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.
The Hotel Bellevue in Dubrovnik has been named by The Times as one of the top thirty beach hotels in the Mediterranean; in fact it was number one!
“A short walk from Dubrovnik’s Old Town on a quiet cliff, the Bellevue lives up to its name with excellent views across the sea,” opens the short piece on this Dubrovnik hotel.
With a daily circulation of just over half a million copies this article in The Times will certainly help to raise interest for Dubrovnik in one of the most important markets for the tourism business. Over the past few years the number of Brits visiting Dubrovnik has steadily grown making UK tourists the most numerous in the city.
Hotel Bellevue, which is part of the Adriatic Hotel Group chain, is a five-star hotel within walking distance of the historic Old City of Dubrovnik.
“And this was when you first started playing cricket…and this was when you and your sister went to Stonehenge for the first time,” the list went on and on as we moved from one wall to the next.
In stark contrast to my wife and me my parents just adore filling the walls of their house with family photos. In fact not just the walls, almost every surface, every table, bedside cabinet, well pretty much every vertical and horizontal space. I don’t really know why they even bother to paint the walls in the house; they have “family wallpaper” covering almost everything. This is the exact opposite of our house. We use the excuse of, “well we have just moved in,” which worked for the first few years but we have been in our “new” house for almost seven years. The excuse is wearing a little thin.
Quite often we get frames as presents, mainly from my mother and probably as a motivation for us to start actually putting photos up, however these frames remain empty. Well not all of them are empty; some of them still have those photos that you get when you buy the frame already in them. You know the ones I am talking about, the black and white photos of a loving couple looking romantically off into the distance as if they are characters from a William Wordsworth poem. We even had one of these “Wordsworth” photos on the wall for some time until we finally got around to putting our own, slightly less romantic, photo inside.
When the excuse about the new house had died I moved to the excuse of, “nobody prints photos anymore,” and brought up the fact that we live in a digital world and that our family prints are all on display on Facebook. Not a very convincing argument I know.
“And this was the photo when you did the advert for that German shop in Dubrovnik,” continued my mother. I half heard her as I gaped at myself in full Technicolor on the Stradun. Believe it or not, and most of you will find this hard to believe, but I actually once posed for an advertising campaign for DM! I know…I can’t really believe it either. But here on my mother’s living room wall was the proof. And it brought memories flooding back. “How the hell did they choose you,” I can hear you all yelling. The answer is by default. DM wanted to advertise their products to an international audience and in order to do so they had decided to shoot foreigners in recognizable locations around Croatia.
From my memory they used the amphitheatre in Pula, the main square in Zagreb, the Riva in Split and the Stradun in Dubrovnik. I was chosen to walk down the Stradun swinging a DM carrier bag. It was the highlight, and lowlight, of my modelling career. And it was quite probably the end as well. In the end the photos, my photos, weren’t chosen by DM as I didn’t look foreign enough. Maybe if I were wearing a bowler hat, drinking a cup of tea, driving a Mini Morris, holding a copy of The Times and swinging a cricket bat I would have passed the, “you don’t look English enough” test.
Then I spotted a photo of the young me, aged around six, chewing on a Black Jack. Drumsticks, Fruit Salads, Banana Skids, Fizzers and my favourite Black Jacks, were the sweets of my youth. We would save up our pennies and treat ourselves to these brightly coloured sticky sweets. Give us the chance and we would eat them from sunrise to sunset, or at least until out teeth fell out. “Oh how I would love to taste one of those Black Jacks again,” I sighed. To my surprise and horror I could. These sweets had long since disappeared from the shelves; however one company had re-launched them and branded them as Retro Sweets. I was now officially retro!
As soon I discovered this I sped down to the shops and sought them out. I was imagining the sticky sweet flavour, drooling over the candy of my dreams. I bought the biggest bag I could find, it felt like half my body weight in retro sweets. Scrabbling like a madman through all the rainbow coloured sweets I found it, the Gold Medal of all sweets. Massacring the wrapper like Freddy Krueger I throw the Black jack into my mouth. “Argh, this is bloody awful, what idiot would eat this,” I leaned over a rubbish bin and spat out the disgusting sweet. I guess some things are best left in our memories, or on the walls of our mother’s houses, and not relived.
Property prices in Croatia are continuing their downward spiral; however the fall is slowly stopping. Recent house prices in Croatia show that prices across the country have dropped by an average of 1 percent in January 2016 compared to December 2015. However when these latest property prices are compared to January 2011 show a 9 percent drop.
Zagreb, the capital, saw property prices stabilise with the average price per metre squared remain the same at 1,546 Euros.
By far the most expensive real estate in Croatia is in Dubrovnik. The average price per of a metre squared in Dubrovnik is 3,033 Euros, followed by Split with 2,227 Euros, Zadar with 1,643 and Zagreb with 1,546.
Property prices are on the slide in Dubrovnik, in December 2015 the average price per metre squared was 3,195 Euros and in January 2016 3,033 Euros, a drop in price of 5 percent.
Croatia population is continuing to shrink with recent figures showing that there were around 27,000 less citizens in the country in 2015 compared with 2014. This a trend that has been continuing for a few years, Croatia has one of the oldest populations of all European Union countries and this can be seen in the birth to death ratio from last year.
According to data from the national statistical office there were 38,142 births in Croatia in 2015 and 55,651 deaths. The figures show that Croatia had a population 4.210,770 last year which is around 27,000 less than in 2014.
A proportion of this drop in population numbers comes from Croatians leaving the country to find work in other EU member states. However the biggest problem is the overall age of the population. The demographic picture has been changing for some years. The average age, which was 30.7 sixty years ago, has risen to 41.7. Almost one quarter of the population of Croatia today is over 60 years old, while fifty years ago, it was only 12 percent.
As the filming dates for the eighth episode of Star Wars in Dubrovnik come ever closer any sign of possible filming is greeted with rumour and counter rumour. This morning tents were erected in two different areas of the Old City of Dubrovnik and were immediately linked to the filming.
Are these the tents for the Star Wars crew or are they tents for the use of the current Mercedes Global Training Event in the city, as yet nobody can confirm either.
The City of Dubrovnik is keeping tight lipped as a contract of silence signed with Lucasfilm, the production company, keeps them from revealing any information to the media. The tents have been erected and will we learn in the coming days if they are indeed to house the Star Wars actors and crew or whether a Mercedes will be placed in them. The Dubrovnik Star Wars sage continues.
Dubrovnik has been featured in a European Union project with a stunning new video entitled “The City.” UNESCO world heritage around the Adriatic were included in a project co-funded by the European Union within the framework of the Adriatic IPA Cross-Border Cooperation 2007-2013 program.
The results are magnificent and Dubrovnik, its history, its traditions and its culture, shine through in this video. The video was released at the final days of the EX.PO AUS project in Dubrovnik in early February. Seven countries and twelve partner cities were all included in the project with Dubrovnik as the lead partner. The main coordinator of the project EX.PO AUS was Biserka Simatovic from the Department for entrepreneurship, tourism and the sea of the City of Dubrovnik and Jelena Mrcela director and owner of Dalmatia Aeterna Ltd.
Apart from Dubrovnik this Adriatic project included the Region of Istria, the City of Split, the Province of Ferrara, the Municipality of Ravenna, the Municipality of Alberobello, the University of Primorska in Slovenia, the Centre for Conservation and Archaeology of Montenegro, the Commission to Preserve National Monuments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Office of Administration and Coordination of Butrint in Albania and the Municipality of Corfu.
This new promotion of Dubrovnik on a cultural level was produced by the Dubrovnik based LMT Studio and the owner, Tonci Miletic, commented that “It was an honour to be involved in such a worthy project.”
Check out "The City" video!
Dubrovnik will soon be connected to another international destination, Tehran. According to information in the media charter flights from Dubrovnik to Tehran in Iran should start on the 18th of March this year.
These first charter flights from Iran are the result of the removal of long-standing sanctions from Croatia to Iran. The first group of Iranian tourists are set to land on the 18th of March at Dubrovnik Airport, and there is another nine flights planned over another three week period. According to reports the flights will be operated by a Swiss airline, however more details are as yet unconfirmed.
Other international airlines are also starting to reintroduce direct flights to the Iranian capital with British Airways opening links on the 14th of June this year.
The south wind died down, the clouds parted and Dubrovnik was bathed in warm sunshine today.
Tourists and locals made the most of the bright sunshine to spend an “Al fresco” afternoon. Whether reading a book, spending time with a loved one or sightseeing the monuments, is was a mild winter’s day in the city.
The Dubrovnik Times photographers were on the spot to catch the atmosphere in the city today.