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.
Without doubt some of the reasons why tourists flood to Croatia every summer are the unspoilt nature, the clean blue seas, the guaranteed sunshine and the historic and cultural attractions, but they are also assured by the safety of the country. And according to a survey by one of the largest statistical organisations in the world Croatia is indeed an extremely safe country.
The data shows that out of the 33 countries in Europe, Croatia has the seventh lowest rate of crime. The “Crime Index by Country 2019 Mid-Year” data shows that the safest country in Europe is Switzerland with a rating of 78.82. Switzerland is followed by Slovenia, Estonia, Finland, Iceland and Austria, and Croatia comes in seventh place, one place ahead of Denmark.
At the other end of the rankings sees Ukraine, Sweden, France and Ireland as the least safe countries in Europe.
Across the whole of the country each Croatia city has a good safety ranking, with even the capital and by far most populated city Zagreb having a good rating. The figures for Dubrovnik make for interesting reading as pretty much every category shows the city to have a very low level of crime, from murder to petty crime, but the one category that differs is “corruption and bribery” which has a high rating. Although Dubrovnik is far from alone in this ranking with almost every other city showing the exact same reading.
The beaches of Zupa certainly aren’t as busy as they normally are, especially the Kupari beach, and one of the main reasons is the lack of visitors from neighbouring Trebinje. Traditionally Kupari and the beach are a destination that is popular for guests from neighbouring countries, the ease of parking, beach bar and relatively long beach area have made this Zupa beach a magnet for day tourists from Trebinje and neighbouring towns.
However, with the construction of a new border crossing on the Croatian side of the border and seemingly tighter controls have meant that the delays at the border are up to 2 hours. In fact, just a few weeks ago the whole computer system failed at the border and lead to delays of 8 kilometres which took hours to clear. These delays, combined with the opening of a new water park in Trebinje, have meant that many of the visitors have decided to stay at home rather than visit the beaches of Zupa.
According to information the longest delays are in the morning until 10.00am and then from 6.00pm till late in the evening. One reason for these “peak time” delays are the large number of people who cross the border on foot. The large demand for seasonal workers in Dubrovnik has meant that hundreds and hundreds of employees come from Trebinje at the beginning of the week and then go home on Friday evening.
There are also a great number of seasonal workers, from all parts of Croatia, who decide to pay the considerably cheaper rents across the border and then commute to Dubrovnik on a daily and weekly basis. And of course this flow of workers, who mostly walk across the border, has led to even longer queues at the border.
With the landmark two-millionth passenger landing yesterday at Dubrovnik Airport the airport is going from strength to strength and is, according to a report on EX-YU Aviation, the fastest growing airport in the whole region.
From the beginning of the year until the end of June the airport saw an extra 157,000 passengers use their services compared to the same period from last year. Speaking to EX-YU Aviation the director of the airport, Frano Luetic, reported that “The reconstruction and development of the airport contributed to the increase in traffic. During the first eight and a half months of this year, passenger numbers have increased 14 percent. On August 3 we set our 24-hour record, during which we handled over 24.000 travellers."
And whilst the summer months are always busy at the airport the winter period has traditionally proved more difficult to attract flights. However, this year, this winter, the situation looks decidedly more promising. "This winter we expect to see British Airways, Aegean Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Trade Air, Turkish Airlines, Vueling and Croatia Airlines maintain flights to Dubrovnik," added Luetic.
The August traffic in Dubrovnik is bad enough without drivers causing havoc with poor parking. But when there is a will, there is always a way.
Two cars parked above the Banje Beach created a huge tailback yesterday as a bus packed with tourists was unable to pass and was left with nowhere to go.
But passengers and passers-by took matters into their own hands and with a bit of brunt force moved the two cars. Luckily the main culprit was a Smart car which didn’t prove so difficult to manhandle.
A total of 13 ATM machines have now been removed from the historic Old City core of Dubrovnik since the implementation of the City of Dubrovnik’s decision to restrict the installation of ATMs in the city centre.
After the administrative procedures were completed and the legal deadlines for adjustment expired, 11 enforcement decisions were issued by way of a fine, and the owners themselves removed a total of 13 ATMs in the last seven days, including three from the main street through the Old City the Stradun.
"High fines are foreseen for offenders, and the City of Dubrovnik Communal Police will continue to check the locations in the historic core daily and print fines on a daily basis. However, according to the announcements, all remaining ATMs that are set up without the consent of the conservators are expected to be removed," read a statement from the City of Dubrovnik.
The city administration points out that they were the first Croatian city to regulate the issue of ATMs by their acts, which have seriously affected the appearance of UNESCO's monumental heritage.
The coach driver who is suspected of attempting to smuggle 341.8 kilograms of marijuana into Dubrovnik on a tourist bus was brought to the State Attorney's Office around 9:30 this morning. Shortly afterwards, the owner of the tourist agency was also arrested.
Yesterday, a press conference was held at the Dubrovnik-Neretva Police Department, at which the head of the Criminal Police Service, Zoran Tikvica, presented the seized marijuana and explained that the smuggling was successfully prevented.
"A bus of Dubrovnik license plates, registered at a tourist agency from Dubrovnik, approached the Karasovici border crossing from Montenegro on Thursday at 3:30 pm and was operated by a male person from Dubrovnik. He immediately aroused suspicion and police officers noticed 17 black bags. When asked what they contained, the driver said that it was the sports equipment of a team from Brazil that he was driving to Montenegro,” Tikvic told reporters.
There are a few things, a few moments in life that really grab your attention. “I think the condom broke!” or “Your blood alcohol level is 3.0, please step out of the car sir!” or even “Is that my nude photo on Facebook!” But when you answer the phone and a friendly voice at the other end of the line says “Is that Mr. Mark Thomas, I am a representative of Bill Gates,” well that certainly had me standing to attention.
So you’re probably wondering how it came that a New York number flashed up on my mobile phone with one of Mr. Microsoft’s agents at the other end. I can’t blame you. It is a very simple story. There is a saying “he who works will make mistakes.” And it is very true. If you never do anything, then you can never do anything wrong. I would never trust anyone who had never made a mistake. Its only human. For if you have made a mistake that means that you are trying to do something and that hopefully you will learn from it, as a baby does when starting to walk.
So there was a story that the second richest man in the world was cruising with his family in the seas around us. In fact, he was spotted in Montenegro, and he is certainly no stranger to Dubrovnik and indeed the whole of the Croatian coastline. So with some inside knowledge from a friend in the country directly south of us I published an article on The Dubrovnik Times website that he was indeed on a cruise.
A couple of days went by and it appeared that someone had spotted him again near a Dubrovnik island. He was in the neighbourhood, so it was plausible. Although it also appeared that he had changed yachts, again not impossible. For if you are worth over $90 billion then you are probably security conscious. So we published a story that he had apparently been spotted on this Dubrovnik island and didn’t really think much else of it.
A little under 30 minutes had passed and I was already writing the next article, about a lost dog or something, when my mobile rang with a New York number. Coincidentally I had met a man from Utah a few days earlier and he had promised to call me about some other business. So I answered.
That’s when the Gates bomb dropped. “Hi, my name is Elizabeth (I think that's what she said), and I am a representative of Mr. Bill Gates,” she said, she did actually give her surname but when I heard Gates almost everything was washed from my mind.
And then with my cynical hat on I thought that this was a spam call, or a scam. She then started “Are you the editor of The Dubrovnik Times?” – “Indeed I am.” – “I am phoning to inform you of some news.” Was she about to say that I am a long, lost cousin of Mr. Microsoft and he wanted to include me on his will? Did Mr. Gates want to make me a board member of Microsoft? As his fortune is probably more than half of the countries on the planet this was an intriguing call.
“You have published news that Mr. Gates is currently cruising near Dubrovnik, well this is not true, the whole party have left the region two days ago,” she continued. Well it looked like I wasn’t a long, lost relative after all. “Can you confirm that he was in Montenegro a few days ago and that the previous article we published was correct,” I questioned. “Yes, that info is indeed correct and we have no problem with that article, but the last one is completely incorrect,” she answered. After thanking her for pointing out the error and pushed, “Is there any chance that you could give me some more info about Mr. Gates and his cruise?” I thought it was worth a try, even though it was a very, long shot. I appeared that confidentiality agreements had been signed and her mouth was sealed tight shut.
Goodbyes were said and the New York line went silent. My mind started spinning. In less than half an hour an agent of the second richest man in the world had phoned me to question an article on my website. COOL! F****ING COOL! Does that mean that Mr. Gates is reading The Dubrovnik Times? Should I then add him as a friend on Facebook? Am I now Microsoft certified? Will I get Word for free, no all of Microsoft Office?
I’ll leave the last word to the billionaire, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve.” Thank you for your feedback Mr. Gates.
“Would you like two double rooms or a family room? And with a sea view and pet friendly you say, I think we are fully booked.”
These two young couple and their faithful dog found the perfect solution to the overbooking in Dubrovnik hotels and apartments. They found an al fresco room on the beach in Srebreno, Zupa.
A reader sent us these photos this morning as she was surprised to find a group of sleeping bags on the beach.
It is of course illegal to sleep rough like this in Croatia but I think these happy campers will have a bigger problem with the approaching rain storm.