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.
European Union foreign ministers intend to support the suspension of the EU's Visa Facilitation Agreement with Russia to limit the number of visas issued to Russians, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
EU foreign ministers plan to make this decision at a two-day meeting in Prague starting on Tuesday, the Financial Times reports citing three sources who participated in the talks. "It is inappropriate for Russian tourists to walk in our cities, along our marinas. We have to send a signal to the Russian population that this war is unacceptable, it is unacceptable," said a senior EU official.
The plan to suspend the 2007 agreement calls for the end of preferential treatment for Russians when applying for all EU visas. "We are in an exceptional situation and this requires exceptional steps. We want to go further than the suspension of visa facilities," said a high-ranking European official.
Finland, Poland and the Baltic states bordering Russia have said they are prepared to stop Russians from entering their territory on tourist visas, citing national security exceptions to the Schengen agreement. "I really hope that a common European solution will be found on how to significantly limit the flow of Russian tourists to Europe," said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.
Revenues from tourism in Croatia will surpass the 10.5 billion euros of foreign exchange revenue from 2019, but according to other parameters, this year's season remains below that record year.
From the beginning of the year until last weekend, a little less than 14.2 million tourists had visited Croatia and 80.6 million overnight stays had been achieved.
August, traditionally the busiest month of the year for tourists in Croatia, has seen 3.7 million tourists and 26 million overnight stays. The peak of the season was the first weekend of August and ever since that weekend the number of tourists arriving has been falling slowly.
However, the tourist authorities are more than satisfied with the season. Official estimates were relatively conservative at the beginning of the year, and they have been surpassed by a long way.
The Traffic Safety Association conducted research in the area of the city of Dubrovnik on the topic of seat belt use, helmet use, and mobile phone use while driving. The research was conducted on a sample of 420 drivers, 310 drivers of personal vehicles and 110 drivers of mopeds/motorcycles.
On that occasion, it was determined that out of 310 drivers of personal vehicles, 230 of them use a seat belt while driving, which is 74 percent of the total number, while 80 or 26 percent of them do not use a seat belt while driving. It was also determined that out of 310 drivers, 60 of them use a mobile phone while driving, which is 19 percent of the total number, while 250 of them do not use a mobile phone while driving, or 81 percent.
Likewise, in a sample of 110 moped/motorcycle drivers, it was determined that 98 of them use a protective helmet, which is 89 percent of the total number recorded, while 12 drivers do not use a protective helmet, or 11 percent.
The survey was conducted in mid-August on the most frequented roads in the city of Dubrovnik.
Considering that the use of mobile phones while driving and not using a seat belt are one of the 4 killers in traffic, we can be very satisfied with this data in the area of our city - the Association commented on their Facebook page.
So far this year there have been 14.4 million tourist arrivals and 82.6 million overnight stays in Croatia, which is a growth of 42 percent in arrivals and 28 percent in overnight stays compared to last year.
Compared to the record 2019, the above data represent 90 percent of the results in arrivals and 96 percent of the results in tourist overnight stays.
The most overnight stays have been achieved so far in Istria, the Split-Dalmatia county, Kvarner, Zadar and the Dubrovnik-Neretva county.
Looking at the destinations, the most tourist overnight stays were realized in Rovinj, Dubrovnik, Poreč, Medulin, Umag and Split. The most overnight stays so far have been made by guests from the markets of Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Poland.
“People in small towns, much more than in cities, share a destiny,” said the Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo. I would add a joint destiny.
There are clearly advantages of living and working in a small town. And one of those was highlighted (twice) to me last week. Whilst some people enjoying the anonymity of living in a larger metropole, and indeed I myself experienced that in one of the most sprawling cities in the world after living in London, others prefer the social interaction that smaller towns bring.
“It seems that everyone knows you,” said my mother as we walked through the old city together. Every corner was met with a new “adio” and every café bar a waiter who shook my hand. That’s the small town vibe. It is pretty impossible to live “off the grid” in Dubrovnik. Even if you don’t want to mix and be a part of the community, I guarantee you that the community will know about you.
This has never bothered me. On the contrary, I have embraced it. In fact, this community spirit has been eroded in many other countries and in many other larger spirits.
So last week I have an early morning meeting in the old city. I took up my position in Gradska and watched the city wake up. “Hello teacher, do you remember me?” said a voice. In front me was a tall, bearded man wearing a very broad smile. I looked blankly at him trying to search through my brain cells for recognition. He introduced himself. “A long time ago you taught me English,” he added.
Yes, my first steps in employment in Dubrovnik were teaching English. And during that time I had seen and taught hundreds and hundreds of adults and children. It is not unusual that I bump into a former student and that we exchange a few words. But, I hadn’t really taught for a good 15 years.
“I am sure you were shorter then,” I smiled. “I was, and I was only ten years-old,” he added. He certainly wasn’t ten years-old anymore.
“I finished university in Boston and then started working in London where I now live,” he explained his life story. We tried to work out when I actually taught him and it seemed to be around 20 years ago. I literally hadn’t seen this boy, sorry man, for 20 years. And yet here he was in front of me chatting away.
“I still remember those games in English that we all used to play,” he smiled.
Now, clearly I am not going to take any credit for the fact that me completed his education in the US or the fact that he was now living and working in my former town. But just to know that I maybe had a small influence on this was very satisfying.
He laughed and chatted and then his friend arrived and we waved goodbye. I spent the rest of the day thinking about that chance encounter. And how, if we both lived in a bigger city, it would never have happened.
Just the day after I was due to interview a director of a hotel. The name of the director didn’t ring any bells, but then I really have a terrible memory for names. I walked into the reception and was greeted by what seemed a familiar face. “Do you remember me?” said the director. “You used to teach my English when I was a child,” he smiled. Déjà vu!
“Ah, yes I though your face looked familiar,” I replied. Again it turned out that 20 years ago he sued to be my pupil. And again he clearly remembered the games and the lessons. So in just two days I had met one former pupil who was now a hotel director and one who was living in London and was working in microbiology. Now, you could say it is a small town. But it would probably be more accurate to say small city.
This joint history that follows us through our lives here is unavoidable. And to be honest I love it. On the other hand, these two experiences made me feel slightly old. Both of these former pupils were now adults and in responsible positions, I had first met them when they were still in primary school.
With today’s more nomadic lifestyle, especially in other countries, this joint destiny is impossible. And that’s a shame. I was really touched by both my encounters.
Who knows what tomorrow brings and which old students are waiting.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
In the last 24 hours, 988 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded, and the number of active cases in Croatia today is a total of 6,453, according to the Headquarters of Civil Protection of the Republic of Croatia.
Among them are 582 patients are receiving hospital treatment, of which 21 patients are on ventilators. Unfortunately, a further 7 people died.
From February 25, 2020, when the first case of infection was recorded in Croatia, until today, a total of 1,211,419 people have been infected, of which 16,646 have died, a total of 1,188,320 people have recovered, of which 1,449 recovered in the last 24 hours.
There are currently 4,497 people in self-isolation.
To date, a total of 5,129,061 people have been tested, of which 3,582 were tested in the last 24 hours.
It has been a month since the opening of the Pelješac Bridge. And in those thirty days, almost half a million vehicles, exactly 464,211 vehicles, crossed the bridge. The bridge has changed the south of Croatia. Pelješac has become busy, the beaches there are full, there is a particularly big crowd in Žuljana, which has been discovered by day tourists, which does not sit well with the local renters, who are by no means ready for mass tourism. Everyday there are crowds around Ston, and Ston's restaurateurs, unaccustomed to this kind of sudden mass tourism are struggling to cope with the extra business, writes Slobodna Dalmacija.
People wait in lines for a free table in Ston's restaurants, the increase in traffic has clearly left most restaurants unable to cope and not having enough staff to handle the extra work, and even the staff they have not being used to the new work load. However, the biggest problem is the congestion on the narrow and uneven road, which cannot accommodate so many vehicles.
Everyone hopes that the Ston bypass, which is being built by the Greek company Avax, will be finished as promised - that is, by the end of this calendar year, and that Ston will become a tourist destination, not a transit destination, as it has been in the past month since the opening of the bridge.
Police called in to help with extra traffic in Ston - Photo Bozo Radic/Cropix
On the other hand, Neum, as expected, is empty. The traffic at the borders dropped by half, and consequently the traffic in Neum's shops along the main road, which lived off passengers in transit.
Realistically speaking, it is closer to those traveling to Dubrovnik to go via Neum than to take a detour via the bridge and then via Pelješac, but everyone likes to drive across the bridge, even if it extends the journey.
Although a month has passed since its opening, interest in the Pelješac Bridge is not waning. The rest areas in Komarna and Brijesta are full. People are filming the bridge, taking pictures as a souvenir. They have lunch at rest stops, freshen up and move on.
The sanitary facilities at the rest areas are impeccably clean and maintained, unlike the first days after the opening when the rest areas were full of plastic bottles and garbage, and the public sanitary facilities were unclean. And indeed many people complained about the terrible state of the toilets. However, Croatian roads have apparently hired a daily cleaner who, to the great satisfaction of passengers, takes care of this important infrastructural facility. Better late than never.
“I am told that I can’t bring my dogs on the beach because they leave a mess, what the hell do you call this,” commented one reader of The Dubrovnik Times after being confronted with a ugly scene of debris on a popular beach early this morning.
She continued, “Firstly, as a responsible dog owner I always clean up after my dog and make sure that they don’t disturb other people. And secondly, this disgusting mess wasn’t caused by a dog!” She sent us photos of the pile of discarded cigarette butts and beer cans on the beach, in what can only be described as a make shift beach ashtray. And we’d have to agree with her the scene was disgusting. “As far as I know dogs don’t smoke,” she added.
This disgusting mess wasn’t caused by a dog! - Photo - Reader's photo
It is more than a little disturbing that in these times of sustainability and eco-friendly awareness that somebody found it appropriate to leave this pile of garbage on the beach. And bearing in mind that it takes around 10 years for a cigarette butt to decompose, and the beer cans a further 250 years, this reader has a point.
The wider Dubrovnik region has an embarrassingly small number of so called dog friendly beaches, in fact only one is actually designated. Meaning that dog lovers tend to walk their animals either in the early morning hours or later in the evening so as not to disturb swimmers. And many beaches feature a “no dogs allowed” sign. However, with the garbage that humans are leaving on the beaches it might be advisable for dogs to avoid beaches for their own safety.
“Why someone would do this, and I have to add that this isn’t the first time, I have no idea. If I can clean up after my dogs why can’t people clean up after themselves?” concluded our reader.
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