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.
The sun broke through the clouds, well at least on Saturday, and the temperatures rose as Dubrovnik enjoyed a warm spring weekend.
The tourist season feels like it is already underway as the historic Old City was awash with tourists from all over the world. The ferries to the island of Lokrum are running, and are full, and the queues for the city walls are slowly forming. The café bars along the Stradun were doing a roaring trade all weekend.
Check out our gallery from the weekend in Dubrovnik
According to news in the Spanish media Luka Modrić could soon be on his way from Real Madrid and heading back towards the Premier League. The Croatian captain is expected to leave the Santiago Bernabeu this summer as the team goes through a new transition and the squad looks for younger blood.
The Croatian midfield ace has a contract with Real until June 2020. During his time at the Spanish giants he has won an amazing 13 trophies, including three Champions Leagues and has made over 250 appearances.
With Real working on the team’s reconstruction it would appear that Modrić will be leaving this summer and making his way back to England. Rumours suggest that Arsenal and Liverpool are the two clubs in the Premier League most interested in the services of Modrić, and it looks like he has plumped for Liverpool.
He decision might have been affected by the fact that he started his English career at Tottenham or because he wanted the opportunity to work with Jurgen Klopp. It is speculated that Liverpool will play a whopping 60 million Euros for the Croatian midfielder, which would be the biggest transfer fee ever paid for a Croatian player.
On this day, the 15th of April, in 1979 Dubrovnik was hit by a massive earthquake that badly damaged over a 1,000 buildings. Measuring 7.2 on the Richter Scale the earthquake was reported at the time as the strongest ever earthquake to be felt in the region, stronger than the earthquake of 1667 which flattened two-thirds of the Old City of Dubrovnik.
At 7.20am the earthquake started to shake the city, and earthquake that left 1,071 buildings damaged, including 106 sacral objects and 33 fortifications, according to UNESCO reports.
Over 130 people lost their lives in the region, and there were aftershocks of various strengths throughout the day. In Dubrovnik nobody was seriously injured although 80 percent of buildings were damaged. The earthquake was even felt as far away as Vienna.
Croatian tourist officials expect to see a record number of Chinese tourists this year.
Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board Kristijan Stanicic said this week that in the first months of this year, more Chinese tourists want to visit Croatia, with large numbers expected between May and October.
"There have been 193,000 Chinese tourists since last year. Most often, along with the main city of Zagreb, they visit Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik, and go to Plitvice Lakes. Chinese tourists usually stay in hotels, but lately also show interest in private accommodation," according to the Croatian National Tourist Board.
After 16 Croatian-speaking Chinese citizens graduated on this week from the first tourist guide training course designed for non-EU citizens, there is an increasing interest for Croatian citizens to learn Chinese and work as official guides, the Zagreb Tourist Guide Association said.
Chinese tourist guides were restricted by Croatian law from doing the job. Things changed early this year when authority eased restrictions and allowed non-EU citizens who have long-term residence in Croatia to obtain qualifications through training and exams.
"The knowledge of Chinese language opens all doors. There are so many inquiries that we cannot accept all of them for the jobs we offer in tourism," Andrija Mavric, a travel guide from Zagreb, told Xinhua.
Chinese form the fourth largest group of tourists in the capital of Croatia.
"Zagreb has become a hit destination for Chinese tourists, and there are numerous actions to attract new guests from China. This summer Zagreb will host a number of new projects that will enable Chinese tourists to get to know the old city and history of Zagreb," said Martina Bienenfeld, director of the Zagreb Tourist Board.
The Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik will reopen its doors to the public today after a long period of major refurbishments. Over the last five months, the hotel has undergone a full refurbishment of existing bedrooms and suites, increasing the total capacity of accommodation to 149.
The communal areas including the Executive Lounge and Reception have also been updated to honour the hotel’s imperial history and glamorous reputation.
Mario Matkovic, the general manager at Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, said: “The Hilton Imperial is considered one of Dubrovnik’s landmarks, with its striking façade featuring in many holiday-maker’s photos, especially when illuminated at night. We’ve preserved this iconic exterior while updating the interiors to reflect the hotel’s imperial heritage, bringing 19th century grandeur together with contemporary luxury and style.”
Citizens of most European countries believe they live better. The exceptions are Croatians, Greeks and Cypriots.
Croatia, along with Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain, has recorded a decline in the quality of life. In Croatia, Greece and Cyprus the “pleasure of living” declined in all the indicators measured by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) from Dublin. The Foundation is a European Union agency whose role is to provide key stakeholders in the area of social policy information, knowledge and advice from comparative research.
The Foundation has been conducting the European Quality of Life (EQLS) for more than a year. Croatia was first included in the EQLS in 2007, and it is a little surprising that despite the crisis, the level of quality assessment for 2012 was relatively high, probably due to the expectations of early EU accession.
While in Sweden and Denmark more than 80 percent of citizens believe in a better future, only 55 percent of Croatians are optimistic. This is somewhat better than in Portugal and Slovakia, much better than in Italy and Greece where only 47 percent and 37 percent of respondents were optimistic.
According to the standard of living scale, only Bulgaria and Greece are behind Croatia. Croatians, along with the French, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Slovaks and Spanish, say that in 2016 they had even more difficulties in meeting their needs than they had before the crisis in 2007.
According to these indicators, the standard of living has improved most in Estonia. Only in five countries - Croatia, Austria, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg - the situation worsened, while in six countries there was no change.
In February 2018 Croatian airports recorded 229,000 passengers or 13.9 percent more than in the same month last year, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).
The largest passenger turnover was realized by Zagreb Airport, with 170,000 passengers (10.0 percent increase compared to February 2017), followed by Split airport with 29,000 passengers (28.5 passenger increase compared to February 2017) and the airport of Dubrovnik with 24,000 passengers (an increase of 6.2 percent compared to February 2017).
The most significant international passenger traffic was made with German airports, 61,000 passengers, an increase of 17.7 percent over the same period last year. The total number of landings and take-offs at airports in February 2018 was 4,098, which is an increase of 11.5 percent compared to February 2017.
The Minister of the Interior, Davor Božinović, commented yesterday that Croatia would fulfil all the technical requirements laid out by the Schengen agreement by the end of this year. After meeting with the European Commission Božinović discussed several security issues, including border surveillance and the implementation of the European directive on the use of data from passenger records that is intended to prevent and detect terrorism and other serious forms of crime.
Božinović expects the proposal for a second reading, which was adopted by the Government yesterday, to be adopted in the Croatian Parliament. The directive was considered by the Minister as important for the common fight against terrorism, organized crime, money laundering and access to explosive devices in domestic work.
Croatia, which is known as a tourist country, has nine international airports to be put into the Schengen directive, the minister concluded. Božinović concluded that based on all the work done so far Croatia was in a good position to achieve a higher standard of citizen protection, but also to meet the Croatian Government's strategic goals such as Croatia's entry into the Schengen area by the end of this year.