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.
Looking for a carefree destination without having to worry about the restrictions of actually wearing clothes, well the island of Lokrum near Dubrovnik could be the answer. According to the popular American website “Brosome,” which from 2009 has been one of the top travel websites for men, Lokrum is listed in the top ten places for nudists.
The website raked all the nudist destinations outside of the US and the island of Lokrum finished in fifth position. “Croatia is certainly one of the countries with the most beautiful beaches in general. There certainly know how to party. There are more than 20 places on this island where you can be naked so why would you wear any clothes,” writes Brosome.
The top of the ranking for nudist destinations was Montalivet, France, followed by Bellevue Beach, Denmark and in third place Grande Saline on the island of St. Bart’s.
Zadar is the best European destination in 2016, winning the title among 20 selected destinations, the European Best Destinations website reported last week. Voting was conducted from the 20th of January and of a total of 288,992 votes every fifth vote or 57,616 went to Zadar.
Zadar was elected for this prestigious title of the Best European Destination 2016 ahead of Athens, Plovdiv, Nantes, The Azores Islands, Paris, Novi Sad, Brussels, Kotor, Milan, Prague, Rome, Vienna, Madrid and Nicosia.
Tourism Minister Anton Kliman congratulated Zadar and its citizens on winning the title. “This is a wonderful recognition and congratulations to all tourism workers in Zadar and the surrounding area. We hope that this will motivate them to further develop the destination and that it will stimulate other tourism destinations around Croatia. You are proof that the effort was worth it,” Minister Kliman said.
European Best Destinations is a Brussels-based organisation aimed at promoting culture and tourism in Europe. In partnership with the participating tourism offices and the EDEN Network, it promotes a better understanding of the wealth, diversity and quality of European destinations.
Since 2009, European Best Destinations has been working with major tourism offices in Europe to reward and highlight the most visited destinations via its website and social networks.
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....” Well this time not that far away. I am still in shock, I can’t believe it, bloody hell, Star Wars is coming to Dubrovnik.
A few years ago I was told by an Austrian tourist that it would be a good idea to install one of those large Hollywood signs on the Srd hillside. It was an idea that was a little off the wall, but if we continue like this then we will soon need one. Game of Thrones has opened so many doors for us, and it can be argued that Star Wars is just another opening. Who would ever have dreamt that Star Wars would be filmed in Dubrovnik?
It was the first ever film that I dragged my mother to the cinema to watch, it was 1977 and I was seven years old. About the only thing that I can remember from that first trip to the cinema, well apart from my first taste of popcorn, was the opening sequence of the film, you know when the words disappear into space. And now 39 years later Star Wars is coming to me.
When the story first broke I thought it must be April Fool’s Day. As I delved more into the story it soon became clear that I was one of the last people to know. Of course everyone at a governmental level denied it. They had no choice; they had all signed a contract of silence that would mean them having a rusty knife pushed through their heart if they gave away any details. But the more I brought up the story the more people crawled out of the woodwork. It soon became clear that it was the worst kept secret in town.
Already there are Star Wars fanatics on the internet guessing what scenes Dubrovnik will act in the movie. If you thought that Game of Thrones fans were dedicated you are in for another shock with the Star Wars geeks. “What planet could Dubrovnik represent? Parts of it make me think of Naboo,” – “I bet that Dubrovnik will be the planet Del Toro's character is from,” - “I think that Dubrovnik will mostly likely be yet another new planet. Perhaps where the KOR are currently based?” These are just a taste on the Star Wars forums...and believe me there are hundreds of these forums.
I would not be surprised if they started to speculate that Orlando will be cast as C-3PO or that St. Blaise will be the new Joda. It is going to be another fun ride. From King's Landing to the Death Star, from historic drama to sci-fi, seems like the force certainly is with Dubrovnik. Maybe they will land the Millennium Falcon on the Stradun.
And just think of the tourism possibilities. The Game of Thrones factor has been colossal. In 2015 the second most numerous tourists in Dubrovnik were from the USA. Now that fact probably wouldn’t be so surprising if we were talking about Rome, Paris or London, but Dubrovnik, or even Croatia, doesn’t have any flights to the US. Without any direct flights to and from the US we still managed to attract a huge number of American tourists, thanks mainly to the Game of Thrones. Now imagine the Star Wars impact on the city. That figure of American tourists from last year will soon double. We will soon be one of the most important film destinations on the planet.
The tourism publicity is quite frankly mammoth and the marketing is priceless. We already have half a dozen Game of Thrones souvenir shops in town; all they need to do is change the logos of the shops windows to Star Wars and the business will continue to roll.
It begs the question – what next? It seems like the sky is the limit. For after Star Wars has filmed here you can bet your last Kuna that the flood gates will open for more production companies to come. “Star Wars is fun, it’s exciting, it’s inspirational, and people respond to that. It's what they want,” once wrote the Star Wars creator George Lucas. It is exactly want we want Mr. Lucas…thanks.
The third regional wine festival “Dubrovnik FestiWine” will be held from the 25th to the 30th of April 2016 in Dubrovnik, organized by the Dubrovnik-Neretva County and the Regional Development Agency Dunea, and produced by the Dubrovnik Partner agency.
As part of this year's Dubrovnik FestiWine, visitors will have the opportunity to taste the wines of renowned winemakers and experience authentic products from the Dubrovnik - Neretva County as well as participate in numerous meetings and workshops with renowned enologists, sommeliers and chefs, and enjoy excellent gourmet evenings.
The central wine exhibition, which is traditionally visited by a large number of guests, will be held this year in the newly renovated historic complex of Lazaretto. This main event will be preceded by a number of interesting events such as the “Dubrovnik FestiWine Trophy” panel evaluating this year’s entries, the “FestiWine Gala” with renowned chefs and winemakers, various wine tastings, workshops and interesting meetings.
If you are a lover of fine wine and good food then Dubrovnik is the place to be from the 25th to the 30th of April this year.
After the end of the festivities of St. Blaise work has intensified on the restoration of Great Onofrio Fountain in the heart of the Old City of Dubrovnik. The investor in the project, worth around 1.5 million Kunas, is the Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities. In agreement with the city administration the works are being performed by the company Quelin Civil Engineering.
With the refurbishment of the stone sculptures, restoration will, according to the society’s secretary, Niko Kapetanic, include a new solution for the water fountain. It also planned to return stone figures of dogs that up to the end of the 19th century adorned the fountain.
For tourists wishing to learn more about the history and importance of the fountain a information board with photos will also be installed.
The Great Onofrio Fountain, the work of Neapolitan artist Onofrio della Cava, was built in 1438, and brought water to the city from springs 12 kilometres away.
When Marissa Sutera published her blog on Dubrovnik the social media world exploded. Entitled “The Budget Traveller’s Guide to Dubrovnik,” the blog post giving advice on how to make the cash in your pocket last longer received a “standing ovation,” from the online community. Sutera is the founder of “Little Things Travel,” a blog where she shares tips and stories of her travels while ultimately focusing on appreciating the little things in life. She is a Chicago native but is currently based in Boulder, Colorado where she seeks out any adventures she can in between her travels. She visited Dubrovnik in August 2015 during her journey around Croatia, exploring her Croatian heritage and the country's beauty and history. The Dubrovnik Times caught up with Sutera to reveal her inside tips on Dubrovnik, why bloggers are so important and why you should walk up Srd and not take the cable car!
Firstly why did you decide to travel to Dubrovnik and what were your first impressions of the city?
It started out as a family trip. I have Croatian heritage, so my family decided to take a trip to Croatia. While they didn't have enough time to make it down to Dubrovnik, I had an extra week to spend travelling around the country so I took the bus down from Split on my own after they left. I had heard of the beauty of Dubrovnik and had seen photos, so I knew I couldn't miss the opportunity to experience that for myself. I was in awe during the bus ride along the coast from Split to Dubrovnik. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, we pulled into town and I was stunned by the sheer beauty of this coastal city -- more than any photo could convey. To think that just over a decade ago this city was ravished by war blew my mind. While the memory is still fresh, I was impressed at the city's resilience to push forward to create the Dubrovnik I was greeted with that day.
You have written an article for your blog entitled “The Budget Traveller’s Guide to Dubrovnik,” is this because you found the city expensive?
I wouldn't say expensive, as the prices seemed to be comparable to those in the United States. However, I did find Dubrovnik to be pricier than other parts of Croatia like Split and Zagreb where I had been travelling prior to Dubrovnik, so I wanted to share how it was still possible to see Dubrovnik even on a tight budget.
How important, in your opinion, is the role of bloggers in promoting a destination?
Incredibly important! I think it's becoming even more crucial every day, especially among younger consumers. According to Research Now, blogs are the #1 information source used when making a purchasing decision for 18-34 year olds. That means they turn to blogs more than their friends and family! Especially when promoting a destination, blogs tend to share personalized tips and suggestions based on their own experiences that make them more trustworthy for consumers who want an honest perception of the experience.
Apart from the attractions that you mentioned in your blog which other sights would you recommend visitors to Dubrovnik to explore?
One thing I didn't mention much in my guide to Dubrovnik is the nearby islands. Especially in Old City, Dubrovnik can get quite crowded during the summers. I loved exploring the island of Lokrum to escape the crowds, and I even went on an Island Hopping Tour around Koločep, Lopud, and Šipan, the only Elaphite Islands that are inhabited. I'd recommend a visit to any one (or more) of these for peaceful relaxation!
What would you recommend tourists to avoid in Dubrovnik?
I would recommend avoiding the big tourist beaches. There are so many small beaches and bathing areas that there is no need to squeeze into a spot on an overcrowded beach. I would also suggest skipping the cable car and hiking up to the top of Mount Srd instead, unless you are physically unable to. It will take extra time and effort, but you will also get to enjoy more breathtaking views along the journey to the top.
How did Dubrovnik compare to other destinations that you have visited and would you come again?
Dubrovnik was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I would absolutely return to Dubrovnik! It has certainly earned its name as the "Pearl of the Adriatic".
How pleased were you with the level of service that you received in the city?
I loved it! In the United States, we are so used to rushing all the time and sitting down for a good meal is rarely enjoyed the way it should be. In Croatia (and generally all of Europe), meals are taken at a much slower pace. The servers let you take your time, which is a quality I strive to do more often back home.
Can you sum up Dubrovnik in three words?
Impressive historical gem.
After the all the rumours about Star Wars coming to Dubrovnik to film the eighth episode it has finally been officially confirmed by the director of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, Hrvoje Hribar.
“Star Wars will be filmed in Dubrovnik from the 9th to the 16th of March this year. For months we have been preparing for this project and an official announcement but due to the corporate policy of Disney we were not in the position to give an official announcement,” said Hribar.
The eighth sequel of Star Wars will be filmed in Dubrovnik, although Hribar was keen to point out that apart from the added publicity there will also be a large investment from the production company. He stated that this will be the largest film investment in Croatia to date with between 5 and 6 million dollars expected to be invested, making it the most expensive film project per day of recording.
Hribar believes that the decision to take such a project to Croatia was the result of previous successful cooperation in the framework of the incentive system, led by the "Games of Thrones." According to Hribar Croatia is very positioned on the for the international film industry, offering incentives, providing a top-quality service and attractive locations.
"After the shooting Dubrovnik will not only be the most beautiful city in the world, it will become the most beautiful in the cosmos," concluded Hribar.
News on Star Wars coming to Dubrovnik just keeps on rolling on. This time it’s the Mayor of Dubrovnik’s time to get in on the act with a visit to the California headquarters of Lucasfilm.
On his social media sites, Twitter and Facebook, the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Andro Vlahusic, has published photos of his visit to Lucasfilm in San Francisco posing with characters from the Star Wars franchise. The eighth episode of Star Wars will be filmed in Dubrovnik from the 9th to the 16th of March this year and five locations around the historic Old City have been mentioned.
“You can only succeed if you have persistence, wisdom and the help of friends. Thank you for believing in me and now our dreams will come true,” commented Vlahusic on his social media profiles.
Interestingly when asked a few weeks ago by the Dubrovnik media for comments on the possible filming of Star Wars in Dubrovnik the mayor said that “the city administration only deals with serious issues and not nonsense.”
Photos - Facebook