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.
For six years in a row the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has organised a humanitarian concert with pianist Naira Asatryan as part of its "Autumn Music Variety” festival. Every year, funds are raised for a specific humanitarian initiative, organization or association.
Last night, a humanitarian concert was held again in the Rector’s Palace, where, despite the rain and bad weather, due to which it was already postponed once, there was a large audience that enjoyed classical music.
Naira performed four beautiful compositions by F. Chopin on the piano.
At the end of the performance, the director of the DSO, Damir Milat, handed a check for the collected amount of 5,780 Kuna to representatives of the Association of Dystrophics, Cerebral Palsy and Other Physically Handicapped Dubrovnik-Neretva County for whose needs the concert was held.
He thanked Naira for her hard work and stressed that both the city and the world need more such people. Damir Milat reminded the audience of the concerts so far and the difficulties we face today, while Naira Asatryan sent a message of patience and the importance of culture in these strange times we are going through.
Flags waved and twirled against the blue sky, dancing, celebrating, all directly in front of the St. Blaise Church, and no, it wasn’t that the festivities for the city’s patron saint had come early. “What a lovely song they’re playing over the speakers,” I said to my wife as we waited for the elegant bride to enter the church. Yes, not the day of St. Blaise but a wedding in his church.
“That isn’t a CD, they are actually singing,” she whispered back. To my disbelief she was right. I’m no judge of good singing, I don’t even watch The Voice, but the raised eye-brows of the person to my left, my sister-in-law, who is an experienced singer confirmed that these were better than excellent.
And pretty soon the singing, and indeed the ceremony, became a tourist attraction. Heads popped through the open doors, cameras flashed and the wedding no doubt featured on an Instagram story in Michigan and Mumbai.
The ceremonial part was in the bag and we made our way through the cobbled streets of the city, once again proving a tourist attraction. Now it was time to eat, drink and be merry.
Clearly, I wasn’t the only one feeling old!
Now this particular wedding made me feel old, in fact old in two ways. Firstly, the lucky groom is a long-term friend of the family, and all those years ago when I arrived here I can actually remember sitting him on my knee and reading to him. I had watched him grown up, and now he was a married man. Secondly, my days of partying all night until the sun peeked its head out and then going off the work are in the dim and distant past. “We used to dance in zelena naranca, go home for a quick shower and then work all day,” laughed my wife. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one feeling old!
The English call this burning the candle from both ends. Nowadays I am in bed as soon as Mentalist finishes. But this Saturday I was only on my second course of a seven-course meal. “I’ve never eaten soup when Mentalist is on,” I said to my wife with a smile.
I also have the dancing moves of a bull
And my dancing skills, not that I really ever had any, are also buried in a dusty cupboard. They are only really dusted off at such events. However, I was given some advice to maximise my dancing exploits. “When you see the cameraman get up and start filming, then you get up and start dancing. When he sits down, you sit down and conserve your energy,” said a good friend at our table. Wise words. And as we were sitting right next to the cameraman’s table the plan couldn’t fail. When they watch the video it will seem like I have the stamina or a bull, although I also have the dancing moves of a bull as well, so maybe my plan had a flaw.
Wine flowed, food disappeared and the dancing continued. “How different is a Croatian wedding to an English one?” another friend at the table asked. “Probably less wine and more beer,” I smiled.
The singing continued. No, let’s rephrase that, the singing hadn’t stopped since we left the church. I have another tactic with singing at weddings, because to be honest I can’t remember any of the songs. But I’ve learnt that if I can memorise one or two lines from each song and then when they come along shout them at the top of my voice then I’m joining in. And then lines I don’t know I just lip-synch or make up my own words. Frankly, nobody wants to hear me sing anyway.
It was one of those events were everything seemed to go as planned, clearly someone (and I can guess who) had spent a lot of time making sure that everything ran like a Swiss clock. We even had the Konavle “amen da bog da” toast from a young man in traditional costume. A burst of energetic Linđo dancing, some impromptu singing from friends and family at the mic with the band and no wedding celebration would be complete without a “choo choo train dance.”
A memorable evening, although it did take us a couple of days to all recover. It goes without saying that I sincerely wish the bride and groom all the best for their future life together.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
Over the past seven days 8,875 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded as the numbers remain high. Croatia is once again marked as red on the latest European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) released on Thursday.
Of the 8,875 new Covid-19 cases over the past week 6,977 of them were with people who hadn’t been vaccinated with any doses. This means that almost 79 percent of the new cases from last week were with people who were unvaccinated.
The Croatian Government commented on Twitter that “We don't have a better way to protect ourselves and once again we urge everyone not to hesitate because vaccination is the fastest way to return to the old life.”
Great news for the Croatian capital and its tourism industry and Dutch national airline, KLM, plans to connect Zagreb and Amsterdam twice a day in November.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the oldest airline in the world, is operating twice a day between Zagreb and Amsterdam until the end of October, reports Croatian Aviation. And KLM will continue to operate twice a day between Zagreb and Amsterdam in November this year, which is great news for all those who use Amsterdam as a transfer hub, as well as a wide network of KLM lines to other destinations in Europe and the world.
In addition to KLM's two flights, Croatia Airlines will also operate on the route between Zagreb and Amsterdam in the winter schedule.
This winter there will be an incredible three daily flights between the capitals of Croatia and the Netherlands, and as there will be no regular flights to Amsterdam from other Croatian airports, most passengers from other parts of Croatia will change in Zagreb from domestic routes to KLM or Croatia Airlines.
Great news for Croatia comes from America. Croatia has been recognized as one of the world's top destinations, taking an excellent ninth place in the list of 20 best destinations chosen by readers of the popular American magazine specializing in travel Condé Nast Traveler, or as part of the prestigious Condé Nast Travelers '2021 Readers' Choice Award.
The list is led by Portugal, New Zealand, Japan, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Italy, Iceland and Greece, followed by Croatia and Turkey, Norway, Maldives, Kenya, Ireland, Israel, Australia, Switzerland, Indonesia, Botswana and the Philippines.
"The news that the readers of Condé Nast Traveler have recognized Croatia as one of the most popular countries in the world makes us extremely happy. This is a confirmation of the exceptional reputation of our country among American travel enthusiasts who perceive Croatia as a quality, attractive and safe destination, " said Ina Rodin, director of the CNTB Representation in the US market, adding that this recognition is a great motivation for further positioning Croatia as one of the most popular destinations of Americans.
Let’s add that the Readers ’Choice Awards represent the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry, and are awarded based on the votes of more than 800,000 Condé Nast Traveler readers who submitted responses and ratings based on experience gained while traveling around the world.
"Our country is recording a continuous growth of recognition in the American market, but also in demand. This is confirmed by the tourist turnover realized so far this year, in which American tourists achieved a growth of 454 percent in arrivals and 304 percent in overnight stays compared to the same period last year. We expect the continuation of positive trends in the coming years, during which we will continue to position Croatia as a desirable European tourist destination," said Kristjan Staničić, director of the Croatian National Tourist Board.
Looking for a day-out this weekend? Why not spend the day on the glorious island of Mljet! The Mljet National Park invites the public to their Open Day on Sunday, October 10.
Enjoy the beautiful nature of the island of Mljet through the rich program that the Mljet National Park has prepared this year. The Mljet National Park is the only National Park in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.
Get to know this magical island through free kayak, bicycle and hiking tours to various locations in the Mljet National Park from 10:00am to 17:00pm.
The second part of the day is reserved for an entertainment and music program where in front of the Hotel Odisej in Pomena from 6:00pm there will be a gastro corner with a concert by the popular Dubrovnik rock band Valetudo. Admission to the concert as well as food tasting are also free of charge.
The competition for the Croatian Tree of the Year includes a gigantic oak tree from the village of Majkovi which is belived to be around 700 years old. This impressive oak was nominated for this national competition by Antun Krlajević, who wrote –
“Legend has it that the tree grew in the place where the fairy and a local man fell in love, and as she could not stay among the people, she turned into an oak seed and grew so that she could be close to her love.”
However, he added that the oak faces an uncertain future “The oak is the subject of a location and construction permit through which a water pipe will be laid and will be demolished, according to the website of the Public Institution for Management of Protected Areas of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. But the head councillor of the region, Nikola Knežić, denies the claim that the tree will be demolished.” Let’s hope that the mighty oak is indeed saved.
The winner of the Croatian Tree of the Year will be announced on the 15th of October.
Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez arrived in Zagreb, today. This is the first time in three decades of Croatian independence that a Spanish Prime Minister has visited Croatia.
He met with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and with the Speaker of Parliament.
At the press conference after the meeting, Plenković thanked Sanchez for his visit to Croatia. "I am glad that today's meeting was meaningful and of high quality," he said, adding that they discussed strengthening relations between the two countries.
"A few weeks ago, Croatia was included in the cooperation MED 9, 9 EU members that are in the Mediterranean and this forum will serve to improve cooperation in a number of areas, especially key global issues - illegal migration, climate change and a number of security and development issues." he added.
Plenković says he is looking forward to cooperating with Spain in the tourism industry, which is very important to that country as well.
"Croatia and Spain have an exchange of about a billion euros. We think it’s good, but we had oscillations during the COVID crisis. Today, we discussed how to improve cooperation, how to make our private sectors cooperate as well as possible," said the Prime Minister.
They also talked about the EU enlargement process. Plenković says that Sanchez knows the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries in the region very well.
Plenković also said that Sanchez invited him to visit Madrid.
And Pedro Sanchez thanked the Croatian Prime Minister for the invitation and warm welcome. He said next year will be the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations that are only improving over time.