Tuesday, 21 May 2024
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

Zagreb Airport is poised for a bustling year ahead, with expectations of surpassing four million passengers fuelled by significant growth initiatives. Over the summer season, Zagreb will boast an unparalleled network connectivity, with a record-breaking tally of 66 destinations—six domestic and sixty international, reports EX-YU Aviation.

Anticipated to drive double-digit growth during the summer months, the airport has fortified its capacity for scheduled flights. From March 31 to October 26, scheduled flight capacity is set at 3,581,722 seats, marking a notable 13.2% increase equivalent to 418,009 additional seats.

Huseying Bahadir Bedir, the airport’s General Manager, expressed optimism, highlighting significant developments. "We commenced the year on a high note with the arrival of Pegasus Airlines as a new partner. This summer, Croatia Airlines is set to introduce three new routes from Zagreb, linking the city to Berlin, Stockholm, and Tirana," he stated. "Ryanair's expansion includes five new destinations, further enriching our network. Additionally, our long-haul partner, T'Way Air, will commence flights from Seoul in May, operating thrice weekly until late October. We also anticipate increased frequencies on flights from Toronto, Dubai, and other key destinations."

Bedir concluded on an ambitious note, "With all factors aligning, we anticipate achieving a historic milestone this year—surpassing four million passengers for the first time in the airport's history."

The upcoming 2024 elections for the European Parliament, scheduled from 6th to 9th June 2024, have garnered significant attention as Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, embarks on a dedicated data collection mission. Eurostat has tasked the National Statistical Institutes of the EU Member States to gather crucial information regarding the number of people eligible to vote across the continent.

According to national estimates provided, Germany is poised to witness the highest turnout of eligible voters during the election period, with an estimated 64.9 million persons expected to cast their ballots. Following closely behind are France and Italy, with anticipated numbers of 49.7 million and 47 million eligible voters, respectively. Conversely, the lowest numbers of eligible voters are projected in Malta (0.4 million), Luxembourg (0.5 million), and Cyprus (0.7 million).

In addition to overall voter statistics, attention is also drawn towards first-time voters, signifying individuals who have attained voting age since the last European elections in 2019. Germany leads the pack in this category as well, with an estimated 5.1 million first-time voters anticipated. France and Italy closely trail behind with projected numbers of 4 million and 2.8 million first-time voters, respectively.

Notably, Croatia has reported the addition of around 190,000 new voters to its electoral roll, contributing to the overall landscape of first-time voters in the upcoming elections.

Conversely, Malta, Cyprus, and Estonia are expected to witness the lowest numbers of first-time voters, with projections standing at 20,000, 37,000, and 70,000 persons, respectively. Remarkably, Belgium, France, and Germany are forecasted to boast the highest shares of first-time voters relative to their eligible voter populations, with expected percentages of 9.7%, 8.0%, and 7.9%, respectively.

The anticipated voter statistics, showcased in the accompanying bar chart detailing the total population eligible to vote in the 2024 elections for the European Parliament, underscore the significance of this upcoming electoral event in shaping the future of the European Union.

As you bask in the sun-drenched beauty of Dubrovnik, there's one destination that simply cannot be missed: Lokrum Island. Nestled just a short boat ride away from the historic city centre, Lokrum offers a mesmerizing escape from the hustle and bustle of mainland Dubrovnik.

As the swimming season commences and the Adriatic Sea beckons with its crystal-clear waters, now is the perfect time to venture out to Lokrum. While the sea temperature may still be a refreshing 17 degrees, the allure of its turquoise depths is irresistible. And as the summer sun arrives in full force the shade of the green island is enchanting.

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Upon arriving at Lokrum, visitors are greeted by a lush oasis of greenery, dotted with ancient ruins and scenic walking trails. Take a leisurely stroll through the island's botanical gardens, where exotic flora blooms against a backdrop of panoramic sea views.

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For history enthusiasts, Lokrum boasts a rich tapestry of cultural heritage. Explore the island's historic landmarks, including the medieval Benedictine monastery and the imposing Fort Royal, which offers commanding vistas of Dubrovnik's iconic skyline.

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Don't miss the opportunity to delve into Lokrum's intriguing legends and lore. According to local folklore, Lokrum is said to have saved Richard the Lionheart, who, upon returning from the Crusades, was shipwrecked on the island.

For fans of the acclaimed TV series Game of Thrones, Lokrum offers an added allure with its Game of Thrones Visitor Centre. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Westeros and even take a seat on the Iron Throne for unforgettable selfies.

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As you explore Lokrum's hidden gems, keep an eye out for its resident peacocks, which roam freely amidst the island's verdant landscape. These majestic creatures add a touch of whimsy to the island's serene ambiance, making for a truly unforgettable experience.

For those seeking adventure, Lokrum offers ample opportunities for exploration. Embark on a kayaking adventure around the island's rugged coastline, or dive into the azure waters for a snorkelling expedition to discover the vibrant marine life that thrives beneath the surface.

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As the day draws to a close, savour a moment of tranquillity amidst Lokrum's secluded coves, where the sound of gently lapping waves provides the soundtrack to a picture-perfect sunset. With its unparalleled natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and intriguing legends, Lokrum Island stands as a must-see destination for travellers seeking an unforgettable experience in Dubrovnik.

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Beginning April, visitors can now enjoy extended visiting hours at Ston's historical sites, including the iconic Ston walls, Veliki Kaštio fortress, and other cultural landmarks in Ston and Mali Ston.

The Ston walls are now accessible for sightseeing every day from 8:00 to 18:30. Ticket prices are set at 10 euros for adults, 5 euros for children above 7 years old, and group visits of ten or more individuals are priced at 8 euros per person.

Officials at the Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities in Ston expressed satisfaction with the number of visitors during the first quarter of this year, including the Easter holiday period. Notably, last year saw a record-breaking attendance of 71,396 visitors with paid tickets exploring the historical walls.

These developments signal a growing interest in Ston's rich cultural heritage, attracting both local and international visitors keen to explore the area's fascinating history and architectural marvels. With extended hours and affordable ticket prices, the Ston region remains a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and travelers alike.

 

Over three hundred participants of the first Nordic Walking and Hiking Festival - Konavle 2024 took part in yesterday’s event organized as part of this year's Spring in Konavle.

Visitors were greeted in Čilipi by members of the cultural and artistic society who performed traditional dances, toasted with the Konavle toast, and toured the display of a local museum. They were also welcomed by parish priest Don Josip Barišić and representatives of the municipal tourist board and the County, who are sponsors of this year's event.

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After a rhythmic warm-up, participants divided into three groups and set off on hiking routes: "Napoleon's Road" from Ljuta to Pridvorje, "From Shade to Shade" through Čilipi, and "Heart of Konavle" through Pridvorje and Lovorno. Each route had a guide who introduced participants to landmarks.

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The largest number of participants in today's festival came from Međimurje, Varaždin, Zagreb, and Split-Dalmatia counties.

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"The organization was top-notch, the whole program these three days in Konavle and Dubrovnik was of a high standard, and we will definitely return next year. In even greater numbers," said Zvonimir Lepoglavec, president of the "Sport for All" Association from Goričan, which, along with the Croatian Nordic Walking Association and the Konavle Agritourism Association, organized the event.

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All Photos - Agroturizam Konavle

In a bid to enhance passenger experience, Croatia Airlines (CA) has announced plans to offer Wi-Fi service on its incoming fleet of Airbus A220 aircraft. This announcement came on Wednesday, showcasing the airline's commitment to modernizing its services.

According to CA, Wi-Fi connectivity, facilitated by a satellite system, will be available on 15 new A220 aircraft by 2027. The arrival of the first of these aircraft is anticipated in June of this year, marking a significant milestone for the airline's technological advancements.

Passengers flying with Croatia Airlines aboard the A220 aircraft can look forward to seamless connectivity throughout their journey. Whether it's staying connected with loved ones, catching up on work, or browsing the web, the fast Wi-Fi service will cater to a range of passenger needs.

Furthermore, each seat in the new A220 fleet will be equipped with USB-A and USB-C ports, providing added convenience for travelers to charge their devices. Practical holders for smartphones and tablets will also be available, ensuring passengers can comfortably use their electronic devices throughout the flight.

 

Despite the calendar still reading April, Dubrovnik is already showing early signs of the impending summer season. Dubrovnik typically sees an influx of tourists as Easter approaches, marking the unofficial start of the tourist season.

While locals and visitors alike eagerly anticipate the warmth of summer, the sea temperature remains a refreshing 17 degrees Celsius, reminding everyone that it's still early days. However, this hasn't deterred the adventurous souls from dipping their toes into the crystal-clear Adriatic waters, albeit with a sharp intake of breath at the initial chill.

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Photos - Tonci Plazibat/CROPIX

What do you do to keep fit? How are you preparing for the oncoming summer season? Do you hit the gym and pump weights, or are you a devotee of the plank, is it yoga or maybe cycling across Konavle?

My fitness regime is, to say the least, limited. Without my trusty dogs dragging me around, I'd probably struggle to hit my daily step count. They're my personal trainers. OK, I have managed to completely cut out sugar in my coffee, but as I spend the vast majority of my day thumping at a keyboard I really need some physical exercise from time to time.

That all changed last week, when I went from zero to flat out in a couple of days.

It wasn’t an organised workout, but it did involve a lot of effort and weights. “Maybe you should take a couple of andols?” my wife said to me as I groaned a bear whilst having a shower after a hard day of moving and lifting.

So let’s start at the beginning.

Opposite my house is another house that has been empty for a decade and a half. It is, or rather was, fully furnished. And the owners, who now live in Germany, decided to empty it and start to renovate it. Being a good neighbour I volunteered to help.

The wife speaks Croatian, but her husband (apart from the odd swearword) doesn’t. They drove from Germany in a rented van, the same van that would be our removal van.

Now, this house isn’t small, and therefore contains a lot of furniture. Already my wife had put and advert on Facebook in an attempt to get some of the furniture adopted, but a lot remained. “OK, we start tomorrow,” we all agreed.

I looked at how much there was to carry and quickly joked “Sorry, I can’t help you, have you heard about Brexit.” He may not have understood everything but he did smile at the word Brexit.

Thankfully the German man, let’s call him Hans, was built like an American footballer. I quickly nicknamed him “Tarzan.”

There are ten rooms in the house, including two kitchens, meaning the oversized van would soon be full.

Now my German is somewhat limited, my only phrase is “Ich liebe dich” which wasn’t of much use speaking to Tarzan!

So with hand movements and very broken Croatian/German we began the task of carrying countless wardrobes, cupboards and beds. “Dieses Sofa ist leicht,” laughed Tarzan as I struggled under the weight of a massive sofa. I was pulling muscles that I didn’t know I had! Whilst he was chuckling and talking on his mobile (sorry Handy) at the same time.

After what seemed like the twentieth cupboard I said “Pause!” Tarzan laughed, he did a lot of that. He pointed to my T-Shirt, “weiß.” Yes, clearly wearing a white (or rather black now) T-shirt whilst lugging 15-year-old dusty furniture around was a bad choice.

He popped open a beer and signalled towards me. “No, thanks, I don’t really drink much,” I answered. And with a look of puzzlement on his face he answered, “Are you really an Engländer?”

Three days! It took us three days to remove everything and countless trips in the van to dump the garbage, sorry Müll! I am so happy that I didn’t start a career in the removals business! “You’re not bad for a German,” I joked with Hans. “Ah, English humour,” he smiled.

We had done a good, if rather exhausting, job. Am I now fit for summer? Well, no. But I have to admit the physical work made a welcome break from the laptop.

And as the couple jumped back in the van for the long drive back home to southern Germany I heard his wife say, “Come on Tarzan it’s time to drive Jane home.”

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to

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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

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