Monday, 14 October 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

Is Roman Abramovich, or more precisely his mega yacht Eclipse, even going to leave Dubrovnik? It is no secret that the Russian billionaire is a fan of the Adriatic coastline of Croatia, especially the Dubrovnik region, but his yacht has never stayed in the region for this length of time before. The owner of Chelsea FC mega yacht first arrived in the Bay of Zupa, just south of Dubrovnik, back at the end of August, left for a week and then came back again at the beginning of September. And since then the $500 million Eclipse has been at anchor.

Although the ninth richest man in the UK hasn’t been spotted, either in Dubrovnik or Cavtat, a constant flow of small tender vessels arrive and depart at the yacht on a daily basis. The second longest private yacht in the world is certainly dominating the Bay of Zupa with other yachts and pleasure boats resembling toy boats, it is almost like Dubrovnik has a new floating tourist attraction.

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Eclipse at anchor - Photo Mark Thomas 

And although Roman Abramovich’s yacht has been enjoying the crystal, clear Adriatic and soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine it appears that the billionaire isn’t dipping into his $13 billion fortune to pay for his Croatian cruise. The cost of dropping anchor in the sheltered Dubrovnik bay is exactly zero Euros! And as it has been reported that the charter of Eclipse costs a massive $3 million a week there should be money left in the budget to pay for anchorage charges. But Abramovich isn’t to blame, he can’t pay fees even if he wanted to, the law doesn’t exist and so there is no way to charge him.

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The second longest private yacht in the world - Photo Mark Thomas 

According to Croatian law tourists can stay in the country for three months without needing a visa, so we can only presume that Eclipse and its crew, and quite possibly Abramovich himself, won’t be able to celebrate Christmas in Dubrovnik. That is unless the Russian oligarch is actually planning to take another European Union passport after failing to get a UK one.

The city-owned company Sanitat earned a whopping 19.1 million Kuna million in 2018 from parking charges around the city.

Starting from the 1st of October parking prices were lowered throughout the city. The most expensive parking zone, which is zone zero has seen prices dropped from 75 Kuna an hour to 20 Kuna an hour, whilst the price for zone two has been decreased from 50 Kuna to 20 Kuna. And from the 1st of November prices for parking across the whole city will also be lowered, with the cheapest zone 5 Kuna an hour.

Many Dubrovnik citizens purchase the monthly parking ticket, which at only 60 Kuna a month is certainly financially sensible. However, there are far more cars in the city than parking spaces.

Currently, there are as many as 3.5 times more monthly ticket holders than available seats. Namely, Sanitat has 2,154 parking spaces in the payment system, while 7,503 monthly parking tickets are active. Dubrovnik, a city with just over 42,000 inhabitants, has over 20,000 registered cars. And that is not including the thousands of taxis that migrate to Dubrovnik during the summer months.

 

It isn’t only careless drivers who cause accidents whilst using their mobile phones at the wheel, pedestrians are just as guilty. In these times when we are all seemingly glued to that flashing blue screen in our hands the combination of reality and virtual has its dangers, not least when crossing the roads.

And now the Croatian capital has followed many other world cities by introducing a special type of traffic lights for pedestrians that shines a red light onto the pavement at traffic crossings to warn people looking down at their phones not to cross the road. The first in this pilot project has been installed in Zagreb so phone users will be warned not to walk out in front of traffic.

When this traffic light turns red, it is reflected on the sidewalk as well as on mobile phone screens which pedestrians look at instead of around themselves. Reflecting the red light, the sidewalk, as well as the screens, force them to raise their heads, stop and wait for the light to turn green.

A survey conducted as part of the campaign shows that 92 percent of drivers, 50 percent of pedestrians and 33 percent of cyclists use mobile phones while crossing the street and that 20 percent do not even notice when the traffic light turns red. The findings also show that the responses of drivers using mobile phones are almost three times slower. Mobile phones are considered the fourth biggest killer in traffic.

 

“Never forget that you have two ears and one mouth, so use them it that order and listen,” once said a wise old man to me. It’s strange the things you learn when you listen.

So I have just arrived back in Dubrovnik after an urgent family matter in the UK. As they said in The Godfather a million times, “The family always comes first.” And yes it is hard being away from the family in times of need but thankfully flight connections between my two countries are frequent, at least out of the winter.

And travelling alone you tend to bump into more unusual situations. Maybe people feel sorry for you, “look he is all on his own,” and just want to be friendly, I am not sure but I do know that you are never alone even when you are alone.

“God, I am really starving and could murder a hamburger,” said one of the ladies in front of me on the plane back to Dubrovnik. “Yes, me to,” answered her friend, “but I guess they don’t have a McDonalds in Kavtat (yes, all the English have renamed Cavtat) so we’ll have to go into Dubrovnik to get one.” I was just about to jump in when another friend shouted from the other row, “Yes, I heard that Dubrovnik has Starbucks, Subway and all those fast food restaurants.” Maybe she was confusing Starbucks with Ćele, Subway with Škola and the fast food chains with Tutto Bene?

 

 

It turned out that this rather large group of ladies were on a Hen Night, well Hen Weekend, in Dubrovnik. Which was obviously why one of them, well the bride to be, had been wearing a plastic blow-up crown like a queen since check-in. They had clearly made good use of the pubs in the airport before take-off and were now on a mission to empty the on-board drinks cart of all the prosecco. For sure they spent more on bubbly wine than they did on the plane ticket. Not so much easyJet as easyDrunk! Somewhere over the French Alps they decided to have a sing-along, rather like an English version of Mate Bulić, although the repertoire was Yellow Submarine and not Gori Borovina! I felt a nudge in my side, “Brexit can’t come soon enough,” smiled the lady sitting right next to me as the Hen Ladies were told to calm down by the flight attendant as they broke out into yet another verse of Singing in the Rain.

Yes, if you want to visit the one country in the world that isn’t talking about Brexit then visit the UK. With D-Day looming fast I had assumed that it would be the main topic of conversation, I was wrong. I thought it would have been as crazy as Boris Johnson’s hair, but far from it.

The best way to judge to mood of the English is to go to the local pub. It’s like analogue social media. And not once, even though I repeatedly tried to bring up the subject, was Brexit even mentioned. I couldn’t work out if it was a taboo theme or if people just didn’t care. “Oh, I just can’t wait for it to be over so I can watch something more interesting on the News at Ten,” said an elderly lady at the bar. “I am sick of bloody Brexit,” she added whilst sipping her pint. And that was it.

 

 

 

Generally, the standard of living is very high, the shops are full, the roads are flooded with brand new cars, everything seems to work just perfectly, so people just don’t care about the B-word. “I can’t wait to hit the discos in Kavtat,” my Brexit daydream was broken by the Hen Ladies who had finished arguing with the flight attendant as she stated that “we are coming into land so sorry we can’t serve you any more drinks.” The ladies were getting restless, and I was starting to feel sorry for Cavtat, the only dancing they would see would be at midday in front of the church in Cilipi, but I was pretty sure they weren’t after folklore.

And then came the typically British moment, “Kelly, did you remember to pack the tea?” – “Of course, and Yorkshire Tea, only the best,” shouted Kelly. “I only hope they packed condoms as well,” smiled the passenger next to me.   

The voice of the people has been listened to, the official retirement age in Croatia is 65 years-old, again! Following the referendum initiative “67 is too much” which managed to collect an impressive 700,000 signatures the government has decided to revert their decision to make the retirement age 67 and have now announced it will be once again 65.

"Respecting the will of more than 700,000 citizens, we will accept proposals expressed through the initiative to restore the retirement age to 65 and early retirement to 60, the government is not giving up encouraging a longer stay in the work place. And of course, for those people who can, and want, to work after 65 years of age, that is, until the age of 68, amendments to the Pension Insurance Act are proposed,” commented the Minister of Labour and the Pension System, Josip Aladrovic.

Clearly the weight of 700,000 signatures forced the government to reconsider their changes to the retirement ago, and had them backtracking.

"We will give this approach an opportunity for anyone who wants to work longer in the labour market, and which we believe will have a positive impact on employment, income and budget expenditures," added the minister.

 

After direct flights were launched from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik with American Airlines this year comes news that another transatlantic service could be in the pipeline.

The Canadian airline, Air Transat, have reportedly shown interest in expanding their flight connections between Canada and Croatia and flights to Dubrovnik are being mentioned. According to a report in the specialised website EX-YU Aviation Air Transat have already approached Dubrovnik Airport about the possibility of flights.

“Croatia remains a key destination for Transat in view of the interest shown by Canadian travellers in the summer and its potential for tourism development”, commented the airline to EX-YU Aviation. Adding that “We are continuously looking at all opportunities, including Croatia. Like all airlines, there are a number of considerations involved when we are selecting a destination, including customer demand, airport infrastructure and competition from other carriers”.

Since 2016 Air Transat have been flying between Zagreb and Canada during the summer months and these flights have been showing positive occupancy levels.

The popular UK travel shoe “Travel Man” hosted by Richard Ayoade came to Dubrovnik today to film for the upcoming show to be broadcast on Channel 4.

48 Hours in Dubrovnik will be aired on Monday the 21st of October on Channel 4 and this episode stars the English comedy actor, and darling of Hollywood, Stephen Merchant. Every episode of Travel Man, a fast-paced travel documentary, features a celebrity guest and Dubrovnik had the honour to pair Ayoade with Merchant.

Ivan Vukovic, a leading Dubrovnik tour guide, took the celebrity Brits on a Game of Thrones tour of the ancient Old City of Dubrovnik and he showed them some of the most iconic Game of Thrones locations, such as the steps used for the Walk of Shame.

stephen merchant in dubrovnik

This Dubrovnik episode will be the first one of new season of Travel Man, the ninth season in total for this incredibly popular UK show.

48 hours in dubrovnik

And it isn’t only Dubrovnik on the menu for the duo, they also visit the charming town of Ston where they get to taste some of the best oysters in the world, go on a buggy safari on the top of Srd Mountain and jaunt out to the island of Lokrum.

And we won’t have long to wait to see the efforts of their hard work in Dubrovnik as the episode will be aired in only a couple of weeks’ time.

vuka travel man 2019

 

The Croatian National Tourist Board and Bluesun Hotels, in cooperation with Korean National Television KBS and A9, hosted the production crew of the most popular South Korean TV show Battle Trip, as well as Korea's biggest pop stars Park Cho-rong and Yoon Bo-mi.

It is a six-day visit to Croatian destinations, where the most watched Korean TV show is being filmed. Otherwise, the Battle Trip broadcast on the KBS channel follows over 25 million viewers in South Korea, as well as a large number of Korean expatriates, predominantly in the US, via KBS World.

Korean pop stars Park Cho-rong and Yoon Bo-mi who are currently residing in Croatia are members of the K-pop group Red Velvet. They are followed on social networks by an army of escorts, to be precise, 8.3 million followers on Instagram and 1.3 million followers on Facebook.

 

 

 

During her journey, she will learn about traditional Croatian customs such as making gingerbread hearts in Zagorje, enjoying gastronomic delicacies in Split, but also experiencing an off-road buggy adventure in Baska Voda and cycling around Brac. The show, filmed at the most beautiful Croatian destinations for 90 minutes, will be broadcast in South Korea in about a month.

battle trip croatia korea

"Croatian destinations have made their way into excellent locations for filming top films, series and shows. The positive impact of world-renowned shows and films on the global promotion of our country is beyond question, which is confirmed by the huge jump in our country's popularity in the Korean market after the Korean reality show The Romantic was filmed in Zagreb in 2013. I am sure that the popularity of Croatia in Korea will increase further after the stay of their music stars in our country, but also after the broadcast of this most watched South Korean TV show, "said Croatian Tourist Board Director Kristjan Stanicic, adding that the recent formal opening of the HTZ Representative Office in Seoul further increase our country's promotional activities in Korea.

South Korea, with a population of 51 million and established a direct scheduled Zagreb-Seoul scheduled airline by Korean Air, represents a huge market potential for Croatia.

In the past part of the year, we recorded over 317 thousand arrivals and 402 thousand overnight stays from this market, which represents an increase of almost 5 percent in overnight stays compared to the same period last year.

According to the realized number of nights, the destinations that record the highest traffic from the Korean market are Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Plitvice Lakes. Korean tourists mostly visit Croatia in the pre and post-season, mostly during May and June, and September and October.

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