Sunday, 28 February 2021
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

Can you be a tourist in your own city? Well let’s face it at the moment there aren’t any foreign tourists so there’s an absolute need for some kind, any kind, of tourists.

I’m not sure if I have ever been on a guided-tour of the Old City. That all changed this weekend as I became a member of the “follow me” brigade.

Firstly, it was actually nice to get out of the house for an afternoon and actually socialize with real people, rather than virtual faces. Of course, it did help that the weather was absolutely beautiful, spring and all the hope that it brings are hammering on the door.

We started, just like the standard tour groups, on Pile. But with one major difference, we were literally the only living things (apart from the pigeons) on the entrance into the city.

The tour, which was strictly socially distanced, was a 2-hour insight into the love stories of the city. Clearly, this was a theme more interesting to the female population as I was one of only two males in our group. The history, legends, art, culture and social/political workings of the city, or should I say Republic, never cease to amaze me. And just when you think you’ve got a good grasp on everything your eyes are reopened with a plethora of stories about love.

As we entered the city and were greeted by an almost empty Stradun, I couldn’t help but think just how bloody gorgeous the city is when its empty. If Dubrovnik was a model it would be a super-model!

In many ways it was like a trip down memory lane for me. The pandemic gave me a chance to experience Dubrovnik just how I did over 20 years ago. So many visitors don’t get the chance to see the stone without sandals sliding over it, or admire full façades without gawky advertising all over them or to even imagine what life was like in the golden days of the Republic. I have a tough time explaining to many friends who visit that it’s even more enchanting in the winter. For I, like many other foreigners who live here, actually prefer the city out of the warm seasons.

I learnt a million things, all loosely based around romance. I also learned that of all the streets inside those proud walls only one is named after a woman - Ulica Cvijete Zuzorić. James Brown was spot on when he sang “It’s a man’s world!”

From the old prostitute district in the walls, to an airplane crashing and the greatest foreign love stories, Edward and Wallis Simpson and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Love was in the air!

Indeed, judging by the number of foreigners who still choose Dubrovnik as their location to say their vows love is certainly still in the air. And quite frankly in such majestic surroundings falling in love is easy. The tour ended, as was rather fitting, on Porporela, the site on many romantic liaisons. We thanked our excellent and informative guide and took the rare opportunity to stroll the city. I say rare because visits are very few and far between.

With our heads filled with all things “cupid-like” it was easy to ignore life’s dilemmas. Drinking coffee-to-go on the best bar in the city – the stone palisade of St. Blaise – and being the only customers of the day in the ice-cream shop. Priceless!

Slouching along Stradun and window shopping at the closed-up stores. Standing at one end of Prijeko and being able to see right to the other end without all those tables and adverts. And of course, being able to park with a stone’s throw of the walls.

We so often can’t see the forest for the trees. We can’t appreciate the incredible beauty around us. We’re being bombarded with all kinds of information that our filters become blocked and we fail to see what is right in front of our noses. There have been very, very few positives to come out of this pandemic, but that Sunday afternoon soaking up Dubrovnik would have to be in my top three.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness,” once wrote the great poet John Keats. There was sheer beauty that day and I was walking right in it.

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

In the last 24 hours, 356 new cases of Covid-19 virus infection were recorded, and the number of active cases in Croatia today is 3,213. Among them, 762 people are in hospital, of which 67 are on ventilators. 15 people died.

Since February 25, 2020, when the first case of infection was recorded in Croatia, a total of 242,973 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, of which 5,526 have died, a total of 234,234 have recovered, of which 344 in the last 24 hours.

There are currently 14,328 people in self-isolation.

To date, a total of 1,344,652 people have been tested, of which 5,810 in the last 24 hours.

 

In the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, 66 new cases of coronavirus infection were recorded in the last 24 hours (18 determined by a rapid antigen test).

These are 28 people from Konavle, 26 from Dubrovnik, ten from Župa and one each from Orebić and Ston.

A total of 29 males and 37 females were infected, and 39 individuals had an established epidemiological link.

There are currently 621 active cases in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, of which 562 in the area from Ston to Konavle (Dubrovnik 246, Konavle 222, Župa dubrovačka 77, Ston six, Dubrovačko Primorje 11).

32 people made a full recovery - 15 from Konavle, nine from Dubrovnik, five from Župa, one each from Dubrovačko Primorje and Slivno, and one person who does not reside in our county.

In the last 24 hours, 248 samples were processed, and since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 44,789 samples have been analysed.

43 people tested positive for coronavirus are currently hospitalized in the Dubrovnik General Hospital. Five patients require intensive care, four of whom are on invasive ventilation and one on non-invasive ventilation.

There are 1470 people in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours there have been three violations of the self-isolation measure (all three violations of the measure determined at the border).

At this week’s press conference, the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, and the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Staničić, presented the Safe stay in Croatia project, a web platform through which all interested stakeholders can find information on what Safe stay in Croatia represents, download security labels and leave impressions.

Due to the improving epidemiological conditions, Croatia was recognized as a safe destination last year, which will continue to be worked on in 2021. In addition to the already known World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) label Safe Travels, a national label called Safe stay in Croatia was created. This is an important project in establishing Croatia as a safe and desirable destination, but also an incentive for all stakeholders in the travel chain - from gas stations to airports and ferries as well as hotels, marinas, private apartments, museums and other attractions to continue adhering to epidemiological measures.

"During the preparations for this tourist year, in which, unfortunately, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, we have put the safety and health of our fellow citizens and guests in first place. It is a project in which the Ministry of Tourism and Sports was supported by leading tourist and professional associations gathered in the Council for the Recovery and Development of Tourism, the realization of the tourist year 2021 and the improvement of the tourist offer. With the prescribed protocols, we have covered more than 200,000 caterers and service providers in tourism," said Brnjac, adding that it is important to ensure that the national label is available to all stakeholders in tourism and the travel chain, which she says, has been achieved.

The Croatian National Tourist Board is in charge of the promotional campaign. "We will carry out campaign activities during March and April in the markets of Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, France and the Netherlands. In addition to the promotional part, which refers to the positioning of Croatia as a well-prepared and safe tourist destination, this campaign has an educational character because we want to introduce our guests to protocol and epidemiological measures implemented at all levels of tourism to provide them a safe and comfortable stay in our country ", said Staničić, adding that advertising activities, including through video, will be carried out on online channels and social networks with #SafeStayInCroatia and on the most read online portals in these markets.

We would like to add that the public will be able to search all stakeholders in the tourism sector bearing the Safe stay in Croatia label via the website www.safestayincroatia.hr, find relevant information on health and safety protocols in seven basic categories, but also find information on how to act in case of suspicion of COVID-19.

"Users will have the opportunity to leave their impressions through the form on the website, which is important feedback that we will be able to use for further upgrades," said Brnjac and invited all interested stakeholders in the tourism sector and related activities to join Safe stay in Croatia campaign, download security labels for free and thus contribute to the perception of Croatia as a safe destination.

 

Dubrovnik is a photographer’s dream, let’s face it you can throw a camera in the air and capture a stunning photo. And every day Instagram is filled to overflowing point with some absolutely blasting of the pearl of the Adriatic.

We have selected this week our top five “Spring is on the way” photos from Instagram. Check out our top five inspiring Dubrovnik Instagram photos from last week and keep sending us your own photos and videos of the region. We just love your feedback!

And don't forget to follow our Instagram page

 

Immediately after the disastrous event, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin and HNS president and UEFA Executive Committee member Davor Šuker started discussing potential ways to provide necessary relief to Sisak-Moslavina County that suffered severe damage from the earthquake on December 29, 2020, with the epicenter near Petrinja.

At their initiative, a charity friendly match between Croatian and Slovenian football legends will now be played in Petrinja on March 13. As part of this event, UEFA will present a donation to the Croatian Red Cross to help areas that were hit the most during the violent earthquake.

"Our thoughts are with the people of Croatia in these difficult times. We hope that football’s contribution will help them overcome the challenges caused by this terrible earthquake and assist in recovery of the Petrinja region," said UEFA President Čeferin.

As part of the same event, the Croatian Football Federation will also present a donation to the Sisak-Moslavina County Football Association. The donated funds will be used to renovate football infrastructure that has been damaged by the earthquake.

The Football Association of Slovenia, a co-organizer of the charity football event, and their President Radenko Mijatović will also join the cause with a donation of their own.

"We are witnessing once again how powerful the solidarity and friendship within the European football family are. I believe the Croatian Red Cross will help UEFA’s financial aid reach those who need it the most, and I am also certain that our own donation to the local county football association will greatly help the local football family recover. I am convinced that football is among the most effective ways to bring a smile back to people’s faces, especially children. Let this game be a small first step in returning to normal life,” said HNS president Davor Šuker.

The friendly match between the football legends of Croatia and Slovenia will be played on March 13 at Mladost Stadium in Petrinja, with kick-off set at 13:00 CET.

 

As every year, the Dubrovnik Sharks are inviting all those interested to get involved in Dubrovnik’s American Football club, which currently holds the title of Croatian vice-champion. And this year for the first time the club are looking to enrol in the junior category from 11 to 15 years of age.

Enrolment can be done directly by coming to the training in one of the times -

Monday at 20:30 and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 21:00 on the artificial grass pitch near the sport’s hall in Gospino polje.

"All you need are football boots, comfortable sportswear and good will! Anyone can enrol. You have to be 11 to 15 for the junior category and 15 and older for the senior category," the Sharks point out.

For more information and enrolment, you can contact - 

- in the inbox of the Facebook page - www.facebook.com/dubrovniksharks

- on mobile: 0915209786

- to mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Apparently it is the darkest hour just before the dawn, and with Spring in the air today, it certainly feels that way.

Let’s face it, it’s been a tough winter. This is my first full winter in Croatia, so I’ve nothing to measure against, but my local friend Ivana tells me that it has been the hardest winter in Molunat she has ever known.

We’ve had extreme weather to deal with, another lockdown, and the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic and all it means for the season ahead.

Over these past few days news from the UK has meant for me that my four retreats I had booked out in May are now unlikely to happen, nor am I likely to get back to British shores anytime soon.

It’s not disastrous but I feel the disappointment of my guests, as well as venues and other business owners whom this affects.

It’s been hard to see there is light at the end of the tunnel, when it will ever settle down again, and when we can get back to our normal working lives.

I felt it too.

But then.....

“What a difference a day makes.... just 24 little hours....”.

This song is in my head as I take the paddleboard out on the flat, clear water of the Adriatic Sea for the first time in 2021.

The sun is shining, it’s a relatively balmy 13 degrees, and there’s just me and nature.

I’m lucky in that I can step out onto the water from my doorstep, paddle round the bay to the supermarket for provisions, hug the coast around to Metale beach for a little stop off, and then make my way over to Veliki Skolj (little island) for my little piece of paradise.

It’s a deserted island, except for some wild goats, with a pretty little cove and then a scramble up to a clearing in the woods. On this particular day, I encounter a little kid goat who seems to have lost his way, and is separated from the herd.

I can see where the rest of the goats are, but the little kid can’t see and is a bit distressed, so I call over to him and try communicating in my (very limited) goat language, mostly sign to be honest, as to where he needs to look.

There’s a moment when our eyes meet, and honestly I felt like the whole world stopped, and my heart just melted.

It was the most beautiful scene as he looked over and saw the herd, and all I felt was pure love. No fear, no frustration, no disappointment nor worry, it was all overcome by love.

Everything that had happened up until this point in my life was a distant memory, all the worries I had felt like they’d been blown away with the Jugo, and all there was was this perfect moment in time.

“Life is magic”, I thought, as I watched the little fella trot like a young and excited Bambi over to be reunited with the herd.

I was reminded that, in order to maintain our sense of balance in this often-crazy world, we need to take time away from it all, even if it’s just for a couple of hours to remember what’s real and what’s not.

Just me, the board and nature, that’s all it took.

There’s a pure simplicity to SUP, and if you’ve not tried it, I’d highly recommend it. It’s eco-friendly, gods for fitness, it hardly makes a sound, and as the paddle cuts smoothly through the water in time with my breathing, it’s like a moving meditation.

Molunat, as a protected bay, with so much to explore, is perfect, and it looks like the whole week is going to be weather like this.

So I make a commitment to myself to do this each day, in the morning when it’s flat; to take myself away from it all, to my little piece of paradise, to nature’s abundant playground, and to look for the magic.

For like the light, magic is always there, if you look for it.

And as we feel the light return, it really does feel like it was the darkness before dawn.

Read more Gillie here...  

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Gillie Sutherland grew up in the north of England, before settling in Devon, but has now swapped her UK address for one on the Adriatic in the very south of Croatia, in Molunat. A professional Wellness Consultant she now runs retreats and online courses from her Konavle base. She also writes a weekly column for the Devon newspaper, The Express and Echo.

To find out more about Gillie go to www.behappyfit.co.uk

 

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