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 love Rome! I have to admit that I’m not a great lover of large cities. But Rome is special. Every corner you turn you literally bump into a new sight, a historic building or a glorious plaza. It is crammed with cultural monuments, like an overloaded pizza.
Everything is easy to reach, it’s pretty much a walkable city, and the value of these sights is priceless.
Is it dirty, yes! Is it overcrowded, again yes! But at the same time it is magical.
The birth of modern civilisation in a bite-sized city.
So, why was I in the Eternal city last weekend? Well, if there is one thing I love more than Rome that is surprising my “nearest and dearest.” My mother, accompanied by my sister, is currently on a bucket list grand tour of Europe.
Surprising My Mother in Rome
Florence was the main goal on her list, but she managed to visit Switzerland, France and large parts of Italy along the way. And all by train. Not a bad way at all to see Europe. And the little treat at the end is a trip on the famous Orient Express from Paris to London.
So as she was in my neighbourhood I decided to surprise her. She was going to be in Rome for three days, including her birthday, that seemed like the ideal chance. My sister and I kept it between us. I had booked a hotel near theirs and flights, although the only hitch was that I had to catch them from Split.
“I hope she doesn’t have a heart attack when she sees you,” joked my sister. The plan was to meet her in their hotel, in the rooftop restaurant with spectacular views over the whole city, from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica to the Colosseum.
The scene was set. They were having cocktails and I was in the lift. “Go and have a look at the view,” I heard my sister say as she prepared to video the surprise. I stuck my head around the corner. My mother saw me and the look on her face was worth all the planning. Her mouth was moving but no words were coming out.
Shock, love and joy, all wrapped together like a calzone.
Priceless, and the video will always be a fond memory.
So we had three days together in the city of light, the city of love. We hit all the main sights, all that we could in the limited amount of time, for there is much to see.
I have this complex of always comparing a tourist destination to Dubrovnik. And the first thing to say is that if you think Dubrovnik is overcrowded then don’t go to Rome. The Vatican Museum was so busy that so literally couldn’t stop to look at the exhibition, we were herded like cattle through the halls and rooms, like a drive-through museum.
Finding a spare table at a restaurant or café was mission impossible, and the public transport was bursting at the seams. And by far the most numerous tourists were Americans, presumably going back to their roots and exploring their forefather’s homeland. Some restaurants felt like being in downtown New Jersey.
Pricewise Rome is pretty much on a par with Dubrovnik. Although the parking is drastically cheaper, with roadside parking 1 euro an hour, and you can even pay for 50 cents for 30 minutes. But even with the negatives Rome is still enchanted.
Style of Rome is well-groomed
One of my passions is watching cities awake. So I get up at 6 and walk the streets or sip an espresso watching the citizens go about their lives. Fascinating. Rome has this strange mix of fashionably dressed businessmen whizzing along the street on electric scooters whilst homeless people awake from a night sleeping rough on the streets. The “haves” and “have nots” on one street.
The style of Italian men (much more than the women) is impressive. No matter that it was 35 degrees these guys look like they have fallen of the pages of Marie Claire or Cosmopolitan in their sharp, tailored suits and trimmed beards. They must spend hours in front of the mirror.
“They speak to each other like people in Dubrovnik,” laughed my mother, referring to the fact that no conversation, however trivial, has hands and arms waving. Not so much temperamental, more expressive.
Rome was a delight. And the look on my mother’s face will stay with me for a long time. La vita è bella!
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik
“Regarding road connectivity, this year is the year in which we have completed a strategic project of connecting the southern part of Croatia to the highway network. The fourth phase, including the access roads to the Pelješac Bridge, was completed a month and a half ago. We have discussed the plan for this decade at the government level, where we will precisely identify the regions in Croatia where we need to improve the transportation infrastructure. One of the road routes that certainly requires attention is from Ston to Dubrovnik, and we will make an effort to secure funding for the realization of that project, commented Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković.
And added “I have already mentioned four options that exist: connecting Metković to the highway, reaching Komarna, linking Pelješac, and, of course, reaching Dubrovnik from Čilipi Airport.”
The far south of Croatia may well now have a new bridge and access roads, but it still doesn’t have connection to the main highway system in Croatia. To drive from Dubrovnik to the first junction of the main A1 highway takes over an hour. And the road from the Dubrovnik Airport to the city is in desperate need of improving.
A robot has performed its 415th prostate cancer operation, indicating that robotic surgery will become the standard in healthcare. The National Robotics Centre has conducted over 400 precise prostate cancer removal surgeries in the past four years, according to the University Hospital Centre Zagreb (KBC Zagreb), which is the only facility in Croatia where urological operations are performed using a robotic platform.
The procedure is minimally invasive, resulting in minimal blood loss and no traditional surgical incision. Surgeons operate the robot, which provides great precision in removing the prostate and tumour. The robot allows the urologist to spare important pelvic structures responsible for erections and continence, leading to faster recovery and a return to normal life for the patient.
KBC Zagreb performs up to two robotic radical prostatectomy surgeries per day using the robotic system. Younger doctors, eager to utilize the new technology, are primarily operating the robot. They have documented their experience in numerous scientific publications. The candidates for this surgery are patients with localized prostate cancer. Over time, the boundaries have expanded, allowing for the treatment of larger prostates and more advanced cancers. The benefits of this new technology include excellent visualization, enabling the surgeon to see and spare even the smallest structures, and precise removal of the organ along with the tumour, reports N1.
The National Robotics Center was established at KBC Zagreb four years ago, with the robot costing around 15 million Kuna. Funding for its procurement was secured from EU funds. The director of KBC Zagreb, Ante Ćorušić, credited the establishment of the robotic platform to former Health Minister Milan Kujundžić and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who recognized the need for robotic surgery in the highest-level hospital in Croatia. Ćorušić emphasized that robotic surgery is necessary for the younger generation and predicted it would become the standard in most hospitals in Croatia and Europe.
As announced by Mayor Mato Franković at the recent citizens' assembly of the City District noise metres have been installed around the historic Old City of Dubrovnik.
In order to ensure a better quality of life for the residents, especially those living in the Old City core, which has been affected by excessive loud music in recent years, the City of Dubrovnik began the full implementation of the noise regulations in September 2022. The city will continue to systematically monitor all catering establishments to ensure compliance with the prescribed provisions.
The implementation of the Noise Regulations also includes fines in case of possible violations, amounting to 1,327 euros for legal entities and 265 euros for responsible individuals, as well as the temporary seizure of public space for seven days. Repeat offenses by a catering establishment will result in the seizure of the space for 30 days, and after the third offense, the public space will be permanently taken away. This means that a café bar or restaurant could no longer use the pavement for tables and chairs. And almost all catering faculties in the Old City rely on these outdoor public spaces.
The highest permissible noise level in outdoor areas during the evening period from 7:00 to 11:00 PM is 55 decibels.
The sharp increase in interest rates in several decades is spilling over into the real estate market.
Prices of residential properties in the Eurozone could experience a "chaotic" decline as apartments become unaffordable for citizens and unattractive to investors due to high interest rates, warned the European Central Bank (ECB) on Wednesday, as reported by Poslovni dnevnik.
Croatia is part of the Eurozone, and this applies to our country as well.
This is one of several risks highlighted in the ECB's financial stability analysis, along with higher borrowing costs and slower economic growth, which are detrimental to businesses and households.
Since last July, the ECB has been trying to contain inflation by raising interest rates, and it appears that they will persist with a strict monetary policy in the coming months, as analyzed by Reuters.
The strongest interest rate hikes in several decades are now beginning to be felt in the real estate market, which experienced a boom during the decades of accessible and affordable loans.
"Looking ahead, the decline in property prices could become chaotic as rising interest rates on new mortgages increasingly threaten their affordability and increase the burden of interest on existing mortgage loans," warned the ECB.The sharp increase in interest rates in several decades is spilling over into the real estate market. Prices of residential properties in the Eurozone could experience a "chaotic" decline as apartments become unaffordable for citizens and unattractive to investors due to high interest rates, warned the European Central Bank (ECB) on Wednesday, as reported by Poslovni dnevnik. Croatia is part of the Eurozone, and this applies to our country as well. This is one of several risks highlighted in the ECB's financial stability analysis, along with higher borrowing costs and slower economic growth, which are detrimental to businesses and households. Since last July, the ECB has been trying to contain inflation by raising interest rates, and it appears that they will persist with a strict monetary policy in the coming months, as analyzed by Reuters. The strongest interest rate hikes in several decades are now beginning to be felt in the real estate market, which experienced a boom during the decades of accessible and affordable loans. "Looking ahead, the decline in property prices could become chaotic as rising interest rates on new mortgages increasingly threaten their affordability and increase the burden of interest on existing mortgage loans," warned the ECB.
The Croatian Minister of Finance Marko Primorac stated on Friday that there is an expected continuation of easing of inflationary pressures and it is very likely that the government will further revise its GDP growth projections. He also mentioned that property tax is a highly sensitive political issue and will not be implemented during this government's term.
"We expect the continuation of easing of inflationary pressures in the upcoming period, and the average inflation rate on an annual basis will be slightly higher than the European average, but not overly concerning," Primorac said after the government session.
The weakening of inflation is in line with expectations, and the government's measures, particularly in the context of limiting electricity prices and the impact on other energy markets, have contributed to this.
Regarding the GDP growth of 2.8% in the first quarter, Primorac stated that it even slightly exceeded expectations. The government currently projects a 2.2% growth for the Croatian economy in 2023. However, considering the first quarter and expectations of a good tourist season, the second and third quarters are also expected to be "good." Therefore, it is highly likely that the government will revise its projections upwards.
When asked if a GDP growth above 3% can be expected this year, Primorac said they are not certain at this moment and that the situation is still uncertain. However, he reiterated that the prospects are good, given the favourable announcements regarding the tourist season, expected investments, including those within the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), and the acceleration of the post-earthquake reconstruction process, which will stimulate demand and growth.
No property tax yet
As for property tax, Primorac emphasized that it is a highly sensitive political issue, and definitively, it will not be introduced during this government's term, as it is essential to respect what is stated in the government program, which does not include it. He mentioned that most European Union countries have such a tax but added that there is still no clear consensus on how it should be calculated and what the tax base should be.
Primorac sees property tax as an instrument that would complement the range of options available to local self-government units and increase their autonomy. However, he pointed out that implementing this tax is not easy due to prerequisites such as sorting out documentation and land registers. If a decision is ever made to introduce such a tax, all necessary preparations would need to be carried out, which would require a certain amount of time. Primorac believes that introducing the tax fairly requires proper communication and explanation to citizens, and a wide consensus and public discussion are necessary.
Starting today, June 2nd, trains will be operating on the Sarajevo-Ploče-Sarajevo route. The trains will run on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until August 27th, 2023.
The train schedule is as follows:
1391 Sarajevo 7:15 - Mostar 9:12 - Čapljina 9:52 - Metković 10:18 - Ploče 10:36
1390 Ploče 18:26 - Metković 19:04 - Čapljina 19:29 - Mostar 19:56 - Sarajevo 21:51
Residents of Croatia can purchase tickets on the train, while residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina can buy tickets at the stations of the Željeznica Federacije BiH (Railways of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Passengers are required to provide personal information during ticket purchase for faster border control.
The prices of one-way tickets are as follows:
Route - Price (€)
Ploče – Sarajevo: 12.80
Ploče – Hadžići: 12.40
Ploče – Konjic: 9.60
Ploče – Drežnica Stara: 8.10
Ploče – Jablanica: 7.30
Ploče – Mostar: 5.30
Ploče – Žitomislići: 3.90
Ploče – Čapljina: 3.30
Please note that this info is based on the information provided, and it's always recommended to verify the current schedule and ticket prices with the relevant railway operators before traveling.
According to Spanish media reports Luka Modrić is set to leave Real Madrid.
OK Diario states that there has been a dramatic turn of events, and Modrić is likely to bid farewell to Real and Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, as he has already informed the club of his intention to leave.
A lucrative offer has allegedly arrived from Saudi Arabia, which the Croatian footballer is said to accept.
The reports suggest that Modrić has received a three-season offer worth 120 million euros from Saudi Arabia, while Real is offering him 10 million euros to extend his contract for another year.
This would be another shock for the Royal Club, as just a few days ago, Karim Benzema informed Real Madrid's management that he has no intention of extending his contract and also received a generous offer from Saudi Arabia.
#ExclusivaOK????— okdiario.com (@okdiario) June 1, 2023
Modric comunica al Madrid que quiere irse tras recibir una oferta de Arabia Saudí de 120 millones por tres añoshttps://t.co/QoYJjKi0wA