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.
I will never complain again, not that I complained much in the first place to be honest. I once read somewhere; I can’t remember where, that Croatia has a 98 percent of mobile phone coverage. It actually proudly read that not only the land area but also the mobile phone signal covered the territorial sea area as well. That must be for all those fishermen who need to update their Facebook status.
England, well at least the south-west of England, on the other hand has 98 percent of black holes, with only 2 percent coverage. I am back in the UK again, straight after my Christmas break, due to a family problem and this time I really, really need to be connected at all times. I am pulling my hair out with frustration.
“How the hell do people get anything done here?” I screamed at my sister. “I am sure there is a better signal in the middle of Timbuktu than in the south of England,” I angrily concluded. My parent’s house has almost no signal, some people might like that but I am so used to being connected 24 hours a day that it is frustrating.
This is how I managed to be hanging my arm out of an upstairs window, “pointing towards the hill to the south,” waiting, no hoping, to get one bar on the signal indicator. At first I thought it was because I was bringing a Croatian mobile and that it wasn’t compatible with the UK signal. Maybe my mobile was driving on the right side of the road and the signal was on the left hand side of the road. Or maybe my mobile is in metric and the signal is imperial, or kilometres against miles. But no, my continental European phone was not the problem; I was not the exception to the rule, far from it.
“Have you got a signal yet,” my mother shouted up the stairs. All I had was “no service.” In what is supposed to be one of the most developed countries in the world the level of communications is shocking, terribly shocking. “I think I’ve got one bar...is EE a provider?” I replied. It turned out that yes EE was a mobile provider and I was back connected to the world, at least for the duration of my two-minute phone call.
And, I guess they go hand in hand, the internet service is virtually dead. No not virtually, it is stone, cold dead and buried and rotting in a grave. 3G is a dream of the future. If it ever sprung to your mind to moan about mobile and internet coverage in Croatia then stop yourself, it would be a mistake. We even have really high-speed public internet Wi-Fi compared to the rest of Europe. A recent survey puts Croatia in second place with the speed of public Wi-Fi, second only to Lithuania. The UK would be well down on this list, somewhere below Albania, at least in my experience.
So in these times that I need to be in touch with the rest of my family I am left on the edge of my nerves. You literally drive along the road and the signal comes and goes like waves on a beach. “Can you call your sister,” asked my mother. This might sound hard to believe but I drove down the road like a snail, waving other cars past me, with the mobile phone that was in my outreached hand as I searched for a signal.
Mobile phone signals in the south-west of England is the Holy Grail. Of course the reason that people are left in the dark is because of a lack of phone masts. It is a chicken and an egg situation. Everyone complains at the communication black hole but nobody wants a mast in their back garden. Companies have tried everything to appease the general public, even disguise the masts as trees, but pretty soon an eco-action group will be pulling down the mast, sometimes literally pulling them down. Fear of radiation making them glow in the dark had meant that most of the south-west of England is desperately sucking onto three masts, well maybe more but it seems like three.
In London you are lucky if you can find one of those old red telephone boxes anywhere. Whilst down south they are all over the place, and I can see why. “I guess your bills are cheap here?” I asked my sister, “for the amount of time I am online they should be paying me.” I can’t wait until the signal on the top left of my iPhone reads Welcome to Croatia! What I am also saying, if you have failed to read between the lines, is that sorry if you have been trying to phone me over the last week. I am lost in the land of no service.
The Imperial Russian Ballet will perform Swan Lake in Dubrovnik on the 9th of February. After the massive success of the Nutcracker ballet which was also performed by this leading Russian troupe it is expected that tickets for this event will be at a premium.
The performance of Swan Lake will be held in the Dubrovnik Sports Centre at 7.30pm on the 9th of February. Tickets are already available online here.
Dubrovnik could have a new tourist attraction soon, an aquarium. The City of Dubrovnik has been holding a series of working meetings this week around the preparation of a new aquarium in the Port of Dubrovnik, in the suburb of Gruz. To assist with the realisation of the aquarium the city held a meeting with the vice president of the consulting company ConsultEcon from Massachusetts, Mr. Robert E. Brais. The meeting was also attended by the mayor of the Californian city of Monterey, Fred Meurer.
Monterey, a sister city of Dubrovnik, boasts one of the world's best aquariums. Monterey Bay Aquarium was built in 1984 and records around two million visitors annually. "The first years of operation of the aquarium, we were expecting 500,000 visitors, and we actually had 2.4 million visits," said Meurer. He added that over the years the aquarium, which has both an entertainment and scientific component, has become a major contributor to the economy of the city and its surroundings. “The aquarium is certainly the best thing that has happened to the citizens of Monterey. And Dubrovnik's history is closely tied to the sea. Why would you not tell that story?” concluded Meurer.
Robert E. Brais has worked on the development of many of the world's top aquariums, among which he highlighted the one in Lisbon built in 1998. “Aquariums offer excellent opportunities for the community, give a strong impetus to the economy, but also to education and the preservation of the sea and the coast,” said Brais. The potential for the development of the new aquarium, which will present all the diversity and beauty of this part of the Mediterranean, is certainly high. “Now we are at the beginning of this project and to realize it requires the cooperation of all parties on the local but also on a national level,” concluded Brais.
The mayor of Dubrovnik, Andro Vlahusic, commented that it is difficult to compare anything in Dubrovnik with the Old City, the historic walls and the cultural and historical heritage of the whole, but he reiterated his position that the proposed aquarium would act as a new tourist attraction. “By 2020 Dubrovnik can expect 5 million overnight stays and over two million visitors from cruise ships so new attractions are required,” concluded Vlahusic.
They also discussed the idea of dividing the aquarium into two separate tanks, one dedicated to Croatian waters and the other to the Adriatic and the Mediterranean. It is estimated that an investment of around 250 million Kunas for the construction of the new aquarium and therefore European Union funds will be necessary.
Croatia has a new government with 83 votes for, 61 against and 5 abstentions. Croatia's prime minister-designate is Tihomir Oreskovic and he will lead a government made up of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Bridge party.
Oreskovic has already named his cabinet, including twenty ministers, and the two vice prime ministers are the leaders of HDZ and Bridge, Tomislav Karamarko and Bozo Petrov. Of the twenty ministers in the new cabinet six are from the Bridge party and the remaining fourteen from HDZ. Oreskovic nicknamed the new ministers “Tim’s Team,” in reference to his middle name.
At 10 past midnight last night the now former prime minister Zoran Milanovic handed over the government to Oreskovic. “Any advice?,” Oreskovic asked. “None whatsoever,” answered Milanovic.
The Dubrovnik public bus company, Libertas, has upgraded its fleet with the addition of six brand new buses. The six new buses arrived in Dubrovnik today and will immediately be put into service. Two of the new Isuzu buses will operate in the city, whilst the remaining four will be used for suburban transport and as school buses.
These six new Libertas buses are part of a purchase order for 18 new buses, which will cost the city 3.6 million Euros and will be repaid in seven years through a leasing agreement. The rest of the order, 12 buses produced by the German company MAN, will arrive soon according to a statement from the City of Dubrovnik. Libertas sought the approval for the purchase of the new buses at a City Council meeting on the 27th of July 2015.
The average net salary in Croatia in November 2015 amounted to 5,855 Kunas. According to figures just released from the National Bureau of Statistics the average net salary paid in November 2015 was 3.9 percent higher, or 223 Kunas higher, when compared with the same month from 2014.
The slow growth in salaries in Croatia has been a trend through the past few months. The average net salary per employee in November was 2.3 percent higher or 135 Kunas higher than in October.
The average gross salary paid in November last year amounted to 8.185 Kunas. This is 109 Kunas or an increase of 1.3 percent over than the average paid in October. On an annualized basis the average gross salary per employee rose by 1.8 percent or 146 Kuna.
Mercedes are coming to Dubrovnik. The luxury German car brand Mercedes are to hold global training for their representatives in Dubrovnik from early February to mid-April. The hosts for this prestigious event are the Sun Gardens, Dubrovnik resort with their Radisson hotel and the hotel chain Valamar at their newly renovated Valamar Dubrovnik President.
Preparations are well underway for this event and representatives from Valamar have stated that “a considerable part of their accommodation will be almost full during the Mercedes training.” During the global training for Mercedes representatives it is expected that more than 15,000 agents from all over the world will participate. During the winter months when the city struggles to attract visitors the influx of Mercedes agents will have a financial impact. Estimates in the media suggest that the event will add an extra 50,000 overnight stays during the winter.
The luxury Mercedes have started to arrive in trucks outside of the Valamar Dubrovnik President and according to sources the agents will have the chance to test drive the latest models around Dubrovnik. It is also rumoured that Mercedes will hold an “open day” at which guests will have the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of these luxury cars.
Croatia has once again been featured as a tourist destination in the international media. The popular British newspaper the Daily Mail has published an article in their travel section.
The English actress Jane Horrocks visited Istria and was immediately smitten by the region. “Croatia is an increasingly popular destination for British travellers, and we decided to jump on the bandwagon,” opened the lengthy article in The Mail on Sunday. Entitled “Croatia Comforts” the three-page story highlights the Istrian region, its cuisine, its culture and its attractions.
With a daily circulation reaching 2 million copies this latest feature about Croatia and its tourism possibilities will only help to increase the number of British tourists this summer.