Thursday, 05 December 2019
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.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

It took the earthquake a full two minutes to hit Dubrovnik. At exactly 3:54 am a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck 19 miles west of the Albanian capital, Tirana, and at exactly 3:56 am that same earthquake rumbled through Dubrovnik awaking residents, shaking buildings and causing pictures to crash to the ground.

It has been announced as one of the worst earthquakes to hit Albania in decades, killing six people and injuring over 150. This latest quake comes just a few months after a 5.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the country.

And it was one of the strongest earthquakes to be felt in Dubrovnik for years, even though the epicentre was over 270 kilometres (167 miles) away. And it wasn’t only Dubrovnik that felt the quake. All along the Dalmatian coast, from Split to Zadar and Sibenik, reports are coming in of people having an early morning wake-up call as the Albanian earthquake rolled through.

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Epicentre near Albania capital 

 

 

 

Two minutes was all it took to travel the 270 kilometres, that 135 kilometres a minute, from Tirana to Dubrovnik.

“That’s the worst tremor I have felt in years and years, I even jumped out of bed and stood in the doorway as we were taught to do at school,” commented a Dubrovnik resident. She also admitted to not going back to bed after the quake as, “my heart was beating so fast and adrenaline pumping.”

She remembered the terrible earthquake in Dubrovnik in 1979 when over 1,000 buildings were destroyed in the 7.2-magnitude quake. It was reported at the time as the strongest earthquake ever to hit the city, stronger than the earthquake of 1667 which flattened two-thirds of the Old City of Dubrovnik.

And then came the aftershock. According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre the aftershock earthquake recorded 5.3 of the Richter Scale. This same shock again vibrated Dubrovnik and the whole region. And Dubrovnik wasn’t alone, it is estimated that over 12 million people felt the Albanian earthquake. Greece, Montenegro, Kosovo and North Macedonia and even Italy have all reported feeling this morning’s quake.

The vast majority of tourists that arrive in Dubrovnik do so via the Dubrovnik Airport, so here is a list of the direct flights to Dubrovnik Airport for the 2020 season. The flights list to Dubrovnik was compiled by the Croatian National Tourist Board and includes direct flights from the most important markets.

In order for travel agencies, hotels, private accommodation and other tourism businesses to prepare for next season the tourist board have produced this list. From countries to cities the list covers the most important countries according to information given by the Dubrovnik Airport.

Dubrovnik Airport has had a very impressive 2019 with more flights and handling more passengers than ever before and the introduction of new flights from the US with American Airlines has opened a new market for the city. And from a look at the list of direct flights for 2020 the airport is looking forward to another busy year. Once again, as has been the cause for the past decade, flights from the UK dominate the list with 12 British cities seeing direct flights to the city next year. London is the most popular destination with over 20 flights a week from the UK capital to Dubrovnik planned next year.

The list of direct flights to Dubrovnik Airport for 2020 doesn’t include the airlines that will actually operate the flights.

Here is the complete list of flights from the most important markets to Dubrovnik Airport for 2020

 

Croatia could enter the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in the second half of 2020, according to the European Commissioner for the Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis.

Speaking at a conference entitled “The future of the Euro zone as a currency union - Croatia on the path to the euro" on Friday the Commissioner stated that entry into the Eurozone was a huge challenge for Croatia but that those efforts would pay off in terms of greater stability, opportunities and prosperity.

Croatia needs to fulfil 19 measures in six various areas which it undertook to do in a letter of intent for membership of ERM II and the banking union. These measures are related to strengthening the capacity of the national statistics office, improving the business environment, state assets management, strengthening foundations for economic growth, etc.

Croatian National Bank Governor (HNB) Boris Vujcic said that the banking union was established with the aim of protecting taxpayers as much as possible from poor bank policies. That also entails supervision of systemically important European banks by the European Central Bank. Vujcic added that Croatia's accession to the common system of bank supervision was a precondition for entering the ERM II but that he did not consider it a major benefit in itself considering that Croatia has a very stable banking system, which is much better capitalised than the euro area banking system.

 

 

The Christmas stands arrived on the Stradun yesterday as the city prepares for the winter period and the Christmas and New Year holidays. In total there will be 13 Christmas stands on the Stradun plus another 8 on Pile, 7 in Gundulic Square and 3 in Lazareti.

The vast majority of these festive stands will be selling traditional Christmas delicacies and drinks, with a few offering souvenirs and handmade crafts. The Dubrovnik Winter Festival officially opens next Saturday and promises a rich program of events through till the New Year.

The first evening that the Christmas houses filled the Old City of Dubrovnik was caught on camera by one of our readers.

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I have a Sunday morning ritual. A guilty pleasure. It has been going on for years. It is my special time, or as the Americans like to call it “me time.” Every Sunday morning on HRT 1 there is an old black and white movie. A cup of steaming coffee, a few chocolate biscuits and I am as happy as a pig in shit as I watch early morning movie in bed.

You’ll need to wake up a little early as they tend to start around half past seven, but it’s well worth it. Cary Grant, Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, James Stewart, Fred Astaire, Richard Burton, the list goes on and on, these were the big time movie stars of the golden age of Hollywood. Roman Holiday, Some Like it Hot, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, again a plethora of never-ending classics.

Some people will tell you, “they don’t make movies like that anymore.” Well the truth is they probably don’t. The movie business, just like any other entertainment business, is a reflection of the times in which we live. These old classics from the 1940’s and 50’s show a different time; they are like looking through a peephole into history. And they also didn’t have the technology to make computer generated graphics.

Don’t get me wrong they have they have their explosions and car chases, just not to the same scale. But what they did have was a good story, great writers who knew how to tell a real story. Our movie industry today is dominated by action heroes, sci-fi franchises and fantasy worlds. And of course these worlds are made possible by NASA style computers. However, many of them fail terribly on the most important thing, the writing. Just look what happened when the Game of Thrones series ran out of books, the end was pretty much written by two producers, and to put it mildly it was a disaster. In fact, if you Googled “bad writers” then a photo of the two producers came up.

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Some Like it Hot from 1959 

These old black and white movies cleanse my soul from the superhero movies. Don’t get me wrong I watch and indeed enjoy the odd Marvel comic superhero, but I also feel the need to reboot with some Marlon Brando or Gregory Peck. It could also be a childhood memory. As if it was yesterday I can remember watching these old classics, mainly in the run-up to Christmas, on TV as a child. We finished school ten days before Christmas and would flick through the TV guide (yes we used to actually buy a TV guide) and circle the movies. I grew up on a diet of booming musicals, such as Oklahoma and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, romantic comedies with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, to tense thrillers such as The 39 Steps. Even today I can still sing many of the sings from these Hollywood musicals. What you see, do and experience as a child really does stay with you for the rest of your life.

And I am not the only one who wakes up early on a Sunday morning. “Did you watch it?” asks my mother-in-law every Sunday after the movie finishes. Every Sunday she asks the same question and every Sunday I answer the same answer.

““When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” once said the famous Canadian photographer Ted Grant. That sums up why I love old movies, they have a soul. They haven’t spent half of the budget on special effects but on writers and actors.

I once remember watching an interview with the great Sir Laurence Olivier. He was working on a movie with the then young and upcoming actor Dustin Hoffman. They were filming a scene where Hoffman made just run up some stairs and was out of breath. The prepare for the scene Hoffman ran around and around the movie set in circles. Olivier stopped him, “what on earth are you doing young man,” he asked. “Preparing for my scene,” Dustin answered. “Please stop running,” a rather angry Olivier replied. “But how am I supposed to get ready for my scene, to be out of breath,” quizzed Hoffman. The English actor looked at him and replied “You are an actor….well act, dear boy…act.”

Oh, I have just seen that this Sunday is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the film that brought us the phrase diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and inspired a Madonna video and of course starred Miss Monroe. Can’t wait!               

Souvenir shops, tours, meals and video games, all have had the Game of Thrones treatment, but the latest themed offering is for fans with slightly deeper pockets. Game of Thrones fans can now catch a special cruise that will sail to filming locations, including King’s Landing or Dubrovnik.

This cruise package, quite cutely named “Cruise of Thrones,” is a 16-day journey and will take in a few interesting filming locations from the Seven Kingdoms. Malta, Spain, Croatia and even Iceland all feature on the cruise. The cruise also allows fans to dive right into the action as the on-board entertainment includes fancy dress parties (GOT themed of course), lectures on the serial, panel discussions and even the possibility of a celebrity appearance.

Cleary the company is banking that the Game of Thrones bandwagon will roll on for a few years yet, as the cruise sets sail in September 2021. And for two people sharing in an inside room prices start at $5.130 per person. And if you really want to push the boat out, a Celebrity Suite is $22,170 per person.

cruise of thrones queen cersei

 

“One minute you’re on a ship, the next you’re walking the halls of King’s Landing. We want to ensure that your experience begins as soon as you board. Dining rooms that transform into the feasting halls of Winterfell. The Solarium becomes the Water Gardens of Dorne. The walk to your stateroom is through the Great Pyramid of Mereen. We’ll work our magic and you can come along for the ride!” claims the travel company on their website.

And there is an offer for those who aren’t so Game of Thrones crazy, such as a spa centre, wine tasting and shopping.

In Dubrovnik passengers on the Cruise of Thrones will get the chance to visit one of the most iconic locations in the whole series, King’s Landing. Whether its walking the steps of the Walk of Shame, exploring the location of one of the most famous battles – the battle of Blackwater Bay or visiting the island of Lokrum with its replica Iron Throne.

game of thrones cast filming in pile in dubrovnik

Clearly more work needs to be done on educating the public in Croatia on the importance of recycling plastic waste as according to new data from the European Union Croatia is under the average mark of European members.

The most plastic aware country in Europe is Lithuania who recycle an amazing 74 percent of all plastics, whilst the worst country is Malta with only 24 percent. Croatia is under the EU average which is 42 percent.

In the EU, an estimated 42% of plastic packaging waste was recycled in 2017. In seven EU Member States, more than half of the plastic packaging waste generated was recycled in 2017.

In 2017, the highest recycling rate of plastic packaging waste was recorded in Lithuania (74%), ahead of Bulgaria (65%), Cyprus (62%, 2016 data), Slovenia (60%), Czechia (59%), Slovakia (52%) and the Netherlands (50%).

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Terra Adriatica has launched a bold, new initiative with a mission to help thousands of Croatians, at home and abroad, to identify and realize value from the sale of land with unclean title.

According to Terra Adriatica, approximately 10% of land – 5.6 billion square meters - in Croatia is ‘locked’ due to unclean title. Land has no realizable value while locked, as it cannot be sold or developed legally.

The company estimates this to represent a lost opportunity measuring in the tens of billions of Euros for the owners of affected real estate and, by extension, for the broader economy that would otherwise benefit from increased private investment and the resulting employment opportunity.

Terra Adriatica looks set to change all this. Having spent 3 years researching the underlying issues and developing pioneering technology to address them, the Company has now launched its online platform to engage with tens of thousands of individuals around the world in a bid to help them identify and release this value on their behalf.

The project was co-founded by prof. Davor Lauc, PhD, who, having grown tired of hearing how impossible solving the issue of unclean title was, set about looking for the solution.

The team started by asking the simple question, ‘if time and money was of no consequence, could it be done in theory?’ Following a thorough review of land registry regulation, they concluded that, (contrary to popular belief), the law itself provides a mechanism to address any complication. So yes, it could. Technically...

“This conclusion, while helpful, only gave us a theoretical starting point”, explains Lauc, “...generally, very few people have unlimited time and money, so we needed to research the underlying issues in more detail in order to find a viable solution”.

The team discovered that the issues do not exist solely in Croatia, but that they are particularly prevalent there. They arise in countries that have experienced past political and revolutionary turmoil resulting in mass migration. As a result, land registry records are often incomplete or inaccurate, making it almost impossible to trace the descendants of original landowners.

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“These findings presented a highly technical challenge,” continues Lauc, “the two main land registries in Croatia contain many inconsistencies so as to make the traditional process of establishing a claim highly complex. We therefore decided to apply the use of pioneering, AI technology to analyze literally billions of separate data points in order to create a clearer picture.”

The Terra Adriatica website allows any visitor to run a simple search on their family name to gain a number of interesting, historical facts on the location and type of land associated with that name. Taking a step further, registered users can provide family tree information to gain a free report on potential claims to land, including its size, shape and location.

“This is where our AI algorithms kick in”, explains Terra Adriatica’s lead Data Scientist, Krešimir Babel, ..“we correlate the information provided, on behalf of users, with millions of records to determine possible rights to land, ranking the probability of ownership against a high, medium or low score. We then make that information available for download in a free report.”

Having addressed the complexity inherent within the registries to build a more accurate picture, Terra Adriatica then offers its users the ability to opt into its core service – Locksmith.

“Locksmith is a product designed to unlock the latent value held in affected land by establishing clean title, (on behalf of the would-be owner), ahead of its sale,” explains Terra Adriatica’s Managing Director, Anthony Johnson, “…not only will we achieve this within a viable time-frame, we will do so at no upfront cost to the individual, delivering them, on average, over 80% of the proceeds.”

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Terra Adriatica’s innovative financial solution is to bring on board investors willing to cover the cost of cleaning land for a return on their investment, plus a small share of the price achieved at sale.

“Investors are struggling to find healthy returns in today’s volatile markets”, explains Johnson, “by aggregating multiple claims into larger projects, we use economies of scale to present an attractive option to the investor community. This approach is a win for all and aligns all parties to securing the highest possible price at sale. We take a fee for facilitating the process and the seller receives the vast majority of the proceeds. We generate value where previously there was none.”

Terra Adriatica launched its service in September this year and is in the process of engaging with Croatians at home as well as with the Diaspora, who often are unaware of their right to land.

“Diasporic communities often hold the key to resolving issues with locked land”, says Maja Odak, Head of Diaspora Development, “…the inability to trace owners abroad affects not only them but people at home who more than not are co-owner of the same land. By identifying and engaging with all parties, we are able to free up valuable resource for the benefit of all. “

Terra Adriatica is based in Croatia where the team has offices in Zagreb and Split. Its ambition is to create a Croatian regional center of excellence from where it can expand into neighboring regions affected by the same issue.

Terra Adriatica’s website can be found at www.terraadriatica.hr.

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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