Monday, 06 July 2020
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.


The popular UK newspaper the Independent has released an article entitled “Six once-dangerous countries that are now safe holiday destinations,” and Dubrovnik finds itself on the list. Certainly one of the inspirations behind the article is the recent events in Paris, Egypt and Mali and the need for tourists to explore “safe” destinations. Although the relevance of Croatia on a list promoting “once-dangerous” countries does seem a little out-of-date as the Homeland War ended twenty years ago. And Croatia is the only European country to be included on the list, the others being Colombia, Nicaragua, Namibia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The article harks back to the past with mentions of the former Yugoslav tour operator “Yugotours.” - “Sun-sational Yugoslavia,” as the federation was marketed, was all about the Adriatic coast - stretching from the Istrian peninsula in the north to Dubrovnik in the south. Offering a week in the sun for as little as £99, Yugotours was sending nearly one million Brits a year to the country by 1990 – opens the Croatia article. It then goes onto mention that almost half a million British tourists are expected to visit the country in 2016.

The 2Cellos have become the most popular Croatian musicians on Facebook.

The duo of Luka Sulica and Stjepan Hauser, known globally as the 2Cellos have reached a landmark of one million likes of their official Facebook page and have become the most followed Facebook page in the whole region.

The 2Cellos add photos, videos and comments to their official Facebook page on a regular basis and every entry is greeted with thousands of likes and comments.

The Croatia cello duo are still some way off the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo with 109 million likes and Shakira with 105 million likes, but one million is still an impressive landmark.

The Dubrovnik Times caught up with a photographer and travel writer who has recently spent some time in the city. The images of Dubrovnik that Crispin Zeeman captured were, to say the least, stunning. He managed to capture the heart and soul of Dubrovnik and his passion for his profession shone through like the August sun. He has brought the colours and contrasts of four continents and over thirty countries to life, and now it was the turn of the Dubrovnik region. We found out what makes Zeeman tick when he picks up his camera, how Dubrovnik mesmerised him and why he compares Dubrovnik to a well-dressed man.

“What are you waiting for? Get your bags packed and go visit this place (before it gets so busy you need to join a waiting list!).” - Crispin Zeeman

Could you give me some more information about yourself?

I never knew my grandfather. He disappeared in mysterious circumstances in 1929, long before I was born. Christian left his native Denmark when he was 22 years old. Joining a crew of fishermen, he set off to explore the world, travelling through Eastern Europe, Russia, Siberia, Kamchatka and was “last seen” leaving Japan on a ship bound for Hawaii. When I came to live in Oxford (UK) in my 20s, I was captivated by the majestic city that towered up around me. I felt compelled to photograph it – in case it changed. I wanted to preserve and share that sense of awe and wonder that I felt whilst living in the historic city. From here, there was no turning back, and I fixed my gaze (and viewfinder) on the distant horizon, travelling and photographing the world beyond. I feel I was destined to travel; to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather. My photographs always tell a story. They are a celebration of life, of the diversity of the world around us; the beauty of land, the richness of each culture, the human spirit, the pure emotion. Many of the people I have met have impressed me with their strong, proud sense of cultural identity. I am compelled by my encounters with people and their cultures to capture their essence – in an effort to preserve, in part, the unique beauty and elegance of our world, before it changes or disappears altogether. I am lucky to have had the freedom and opportunity to use my photographs for the benefit of charity and education – especially for promoting the ethics of protection and preservation of peoples and places under threat from poverty and climate change.


Why did you decide to visit Dubrovnik and was this your first visit?

I had never been to Croatia before but had seen many beautiful photographs and read some interesting travel articles over the years, especially the about the Dalmatian coast. I was looking for a fresh destination for a short summer break this year – somewhere culturally interesting, steeped in history, good weather, inexpensive, relatively close by – and after watching Game of Thrones, it all clicked into place. I wanted to visit Kings Landing!

How would you compare Dubrovnik to other tourist destinations that you have visited?

George Bernard Shaw once said, “If you want see Heaven on Earth, come to Dubrovnik.” He was not wrong. The old city is majestic. A quintessential historic World Heritage ‘city-state’ ringed with wonderful solid and powerful walls, offering fantastic views across tightly packed houses stacked up on each other, defiantly ancient walls and vibrant terracotta rooftops. I love destinations like Dubrovnik where the traffic is kept out leaving exploration only on foot, allowing the curious traveller to walk back in time through corridors of sunlight and shade. Dubrovnik reminded me of pockets of Europe I’ve wandered through in Italy, France, Spain and Greece – old fortified towns, landmark churches and horizon-crossing towers – but this city and it’s culture still felt unique and in touch with it’s own sense of identity. Considering the huge numbers of tourists visiting the old city, it was very easy to get off the beaten track into the quiet ‘nooks and crannies’, hidden squares and silent architectural character. One minute you’re on a busy street, then you climb some stairs or divert through a tunnel and suddenly the crowds feel distant, with some curious cats, or locals hanging out the washing on one of the thousands of clothes lines that criss-cross above you in the old streets and stairwells. Ever-increasing numbers of visitors swell the Stradun of Dubrovnik almost to bursting point, but behind the scenes a quieter traditional life continues to thrive. Sure, it’s clearly European, but very much its own character.

Were you happy with the service, price and general tourist offer?

I liken the Dubrovnik ‘tourist offer’ to a well-dressed, educated man, who knows he is popular, who cares about his reputation, and feels a need to uphold the promise of this to everyone. Indeed, he’s quite in demand, having to handle many people at any one time. So if on first impression, he seems a little brusque and offhand, don’t despair. If you’re polite, patient and inquisitive in your approach to Dubrovnik, the city will embrace you and treat you like a VIP! We stayed at a two-story flat in the old town nestled high up on the north side of the old city with terrific views over the rooftops. The owner, a local woman called Lydia, was very hospitable and charming; a pleasure to meet and talk to. We enjoyed many pleasant meals – best of which were at Horizont, Taj Mahal, Azur, Nishta, Glam Café and Bugenvila in nearby Cavtat (also worth a visit).


Were there any surprises, pleasant or bad, during your time in the country?

Just after we’d arrived, we wanted some no-fuss lunch somewhere nearby the flat and Lydia recommend a small place just up the steps and round a corner; a discreet place on a quiet back street, facing the city walls. She called it Lady Pi Pi. I thought nothing of it … until we discovered the statue sitting on the wall of this small restaurant. Not seen decor quite like that before! The panorama from the Srđ Mountain is amazing. I timed my visit to the latter part of the day, to get the best of late afternoon light, (and avoid crowds at the cable car terminal). That light, that view – a gift to photographers. Many of the first photos in my gallery are from this view point. The War Photo exhibitions are outstanding – everyone should make time to visit this place. Important moments in history – both locally and globally – captured through the enduring power of photography. Lokrum Island is lovely. More recent tourist development (i.e. metallic restaurant blocks) on the island felt a little soulless, which is a bit of a shame considering how much the authorities seem to want to protect the natural capital value of the island. But we sat on some ancient-looking steps ‘hidden’ behind the new blocks, sharing our packed lunches with a peacock and it’s chick.

Would you recommend Dubrovnik to other friends and family, and if so why and if not why not?

Absolutely; I’ve been recommending it to everyone ever since I got back. 

What would you have liked to have done in Dubrovnik but were unable to?

Circuit the walls more than once on the same ticket. Once I’d completed my first periplus around the walls, I knew I still had maybe another hour of evening left before sunset and I’d like to have re-visited certain views from the walls to get different angles and perspectives in the golden light. But when I tried to go round again the ticket inspector denied me access, pointing to the ‘small print’ on the ticket, explaining that he was “just doing his job”. A little disappointing; I would’ve let me through!

As a freelance travel photographer, how photogenic is Dubrovnik?

Dubrovnik is a paradise for photographers. I think my gallery speaks for itself in answer to this question. I strive to create images that communicate the essence of a place, and actively look for angles and views that I’ve not seen, or at least feel fresh to me at the time. I do a lot of image research before I visit a destination and I like to walk around a place as much as possible to get feel for the light and shadow and the rhythm of life. If I’d had more time, I’d have talked more with the locals to get a better insight into their daily lives and hopefully capture some of that in my pictures. Then there those ‘unique’ moments where being in the right place at that time (and with the right lens!) can reward the fast-thinking photographer with some really nice, quirky or unusual shots. I sometimes grab candid shots of other tourists taking photos. I find this can help communicate a sense of enthusiasm felt by others visiting the destination; I like to think people looking at these images will picture themselves enjoying the place too.

Can you give our readers a few tips of taking the perfect holiday snap?

I’m always happy to offer advice on how to take photographs. I was in Dubrovnik in mid-summer, with long hot days of almost cloudless skies. So my tips are based on that time of year for this city: - Plan your day round the sun: First thing in the morning or late afternoon are the best times of the day to take photos – especially for capturing the warm hues on buildings and vistas. In the middle of the day when the harsh light flattens the contours, visit a church or a museum – or go for a long lunch. Harsh sunlight of the middle of the day is useful however for using reflected light off walls and floors to gently illuminate otherwise shaded areas. - Don’t always go for the obvious angle: look up, down, back … walk around a site to get every perspective. - Sit still for while. Find a shady spot, take a cool drink and just watch life pass you by. You can guarantee something interesting will happen before long. - Look for details as well as the bigger picture. - Get your selfies and souvenir photos out of the way, then concentrate on the scene, the people, the action. - If you’re looking for memorable moments, be ready to shoot at a moments notice; you never know what you’ll come across. - I used two camera bodies, using a 12-28mm wide-angle lens and a longer 70-300 zoom respectively. I shoot most of the time using aperture priority in order to control depth of field, saturation and sharpness, or I switch to manual to take light readings through the camera and get sample shots, assessing composition and lighting for trickier shots. My goal is to achieve as much as possible in-camera to minimise optimisation afterwards.

How would you describe Dubrovnik in three words?

Stunning. Sun kissed. Stepped.


Text - Mark Thomas
Photos - Crispin Zeeman

During the 2014/2015 school year, a total of 1,063 students enrolled in post-graduate programmes and of them 675 were women, making up 63.5% of all postgraduates, show statistics provided by the national statistical office (DZS).

Broken down by location, the University of Zagreb had the largest share of post-graduate students, 76.6%, and was followed by the University of Osijek, with 10.9%, while Rijeka University's share was 8.6% and Split University's share was 3.4%. The University of Pula had only a 0.5% share in the total number of postgraduates, according to the DZS.

Broken down by the type of postgraduate studies, the biggest portion of enrollments was bio-medicine and medicine, 42.9%, and social studies 42.6%, followed by technical studies, 5.9%, bio-technical studies, 2.6%, humanistic studies, 2.2%, etc.

Broken down by age, most postgraduates, 34%, were students aged 25-29, while the cohort 55+ had the smallest share, of 0.5%.

Regarding employment status, the lion's share or 93.2% of postgraduate students were employed, and 6.8% were out of work.

As for who paid the cost of postgraduate studies, employers covered the costs in 48.8% of cases, 47% of postgraduates paid for their courses themselves, and the Science and Education Ministry covered the costs in 0.3% of the cases.

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The gale force northerly winds in Dubrovnik that caused the Dubrovnik Bridge to close and interrupted flights from Dubrovnik Airport also caused havoc in the port of Dubrovnik. Many smaller boats were half-sunk in the heavy seas and strong gale force wind, known locally as the “bura.”

The winds, which were predicted by the meteorological centre for this weekend, bring with them colder temperatures. The Dubrovnik Bridge was closed to all traffic this morning and the first flight to Zagreb at 6.40 was also cancelled.

The northerly winds are expected to die out by the beginning of next week and by Wednesday Dubrovnik could see some scattered showers and cloud cover.

boat sunk croatia

“The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog,” wrote my namesake the great Mark Twain.

I am soon going to have to think about buying a bigger house, or maybe buying a ranch in Konavle. Soon there won’t be room for me to stretch my legs. “Why don’t you hang a sign on your door – Mlini Zoo – and sell tickets,” joked one of my friends. “You could probably get some European funds for animal welfare,” he added.

As you may or may not know I am already the owner of two dogs, a small, white temperamental terrier mix called May, and an overweight, lazy, black Labrador called Zag. The newest member of the clan is an argumentative, yet cute, kitten called Lona. Yes, dogs and a cat together, a cocktail for disaster. All of these pets have two things in common. They are all rescue animals and they are all named with a purpose. May, the first member of the gang, was found in May. Zag was found in Zagreb; yes this is a nationwide gang. And Lona was rescued half-dead from a rubbish container when my wife was on her way to Barcelona, Lona sounded nicer than Barca. Dr. Doolittle, as I have renamed my wife, would be happy if we adopted a mouse, a hamster and a pony to complete the set. Of course it is nice to save a soul. To give a second chance to an animal in need.

At first the kitten was frightened out of her skin at the sight of a horse-like black dog and a battle-ready terrier closing in on her. However the difference between dogs and cats is intelligence. She soon found a way to outwit the slow-witted duo. She can jump higher, climb better and crouch lower than her dog partners. “Do you think she will be alright with these two,” I asked my wife, stupid question. Within days she was stealing their food, taking their place on the couch and digging a place into our hearts. May and Zag gave up the chase. They resigned themselves to defeat. Brains had beaten muscles. The pen was indeed mightier than the sword. The Mlini Zoo was fully functioning.

Can dogs and cats live in harmony together, obviously the answer is yes. In fact the answer came a few mornings ago. It was just before sunrise and I was awoken from a deep sleep by an animal orchestra. Not only an orchestra but also I was trapped under my blankets. I tried to roll one I moved the other way and found another blockade in the way. Giving up that I would fall back to sleep I half opened my eyes to be greeted with a bed full of pets. A deep bass snore was coming from Zag at my feet. A high pitched more lady-like snore was coming from May on my left-hand side. And squeezed between me and my wife was Lona purring her head off. I was trapped in an animal prison. We had gone to bed that night without any of these invaders on our bed. They had all taken up their sleeping positions in various parts of the house. Yet, like ninjas in the darkness, they had all made their way under the cover of the night onto the bed. And as if to prove her intelligence and resilience Lona had taken the prime position between us. Once again the newcomer had shown her cunning.  

The cat is a criminal mastermind; the dog is merely an opportunist. My morning concert continued. “Why am I the only one awake,” I wondered. “Why aren’t the snores of the dogs waking up the cat or vice-versa, and why isn’t Dr. Doolittle awake.” I lay awake staring at the ceiling listening to the animal ensemble. It slowly, very slowly, started to hypnotise me and after an hour or so I fell off to sleep again. Almost immediately I felt a thunder in my ear. Was I dreaming? Was someone using a grass trimmer at this time of the morning? I tried to ignore it, to force my mind to think of something else.

The roll of thunder continued. In defeat I opened my eyes and another pair of eyes were staring right back at’s eyes. “What the hell do you want,” I whispered at the staring eyes. “Meowwwww,” was the answer. Feeding time, the zoo was open for business and Lona wanted breakfast. Not only had the smallest member of our family managed to train the dogs to obey her but she was also twisting me around her little finger, or should I say little claw. Another quote from Twain to finish “If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but deteriorate the cat.”

Mark Thomas 

Strong northerly winds in Dubrovnik have meant that the Dubrovnik Bridge has been closed to all categories of vehicles from 6.42 this morning. The strong winds blowing down over the mountains have also brought the temperatures down, with highs today expected to reach 9 degrees.

Not only is the Dubrovnik Bridge closed but also the first flight from Dubrovnik Airport at 6.45 this morning was forced to stay on the runway and didn’t take off to Zagreb.

The forecast for the beginning of next week is for more northerly winds and lower temperatures but by Wednesday the wind will have abated and temperatures will start to rise again.

Following news that Dubrovnik will be connected to Amsterdam and Vienna by low cost airlines for 2016 comes the news that Venice will also have its own budget link. The Spanish airline Volotea will connect Dubrovnik with Venice throughout the summer season of 2016 with twice-weekly flights starting on the 28th of May.

Volotea is one of the Europe’s youngest airlines and was founded in 2012 in Barcelona and currently connects around 50 European destinations. Volotea will offer competitive rates to Venice with prices starting at around 80 Euros for a return flight. Venice, which is a twin city of Dubrovnik, is already connected by the Croatian national airline, Croatia Airlines. Volotea will connect Dubrovnik to Venice twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays and plan to operate the line until the 3rd of September 2016. The Spanish airline also flies directly from Dubrovnik to Bordeaux.

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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