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.
Dubrovnik is proving a magnet for sportspeople this year. We have seen Premier League footballers, NBA basketball players and Olympians from all disciplines. And, as the cherry on the cake, one of the greatest ever handball players, Kiril Lazarov, stayed for an extended break, to both relax and prepare for another hard season. Lazarov is a key player in the best club handball team in the world, Barcelona, as well as being the captain of his national side Macedonia. There isn’t much he hasn’t won along the way in his rich career, from starting out in Croatia with Zagreb to stints at Atlético Madrid and finally since 2013 at Barcelona. Everywhere he has gone goals have followed, he has even scored an incredible 935 goals on national duty. We caught up with the “goal machine” during a break in the Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel where he was a guest. He is no stranger to Dubrovnik; in fact it’s almost like his second home, but who could blame him.
This is not your first time in Dubrovnik; in fact you are a regular visitor, how did you first “discover” the city?
I first came to Dubrovnik when I was playing in Zagreb, we played the cup semi-final here, in think that was around 2010. During the three days that I was here I simply fell in love with the city. Since then I come every year, not only is it a beautiful destination but it is also relatively close to Skopje where I live, driving distance. In my opinion the Adriatic Sea in Croatia is the cleanest sea in the world. You can’t compare it to other Mediterranean destinations; it’s just so clean and attractive, unparalleled.
How long do you think you will continue playing for Barcelona?
Professional sportspeople don’t know how long they will be at any club. I am extremely happy at the club, but the most important thing for me is to keep playing well and to keep winning. I am a world traveller and don’t know what will be around the corner, but for the moment I am more than happy, Barcelona is a great club, a great family.
Hanging out with Kiril in Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel
Would you like to play again in this region?
That’s a hard question to answer. I am an ambitious person, and an ambitious player. I would like to keep playing at the level I am now for a few years more yet. When I come to the day that I am not happy with the level I am playing at then I will think about my future. This region has a great history and tradition of handball. The leading clubs in this region can easily go toe-to-toe with the best clubs in Europe. I have played in Croatia, Macedonia and Spain, a total of seven clubs, and am more than happy with the course of my career.
You have already said that you are a “world traveller” how often do you visit Macedonia?
I was born in a small place called Sveti Nikole in Macedonia but now live in the capital Skopje. Yes, I don’t have much time to visit home. But whenever I have time I visit friends that I grew up with in Sveti Nikole, at least for a day or two. My mother still lives in Sveti Nikole.
How would you compare life in Barcelona and this region?
I have to say that the weather, the climate, is almost exactly the same, which suits me. Barcelona is a mega-city, with all of the contents that you would expect from such a city. The Spanish as a nation are relatively similar to this region; they are very energetic and communicative.
It seems that you already have a circle of friends in Dubrovnik?
Yes, people are very friendly here and I have been lucky to make quite a few friends. Even though Dubrovnik isn’t a handball city, this is a water-polo city; I think that Croatians love all types of sport.
How satisfied are you with the Valamar Dubrovnik President, I hear that you are a regular guest?
Yes, every time I come to Dubrovnik I stay in this group of hotels. I am not really on a classic “sun, sand and sea” holiday. I spend some time in Macedonia and whilst I am here in Dubrovnik I also train every day. I swim, run and use the gym every day. The facilities here are perfect for me and I almost feel like part of a family when I come back.
According to the latest data from the Croatian Central Bureau of Statistics the rate of registered unemployment in June 2016 dropped to 13.6 per cent.
Compared to the previous month the rate of registered unemployment decreased by 0.8 percentage points, whilst compared to last June it decreased by 2.0 percentage points. As expected, the lower rate of unemployment in June is a result of usual seasonal activities and trends which have a positive effect on the labour market indicators during summer months.
''We expect the continuation of this trend in the days ahead of us, but due to the abatement of the main summer season a part of the seasonal workers employed in the tourism industry and support activities awaits the return of the unemployment status. This also indicates deeper structural problems on the Croatian labour market which is characterized by the low share of the active population, low rate of employment and the long term unemployment. Also the education structure of the unemployed population usually does not meet the demand for workers of certain profiles'', said Raiffeisenbank Austria (RBA) analysts.
The latest data from the Croatian Employment Service on the percentage of unemployed population in June show that in terms of education, around 58 per cent of the unemployed has high school education degree, 22 percent has primary school degree whilst 6 per cent of unemployed population has no qualifications or elementary school education degree. While the rest of the people without work, accounting for 14 percent of the total number of unemployed, has some degree of academic education.
The official indicators from the same source confirmed that this decline of the unemployment rate was partly caused by the negative migration trends. Thus, in the first six months this year the number of the unemployed registered at the Employment Service who signed out from the register of unemployed in order to find employment abroad reached 2,900 or 12.7 percent more than the same period last year.
''According to our expectations the official rate of unemployment could be lower this year i.e. slightly below the average rate of the registered unemployment recorded in 2015'', predict the RBA analysts.
Every weekend our resident "Style Guru" will be scanning the streets of Dubrovnik for the latest and greatest in fashion.
Croatian vacation: sun, sea, beaches and murder! Yes, murder! That's what Austrian writer Eva Gründel thought when she published the novel ''Killing heat – Croatian crime story''. It doesn't matter if it's about a sandy beach in Split, the Dubrovnik Old City, Zadar or Kornati – her novel takes place along the Croatian coast and her main characther Elena Martell is, like the author, a tour guide. She's on a Dalmatian tour, listening to the crickets, enjoying the Dingač wine and the boat slowly rocking on the waves and she is also on the trace of a murder: a dead body is floating in the pool reserved for tuna breeding.
While many guides, promo books or monographies about Croatia are created daily, Eva Gründel goes one step further and uses her vacations for inspiration.
Her thrillers take place in the famous tourist destinations. The author was born in Vienna and currently lives in Sicily. In 2014 she has published ‚‘Killing time – English crime story‘‘ and this year the new edition of ‚‘Killing coast – Sicilian crime story‘‘ was published.
The millionth passenger to travel through Dubrovnik Airport will arrive on Thursday the 28th of July on a flight from Istanbul. The millionth passenger will arrive a full almost a full two weeks ahead of this landmark from last year, when the millionth passenger landed on a Finnair flight on the 9th of August.
The flight from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines is expected to land on the 28th of July at 9.45am on the flight TK439.
Dubrovnik Airport is certainly having an impressive year; one could even say a surprisingly impressive year. Records are being broken, passenger numbers are soaring and new investment has been secured.
On the 14th of July the Dubrovnik Airport had its busiest ever day when it handled nearly 18,000 passengers. This is the most passengers that the airport has seen in a single day in its 55-year history. In fact passenger numbers so far this year have been much higher than expectations. The deputy director of Dubrovnik Airport, Frano Luetic, commented that he is extremely surprised with the growth of passenger numbers so far this season, “We have seen an unbelievable 16 percent increase in passenger numbers through the airport since the beginning of the year and a massive 18 percent increase in June.”
In the first six months of 2016 Dubrovnik Airport greeted 676,000 passengers, which is a huge 15 percent increase over the same period from last year. The airport had predicted a growth of between 3 and 4 percent for the year, “the double digit growth we have seen during the first half of the year has truly surprised,” added Luetic.
Speculation about season seven of the HBO serial Game of Thrones has already begun, season six recently finished broadcasting and the Game of Thrones rumour mill is in full force. Dubrovnik, which is the location of King’s Landing, has starred in the serial since season two however this year there seems to be a question mark as to whether Dubrovnik will be a filming location. The seventh season requires colder and darker locations meaning that firstly filming will start later than normal, through the winter months, and that sunny locations are surplus to requirements.
"We're starting a bit later because at the end of this season, “Winter is here” - and that means that sunny weather doesn't really serve our purposes anymore," commented the executive producers of the show David Benioff and Dan Weiss. This statement alone would seem to suggest that Dubrovnik is not in their plans as a filming location for this year. And as season seven will be filmed later than normal it will also be broadcast at a later date, instead of spring 2017 the planned release date is the summer. Weiss added that that they are looking for some "grim, grey weather" for the upcoming season.
Exact information on the locations to be used for the seventh series is still not available. However Northern Ireland, Iceland and several locations in Spain, including the volcano on Tenerife, have been mentioned as possible locations. Croatia, and Dubrovnik, still seems to be off the radar, although this has yet to be confirmed. Last year Dubrovnik was only used sparingly as a location, although previously shot scenes did appear. But with colder weather and grey skies needed Dubrovnik doesn’t fit into this description.
“Wasn’t it nice to have a couple of days of rain,” said an English friend to me last weekend. I had to smile, two Englishmen adoring the fact that rain had fallen in the summer, I guess it made us feel at home. You can take an Englishman out of England but you can’t take England out of the Englishman.
There was an American sitcom that I used to enjoy whilst growing up, it was called Different Strokes. The name of the serial derives from the American phrase that means everyone has their own way of doing things or approaching life, Different Strokes for Different Folks. Or as the English would say, we all march to a different tune. I am in the front line of these differences; I have a foot firmly placed in both camps. I have firsthand experience with the nuances of life on both sides of the line.
Many of these differences I have forgotten along the journey, but catching up with this “freshmen” English friend who had just got off the plane brought many of these memories back to me. “I walked into the bathroom and couldn’t find the light switch anywhere, I ended up going to the toilet in the dark,” was his opening salvo as we enjoyed a coffee together. Ah, I remember that lesson, lesson six I believe, the light switch is on the outside. “I ordered a cup of coffee and they brought me a glass of water with it,” was the next along the conveyor belt. These small details are just second nature to me now, in fact when I don’t get a glass of water with my coffee in England I wonder why. But to this recent addition to the foreign community in Dubrovnik they were still unusual and confusing. Things which I just take for granted were being highlighted again, it was like a trip down memory lane.
“And when do all these people find time to work, unless they are all unemployed, they seem to sit and drink coffee all day,” was the next observation. Yes, that’s a classic one I hear quite often from tourists. Coffee time isn’t just a question of getting a quick caffeine drug fix; it’s more of a way of life. “No they don’t really see the point of coffee-to-go in Dubrovnik, after all where would they go!” I replied. He was trying his best to pick up the language, for which I commended him for, because he had realized without a working knowledge of Croatian his days here were numbered. And he had taken the same approach as I, be a sponge and soak up the language. This approach, whilst effective, can lead to some bewildering situations.
“I don’t know...I just don’t know, it seems that everyone I met has the same name, men and women...Jesse,” he slumped over his coffee. “Don’t worry just keep pressing on, it is hard but well worth it, and Jesse isn’t a name, it’s a greeting,” I calmed his fears. “Yes, I realise that now but I couldn’t find Jesse in any of the language books I read. That’s why I gave up with the books and took the immersion method,” was his answer. “And what’s with all the yogurt!! Eating yogurt with sandwiches, with bread, with pies, with everything, I don’t get that,” was the next detail. I had to admit that that was one particular habit that I have never understood and would never dream of adopting.
Content with the update he waved goodbye and tried to show off his Croatian by shouting after me “Jesse.” Never mind at least he was trying. As he wandered away a local friend stopped me, “got time for a coffee?” he asked. I smiled to myself thinking back at the last conversation about people only drinking coffee, and agreed. “That guy he has to be English,” was the first question, “he is wearing sandals and socks.” I hadn’t really noticed, but yes he was.
Then came the “Different Strokes for Different Folks” moment. “Why do all he English wear socks with sandals?” I had heard I a thousand times before. “For the same reason that you are wearing a vest under your T-shirt,” I answered. “But I wear a vest to soak up the sweat,” he looked confused. “Exactly,” and then I joked a little, “The English only sweat from their feet and therefore need socks to soak it up.” OK, it was a little joke but there was truth behind it. That is exactly the reason why people wear socks with sandals, to avoid getting slippery feet. I have never worn a vest under a shirt or T-shirt; in fact I don’t even own a vest, although my grandfather did, but then again I don’t wear socks with sandals either.
So I guess I am stuck somewhere in the middle between the UK and Croatia, a foot, or should I say a sweaty foot, in both camps.