Dubrovnik has been struggling to cope with the sheer number of tourists and visitors this summer. With over two million tourists expected this year the summer months are traditionally the busiest and the infrastructure of the city is at breaking point.
For the first time ever a barrier was placed on one of the main entrances into the Old City the Pile Gate. Whilst locals were obviously surprised when they saw the new traffic regulations they followed the flow and the constant stream of guests entering the city.
According to the latest data from the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute (HZMO), in July this year the total number of insured persons was 1,532,000 which has confirmed the continuous positive trend on the monthly and annual level.
In comparison to the previous June, the total number of HZMO insurees increased by 0.4 percent or 6,500.
The positive monthly changes or the growth of the number of insured persons is usual for the period from February to July and is determined by seasonal movements. However, the slowdown of the monthly growth in the number of insured persons is not surprising during the central tourist season because the needs for workers are already largely met in the pre-season period. According to some older data, it is possible to expect a slight decline in the number of insurees in August.
On the annual level, the number of insured persons rose by 1.8 percent in July and it was 27,700 higher compared to July 2016. According to data from HZMO, this annual growth has been present since March 2015.
The largest increase of the number of insurees (over 21%) on an annual basis was recorded in the manufacturing industry, which generates the biggest employment in Croatia (slightly more than 16 percent of the total employed or insured persons at HZMO).
In addition, with the arrival of autumn the number of insured persons should be reduced slowly due to seasonal factors. Nevertheless, compared to the previous years (since 2013 when HZMO statistics became available) it will remain at higher levels reflecting the slow recovery of the economy.
Janick Jers from the legendary heavy metal band Iron Maiden enjoyed an afternoon in Cavtat yesterday.
The famous guitarist walked around the picturesque coastal town and was more than happy to sign autographs for fans and pose for photos. Gers (60) is one of the three current guitarists in Iron Maiden, along with Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.
The traditional local party ‘’Gruska noc’’ or ‘’Night of Gruz’’ will be held on Saturday, August 19th, and along with a rich offer of food and drinks, on the central stage in Gruz Croatian famous singer Giuliano will perform. Concert should start around 9:30 pm.
What is important to know if you are in Dubrovnik with car – Gruz will be closed for traffic from 5 pm to 5 am, because of the Gruska noc .
Traffic will go through Andrija Hebrang Street and also from dr. Ante Starcevic street, through Splitski put and Vladimir Nazor Street.
If you are not sure what to do on Saturday night, maybe this is a perfect choice for you – party like a local on Gruska noc.
Exploration works of the seabed within the project of building the reception LNG terminal in Croatia have begun in the Sepen Bay on the island of Krk.
The exploration works, which will last to the 25th of September this year, are being conducted by the Geokon company and include a series of drillings of the sea bottom as well as a geological research of the underwater soil where a jetty for the so-called floating LNG terminal is to be built.
Goran Francic, the director of LNG Croatia, emphasizes that part of the research has already been done, however, due to the government's decision to switch from the initial concept of the land terminal to the floating one, an additional research is needed.
Francic also added that all the relevant port authorities and maritime authorities have already been notified about the research, whilst the research area has been specifically marked so the vessels can avoid it.
The first research of the seabed on the site of the future jetty was carried out a few years ago, however, according to the words of Andrea Lopac from LNG Croatia, due to the Government's change of the terminal concept, now it is necessary to build a firmer and longer jetty.
The results of this research will be interpreted by the end of this September, when the first- round tender for the design of the jetty as well as the purchase of the FSRU ship are expected.
Afterwards, when all the costs are determined, LNG Croatia can require the tariff calculation from the Croatian Energy Regulatory Agency (HERA) i.e. the price of gas from the future terminal. This will largely influence the second-round tender, which is binding unlike the first one, where bidders will compete for the construction of the jetty and for the buying and selling of the FSRU ship.
Stephan Behringer from Würzburg, Germany is certainly no stranger to learning languages; he speaks a grand total of ten. Whilst travelling in Dubrovnik he heard about the free mini-courses of Croatian at the Europe House Dubrovnik and decided to add to his list and make Croatian the tenth language. In fact he liked his first taste of Croatian so much that he asked if it was possible to put on another course when he came back. With two intensive courses under his belt his level of Croatian soon soared. The Dubrovnik Times caught up with Stephan to learn more about his experiences and why he would recommend learning Croatian.
How helpful did you find the Croatian lesson given by Europe House in Dubrovnik?
The Croatian lessons at the Europe House Dubrovnik were my first steps into the Croatian language and were extremely helpful for me, especially as Barbara, my teacher, speaks my own language German so well that she could explain me many things in my mother tongue. Also she put a lot of emphasis on my pronunciation right from the beginning to make sure I learn the basics correctly.
Apart from German (and Croatian) which other languages do you speak? And how difficult was it to learn Croatian compared to other languages?
I am a polyglot and Croatian is my language number 10. I speak German, English, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese and Italian fluently and also can communicate in Swedish and Chinese. I would say that Croatian is for me more difficult than Roman languages but still easier than Russian, as it uses the Latin alphabet. Speaking another Slavic language like Russian helps to learn Croatian in certain ways, but it also creates many "false friends" moments or wrong pronunciations.
Stephan Behringer with his teacher in Dubrovnik
Why would you recommend people to learn Croatian whilst in Dubrovnik?
Absolutely! I am totally enthusiastic of at least learning some words in the local language when I travel and if I stay longer in a country I usually take at least a couple of days of language course. If you speak some Croatian in Dubrovnik the locals certainly appreciate it a lot and you can connect with people much easier. Plus the benefit of Croatian is that it is also understood in all the neighbour countries on the Balkans which I could witness myself during the days after my first Croatian language class at the Europe House when travelling to Montenegro and Bosnia.
Did you have the chance to practise your Croatian and what was the outcome?
Of course. Back home I know a Croatian girl quite well and got to speak Croatian with her regularly, but she rather made fun of my slight Russian accent or the fact that I used at least one Russian word in most of my sentences. Also, a good friend of mine is originally from Serbia and I also speak to him from time to time.
Would you like to further improve your Croatian languages skills?
As I like Croatia and the Balkans region, I would like to travel there more. So I am still working on my Croatian and plan to return to Dubrovnik again, after the tourist season to take another week of language course at the Europe House Dubrovnik.
Stephen talks to the Dubrovnik media about his learning experiences
Lokrum island, located 600 meters from the Old City, is a must-visit if you are in Dubrovnik. It’s just one short ferry ride away and one of the most important things to know if you are planning a visit (besides the wonders that will wait for you on the island) is when you can go on and return from the island of Lokrum.
From this Saturday, August 19th, the last ferry will leave the island at 7 pm. During the last couple of months the last departure was at 8. Don’t worry, there is still enough time to explore the island.
-Keep on swimming, but don’t be late and spend your night on the island – wrote the team from the island of Lokrum on their Facebook page.
You can see a full schedule on the photo below.
Food we all love it, some of us a little too much. Visiting a restaurant and having someone cook a meal for you is one of the great pleasures in life. A pleasure we all look forward to, particularly when on holidays. I think it is a primeval feeling and harks back to the comfort we felt when our parents cooked for us.
Before I get into this story I should make it clear that I have owned a number of restaurants in tourist related areas and have had the benefit of seeing the industry from the inside.
Now all tourist towns have more than their fair share of restaurants and cafes which in theory are designed to cater for all of us but in practice tend to gravitate towards the tourists. Why, because of money and ease of doing business. Not only are the tourists a captive audience but they are also not likely to be return customers. These basic facts breed very bad habits in many restaurateurs. After many years of travelling around the world the Wizard has identified a number of tell tale signs which demonstrate that the owner of the restaurant is one of those types who has decided to take the line of least resistance to serve up anything they can get away with.
So, what are these signs? Well the three majors are; photos of the food on display boards and in a menu which is in a thousand languages; a pushy person standing out the front who won't take no for an answer when you try and walk past and most importantly a menu which has every cuisine in the world . Some would argue that location is a giveaway and that anything which is close to a major tourist transport hub will be terrible but in my view this is not as reliable as the above mentioned indicators.
Dubrovnik has more than its fair share of places which are tourist restaurants being overpriced and under delivered. The Old City has an abundance of them and until recently I thought that Saint Mark's Square in Venice had the world record for overcharging for a coffee until I visited the first establishment on the left hand side as you enter Stradun.
Then there are the ‘Hollow Men’ restaurants. You may be aware of the famous line in the poem of this name by T S Elliot “ that's the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper”. These are restaurants which start in a reasonable manner but quickly turn into cynical exercises in reducing portion sizes and disregarding quality control. Two great examples of this type of restaurant come to mind. Around a year ago a restaurant opened in the “CBD” district and this was a place where I had previously enjoyed a number of honest meals. Unfortunately on what was to become my last ever visit I was served a miserable plate of the cheapest and smallest frozen squid available. To add insult of injury, l they were barely defrosted and the meal was stone cold when it arrived. My most recent exposure to food abuse occurred on my birthday. I was lucky enough to be taken to a longstanding seafood restaurant by the water in Gruz harbour at Lapad. As it is a not inexpensive place my level of anticipation was high - only to be totally deflated by a seafood grill which was prepared and cooked an hour before we arrived ( it wasn't a Japanese restaurant) accompanied by ten year old French fries and uncooked rice. The restaurant’s only saving grace was that the staff were friendly and professional - a rare commodity in Dubrovnik at the best of times let alone in the summer season.
The big excuse by owners for quality problems in this town is the shortage of trained staff, whether it be in the kitchen or out the front. Well I don't buy this rubbish. If you can't find a chef, or a waiter who can crack a smile, don't open! Certainly don't employ a short order cook and then try and pass an expensive meal off as having been prepared by a chef or let some manically depressed intellectual pygmy take the customer’s orders.
Then there's the question of diversity. The food offering for the great majority of establishment in the Old City is pizza and a couple of grilled dishes. To compound the problem all of the places are the same and offer which I call ‘one speed pizza’. That is cheese, cheese and a little more cheese. If you are lucky you might get a very lonely olive in the middle or some unfortunate canned seafood or processed meat. There is the well known man about town and editor of this newspaper who will tell anyone who will listen that he is personally responsible for introducing the Hawaiian style pizza to Dubrovnik. The story goes that he suggested to one owner to back off the cheese and put some pineapple on the offering and as soon as the competitors saw an new idea they all copied it. The dish has had a varied history, not coming from Hawaii but rather being invented by a Greek Canadian at his pizzeria in Ontario. Recently a story appeared in the press where the President of Iceland was quoted saying he would like to ban pineapple as a pizza topping. With any luck our President will try the same trick. Here's the thing, it's a great shame that the restaurant owners don't get out of the country and see what's on offer in most of the major cities in the world. Come to think of it, it would only take one to go out and the rest would copy. Forget the Naples inspired cheese slab, people are using all sorts of ingredients to produce wonderful pizzas. It's not that hard to show a bit of imagination. The silly thing is that a lot of these raw materials being used internationally can be grown in the back yard here in Dubrovnik or are readily available. Rocket salad, butternut pumpkin, feta cheese, figs nuts etc, etc.
Even when someone does try and introduce a more exotic form of cuisine like Indian or Korean they fall into the ‘hollow man‘ trap of charging tourist prices for underwhelming food. This is not to say, however, that occasionally people do get it right. In the Old City the Bosnian restaurant is not cheap but at least you are served a quality meal. Similarly the Japanese restaurant in Lapad is the real deal. Sprinkled around town there are other places which have opened in the last few years which serve a world class meal. They are far from the tourist strips in locations where they will be judged by the quality of their products. Relying on locals or referrals from hotels as their primary source of income has a strange way of keeping restaurants honest.
With all this mediocrity in Dubrovnik it is a delight to travel to Zagreb where there has been a veritable explosion in the culinary scene. Every second week a new place seems to open and they are always either international in origin or locals who bring a new slant to the tired old stuff we get here. And just to prove that Croatians can get it really right if they try, the restaurant Monte in Istria has become the first and only restaurant in the country with a Michelin Star. Perhaps some of this new energy will rub off in this town.
The one great ray of hope for the culinary scene in this, and other tourist towns, is the mighty TripAdvisor and other internet reviews. The bad restaurateurs are being called to account and as these avenues are more widely read so will the level of accountability in the industry improve. Food tourism is on the rise and perhaps one day visitors will come to Dubrovnik to not only experience its beauty but also experience some interesting cuisine.
The Wizard of Oz
Next week the British television company BBC will launch a reality show that will be filmed in Croatia.
According to The Sun, the online BBC Three channel will broadcast a new TV series titled ''Croatia 2017: The Brits Are Coming''.
The reality TV show will follow ''debauched antics of youngsters in Europe's hottest new party resort, Novalja - a city on the island of Pag'', wrote the Mirror.
Just to remind you, more than a month ago, The Sun wrote about its fellow countrymen that caused big trouble at Hvar and Novalja, ''Chaos in Croatia - Boozy Brits are turning Croatian resorts into holiday hellholes by ‘throwing up, peeing and fighting’ in the streets’’.
However, BBC has decided to report live from Croatia and to follow a group of holiday-goers to Novalja as they taste the party life on the island of Pag.
‘’Viewers can expect guaranteed British banter, unexpected holiday drama and maybe even some summer romances’’, announced BBC Three.
"This will be an authentic series of films exploring the real lives of young people today and will build on the innovative approach BBC Three has to documentary storytelling’’, commented Damian Kavanagh, the Controller at BBC Three.
After the reality show ‘’Love Island’’ broadcasted on the British commercial TV network ITV2 this year achieved tremendous success and gained huge popularity, even bigger that ‘’Big Brother’’ on Channel 5, other British TV networks are now trying to repeat their success, including BBC Three which will try out with the reality show in Croatia.
ITV’s ‘’Love Island’’ ended last month. It followed six young couples out of which one was declared ‘’the sweetest’’ and won £50,000 of prize money.
The summer sunshine poured down, the Adriatic Sea was an inviting colour and the cafes and restaurants along the sea front promenade were doing a roaring trade. Cavtat today was absolutely picture postcard perfect.
Temperatures today were in the low thirties and the Adriatic a bath like 26 degrees and the forecast for the next ten days is basically for more of the same.
Check out our photo gallery from today in Cavtat