Tuesday, 16 April 2024
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

“What Stolac? Why would you what to go there?” said my wife to me. To be fair I didn’t really know where I was going. I knew nothing about Stolac. And more to the point I wasn’t actually near the town.

So let’s rewind a little.

I was offered a job of translating a rather long book for a very important Croatian institution that were celebrating their 150th anniversary. When I say long that is somewhat of an understatement. Over the years I have done a tonne of translating, from Croatian ministries, to famous authors and restaurant menus. “It’s around 150 pages long, and in places rather specialised,” said one of the publishers.

To say it wasn’t my field of knowledge would be another massive understatement.

I started, and then stopped, well rather I gave up. It became clear to me very quickly that to do this job I was going to need a controlled environment, or rather an environment that I controlled.

“I think I am going to have to go away to the mountains for a few days in complete peace and tranquillity to be able to do this,” I said to my wife. Mountains had sprung into my head because this was a book for the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. A view of some mountains might give me inspiration.

Now it proved surprisingly difficult to find anything that really suited my needs in Croatia. But an hour and a half away across the border I stumbled on a what looked like a gem. I booked it for four days and a few days later I packed and left.

I had my GPS set for Stolac because this place didn’t have a village name or a number, yes it was a "no number" house.

“You can’t miss it from the road,” I remember my host had said. I drove up another hill, my eyes peeled for any sign of life, and then in the distance I saw a group of trees and what looked like a stone block. “That must be where I am staying,” I said to myself as I drove up a short gravel road.

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Photo - Mark Thomas 

 

Now try and imagine an ice-berg in the middle of the ocean, and you have some idea on my accommodation.

I walked around the home and nothing, there were no neighbours, no sign of life (apart from a flock of sheep in the distance), nobody and nothing apart from the road I had driven on. Out of sheer curiosity I quickly got my drone up in the sky.

“Well, this is perfect,” I said seeing green hills and fields for as far as the eye (and my drone) could see.

I got settled in, I even brought my own computer chair from home to make sure I had the best conditions to work with. And the next day I got to work.

I don’t think that I have ever been so productive in my life. My flingers flashed over the keyboard, I was laser focused on the first chapter, and (apart from a short lunch break) I completed over 40 pages in day one.

As darkness fell I went out for some fresh air. “F*** me! This is full-on scary,” I whispered.

My nice view of the green mountains had been replaced by black with a capital B. If you want a solitary life in nature be prepared for the night. I don’t think I could see more than 15 metres. Note to self – before booking such a place don’t watch The Shining the evening before.

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Photo - Mark Thomas 

 

I then looked up. One bonus of having zero light pollution is the night sky. Never have I seen the Milky Way so bright and in such detail. I ran for my camera. Set it up on a tripod and then heard the blood-chilling echo of a wolf cry. It sounded like a lone wolf. And it didn’t sound so far away. I half imagined seeing a pair of eyes though the darkness. Needless to say my camera and tripod spent a night outside as I ran for the sanctuary of my stone house.

Day two was equalling as productive and apart from a power cut which thankfully didn’t last into the evening meant another chapter was almost done.

When you cut away all the outside noise of everyday life it is so much easier to work. Now I understand my Hemmingway went to Cuba.

Day three and I had finished another 40 pages and the second of three chapters. That was my plan before I went and I was ahead of schedule. All this time my mobile phone was switched off (what a joy) and I would speak to my wife via WhatsApp before bed.

I was in a black hole (literally at night) and to tell you the truth loving it. My reasons for going were for work, but somehow I managed to combine that with a refresh, a stocktake, from everyday life. We all need that at some point, not as a luxury but as a necessity.

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to

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About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik

             

The works on the project for the remediation of part of the coast and the construction of a pier in Cavtat are nearing completion. It is a project worth over five million euros, funded by national funds.

The Municipality of Konavle is currently financing the asphalt works in front of the Cultural Centre in Cavtat, and in the autumn, the remediation of the entire street will continue.

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The Mayor of the Municipality of Konavle, Božo Lasić, thanked the Government of the Republic of Croatia, led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and the Ministry of the Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure, led by Minister Oleg Butković, emphasizing that this renovation was much needed.

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He also said that this complex project is the result of excellent cooperation that the Municipality has with the Dubrovnik-Neretva County and the County Prefect Nikola Dobroslavić.

He also thanked all the residents of Cavtat and Konavle for their patience and understanding.

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The project includes the reconstruction of part of the Cavtat waterfront, the construction of a new coastal wall, and the strengthening of the load-bearing wall. The project is managed by the Port Authority of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

It is worth noting that the Municipality of Konavle recently replaced infected palm trees on the Cavtat waterfront, as well as old pine trees in the parking lot behind the old town.

 

Today, March 23rd, marks the 28th national humanitarian campaign "Daffodil Day." From 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., under the arches of the Sponza Palace in the very heart of the Old City of Dubrovnik, the League Against Cancer Dubrovnik and its Club of Oncology Patients (KOB) are hosting a campaign to sell daffodils and distribute leaflets and brochures. Proceeds from this initiative will support individuals affected by oncological diseases.

We urge citizens to join us in large numbers, demonstrating solidarity and compassion towards those in need during this important event organized by the League Against Cancer Dubrovnik.

The City of Dubrovnik will once again join the "Earth Hour" initiative of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). On this occasion, on Saturday, March 23rd, from 8:30 pm, lights will be turned off for one hour in the northern and western parts of the city walls - from Revelin to Pile, including the Bokar Fortress and Stradun.

This year's Earth Hour is focused on individual actions that each of us can take to contribute to the health of the planet, and thus to our own health as humans. Earth Hour is a perfect opportunity for solidarity, collective care for others, and for ourselves. Therefore, we invite all citizens, individuals, and businesses to join the initiative by turning off the lights in their homes or premises.

Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney as a symbolic event of lights-out, and today it is celebrated in more than 180 countries and territories. Croatia joined this initiative in 2009, and the number of participating cities continues to grow each year.

As Easter approaches, homes throughout the Dubrovnik region bustle with activity, preparing for one of the most significant religious holidays of the year. Steeped in tradition, Easter in Dubrovnik is a time-honored affair, where customs are revered, and past generations' wisdom is treasured. Among the most cherished customs of Easter in Dubrovnik are the elaborately decorated Easter eggs, a tradition that has endured for centuries.

In the Holy Week leading up to Easter, locals embark on the intricate process of hand-painting eggs using the traditional "penganje" technique, which is particularly prevalent in the Dubrovnik region of Primorje and Konavle.

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These hand-painted eggs, known as "pengana" eggs, are renowned for their intricate ornaments, written messages, and greetings that are unique to the region. While the "penganje" technique may appear daunting at first, experienced artisans from Primorje and Konavle insist that practice makes perfect, with each painted egg becoming more beautiful with time.

The process begins with raw eggs, which are carefully painted using a needle with a protruding tip, mounted onto a piece of wood, typically laurel. This tool, known as a "penica," is dipped into melted beeswax and used to inscribe messages and designs onto the eggshell.

In the past, when traditional farmhouse kitchens were prevalent, women would hold bowls containing ashes and embers on their laps, where the beeswax would melt at a consistent high temperature. Today, modern conveniences such as stoves or special stands with small candles facilitate the melting of beeswax, making the process more convenient.

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Legend has it that the first painted egg of Easter is traditionally given to a loved one, often featuring a heart as a central motif. These "pengana" eggs serve as expressions of love and affection, often revealing romantic crushes or hidden emotions. As such, recipients of these gifts were carefully chosen, and red "pengana" eggs, symbolizing life and nature, were particularly prized.

Despite the passage of time, the tradition of hand-painted Easter eggs in Dubrovnik continues to thrive, cherished as a symbol of cultural identity and heritage. Families gather together, passing down the art of penganje from one generation to the next, ensuring that this age-old tradition endures.

The significance of these eggs extends beyond their decorative appeal; they serve as tangible expressions of love, unity, and the enduring spirit of Easter. As Easter approaches, homes in Dubrovnik come alive with the vibrant colors and intricate designs of these cherished symbols, a testament to the enduring power of tradition and community.

 

The Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, received today an official visit from the Mayor of the American sister city Monterey, Tyler Williamson. The two cities share a 17-year-long friendship, culminating in the collaboration of the Dubrovnik Half Marathon ''Du Motion,'' created with the assistance and cooperation of the international Big Sur Marathon held in Monterey.

Discussions also revolved around other potential collaborations, particularly in the field of music. The previously initiated initiative for collaboration with the Monterey Jazz Festival was revisited, which was halted due to the pandemic.

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Photo - Grad Dubrovnik 

"It's great to see what has been accomplished here in terms of tourism. It's something we share, and I believe we could collaborate in the service industry," said Mayor Williamson. In this regard, Mayor Franković acquainted him with the project ''Regional Competence Center in Tourism and Hospitality,'' in which the City of Dubrovnik participates as a partner.

Today is Water Day, an annual event, highlighting global challenges in accessing clean water and sanitation, with a focus on addressing climate change impacts. Originating from a UN resolution in 1992, it emphasizes universal access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

This year's theme, 'Water and Climate Change,' underscores the urgent need for integrated action. Extreme weather events worsen water scarcity and pollution, posing threats to vital systems worldwide.

Croatia, topping the EU ranking for freshwater resources according to the EU statistical office Eurostat, boasts abundant water sources, surpassing countries like Finland and Sweden.

Ensuring the sustainable management of these resources is crucial for Croatia's development and environmental preservation. Water Day serves as a reminder of the importance of sustainable water management, ensuring equitable access to this essential resource while mitigating climate-related risks.

 

Ryanair, the Irish low-cost carrier, have recently announced enhancements to their flight operations for two new destinations: Zagreb and Sarajevo, reports the leading aviation news portal in the region EX-YU Aviation.

For Zagreb, Ryanair is increasing frequencies and extending operations on their new route to Girona, Spain. Starting from July 5th, travellers can enjoy an additional weekly rotation, bringing the total to three flights per week. This expansion will run until the end of the summer season in late October, offering more flexibility for those planning their travels. The inaugural flight for this route is scheduled for April 1st, marking the beginning of a convenient and budget-friendly connection between Zagreb and Girona.

Meanwhile, in Sarajevo, Ryanair is also making adjustments to their new seasonal service to Thessaloniki. Originally set to run until August 28th, this route will now continue operating twice per week until September 29th, providing travellers with an extended opportunity to explore this vibrant destination. With flights launching on July 3rd, passengers can look forward to even more options for their summer getaways.

 

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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