Monday, 18 November 2019
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

Of all the ports in all the towns in all the world, she anchors in mine. The luxury yacht Casablanca moored up in Cavtat over the weekend and certainly turned heads. The Croatian owned and operated yacht with a base in Split has 19 cabins and a crew of ten.

Advertised as “One of the most wanted yachts for charter in Croatia!” Casablanca turned into a tourist attraction over the weekend in Cavtat with many taking the opportunity to take a selfie with the 53-metre-long yacht in the background. And at around 50,000 Euros a week to charter Casablanca represents relatively good value when compared with many of the other mega yachts that drop anchor in and around the Dubrovnik region.

Casablanca will surely be back in Cavtat soon. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

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It probably wasn’t the most stress-free place to be yesterday but that didn’t seem to bother the presidential couple as the travelled to London for a romantic break. “A personal present to Jacob for his birthday.

A relaxed trip to London,” wrote Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, on her Facebook account together with a photo at Zagreb Airport. On arriving in London the couple managed to avoid the Brexit protests in the city centre and headed for a show.

Kolinda celebrated her husband’s 51st birthday in style with an evening at the theatre. “Two Ladies” starring Croatian actress Zrinka Cvitešić and British actress Zoë Wanamaker.

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What’s missing from this photo? The Bay of Zupa, just south of Dubrovnik, doesn’t seem the same without the Eclipse mega yacht blocking out half of the view. Yes, it would seem that the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has sailed off into the Adriatic sunset, well at least his luxury yacht, the second longest in the world, Eclipse has.

After dropping anchor in front of Cavtat in early September the $500 million yacht has been a tourist attraction for the past two months. Although a constant flow of small tender boats were seen arriving at the yacht on a daily basis, presumably bringing with them food and other provisions, the owner of Chelsea F.C was never once spotted in Dubrovnik or nearby Cavtat.

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Eclipse in front of Cavtat a few days ago - Photo Mark Thomas 

That is not to say that the ninth richest UK citizen, even though he was refused a British passport, didn’t spend the whole time relaxing on his floating home. And as Eclipse has its own submarine maybe Abramovich was enjoying the crystal, clear Adriatic underwater scene. And jet skis were also spotted buzzing around Eclipse so he really may have been enjoying some time alone.

The Russian is a huge fan of the Dubrovnik region and has been a constant annual visitor over the past decade. And overnight Eclipse has raised anchor and sailed away to presumably warmer climes, such as the Caribbean. See you next summer Mr. Abramovich.

 

Parliament on Friday designated October 21 National Road Traffic Safety Day in order to raise awareness of the safety of all participants in traffic.

MPs supported by a majority vote a joint motion by the domestic policy and maritime affairs committees which initially asked that October 21 be observed as National Day Without Mobile Phones in Traffic, but eventually accepted the government's arguments that it be designated National Road Traffic Safety Day.

The government agreed that mobile phones are a big traffic safety problem but noted that their use is only one of four factors affecting safety, the others being speed, alcohol and not wearing a seat belt.

Parliament also endorsed reports on the execution of the state budget and application of fiscal rules in 2018 and the first half of 2019 as well as the 2018 report on the work of the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute.

Demand for passenger cars in Europe recovered in September after falling in the previous month, with Croatia seeing double-digit growth again, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

In September 3,550 new cars were registered in Croatia, a massive 22.8 percent more than in the same month from last year. In August, their numbers rose 6.7 percent.

In September, 1.2 million new cars were registered in 27 EU countries (excluding Malta for which data were not available), 14.5 percent more than in the same month last year.

Double-digit rates of demand growth were recorded in four of the five major EU markets last month. In Germany, the number of registered new cars increased by 22.2 percent, in Spain by 18.3 percent and in France and Italy by 16.6 and 13.4 percent respectively.

In the United Kingdom, however, recovery has been very modest, with demand rising by 1.3 per cent, due to poor consumer confidence before Brexit.

Demolition work, which preceded the reconstruction of the former Stadion Hotel, has been taking place in the city centre for a little over a month. And the banging will continue for around another ten days as the final stages of the work is carried out.

The City of Dubrovnik has invested around 18.3 million Kuna into the construction of a new sports object, or rather the development of an existing one, in the city. The main public swimming pool, which is also home to the city’s most successful sports club Jug water polo team, has long been need of reconstruction. Whilst the actual pool area is modern and even features a sliding roof, the rest of the building has looked a shambles for decades. The future new part of the building will contain a water polo museum as well as accommodation units and commercial spaces.

According to information from the city the deadline for completion is 15 months, meaning that by around February of 2021 the building will be in function. With the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, promising that “We expect the works to be completed in May 2020, followed by interior decoration. I expect the complex could open for Saint Blaise in 2021.”

 

Please can we now have our Dubrovnik back! We have lent it to the world all summer long and now we think it is high time that you have it back to us. At least for the colder months, and then when it gets warm again we’ll give it back to you, no questions asked. As the nights draw in, the clocks are on the edge of being spun back an hour and the last of the swallows wonders where all his friends went it’s time to look back at yet another crazy summer.

“What’s your favourite month of the year in Dubrovnik,” asked a tourist from Liverpool recently. Without hesitation “February,” I answered. I could have honestly answered “any month apart from August.”

I recently have an interview for the UK publication The Financial Times about tourism in Dubrovnik, well to be more precise over tourism in Dubrovnik. Yes, that old favourite. And told them that surely over tourism was better than under tourism. Yes. We have a problem but it is a sweet problem. We would have a much more serious problem if we had under tourism. And then I gave the cliché that tourism is a double-edged sword. It is in more ways than one. Apart from having to live in a city that is packed to the rafters for half the year and a ghost town the rest of the year the real social problem has much more to do with the effects of what I call the lost generation.

 

At the last count I think there were around 17,000 beds in private accommodation in the city. Almost half of the population has rooms for rent, there are nearly as many beds for rent as there are cars on the city’s roads. Now if these rooms, villas and apartments were a second source of income that would be normal. But in many, many cases they aren’t.

I understand the thinking. For every apartment you rent you’ll get a healthy 10,000 Euros a year coming in to the piggy bank, give or take a few thousand Euros. So if you have a couple, or even more, why would you work. This gives rise to the lost generation.

There is a whole generation, children of apartment owners, who have never worked. Yes, maybe they have greeted apartment guests or even cleaned up after guests have gone, but they haven’t learned a trade, or even more importantly learned how to work. They are skating on extremely thin ice. At some point, sooner or later, the AirBnb bubble will burst. Well if not entirely burst then certainly considerably deflate.

Every year brings more competition, more apartments and competition drives prices down. It is the same in any industry, and to be expected. This season has already seen a twenty percent drop in rental prices. In other words, a twenty percent “salary” drop for many people. If these rental earnings were a second source of income, as they really should be, then no real drama. Yes, your earnings will drop a little but they were a bonus in the first place. But when these earnings are your main, in fact your only source of earnings, then you are left in a boat without paddles.

 

 

With no profession, or experience of work to fall back on, and no habit of actually working for a living the road ahead will be tough. All of a sudden you go from having an easy life, drinking coffee all morning, swimming all afternoon and waiting for your mum to cook dinner in the evening before heading off to the nightclub, to actually having to look after yourself. This lost generation will not be able to cope.

We import over 3,000 workers every year to cover the shortfall of employment. But these are workers! Not coffee drinkers! We have been spoilt. The lost generation has been spoilt. They have been living in a fantasy world. And when the shit hits the fan, and believe me it will, they will have nowhere to go. In itself tourism is a sensitive and fluctuating business. In always runs goes in peaks and troughs. Our rise has been impressive, but that doesn’t mean to say that the fall will be equally impressive.

And the lost generation has no plan B, no back-up plan, when the fall comes their fragile world will shatter like a glass on the Stradun. The social ramifications could be catastrophic and long-lasting. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The problem with our lost generation is that they have no tricks to start off with.               

Glorious weather and warm waters greeted the participants of Dubrovnik’s second Earth Sea and Fire Triathlon on Saturday 12 October. Air temperature of 25 degrees and water temperature of 21 degrees made it perfect conditions to race.

Participants congregated in Dubrovnik’s Gruz Harbour for the swim start at 14.00hrs. Organisers had to wait for the go ahead from port officials seeing out a cruise ship in the international waters before the port was open for competition.

The Super Sprint headed off first doing a triangle swim before heading back to the pontoon at the start of the harbour to exit into transition.

The bike route took riders out on an incredibly scenic 10k flat loop on closed roads followed by a 2.5k run loop finishing at the Gruz Harbour with the view of the Dubrovnik hills in the distance.

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There were representations from 24 different nations, many of whom were from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia as well encompassing 4 continents; The Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe with entrants from Russia, USA, Hong Kong and Germany.

Ava Lee 43, won the Female Olympic distance in 1:40.38 and was competing with her husband. Ava from Glasgow said, “This is my first overseas triathlon and it has been fantastic. This is the most organised event I have ever done. This is the first time that the distances have been exactly what they are supposed to be. My time is bang on.” Ava continued, “The swim and bike course was stunning. It was such a treat to have amazing scenery along the coast whilst doing the event, we will definitely be back.”

 

 

The winner of the Super Sprint was 13 year old Jan Peterka from Slovenia in a time of 36.44 and to complete the family achievements, his sister Monika, 21, won the Sprint in 1:12:07.

The highlight of the day was female Muslim competitorIrem Silajdzic from Bosnia and Herzegovina who completed the Sprint in just under two hours in a time of 1:57:58.

This was Irem’s second only triathlon and she took the decision to compete in her hijab which she chose to adopt four years ago. Irem said, “Muslim women have to start wearing the hijab during puberty, but in Bosnia we do not force women to wear it. My 12 year old daughter May, who is here with me today, will not be forced to wear the hijab. I will teach her why Islamic women wear it and then it will be her choice as it was with me.

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"The biggest challenge of doing a triathlon is not so much wearing it, as actually it protects me when the sun is strong, but more when I come out of the water whether the organisers have created a private place for me to change? For the swim I will wear a wetsuit and a swim cap to cover my body and then in the bike and run, for modesty, I have to wear loose clothing – a skirt over my tights, long sleeves and then I will put the helmet over the top of the hijab. On a day like today when the sun is hot it is better to have long sleeves and have my body covered and protected."

Irem started running just two years ago and joined a running club called “Trcanje i to” (Running and Stuff) in Sarajevo. The club leader decided to organise a triathlon in Bosnia and wanted some volunteers from their club to compete. Irem said, “I was really inspired by the triathlete Nudzejma Softic who was the first Muslim woman to finish a half ironman wearing a hijab”. It gave me a reason to start running and competing in triathlons. Irem said, “I trained in the local lake and competed at the end of August. I fell in love with triathlons so Dubrovnik was a great opportunity to compete again.

Irem finished her Sprint race sub 2 hours, so was extremely happy. She said, “The swim was a bit hard for me - I did all styles, even butterfly, but still finished under the time I was hoping for. The bike and run were great fun. I will be back next year and would love to do the Brighton and Hove Triathlon but will need you to sort out a visa for me!”

Post-race, athletes were given a great send off with free food and drink at an awards party on Banje Beach.

Pre event preparation for the Dubrovnik Triathlon kicked off the day before on Friday 11th October in the morning with a familiarisation swim with crew and athletes off the beautiful beach of Banje, South of Dubrovnik City. Athletes were treated to free coffee and donuts for their efforts.

Friday night was another opportunity for crew and athletes to bond with a courtesy buffet organised in Dubrovnik old town organised by the Dubrovnik Tourist Office. The venue called Lazareti used to be the historic quarantine site where visitors were kept for 40 days before being allowed into Dubrovnik. 

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Race Director John Lunt said, “We were delighted with the huge range of countries competing and the interesting stories they came with. This was a wonderful opportunity to bring competing nations together, not just at the event itself but in the early morning fun swim on the Friday, the dinner that evening and then the after party which gave the athletes a chance to meet each other and the crew again. This is what makes the Dubrovnik Triathlon more than just a race, it’s also the social aspect and the chance to take a bit of a holiday too in this beautiful city.”

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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