up, or even your workplace receives lots of post! Instead of throwing stamps away, send them to the Bone Cancer Research Trust Stamp Appeal and they can turn your stamps into funds, so they can continue with their life-saving research, providing reliable information, raising crucial awareness as well as offering support to those who need it.

All you need to do is cut or carefully tear the stamped corner from any envelope or package that you receive and start a collection - just remember to leave a 1cm border around the stamp.

Invite your friends and family to join in and once you have a large bundle, bag them up and send them to our Stamp Appeal volunteer Terri at:

BCRT Stamp Appeal
20 Bowers Road
Benfleet
Essex
SS7 5PZ

Find out more at www.bcrt.org.uk/stamps

The Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) and Great British Chefs (GBC), the leading gastronomic organization gathering over 200 of the UK's top chefs, leading British media, influencers and leading British eno-gastronomic scene have organized an interactive event to promote the potential of Croatia cuisine and eno-gastronomy as an important part of the Croatian tourist offer.

The program was attended by stars of the British gastronomy scene Francesco Mazzei and Tom Aikens, who recently stayed in Croatian destinations where they met the local tradition of storing traditional dishes. The British audience was premiered by the award-winning Croatian chef Rudolf Štefan, owner of the restaurant "Pelegrini" in Sibenik, which is the holder of the Michelin star.

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The Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) is conducting a special promotional campaign focusing on the promotion of business tourism as one of the key segments of the Croatian tourist offer.

The campaign is being conducted up to the end of December this year on the markets of France, USA, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Benelux, Italy, Russia and Slovenia. The communication channels through which the campaigns are implemented are social networks (Linkedin), print ads in specialized MICE releases and online advertising channels.

"Business tourism is an important tourist product, because individual and group business guests make up a stable source of demand that is, depending on trends, the most prevalent in the pre and post periods. Investigations among hotel owners show that business guests account for 10 to 15 percent of all hotel guests. We will continue to promote this product on key foreign markets with a view to significantly expanding the tourist season, "said HTZ director Kristjan Staničić.

Growing up in White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA, Nina Toutant was surrounded with the classic New Hampshire culture of hardworking, down-to-earth people who are friendly to guests and newcomers. Little did she know that one day she would become friends with a ‘girl’ who grew up in Croatia, where people are equally strong, spirited and warm. Despite the geographic and language differences, both girls’ parents taught them the same human values, including how to help sustain their own culture, while appreciating the others’ from close and afar. For Nina Toutant, that has been evident in her passion for creating art in the form of the American tradition of quilting. For Mirena Bagur, born in Metkovic, Neretva – Valley of Life, Croatia, that zeal is today translated into creating awareness about the Croatian culture abroad.

Last winter, Nina and Mirena discussed the many similarities between the two cultures, and a decision was soon made – Nina will visit the Dubrovnik Neretva County. It turns out, other friends joined the trip to explore the country through the eyes of a local person that can show them the not-so-well-known parts of Croatia.

Visiting Narona

Metkovic being Mirena’s home town, she planned for the Narona Museum of Archeology as one of the very first places to visit. http://www.a-m-narona.hr/en/about-the-museum/ The group had a great time exploring the architecture of the in situ museum and getting familiar with the collections. The main hall includes the Augusteum temple featuring the statues of the emperors and family members.

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Nina Toutant, (third from left) with friends from Boston and New Hampshire hosted by BackDoor Tours Croatia, www.facebook.com/backdoortours/

Overlooking the temple from the above floor with the collections of decorative and functional artifacts, Nina noticed the black and white mosaic floor, remarkable in its simplicity. And, an idea was born!

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Fast-forward several months – the Toutants call to say they’d like to stop by to bring something. Imagine the surprise of seeing the Augusteum’s mosaic made into an American quilt! Nina has been quilting for many years, and participating in many quilting gatherings in America. However, it is unlikely she witnessed such an excited reaction to a quilt as she did from Mirena, who immediately knew where the pattern came from. Mirena dubbed the art piece “From Narona to New Hampshire with Love” clearly appreciating Nina’s thoughtfulness, but also the creativity and the phenomenal art work.

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Mirena Bagur, Winfried Burke with friend Nina Toutant – the artist who created a quilt inspired by the Narona’s mosaic in the Augusteum.

In cooperation with Dubrovnik restaurants, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board will once again traditionally organise the “Cod Fish Days” as part of the rich program of this year's Dubrovnik Winter Festival.

Along with prikle doughnuts and dried figs, cod fish prepared in different ways is one of the delicious traditional delicacies that can be found on most Dubrovnik tables during the winter months, and especially on Christmas Eve.

From December 21st to 24th you will be able to taste the authentic traditionally prepared cod fish dishes in Dubrovnik’s restaurants. These dishes are part of Dubrovnik’s gastronomic heritage, prepared according to traditional recipes, in white or in red sauce, or in some other ways, such as cream of cod fish soup, cod pâté or cod fish patties.

To say that Peter Greenberg is well travelled would be like saying the Artic is fairly chilly. From the 193 countries in the world his feet have trod on 151. He arrived in Dubrovnik as part of a congress of travel and tourism and was a guest speaker. Greenberg is a multiple Emmy-winning investigative reporter and producer, probably America’s most recognized, honored and respected front-line travel news journalist.

Known in the travel industry as “The Travel Detective,” he is the Travel Editor for CBS News, appearing on CBS This Morning. The Dubrovnik Times caught up with him and discovered his views on our tourism industry, overcrowding and why the airlines are controlling how and when we actually work.

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Since you have been reporting on the cruise ship business what major changes have you seen over that time?

There have been radical changes including the age of passengers, the demographics and the audience expectations. In the old days the average age of cruise passengers used to be 60 plus, now that has lowered to around 50 years-old, so you are dealing with an audience that is much more physically demanding than before. And from the other side the number of ports around the world has increased massively. Cruise ship passengers are now looking for new and exciting destinations, such as the Antarctic.

Dubrovnik has faced lots of international press in connection to the problems of tourism overcrowding. Are you aware of this and what are your feelings?

I am totally aware of it and that is one of the reasons why I have decided to visit Dubrovnik. It is a continuing problem but it is also one that can be managed. If all the stake holders are in the same room at the same time I’m sure that a solution can be found. Unless everyone starts to talk and stop protecting their own territory things are actually going to get worse. I understand the problem in Venice and I saw the same problem here in Dubrovnik four years ago, it isn’t a surprise to me really. People need to realise that you need to change the schedule of the cruise ships to ease the crowds. Cruise ships need to be arriving in Dubrovnik in the winter. I didn’t come to Dubrovnik to get a suntan; the sun is a bonus. I came to Dubrovnik to immerse myself in the culture, the history and to really experience the city. I’ve seen so many different things here that other people don’t see simply because I turned left when everyone else was turning right. You need to convince people to do more left turns.

Americans are the second most numerous tourists in Dubrovnik, and new flights from American Airlines from Philadelphia will start next year which will attract even more US tourists. Why do you think Dubrovnik is so interesting for American tourists? And in this time of more inward looking politics in America are we likely to see less interest for these new flights?

Firstly, on the flights. It’s great to hear that they have been introduced but I bet these flights will only be through the summer months. Do you really need more flights in the summer? Do you need more guests in the summer? It’s a big mistake to introduce only seasonal flights. The airlines are just following the numbers and not looking to develop the destination. Airlines must be directed to fly all year round and build up the winter tourism. Otherwise all you are doing is perpetuating the problem of overcrowding. You have to figure out – are you listening to the airlines or are the airlines listening to you. Right now it would seem that the airlines aren’t listening to you at all.

It’s nice that American Airlines are flying again to Dubrovnik after all those years but its problematic that they are only flying seasonally. What they are actually saying is “We don’t have enough faith to fly all year round.” The problem comes from Dubrovnik and not from the airlines because you haven’t educated them on the possibilities in the winter.

Secondly, on the inward looking question. In fact, the answer is the exact opposite. Without getting into politics what we have seen is a dramatic decrease in the number of tourist coming to America. They perceive my country as being unwelcoming and closed thanks to the Trump administration policies. Any time you talk about building a wall, even though it might only apply to one part of the population, everyone starts to think that America isn’t open to foreigners.

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Do Americans still think Dubrovnik is an exotic destination?

I remember coming on the first cruise ship after the war in 1998 and I remember going into the Old City and seeing rubble. For me Dubrovnik will always be an exotic destination, but it’s not really. Travellers are looking for an authentic experience, and they can find it in Dubrovnik especially if they come in the winter.

Were you born with itchy feet? Where does your love of travel come from?

My love of travel, or at least that’s what I’m told, comes from about the age of six. My parents took me on my first flight from New York to Los Angeles and when we landed the flight attendants all signed a certificate for me, which I still have, making me the first member of the American Airlines “Sky Cradle Club.” I grew up with a family that was really into travelling. When I went to college, I was a student of journalism, at a time when there were lots of anti-war demonstrations. I was lucky enough to get hired by Newsweek at a very young age. And I was travelling everywhere with that first job. Then it dawned on me when I was around 19 that nobody was covering travel like news. They were all covering travel with shots of swimming pools, bikinis and happy couples walking along the beach. That to me isn’t travelling. That to me is fluff. I wanted to focus on the process. So that’s what I’ve done over my career.

In a modern world dominated by social media, hashtags and influencers how relevant is a travel journalist? Is Instagram positive or negative for promotion?

I see it as a negative step, I see it as fluff and even worse. It isn’t properly vetted. There is no gate-keeper there to say “That’s garbage” or “You were sponsored.” Just because someone has a smart phone it doesn’t make then smart. To me when someone tells me they have a blog the question you need to ask is other than your mother who else reads it. Where is the experience? What are the brining to the table? Taking nice photos of food isn’t a qualification. I am not a spokesperson for anybody. I accept no money to promote products.

Finally, what are your favourite destinations and why?

I don’t have a list of favourite destinations but I do have a concept. My definition of my favourite places is where I sleep the best. Because where you sleep the best, is also where you create the best, where you eat the best, where you love the best and you feel the best. I probably have twenty places around the world where I sleep the best and interestingly all of them are by bodies of water. So Dubrovnik could well be on that list.

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