Friday, 14 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

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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Croatia are the 2018 winners of the prestigious tennis championship, the Davis Cup, after defeating France in the finals in Lille. And the whole world seems to be congratulating Croatia on this 3-1 victory over France, the second time in the country’s short history that they have won the Davis Cup.

Here is just a selection of the messages of congratulations following the victory

Pat Cash
Congratulations #Croatia! Last home and away final. To win away makes men from boys. Expect a good year from #Coric.

Judy Murray (Andy Murray’s mother)
Croatia win the Davis Cup. They also made the World Cup final this year. And they have a population of just 4 million. Impressive.

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Bob Bryan
Congrats to Croatia on the @DavisCup victory. I’m always impressed with the humility and class that @cilic_marin shows in victory and in defeat. #truechampion

Zlatko Dalić (Croatian national football team coach)
‏World Champions, winners Davis cup Croatia, congratulations!

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U.S. Ambassador Zagreb
‏Davis Cup championship for Croatia. Congratulations.

Mateo Kovačić
‏Congratulations #teamcroatia for winning the @DavisCup for the second time!!! #WorldChampions #proud

The humanitarian action organised by the popular Dubrovnik restaurant “Konoba Veranda” raised an impressive 36,550 Kuna.

The team at the restaurant held a 24-hour action in which they prepared meals from 6.00am on Saturday morning to 6.00am on Sunday morning.

This day-long action was aimed at raising enough money to fund the purchase of a CTG machine that is used for pregnant women for the purpose of monitoring beating (foetal) heart and contractions of the uterus.

Well done to all the staff at Konoba Veranda for this worthy humanitarian action!

For the second time in history Croatia is on the top of the tennis world after winning the 2018 David Cup in Lille against France. Marin Čilić defeated Lucas Pouille, the highest ranked French player, after two hours and 19 minutes of play in front of 25,000 spectators in the Pierre Mauroy Stadium.

Čilić out played Pouille and with a straight sets win - 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 – gave Croatia a 3-1 win over France, the second time Croatia have won this prestigious trophy.

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"For us it's a dream come true, for this nation. You can see the fans are so passionate and they are here enjoying themselves. In Croatia it's going to be incredible too,” commented Čilić after the match.

The last time Croatia won the David Cup was in 2005.

The predicted rain and storms certainly arrived in style in Dubrovnik today with high seas and crashing waves. The forecast for the next few days is for more of the same. The rain is forecast to clear by Wednesday afternoon and then more stable weather will arrive.

The crashing waves around the ancient Old City of Dubrovnik today were absolutely an attraction for the hundreds of tourists still in the city.

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The Croatian national airline, Croatia Airlines, reached an important landmark this week when they transported their 2 millionth passenger in 2018.

In fact, 2018 has been a positive year for Croatia Airlines as passenger numbers remained solid in spite of the threatened strikes. Croatia Airlines reached the two million passenger mark a full two weeks ahead of last year and in fact this is only the second time in the company’s history that they have handled two million passengers in one year.

The two millionth passenger arrived on a flight between Munich and Split.

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Showers

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Dubrovnik

Showers
Humidity: 93%
Wind: E at 20.92 km/h
Saturday
Showers
10°C / 15°C
Sunday
Partly cloudy
7°C / 11°C
Monday
Scattered showers
7°C / 12°C
Tuesday
Scattered showers
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The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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