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.
Nolan Funk got his big break into the world of acting with leading role in an award winning Broadway show at a relatively young age, and he never looked back. This multi-talented Canadian born actor broke teenage hearts when he starred in the smash hit serial Glee as Hunter Clarington, highlighting not only his acting but also his dancing and singing skills.
The list of films and serials that he has appeared in, and indeed the actors he has played with, fills a far too many pages for us to list. And he his boyish good looks he has also created an impressive modelling career, including being the Face of Versace alongside the legendary Lady Gaga. We caught up with Funk in the five-star Hotel Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, where he was staying for a few days’ break, to dig a little deeper into his amazing story.
Nolan Funk soaking up the Adriatic sunshine - Photo Bozo Radic
Is this your first time in Dubrovnik and what are your impressions of the city?
I have found all the people to be really genuine and kind. I really love this cool beach town vibe that I pick up here, I wasn’t expecting that at all. I have been to the beaches and to the island of Lokrum, and they really blew me away. The nature on the island is amazing. Although I did laugh to myself on the island as I have a little phobia of rabbits, as I was bitten as a young child, but at least I enjoyed the peacocks. This is my first time not only in Dubrovnik but also in Croatia.
Did you have any preconceived ideas of what Dubrovnik would be like?
I have a friend who told me that when I’m next in Europe I need to visit Dubrovnik because it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is right up there with Paris in terms of beauty. I really didn’t expect it to be so impressive and that the Old City was so big. Seeing such an old walled city right next to the sea is truly a sight I will never forget. It is magical. I will definitely come back.
"One of the most beautiful cities in the world" - Mark Thomas editor of The Dubrovnik Times interviews Nolan Funk - Photo Bozo Radic
Are you in Dubrovnik on business or pleasure? Might we expect to see you on screen soon with the Old City as a background?
I am in Europe on some business, but my trip to Dubrovnik is purely pleasure. I would love to film something in Dubrovnik in the future, we’ll see. It kind of works like that. I recently went to Charleston, South Carolina, and a few weeks later I ended up doing a movie there, so you never know.
Out of all of the films and serials that you have acted in which are you proudest of?
It is really hard to pick to be honest. I would say that sometimes the work that you see on screen you’re more proud of, but the experience of filming wasn’t as enjoyable. Whereas sometimes you are having a great time filming and then when that show hits the screens it doesn’t do as well as you thought it would. I had some luck when I was young, I was the leading star of a major Broadway show when I was quite young. I love doing stage. I had a lot of fun filming the serial Glee of course. I also liked playing an assassin in Riddick with Vin Diesel. That role really pushed my acting skills and it was hugely enjoyable.
What’s your main passion, the big screen or Broadway?
Acting on Broadway was something I have only done once but it was a great experience. So for me probably film and television are closer to my heart, but saying that I would love to go back to the theatre and do a straight play. It certainly is much harder work on the theatre. But I love those constant challenges.
"I love constant challenges" - Photo Bozo Radic
You were the face of Versace along with Lady Gaga. What was it like working closely with her?
Yes, it was a crazy time. I remember we went to the Vanity Fair Oscar party together. What I love about Gaga is that she is so creative and innovative. So is always transforming. And that’s what I am trying to do with my acting career. People will Google me and get one impression, maybe think of me as a teen television character, but the reality is that I have taken on so many different and unusual roles. I have to say that when you walk into a room with Gaga the whole room stops; she has such a presence.
What advice would you give to budding young actors looking to break through into what is a pretty tough industry?
The first thing is to stop telling yourself that it is tough! People would always say to me at the beginning of my career that it is a tough business, but I would respond positively and answer “No, it really isn’t”. Obviously there are challenges, I have a long list of jobs I didn’t get. First of all, don’t do it unless you can’t see yourself doing anything else. You have to push 100 percent. Then I would say do it as much as possible. And try to enjoy yourself. I was once on the cover of the New York Times Arts and Leisure and instead of just enjoying that moment I was thinking about the next job.
Who are your idols or mentors in the industry, someone that you hold up as a shining example?
Obviously I love George Clooney and Michael Fassbender. I would love to work with both of those, I have been lucky to have acted with some great people, such as Jennifer Lawrence.
If you had the choice to work with any actor tomorrow who would they be?
Probably with Fassbender and then Emily Blunt, she is amazing. I would also love to work with Matt Damon.
What projects are you working on at the moment, where and when can we expect to see on the screens again?
I am committed to do a film in January next year. And I have just finished doing a movie shot in the southern part of America which should be out soon. Also a film called “Berlin I Love You” which I played alongside Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley. That should be coming out in Croatia soon.
All photos by Bozo Radic
After news broke that American Airlines could well connect Dubrovnik with another American city soon the popular specialised aviation website EX-Aviation have reported that flights from Chicago could be launched in 2021.
The biggest airline in the States introduced direct flights from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik this summer season, with three non-stop flights a week. This service has proved extremely popular, so much so that the airline added an extra weekly flight in September. And then went a step further by upgrading flights next year to a daily service. In many ways this American connection is historic, as it is the first time in 28-years that Croatia has had direct flights from an American destination. And the upgrade to a daily service seems to prove that the airline has made a sensible business move.
The number of American tourists has been growing steadily in Dubrovnik over the past five to six years, in thanks partly to the success of the HBO serial Game of Thrones and Dubrovnik’s leading role as the location of King’s Landing.
Speaking to the American Airlines podcast “Tell Me Why” Vasu Raja, the airline’s vice president of network and schedule planning, stated that “Barcelona, Venice, Athens, Prague, Dubrovnik, Prague, and Budapest - all of those started in Philadelphia,” he said. “We realised they could also work in Chicago given where the traffic was coming from.”
First American Airlines flight greeted at Dubrovnik Airport - Photo Tonci Plazibat
EX-YU Aviation have reported that after Philadelphia the next American city to have direct flights could well be Chicago. This would tie in with the business thinking of Raja, who has clearly made this move before. American Airlines test out a destination through Philadelphia were it seems that costs are lower, if that test works then they upgrade the service, with the next step being introducing more expensive airports, such as Chicago.
Presumably if Chicago then goes according to plan other cities could open flights as well, however there is clearly a limit on the number of American destinations that Dubrovnik could receive flights from due to the limited size of the destination. There have been calls from many for direct flights from New York and Dubrovnik, however such flights seem a long way down the road as the airport costs from New York are restrictive for such flights.
The crew of the Qatari yacht "Fateh Al Khair" which is currently sailing the Mediterranean to promote the 2022 World Cup in Qatar visited the island of Korcula on Friday. The crew was greeted by the mayor of Korcula with his associates and the ambassador of Qatar in Croatia with his associates.
In fact, Korcula is the only Croatian port on the route for the Qatari ship, and the crew handed out special 2022 World Cup presents to help promote the biggest football event on the planet.
The Qatari crew were treated to a special performance of the traditional Korcula sword dance, Moreska, which dates back hundreds of years. And whilst the arrival of this World Cup ship was good promotion for the World Cup it was also superb marketing for the island of Korcula as the Qatari crew filled their social media accounts with photos of the picturesque island.
On the 31st of August 1878, exactly 141 years ago to the day, the esteemed British newspaper, The Illustrated London News, ran a front cover featuring Dubrovnik. The rather detailed illustration shows the crowds on the main street through the historic core, the Stradun, with the caption “The Austrian provinces of Dalmatia: street scene in Ragusa.”
The Illustrated London News was first published in 1842 and was the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine. It continued on a weekly basis until 1971, but then finally stopped in 2003.
Dubrovnik, or rather Ragusa as it was known in those days, featured on the front cover of this illustrious publication as the magazine was following the Austrian army’s military campaign in Bosnia. And the newspaper writes “As for Ragusa, that city was, and still is full of distressed refugees from the neighbouring Turkish provinces, who has sought Austrian protection.”
The Congress of Berlin of 1878 assigned two Ottoman provinces, the Vilayet of Bosnia and the Sanjak of Novi Pazar to administration by Austro-Hungary. In July of the same year Austrian troops began the occupation of the two provinces but encountered widespread resistance from the Muslim population of Bosnia. During a campaign that lasted until October 1878 the Austrian forces suffered casualties of 946 dead and 3,980 wounded.
In fact, 1878 was the first time that Muslims started arriving in great numbers in Dubrovnik. When Bosnia and Herzegovina - following the Vienna Congress territorial agreement and the will of the world powers at the time - was integrated into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, so that Dubrovnik and its Bosnian and Herzegovinian hinterland became parts of the same state.
Interestingly the magazine cost “sixpence” back in 1878, which is roughly the same value as £7.00 today, which is a little more expensive than Time magazine costs today.
Plenty of mega yachts have dropped anchor in and around Dubrovnik, and indeed Cavtat this summer season, but today was a day for no ordinary mega yacht. The Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich, is not a man for cutting corners when it comes to splashing the cash, but with an estimated fortune of over $12.5 billion he probably isn’t counting the pennies.
The second largest private yacht in the world- Photo Mark Thomas
And he really dipped deep into his pockets when he purchased the luxurious yacht Eclipse in for a whopping $500 million. In fact, when Eclipse was delivered to the Russian oligarch it was the largest yacht in the world, at a staggering 162 metres, or over half the length of the Stradun.
And this afternoon Eclipse dropped her hefty anchor in the Bay of Cavtat, immediately making all the other yachts look like dinghys.
Eclipse literally eclipses all the other mega yachts in Cavtat - Photo Mark Thomas
This is a yacht armed to the teeth with luxury. Not one but two helicopter pads, two swimming pools, countless hot tubs, a mini-submarine, three launch boats and a crew of 70 to operate all the equipment and to make sure that the passengers are treated like royalty. And armed to the teeth it certainly is as it is reported that the Eclipse even has a missile detection system. And if you feel like a bogie then the monster ship even has its own disco. The floor of one of the swimming pools can raise and turn into a dance floor, in fact not just one of the swimming pools but the largest swimming pool on any private yacht in the world.
Abramovich is no stranger to Dubrovnik, in fact he has been a regular visitor to the city for the past decade. However, it has yet to been confirmed that the ninth richest man in the UK is actually on board.
If there is one thing that truly and utterly sums up what it means to be English, then it is without doubt the sport of cricket. They literally stop the game to have a cup of tea, yes the tea break is an essential part of a day of cricket. And I say a day of cricket because the full form of the game last for five days! Imagine that, one game lasting five full days. Of course you need a few tea breaks.
This is a sport that I have tried on numerous occasions to explain to my wife and a few Croatian friends, but to no avail. The legendary actor Peter O’Toole once said “The only thing I've ever been interested in teaching anyone in life is cricket.” But to be fair there are people in England who don’t understand the rules of the game.
“So it is basically baseball for the English,” my Croatian nephew once commented. Ah, no. Although the beginnings of baseball did actually start with cricket, brought to the New World by English colonists. But today baseball and cricket are about as similar as water polo and ice hockey. And although football really rules in England, and indeed the world, cricket for me is a very, very close second. And the beauty is that the cricket and football season don’t overlap too much, meaning I have plenty of time to enjoy this “confusing” (as my wife says) game.
I grew up with cricket from a young age. My mother is nuts for the game. The first sports uniform I ever wore (and she still has the photos to prove it) were the all-white cricket strip. Unfortunately, I was as good at cricket as I am at origami, basically terrible, probably to the huge disappointment of me mother. But that didn’t stop me from catching the cricket bug.
I am not going to try to explain to you the rules. I basically don’t have enough paper and quite frankly they can be quirky. Its yet another sport that the English invented and the spread to the rest of the world, mainly through the former British Empire, and then the rest of the world started beating us at. And in fact this is how cricket came to Croatia. In the early 1800’s part of Lord Nelson’s fleet was anchored on Vis. Yes, another of our regular battles with the French. The ship’s crew were bored on the island so the Admiral basically said “there’s a flat piece of grass, go play cricket.” And they did. And the same club is still functioning today.
It is an extremely eccentric sport, another reason why it’s just so English. Cricket is basically the sport version of Brexit. Nobody outside “the island” can understand why we do it and yet that’s one of the reasons why we love it. It isn’t supposed to make sense.
Only the British could invent a sport that takes five days to play and could well end in a draw. Although cricket is actually the third most watched sport in the world, but that’s mainly due to the fact that it is the number one sport in India, the second most populated country in the world. In fact the current Prime Minister of Pakistan is a former cricket great and captain of his country, Imran Khan. And the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, started his life as a cricket player.
It’s a game played in the English summer, which of course means that due to rain games are frequently delayed or even stopped completely. Why we couldn’t invent an inside sport I don’t know?
And one of the biggest matches is currently underway. So imagine this. England against Australia in a series of matches called “The Ashes.” Firstly, there are five matches in the series, and each game lasts for five days, so rain permitting it is a competition that could last for 25 days, or almost a month, or roughly the same length of time as the complete World Cup in Russia took. And again at the end of the month the result could well be a draw. In fact, the result now is 1 – 1.
And what do these cricketers receive as a prize after exhausting themselves over that month, maybe a huge trophy. No, they actually receive the smallest trophy in worldwide sport, only 15 cm tall. And in contains, or according to legend contains, the ashes of an early wooden cricket ball, hence the name The Ashes. I did tell you that cricket was a quirky and quintessentially English sport.
I am completely gripped by the action; I am actually listening to cricket over the radio. How mad is that! “I understand cricket - what's going on, the scoring - but I can't understand why,” once wrote my favourite author, the American Bill Bryson. That “why” is about as hard to explain as the actual rules.
Luka Modric is quite clearly a multi-talented athlete, not only is he one of the best football players in the world but he is also quite handy at American football.
In a new video released by the NFL features three Real Madrid players, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Thibaut Courtois, join up with Washington Redskins stars Landon Collins and Josh Norman in a competition to show off the skills on the gridiron and the football pitch.
Check out the video
Dubrovnik could well have a new American flight connection next year with flights from Chicago from American Airlines in the pipeline. After a long 28-year break with any direct flights between Croatian and the US American Airlines started flights this summer season from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik. And they proved extremely successful, so much so that the biggest airline in the States have already announced that they would seriously upgrade the service for 2020 to a daily one. “Dubrovnik went really, really well for us,” commented Vasu Raja, the airline’s vice president of network and schedule planning, for the American Airlines podcast “Tell Me Why.”
Clearly American Airlines have used these flights from Philadelphia as a test to see the interest in flights from other American destinations. “We can try things from Philadelphia that gives us a rapid approach to route development. As we develop things in Philadelphia and they work it is a means to develop routes for Chicago,” added Raja.
“Barcelona, Venice, Athens, Prague, Dubrovnik, Prague, and Budapest - all of those started in Philadelphia,” he said. “We realised they could also work in Chicago given where the traffic was coming from.”
More American tourists in Dubrovnik than ever before - Photo Tonci Plazibat
There seems to be concrete data from the airline as to when flights from Chicago to Dubrovnik could start and indeed the frequency of such flights, however news that the vice president of schedule planning is talking about flights from Chicago to Dubrovnik clearly means that these flights are in the pipeline.
Speaking to The Dubrovnik Times Romana Vlasic, the Director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board stated that “It’s great news, and we are glad that American Airlines have recognised Dubrovnik as a popular tourist destination with huge interest from the American market. We hope that in the future American Airlines extends flights from the summer season into an all year round service.” American tourists are the second most numerous in Dubrovnik this year, which undoubtedly is thanks to non-stop flights from the US, and the city has seen an increase in 16 percent in American tourist numbers and overnight stays.