Never judge a book by its cover.
“Wow, look at all those tourists from Switzerland and Germany going south to Montenegro and Albania,” said an English friend of mine as we walked past hundreds of cars driving (or rather parking) in Župa. I had to laugh a little to myself. Knowledge is power. “They aren’t tourists, they are going back home for summer holidays,” I replied.
“Surely it would be easier and quicker, and possibly cheaper, for them to fly,” he replied.
He was right. But at the same time he was missing the point. It’s like when someone in the village buys a new tractor, and everyone wants to take a look. The need to show how successful they have been moving to work abroad and now driving a huge black jeep is the same principle. Audis, BMWs and Mercedes all line the main road through Župa.
The vast majority don’t sleep, they drive non-stop, probably a) to save money and b) to save time. Yes, it’s that principle of eat bread and drink water at home and drink champagne when you are out to impress.
A few years ago I received information that is rather shocking. On the main road in Župa there is a car counter. And in one 24-hour period around 24,000 vehicles passed over the counter heading towards the airport. Although from that number around 13,000 continued down to the south border with Montenegro. That’s a number that only a new road system can handle.
And throw into the cocktail the 8,000 taxis on the roads and you have a recipe for disaster.
And the culture of many of these border-hoppers leaves a lot to be desired. The culture, or rather lack of culture, is just under the surface. The rubbish, mostly plastic, throw out of windows by these drivers is catastrophic. Just look at the photos of the roadsides in Konavle as they waited to cross the border. Disaster!
And just a few days ago a friend was following a Swiss/Albanian jeep for a few kilometres, during which the driver threw three cigarette butts out of the window. You have to be a moron with a capital M to do that. Can’t they see the black hills of Župa and have some remorse and think about their actions. I guess when you dumb then you are dumb.
The hot topic over the past months has been the protracted traffic jams to and from Dubrovnik and the airport. And whilst these jeeps from Switzerland are undoubtedly one of the causes they aren’t the only factor, far from it.
For years, almost since the airport was opened in the early 1960’s the talk of the need for some kind of fast road has been bouncing around. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anything fast about the fast road.
Turning off the traffic lights, or even bringing in the traffic police isn’t a solution. It’s just like putting a plaster on a broken leg.
Now, there are some who argue that the hours long delays are to be expected, “it’s summer after all, it should be busy,” is the line. To a certain extent they are right, especially with Dubrovnik’s peak and low tourist year, making it hard to plan an infrastructure program. However, it isn’t brain surgery, nothing is impossible, it just takes hard work and creativity. Two factors sadly lacking in this case.
What really confuses me is that Dubrovnik lives from tourism, it is our main source of income. And therefore surely everything must be done to make this flow of income go as smoothly as possible. So why isn’t a solution found?
You could argue that a fast road to the airport or an improved road system to the border is even more important than the Pelješac Bridge. If not a fast road, then the continuation of the motorway system from Ploče down to the border. But ideally both!
It’s not like isn’t a new problem, every year for the past decade I have personally experienced the tailbacks. And the fragility is there for all to see. One accident, which is probably inevitable with so many vehicles around, completely cuts off the flow of traffic.
"The only thing standing between you and outrageous success is continuous progress," once said the writer Dan Waldschmidt. It seems to me that progress in this case is about as fast as the traffic jams.
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