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.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković held a significant meeting with Mathias Cormann, the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), marking a pivotal moment in Croatia's journey toward OECD membership.
During the meeting, Mr. Cormann presented an unbiased and realistic economic overview of Croatia. This in-depth review encompassed Croatia's current economic landscape, the progress achieved through reforms in recent years, and offered insightful recommendations for future reform directions. These recommendations are aimed at benefiting not only the Croatian economy but also the lives of its citizens. All of this, of course, is under the backdrop of Croatia's ongoing efforts to gain OECD membership.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Plenković underscored the importance of this economic review, emphasizing its objective nature. He elaborated on how the recommendations provided by the OECD are aligned with Croatia's strategic and foreign policy goals. He firmly believes that Croatia's accession to the OECD will enable the nation to continue its pursuit of ambitious reforms that will ultimately enhance the well-being of its people.
The OECD, an organization uniting the world's 38 most developed nations, has been in close cooperation with Croatia for several years. During this time, Croatia has demonstrated unwavering commitment to critical reforms and sustainable development, resulting in significant growth and an improved standard of living.
Mathias Cormann commended Croatia's progress and dedication, lauding it as an inspiration not just for the OECD but also for Western Balkan countries. He emphasized Croatia's role in sharing experiences and actively participating in various initiatives, notably those related to green transition. Cormann expressed eagerness for continued collaboration, predicting that Croatia's accession to the OECD would not only foster growth and development but also benefit the entire Croatian populace.
As Croatia embarks on its journey towards OECD membership, this critical economic review, paired with its commitment to further reforms, demonstrates the nation's determination to advance its economic, political, and social well-being. Croatia's strategic direction aligns with the OECD's principles, promising a brighter and more prosperous future for its citizens and the region at large.
We caught up chef Kristian Galov from Restaurant Nebula to discover his kitchen secrets and where his passion for cooking comes from. There is no doubt that je is one of the rising stars of the culinary world in Dubrovnik and with his hard work and creativity it is easy to see why. The menu is impressive and really highlights the love that has been poured into it.
What is the concept of the restaurant?
Well the best description of the concept of the restaurant is that we are showcasing the Mediterranean cuisine in a modern style. We do this by using locally sourced products and create meals in a modern way. My goal is that when guests come and eat at the restaurant that they truly taste the quality and freshness of these home-grown ingredients. We have a relatively short menu and we focus on the fact that guests can enjoy meals that are made to order. I would say that the freshness of the products leap from the plate.
Was it challenging to create your short menu?
Yes, it was a challenge because we have a menu for lunch and then a menu for dinner. When I was creating the menu I really wanted to highlight the meals that we have, but at the same time offering guests a good choice. We have interpreted some classic Croatian, or rather Dubrovnik dishes, in a contemporary way. For example, we used octopus and sea bass, typical seafood dishes for this region, but we have prepared them in a fresh manner. It is always tough to cover a wide variety of food in a short menu, but on the other hand it is a guarantee that the ingredients will be fresh.
What feedback do you receive from guests to the restaurant?
I have to say that all the comments we have received have been very positive. Quite a few guests love the quality of the beef steak and they are quick to praise us for that. On fact that meal is quite a complex one with lots of segments, but it seems that hard work is paying off. We have had a few times when guests have asked to see the chef, and it’s always nice to get their observations. It is always nice when someone pays you a compliment.
Where do you get your products from?
We work with a range of local suppliers. It is extremely important to us that these suppliers are locally based. This can sometimes prove a test but when you are determined to do something then it is easier. All our vegetable, fish and meat suppliers and producers come from this region. In fact, we sometimes don’t have a meal on the menu because we can’t get the quality of local ingredients we require. But I think it is better that we take it off the menu for that day rather than use less quality produce.
On a personal level, what is your favourite meal?
I do tend to eat Dalmatian influenced meals. For example, prawns in a garlic and parmesan sauce, I think that really is a great combination. Pasta and risotto are also on my favourite list. And I have taken this love into the kitchen. For example, when guests order risotto they have to wait around 20 minutes as we make everything from the very beginning. The same with pasta, we only use fresh pasta, and always cook it to order.
Where does your passion from cooking come from?
When I was a young boy I used to stand next to my grandmother and watch her cook. I can remember always asking questions and making a note of the ingredients and indeed the method she used. I always used to say when I was young that I would be a chef when I grew up. You could say that my grandmother started my journey and then I was lucky to work with some excellent chefs in my early career who really helped develop my style. Food and cooking really is my passion and even when I am not in the kitchen I am learning, reading and tasting food.
A recent study conducted by Eurostat, the European Union's statistical office, has shed light on the work habits of EU citizens, revealing that Croatians are working above the EU average when it comes to weekly working hours. The data from 2022 provides insights into the diverse work schedules of European nations and showcases how Croatia compares to its neighbors and EU peers.
According to the study, Greece tops the list of EU countries with the longest working hours. Greek citizens between the ages of 20 and 64 work an astonishing 41 hours per week on average. Poland closely follows with an average of 40.4 hours, while Romania and Bulgaria record 40.2 hours.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Netherlands emerges as the nation with the shortest total working hours, with Dutch citizens working just 33.2 hours per week, indicating a different approach to work-life balance. Germany and Denmark also maintain shorter working weeks with averages of 35.3 and 35.4 hours, respectively.
Croatia, on the other hand, positions itself in the middle of the spectrum, with an average of 39.6 working hours per week. This places Croatia and its neighbor Slovenia just above the EU average of 37.5 working hours per week, showcasing their commitment to their jobs and careers.
These findings underscore the diversity of work habits and work-life balance across the EU and emphasize Croatia's position in the context of working hours within the European Union.
According to data from the Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities for the Ston Walls, the fortress of Veliki Kaštio and other attractions in Ston and Mali Ston have seen a significant increase in visitors from the beginning of the year until the end of August. With a total of 51,657 visitors who purchased tickets, the number has risen by almost 15,000 compared to the same period last year.
Interestingly, there were fewer visitors this August compared to the same month last year, with a recorded 14,718 visits, which is about 2,000 less. This decrease can be attributed to the exceptionally high temperatures that marked that month.
Since the beginning of September, the Ston Walls have been visited by over 400 visitors daily, mostly day-trippers coming from Dubrovnik and neighbouring areas to visit Ston and Mali Ston. Ticket prices remain unchanged, and from September 16th, the walls are open to visitors from 8 AM to 6 PM.
Nestled in the charming town of Metković, lies a hidden gem that beckons both locals and travellers alike. Narenta, part of the Narenta Hotel, is a culinary oasis that promises an unforgettable dining experience. The first thing that catches your eye is the astonishing affordability; a three-course meal for just 10 euros. But Narenta offers more than just budget-friendly prices; it delivers exceptional quality. With an emphasis on using locally sourced ingredients from the fertile Neretva basin, the restaurant serves up fresh and flavourful dishes that showcase the region's culinary heritage. Join us as we explore the remarkable world of Narenta, where good food and great value converge.
"To be honest the majority of our guests are local," smiled the friendly waiter as I took my seat. That is not a good sign, that an excellent sign. My destination was Metković and a restaurant that you could easy whizz by on your way either to Dubrovnik or the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the future I certainly won't be whizzing by anymore! Narenta, remember the name, is part of the Narenta Hotel in Metković. And is a little gem.
I don't have to explain to you the restaurant prices in Dubrovnik, so what if I told you that I ate a three-course meal for 10 euro! And not just a meal, but an excellent meal. This is value for money with a capital V! Honestly, I was shocked at the prices of the daily menu. A starter for 2 euro! A main course for 6 euro and a dessert for 2 euro! Now, I was thinking to myself that this would probably be a very ordinary meal, I was wrong. And yes, the guests were mostly locals, probably a) because of the prices and b) because of the great food on offer. "We are one of the few places that didn't change prices with the introduction of the menu," explained my waiter Milenko (who, by the way was extremely knowledgeable and professional). Literally for the price of a starter in Dubrovnik you can get a three-course meal.
Narenta is well placed. If you are heading down to Dubrovnik from Split, or vice versa of course, it is only a few minutes from the main coastal road heading towards the Bosnia and Herzegovina border. Well worth the short detour. And after the completion of the new Peljesac Bridge it feels even closer. There is plenty of free parking and there is even a small shopping centre nearby if you need to pick up some shopping. There is both a spacious interior and wide terraced eating area.
So let's get down to the food. One very important point you need to know is that the whole of the Neretva basin is very much the "bread basket" of the whole region. With its fertile lands, constant water supply and guaranteed sunshine the huge fields of Neretva produce some of the best vegetables and fruit in the country. So needless to say the food on your plate is going to be locally grown. I have never tasted such crispy and crunchy vegetables in a restaurant. "Yes, we base our meals on what is grown in these fields around us," stated Milenko.
So I went for a mix of starters just to grab the opportunity to try everything. A traditional prosciutto and hard cheese plate and a salted anchovies and salad combination. The portions are huge. I almost over did it on the starters.
Then onto the main course, or maybe I should say main courses as clearly the restaurant was keen to show-off the best they had on offer. It is food like your mother or grandmother used to cook. Food cooked with pride using high-end ingredients, a real joy.
BRING AN APPETITE WITH YOU
Like I said there is "daily" menu which is superb value for money, however the restaurant also offers an a la carte menu. A few highlights would be the rolled chicken filled with cheese and spinach and served with a French fries. These home-grown potatoes were mind-blowing the flavour just exploded in my mouth. I also tried the beef goulash with peas, and that was probably my favourite. Did I already mention that the portions are huge! Bring an appetite with you. Of course I was in Neretva so I just had to experience their local dishes, and a frog risotto really hit the mark. All excellent and not one meal on the menu more than 20 euro, just superb value.
And I didn't even mention the wines. So a sister company of Narenta is one of the best known vineyards in the south of Croatia – Rizman. Their selection is comprehensive, the pošip (white) and mali plava (red) are both from the Rizman vineyard. So in other words everything on my plate came from just a few miles of where I was sitting. You can't get any fresher and more sustainable than that.
So, whether you're a local looking for exceptional value for money or a traveller seeking an authentic culinary experience on your journey through Croatia, Narenta is a dining destination that deserves a prominent spot on your list. Don't miss out on this opportunity to savour the flavours of the Neretva basin, served with pride and passion at Narenta.
Consumer prices in the Eurozone rose by 5.2% in August, according to Eurostat's report on Tuesday, slightly lowering the initial estimate, along with data indicating a milder increase in industrial product prices.
The estimate published at the end of August had indicated a 5.3% increase in prices, as measured by the harmonized HICP index, allowing for comparisons among EU member states.
In July, prices had risen by 5.3%.
Eurostat also slightly lowered the estimate for the monthly price growth in August from 0.6% to 0.5%.
The reduced estimate of the annual inflation rate reflects a milder increase in industrial product prices compared to the initial calculations, now at 4.7%, down from the 4.8% estimated at the end of August.
Fresh food prices increased by 7.8%, while energy prices decreased by 3.3%, Eurostat confirmed in its initial estimates.
When excluding food and energy prices, inflation in the Eurozone for August stood at 6.2%, in line with the end of the previous month's estimate.
The estimate of a 5.5% increase in services prices was also confirmed.
In the entire EU, prices rose by 5.9% in August compared to the same month last year, following a 6.1% increase in July.
On a monthly basis, prices increased by 0.5%, as indicated in the report.
Revised Estimate for Croatia
In August, Hungary experienced the highest year-on-year increase in consumer prices, at 14.2%.
They were followed by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with inflation rates of 10.1% and 9.6%, respectively.
In Croatia, the annual inflation rate measured by HICP in August was 8.4%. The initial estimate published at the end of August had shown a price growth rate of 8.5%, while in July, it stood at 8.0%.
The Consumer Price Index from the State Bureau of Statistics (DZS) indicated an increase of 7.8% in prices for August compared to the same month last year.
Denmark recorded the mildest price increase in the EU according to the HICP, at 2.3% compared to August of the previous year. Spain and Belgium followed with price increases of 2.4%.
While the domestic tourism sector in Croatia is grappling with criticism over high prices, neighboring destinations are reaping the benefits. British newspaper The Sun published a large article three days ago, spanning two pages, inviting potential visitors to choose Neum for their post-season vacation instead of Croatia.
The headline reads, "All the Joys of Croatia, But Half the Price," an attempt to grab readers' attention. Neum is described as an "unusual resort" where visitors can sleep, dine, and enjoy themselves for significantly less money than on the Croatian coastline. It is reportedly just as beautiful as the Croatian coast, as reported by Jutarnji list.
Indeed, while the Croatian coastline is stunning, Neum also offers its own charm. It is the world's smallest coastal strip after Monaco, with temperatures in September averaging 25 degrees. Neum is conveniently located near Dubrovnik and Split, with average prices for double hotel rooms starting at only £62, compared to the claimed £140 in Croatia, according to author Laura Sanders.
Moreover, it is emphasized that in the most famous Neum hotel, the Grand, you can get a last-minute room in September for just £49 per night, including breakfast and access to the spa. In Neum, you can also enjoy good food, with popular dishes like ćevapi costing around £5.
Its main drawback is the lack of a rich cultural offer, but it compensates with excellent beaches, affordable sports activities, and serves as an excellent base for exploring Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighboring Croatia. The article suggests visiting Mostar, where a night in a hostel costs about £12, exploring the Neretva River, and especially enjoying ice cream, as you can get a scoop for less than a pound in this destination.
Dubrovnik's Deputy Mayor, Jelka Tepšić, and the Head of the Administrative Department for the Mayor's Affairs of the City of Dubrovnik, Ivana Brnin, hosted a Thai delegation today, led by Asi Mamanee, the Chief Director of the Department for European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand. One of the key topics of discussion revolved around the potential collaboration between the cities of Dubrovnik and Phuket, one of Thailand's most renowned tourist destinations.
Deputy Mayor Tepšić introduced them to the principles and outcomes of the flagship project "Respect the City" and the shift in tourism towards sustainability. This shift, as highlighted by analyses conducted by the University of Dubrovnik, has yielded positive results.
The Thai guests, whose tourist cities also grapple with over-tourism, expressed interest in the measures implemented by the city to address this issue. Deputy Mayor Tepšić provided insights into these measures, including tourist education activities, which involve an informative animated film providing guidance on respectful behavior at UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Thai delegation included Sirivilai Rojprasitporn, Director of the Department for Eastern Europe at the Department for European Affairs of the Ministry; Donlada Thongboon, Counsellor from the Royal Thai Embassy in Budapest; Amporn Ngampitakchok, Secretary-General of the Department for Eastern Europe; and Manchulika Wongchai, Attaché of the Department for European Affairs.
This meeting reflects the international interest in Dubrovnik's sustainable tourism initiatives and the potential for cross-border cooperation in addressing shared challenges in the tourism sector.