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.
“I'm kind of comfortable with getting older because it's better than the other option, which is being dead. So I'll take getting older,” once said the actor George Clooney. This year I will be fifty. A landmark birthday. The big 50. Five decades on this earth.
To be honest my birthday is right at the end of the year so I’m making the most of being in my 40s for the time being. OK, I might be in my late, or very late 40s, but it still counts.
Even though I still have the brain of a crazy teenager my body is starting to sing to a different song. Just the other day I was moving some heavy boxes, yes it’s time to get ready for the renting season, and even though I succeeded in the task I also succeeded in destroying my back. It was probably the first time I have had back ache, I mean real back ache, and so I guess I am lucky. But it was also probably a sign of things coming around the corner.
Am I still middle-aged at fifty? Of course I am. In fact, according to statistics, I am pretty much right slap bang in the middle of middle age. Does that make me feel better? Not particularly. Am I going to age gracefully and politely, definitely not! Mark Twain summed it up perfectly, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” There is a saying in England that when you start to look older than a police officer then you are starting to get old. Well now I am probably older then the chief of police. I am not that switched on at remembering dates, or even my own age, I’ve been thinking all year that I was 48. Yes, I know that probably is a sign of advancing years.
Over the past few weeks I have been receiving constant reminders of my upcoming half century birthday. “At British Seniors, we take your peace of mind seriously. That's why we offer over 50s life insurance - to make sure you and your loved ones have some financial protection in place, for when you pass away,” was the opening line of an email I received just the other day. Not the kind of email you want to read over breakfast, especially when you are eating bacon and not some healthy fruit!
Yes, I haven’t been a resident of the UK for over 20 years and yet still, quite clearly, companies have me on record and have just been waiting for the right time to pounce like a praying mantis. “Your guaranteed lump sum payment can be used to help cover the cost of your funeral, to pay off any outstanding debts or just to leave the ones you love a gift,” continued the mail. I almost choked on my bacon and eggs.
This morbid mail got me thinking though and not about my funeral. Just how switched on and active these companies were being. Even though they were talking about my paying for my future hole in the ground I had to admire their business model, their commercial aptness. So far I have received zero such emails from Croatian companies, absolutely zero. Even my car insurance company failed to call me and remind me until a few days before the insurance was set to expire.
“It's simple and easy to apply for British Seniors Over 50s Life Insurance. As long as you're a UK resident aged 50-80, you're guaranteed to be accepted, with no medical or health questions,” concluded my morning reading. Yes, I will soon be fifty, thanks for reminding me, but I am not a British resident. But even though their plan had this obvious flaw it was still at least a plan and I was full of admiration for their determination. Just a few days later and I received another similar email, this time offering my “amazing deals” on private health care, and once again from a UK based company. Over two decades I have been living at a Dubrovnik address but this hadn’t stopped them waiting and trying.
And bad things come in threes. And yes the third one was the one I was dreading. You might think you’re old when you look older than a police officer, but you KNOW you’re old when you get offered a special offer on a package holiday to Malta with…wait for it…SAGA! Whilst I still feel like raving on Ibiza the truth is that SAGA are offering me “Tours of the beautiful landscaped gardens of the San Anton Gardens in H'Attard.” “If things get better with age then I must be approaching magnificent.
Croatia’s seemingly inevitable move towards adopting the Euro and ditching the Kuna got more momentum on Wednesday as the majority of candidates in the upcoming European elections backed the change. In a panel discussion on the introduction of the Euro held with European political candidates the majority gave their full support for the European currency.
Tomislav Sokol from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) stated that analyses conducted so far showed that euro introduction would have a positive impact on the Croatian economy. Whilst Predrag Matic from SDP believed the public should be asked on their opinion “We are not against euro introduction but believe that the timing should be right and that citizens should be given the opportunity to state their position in a referendum.”
However, it seems that a referendum is not on the cards as the Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, has stated on many occasions that the referendum has already been held when the public voted unanimously the join the European Union back in 2012.
And he added back in March this year that the members of the euro area are the most important trade partners of Croatia, and that as much as 77 percent of Croatian citizens' savings is in euros and 54 percent of all loans. He also pointed out that 70 percent of the total tourism revenues came in Euros, 60 percent of total overnight stays come from European citizens, as well as 66 percent of foreign tourists spending. Finally, 75 per cent of Croatia's foreign debt is also in Euros. "That means we are de facto there," he concluded Plenkovic.
Split may have for many years been known more as a transit tourist city than a real destination but that is changing, and changing fast. The city’s airport, which has recorded the largest increase in passenger number in the country over the past few years has announced yet another interesting project.
The port of Split, which is the largest port and one of the busiest in the whole of Croatia, has many been known as a link between the mainland and the numerous islands, ferrying holidaymakers to sun-kissed islands such as Brac and Hvar. But with the increase in tourism in the city so the need for a better connection between the two main hubs. The Deputy Mayor of Split has announced a project to connect the port with the airport, the first of its kind in Croatia.
Speaking to the media Nino Vela stated that “Our goal is to connect the port with the airport. We are aware that traffic has doubled in the past ten years. We are working on the project connecting the city to the airport and we hope to begin the design and realisation process in next few years. It will involve the construction of a seven to nine kilometre railway.”
Game of Thrones fans have a new destination to visit in Croatia as a museum to the globally popular HBO series has opened in Split. With dragons, costumes and packed full of props and interesting exhibitions from the series the museum stretches over 300 metres squared and offers fans of the serial a unique experience.
Game of Thrones comes to Split with new museum - Photo Ivan Vukovic Vuka
Although Dubrovnik was the main location for Game of Thrones in Croatia the series also used stunning locations in Split and Sibenik and the themed museum covers all the bases. On entering the museum visitors are greeted with a roaring dragon from the serial. And this is no coincidence as the location where Daenerys kept her dragons is a just a minutes’ walk away in the ancient Diocletian cellar.
Game of Thrones dragon greets visitors - Photo Ivan Vukovic Vuka
There are over 100 different exhibits from the show and the dark, and slightly eerie atmosphere inside gives fans another dimension. With five different themed rooms in the museum and characters from Jon Snow, Tyrion to Drogon visitors are sure to have a great time.
Croatia and the Game of Thrones are undoubtedly connected forever and this new themed museum is just another reason for fans to visit the country. The Split Game of Thrones museum is the latest in a long line of specialised Game of Thrones attractions in Croatia, from special themed tours in Dubrovnik, to a visitors centre on the island of Lokrum in Dubrovnik to numerous stores offering authentic souvenirs. The connection between Game of Thrones and Croatia doesn’t look like ending any time soon, even though the eighth and final season has finished.
Eerie atmosphere in Game of Thrones museum in Split - Photo Ivan Vukovic Vuka
“The museum looks amazing! This is my first time in Split and I am a huge GOT fan. I knew it was filmed in Split so I went to museum to see everything about it. It is really nice, with lot of interesting things to see and read but also with great photo spot! Also the room with white walkers, WOW! Definitely, I would recommend this!” commented one visitor to the new museum.
Crammed full of interesting exhibits - Photo Ivan Vukovic Vuka
The museum is located on Bosanska Ulica in Split and is open every day from 9:00am to 10:00pm. And more information can be found at the Game of Thrones Split website.
From the 1st of June this year all European Union citizens will have the opportunity to work in Switzerland, apart from Croatians. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry have announced that from the beginning of June their citizens, along with citizens of Romania will have full freedom to work in Switzerland and will enjoy all the right of the rest of Europe.
However, Croatia will remain the only EU member state whose citizens cannot live and work in Switzerland without a work visa. The maximum length of visa Croatians can receive is three months.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but is closely linked with the Union through a series of bilateral agreements that allow it to participate in the single EU market, even if it is not a member.
It has been one of the wettest and coldest months on record in Croatia, but it looks like after the unsettled weather of May is behind us the whole region could be in for a summer to remember. AccuWeather, the much respected well-known American meteorological service, has released the weather forecast for this summer in Europe. And according to forecasts we are in for a baking hot summer.
A summer filled with extremely high temperatures and very little rainfall will see most of Europe, especially southern Europe, gripped in a summer heat wave.
The raging temperatures are predicted to start at the beginning of June, meaning that most of Croatia will go from long sleeves and umbrellas to flip-flops and shorts almost overnight. Weather forecasters predict that this summer will be much warmer than last year and that temperatures in Croatia could well hit 40 degrees.
In addition to the soaring temperatures during the day, the big problem this summer will also be the very hot tropical nights. Because of the very damp winter and spring the vegetation will be more lush than in previous years, writes AccuWeather, meaning the risk of forest fires will increase. As far as the Balkan Peninsula is concerned, American meteorologists predict that we will also be hit by several storms during the summer.
Citizens of the European Union live on average 2.5 years longer than Americans and a full 4.6 years longer than China. Even though the average age of people living in the European Union has lengthened and is longer than two of the largest countries in the world there is also a few invisible boundaries inside Europe.
Spanish live the longest in Europe, presumably thanks to their healthy Mediterranean diet, favourable climate and relatively low levels of stress, with a life expectancy of 85 years. Whilst Bulgarians live the shortest, on average 12 years less than the Spanish, with a live expectancy of 73.
According to information from the European Union statistical bureau, Eurostat, Croatians, as of 2017, had a life expectancy of 78 years. The full list sees the Germans with 81.1 years, British with 81.3 years, Italians with 83.1 years and Austrians with 81.7 years. Croatians neighbours had mixed results, with the developed Slovenia having the longest life expectancy of 81.2 years, whilst Montenegrins with 76.6 years and Serbs with 75.6 years.
The difference between European life expectancy clearly has invisible borders between Western countries and Eastern countries, between developed countries and countries in transition.
A massive number of diaspora voters could well have the final say who represents Croatia in the upcoming European elections. The number of diaspora registered on the electoral roll has increased incredibly from 3,637 in 2014 to 154,358 today, reports Jutarnji List.
On Sunday the 26th of May Croatia will go to the voting booths to select their MEPs for the European Parliament, currently Croatia is entitled to 11 MEPs but this could well increase to 12 after Brexit when EU members will gain extra seats.
And it could well be the diaspora who decides Croatia’s European Union future, as their number has grown by an incredible 4,244 percent since the last time there were European Union elections in 2014.
Jutarnji List points out that the main reason for this huge jump in the diaspora electoral roll is a law that was passed in 2015 which made it possible for voters abroad not to have to physically register, instead all voters are automatically registered just by having an identification card.
In total there are 3.8 million Croatian eligible to vote on Sunday the 26th of May, of which 3.67 actually live in the country and 154,358 are not residents. Not only are these diaspora voters numerous and could well swing a majority, but they also could well decide the future of Croatia in the European Union. The vast majority of these diaspora don’t pay taxes in Croatia and a large majority have never even been to the country and yet their votes could shape the European political scene.