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.
Austria, unlike the Netherlands, has classified Croatia as a “stable” country in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that Austrian tourists don’t have to take a test when they return home.
The Croatian National Board in Austria released the news that Croatia has been placed on the stable list, although many other countries are on the high risk and from Monday the 27th of July Austrian citizens travelling to these countries will require a PCR test.
"This is great news for the entire Croatian tourism sector, given that Austria is among the top five foreign markets with the largest tourist turnover in July and in the current part of the year. We expect the continuation of positive trends in this market. We are very intensively promoting ourselves as a safe destination", said the director of the Croatian Tourist Board Kristjan Staničić.
Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are all on the Austrian high risk list, as well as 29 other countries including the USA, Portugal and Sweden.
In the last 24 hours, no new cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.
A total of two people are hospitalized in the Dubrovnik General Hospital. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 5,658 samples have been sent to Zagreb for analysis.
There are 240 people in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours no violation of the self-isolation measure has been established.
The headquarters of the Civil Protection for the Dubrovnik-Neretva County continues to appeal to citizens to adhere to all prescribed measures of the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia, including wearing protective face masks on public transport and indoor spaces.
“It looked like a refugee camp, bodies everywhere,” commented the reader of The Dubrovnik Times who sent us these photos this morning. And indeed at first sight it does.
But this isn’t a camp, this is supposed to be a five-star resort, and instead of backpackers wrapped in sleeping bags it should be a brand name hotel. Kupari, a former military resort, is a collection of five semi-destroyed hotels, which now acts as a reminder both of the Homeland War and the snail’s pace that Croatian bureaucracy works.
These hotels were shelled and set on fire in a war that happened over 25 years ago, and yet today they remain untouched. A resort within a ten-minute drive of the historic Old City of Dubrovnik, hidden from view and seemingly swept under the carpet. Plans and investors have come and gone. Hopes have been raised. Jobs promised. But the years pass and the scars remain.
The former resort has taken on a new life and is now a magnet for backpackers, campers and (believe it or not) war site fans. These refugees (sorry campers) found shelter in the former Grand Hotel, a once elegant hotel built between the two world wars. Grand by name and certainly grand by nature, the hotel was the height of elegance. Around this centrepiece four more hotels were added, less attractive more functional.
And to make this morning’s camping surprise even more bizarre the group appeared to be from the Netherlands, at least if the registration on their vans was an indication of nationality. The Netherlands has recently placed Croatia on a their “orange list” and Dutch citizens are "strongly recommended" to have a 14-day self-isolation upon their return to the country. These Dutch tourists had clearly ignored their government’s travel advice. Not only had they travelled to Croatia but they had also found accommodation (in the broadest sense of the word) in a five-star hotel twenty steps from the Adriatic and all for free.
When this Covid-19 pandemic started the message was stay at home and wash your hands. Weeks and months passed, we all spent a large portion of our lives on the couch. Keep social distancing and keep washing your hands and face, it wasn’t really that hard to follow. Then the message changed. Stay at home turned into stay responsible. We were let out of our homes and into the daylight. Cases had fallen to almost zero. However as inevitably as night follows day the number of new cases rose again. We were in a second wave.
There was no way we could be locked away in our houses again so the next best thing was the introduction of protective face masks. Again not a particularly difficult regulation to follow. It’s not like I am digging a trench in the middle of a muddy French field in World War 1. It became clear quite quickly that face masks would be the new norm. An accessory, like our wallets or car keys, that we couldn’t leave home without. And it isn’t only us. Pretty much the whole world is now shopping or riding public transport with a mask. Again this isn’t so tough to do.
Now you can argue whether face masks actually work in stopping the spread of the virus, as recent studies have shown, but that isn’t really the whole point. At the same time of fighting a deadly virus we are also fighting an equally lethal killer, the mental health of the nation. If a face mask makes people think they are safer, and seeing other people wearing one also helps, then surely that’s a strong enough reason to make them mandatory. If people feel more secure their minds will be more at rest. It appears that we will have to wear them, to quote Minister Bozinovic, “Until a solution is found for this virus and if the scientific community does not change its opinion, then it would last until the end of the epidemic is declared.” So get used to them.
And please learn how to wear them. If I had a Kuna for every time I’ve seen someone’s nose sticking out over the top of their mask I would be opening a bank account in Switzerland. It’s like saying a condom is uncomfortable and cutting the end off!
Of course I forget mine sometimes. Which got me to thinking why aren’t shops, and indeed shopping centres, offering masks for sale for people who forgot. The masks, which should be produced in Croatia, could be on sale for a special price, with half of the income going to the manufacturer and the other half to a local charity or humanitarian cause.
It is a win/win/win situation, a) someone has a face mask, b) the Croatian companies that produced the masks have earned money and created jobs and c) a worthy cause has received much needed funds. Of course these masks would be free of PDV, and a local designer could even create funky looking ones or take a lesson from the Rovinj Tourist Board. Creativity doesn’t cost a lot of money. Having an idea and the determination to produce results is much more important. Whilst other tourist boards have been throwing money in various directions, not really knowing why, just desperate to be seen to be doing something, Rovinj played it simple and won. They created special protective face masks with a nice design of Rovinj on them and a positive message, and then handed them out to restaurants, cafes and tourist agencies. This was really a minimum investment but the results were spectacular. Pretty soon the world’s media discovered the humble plan and just as quickly people all over the world were reading about how (and I quote) a “picturesque Croatian coastal city helps to protect their guests from Covid-19.” Hats off to Rovinj!
Now let’s connect the dots. A Dubrovnik based company produces Dubrovnik inspired face masks (with a motivational slogan in different languages) that are available for sale at all major tourist points in the city with signs clearly indicating that half of the money from the sale goes to a local charity. It isn’t that difficult really. “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while,” exactly right Mr Steve Jobs.
Yesterday the first cruise ship to set sail since the Covid-19 pandemic began pulled out of the northern German port of Hamburg. The cruise ship industry has been absolutely decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with whole fleets at anchor all over the world.
“Mein Schiff 2” set sail from Hamburg yesterday on a three-day cruise across the North Sea. This mega cruiser is operated by the German travel giant TUI.
According to a statement from the company there are around 1,200 passengers on board the Mein Schiff 2, which is well under the normal capacity of 2,900 passengers.
In fact, the cruise ship was allowed to carry up to 1,740 passengers for this first trip, however the company stated that this quota was not reached, which is probably a fair indication on the confidence in cruising in these times.
This inaugural cruise will in fact not even stop at land, the long weekend cruise will be one completely at sea.
A couple from Sweden, who arrived on the Adriatic on Thursday, were charged 3,250 Kuna, or around 423 Euros, by a taxi driver for a journey from Zadar Airport to Split.
"As soon as they got off the plane, they got skinned. Their first contact with Croatia was a taxi driver who charged them 3,250 Kuna. It is not right to charge some service unrealistically, just because they are tourists coming, for example, from Sweden, where the standard is much better than in our country", commented Milivoj Topić, president of the Transporter’s Guild at the Chamber of Commerce in Split for the newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija.
He adds that the price of 3,250 Kuna is realistic for a trip from Split to Zagreb, and not from Zadar to Split. He also says that the taxi driver justified the price he charged the Swedes by paying for parking at the airport.
"Before the liberalization of taxis, the price for a ride from Zadar to Split was around 1,300 to 1,400 Kuna, for one to four passengers in a car," he added.
The invoice paid by the couple from Sweden does not contain mileage or any similar information at all, but only that the transport service costs 3,250 Kuna. The taxi company is registered in Zadar.
So always ask for the price before you enter the taxi.
Don’t leave your washing out on the line tonight or the car windows ajar as it could be a wet and stormy night in the Dubrovnik region. The end of the week was a very warm one with extremely high levels of humidity, and tonight the weather could well take a turn for the worse with storms predicted.
Whilst highs reached a pleasant 29 degrees in the shade today the majority of the weather forecasts are showing storms, rain and a drop in temperature tonight. Overnight temperatures will drop to 20 degrees.
However, tonight’s stormy weather won’t last long, just overnight, and for the weekend the sunshine will be back in full force. Highs on Saturday will top out at a blistering 28 degrees and it will be a baking 28 degrees again. The warmer weather should continue for at least another seven days with next weekend seeing highs over 30 degrees. If there is one thing that is guaranteed in Dubrovnik that’s a sunny and warm summer.
The Croatian Tourism Association has launched a new website www.croatiacovid19.info clearly showing the number of new and active cases of Covid-19. The map of Croatia is divided into four separate regions, North Coast (Istria and Kvarner), South Coast (Dalmatia), Central Croatia (Zagreb and surroundings) and Eastern Croatia.
The website, which is simple in design, is aimed at informing citizens and tourists of the current Covid-19 situation across Croatia.
"We hope that this corona region tracker will help in planning a vacation for all guests coming to Croatia," stated the Croatian Tourism Association.
It can also be clearly seen from this new website that the Croatian coast has 25 new Covid-19 cases and 290 active cases in total. Whilst the continental areas of Croatia have many more cases, with 73 new cases and 701 active cases.
This very kind of definition of Covid-19 cases in different regions of Croatia is what both the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, and the Prefect of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Nikola Dobroslavic, have been calling for in response to The Netherlands placing Croatia on the yellow rating or risk.
Check out the new Covid-19 Croatia map HERE