Saturday, 18 August 2018
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

“Today the tourists have returned by now the city faces a new challenge, how to keep that magic alive under the footsteps of thousands of daily visitors?” – asks Greg Dickinson a travel writer for The Telegraph Travel in a video released today entitled “has Tourism Killed Dubrovnik?”

Dubrovnik, along with Barcelona and Venice, is struggling to cope with the interest from foreign tourists. They arrive on massive cruise ships, by plane and on day-trips and every day the Old City is a magnet for thousands upon thousands of visitors. Finding the correct balance, in a city that lives from the tourist dollar, has been challenging for the city’s authorities for years. Many would say that Dubrovnik is a victim of its own success, but the truth would be the it is a victim of terrible planning and short-sightedness. Short term gains have impacted the long term strategy.

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“Within the city walls the population has decreased in recent years. It’s maybe due to the rising demand for tourist apartments, but also the lack of amenities for local people,” states Dickinson in the article.

However, this view is not echoed by all. The Dubrovnik Times spoke to a popular travel guide and local of the Old City of Dubrovnik, Ivan Vuković, who is in the front line of tourism in the city. When asked if tourism had killed Dubrovnik he replied “No. This year is better. Less tourists. The results from the last year will never happen again but it is about sustainable tourism, not about numbers.”

And in reality the numbers and statistics back him up. By the end of the years there will be less cruise ship passengers than in 2017 disembarking at the Port of Dubrovnik. The so called “red days” when the city faces more than five cruise ships in one day are considerably less than previous years.

Vuković added “Less cruise ships, less crowds, this year. Or just better control of it and more things to do around like in Lapad, Cavtat, etc. To be honest it is much more enjoyable for me to live inside the walls. The strategy works.”

So what is this new strategy? One of the biggest problems facing the new Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, was the crowds and the mass of negative publicity Dubrovnik was receiving from the world’s press. His solution came in the form of a project called “Respect the City.” And even though this project is still in its infancy it seems to be working. One of the points was to alter the arrival and departure times of cruise ships with the aim to ease the collapse of the infrastructure. This is a measure that has largely worked and the Port of Dubrovnik have informed us that the real benefits of these moves will be felt next year.

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Nikolina Farcic, a café bar owner in the Old City, added that “After the war everybody was happy to have tourists and we were letting the tourism happen to us. There was no strategy there was no vision on how to deal with it and there was no management. We can’t blame the tourist we have to blame ourselves. We have to make people understand that the Old City is not a museum, people live within the city walls.”

And the echo felt around the city is now a more sustainable approach is on the way. Along with the “Respect the City” regulation a movement to attract tourists all year round might also help to disperse the summer season crush. Speaking to The Telegraph the director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Romana Vlasić, stated that “What I want for Dubrovnik in the future is to have an all year round season. And the reason is not to have more tourists but more for the local people and for their employment. People will be employed all year round and there will be no need to move somewhere else to look for a job. Tourists want to visit a real city with real people.”

So has tourism killed Dubrovnik? No. Has it been badly wounded and in need of treatment and care. Yes.

In 1434 the first orphanage was opened in Dubrovnik, making it one of the first ever institutions of its kind in the world. The government of the Republic of Dubrovnik was way ahead of its time in the care and treatment of children. The council decreed in 1432 that an orphanage be opened in the city with their decision reading “It is disgusting and inhuman to throw small human beings around the city as if they were animals.” This started the movement to open an orphanage to take care of the city’s children.

The first orphanage was located in the heart of the Old City opposite the Franciscan Monastery in Dominik Zaltarić street and the remnants of this can still be seen to this day. A blocked off doorway and window can clearly be seen with the inscription over the door of “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned,” in Latin.

dubrovnik orphange 2018

During the time of the Republic children would stay in the orphanage until the age of six, after which they were given for adoption or sometimes their parents would take them back. As many of the children ended up in the orphanage due to the extreme poverty of their parents. And to avoid the shame of handing their children over to the orphanage a small entrance space was created in the front of the building on which parents would place their children and then by turning a wheel the plate would then swing inside carrying the baby.

Check out more from our series From the Archives

What’s in the name of Dubrovnik

Porporela stone with a story to tell

Complicated history of the theatre scene in Dubrovnik 

From the Archives – south wind stops Senate

The popular Brazilian social media blogger and fashion designer Beatriz Barhouch has been making quite a splash in Dubrovnik with her stunning photos on Instagram.

This 24-year-old model has almost 140,000 followers on Instagram and is listed as one of the most popular influencers on all forms of social media.

She was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil and blogs about fashion, travel, beauty and lifestyle and her photos in Dubrovnik are causing quite a stir online.

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Photos - Instagram @beatrizbarhouch 

Property prices in Dubrovnik are continuing to rise and are the most expensive in the country.

During the month of July apartment and house prices rose by 7 percent in Dubrovnik according to the specialised property website crozilla.com. according to details from the website the average price of advertised property in Dubrovnik climbed once again in July putting the average price per metre squared twice as much as the capital Zagreb.

All major cities in Croatia saw a slight increase in property prices in July with the average price per metre squared in Dubrovnik now reaching a massive 3,871 Euros. In spite of the spiralling prices the housing market in the city is still relatively vibrant with the demand still outweighing the supply.

“It may not look very elegant but it’s a lot of fun,” yelled my English friend from the beach as my wife and I approached. He appeared from the sea looking like a character from Star Wars. “What the hell is that…and can I try it,” I shouted back.

Technology moves on quicker than a man with diarrhoea running for the toilet. In all sectors of life, from culture to sport and business. And it would seem that technology has also been working hard on beach equipment. Gone are the days when we could wander down to the beach with just a towel flung over our shoulders. Now we have to take a whole array of gadgets just to go for a swim. Of course smart phones are at the top of the list.

I mean you can’t go to the beach without taking a provocative photo for Instagram, can you? Watching young ladies pose in the shallows always brings a smile to my face. There is obviously a certain pose that emphasizes attributes, one leg slightly bent, head looking back over the shoulder and bum sticking out. They busily share it on social media and then wait for the comments and likes, reminds me of digital fishing. They cast their bait, normally bums, boobs or bulging lips, and wait for a fish to bite. Thankfully my generation didn’t have the pressures of looking like a Victoria Secret model.

So we made our way down to a very popular beach in Konavle. Rucksack full of towels, coffee, biscuits and swimming gear. As we undressed ready to jump in the Adriatic, for only my third swim of the season, I remembered a Jerry Seinfeld joke about shoes on the beach. He was so right. “When you go to the beach and leave your wallet in your shoes…I mean what criminal mind would think to look inside a show,” he joked. The show, trainer or flip flop on the beach seems to have a magical force field around it that hides money, phones and keys from potential burglars. So yes I “hid” my keys in one shoe and my wallet in the other.

Whereas before we would maybe take a mask and snorkel to the beach now this has been upgraded to a 2 in 1 mask. My friend had two of these masks. They are full face masks that have a snorkel attached at the top of them. So you can just swim along and breathe normally without having to chew a snorkel between your teeth. The idea is pretty good; the design is less than sexy. It basically looks like you are wearing the glass circle from a washing machine on the front of your face with two straps around the back of your head that gives the impression you are wearing a rucksack on your head. Never mind that I look like a gold fish bowl I had to try one. So I strapped one on my head, it felt a little weird and that was before I put my head under water.

I slowly dipped under the surface like Captain Nemo about to go 20,000 leagues under the sea. What an odd sensation. I was breathing normally but underwater. Was I now a fish? In fact, I was a little unsettling at first. I had the feeling that I was going to breathe in a lungful of salty water. I bobbed on the surface like a yellow plastic duck in a bath. Below me was a whole new world.

Water covers 70 percent of our world and 95 percent of it is unexplored and unmapped. That seems a little lazy. I saw an interesting diagram the other day which had a picture of the moon, Mars and the Earth. It read Moon 100 percent mapped, Mars 100 percent mapped, Earth’s oceans 5 percent mapped. My mission to discover and map another percent was cut short as water was flooding into my mask.

Quite clearly I hadn’t fixed it correctly and my face had sprung a leak. Whereas with a normal mask you can just float on the surface and fix the problem with this considerably bigger one it is rather more challenging. Spluttering with a mouth full of water I fought with the mask trying to get it back on my head. I turned my head to see how far I was from shore and was slightly embarrassed to find myself still in the shallows. People on the beach might have thought I was being attacked by Jaws as I spun about tugging wildly at the mask. “It takes a bit of getting used to,” shouted my friend. He was stating the obvious. I lost more energy battling with the mask that I did swimming. Is it me or was life much simpler before?

Dubrovnik firefighters were called to assist with a fire on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina last night.

According to information from the County Emergency Centre 112 the fire was in the town of Ivanica on the border with Croatia.

The fire brigade from Župa was called onto the scene and the fire was extinguished at around 10.45 last night. Around 3,000 metres squared of vegetation was burned of which a small part was on the Croatian side of the border.

The host in the Adriatic city of Zadar who refused to accommodate tourists because they were gay could well find himself in prison for three years.

A tourist from Brazil had inquired to rent a room with a double bed for him and his partner in Zadar through a well-known online booking agency was refused by a Zadar host as he said he didn’t accept gay guests. Once the booking agency were made aware of the situation by the Brazilian guests they immediately shut down his account and refused to work with him and now it appears this hosts punishment could be much more severe.

Zadar police have reported that he has been reported in an article of the criminal code under “violation of equality,” and if found guilty could face a sentence of three years. The criminal investigation is underway in co-operation with the state attorney’s office.

The President of Family Tourism at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Danijela Čavlović, commented from 24 Sata that “I believe that people who are discriminating, which has now been confirmed by the police criminal investigation, should not be doing this job, because being a host and being homophobic do not go together.”

On the occasion of International Youth Day, the 12th of August, a round table discussion was held in the Cultural Centre in Metković. The 12th of August was first designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999, and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.

Since 2014 this important day has been marked in the Dubrovnik – Neretva County thanks to the Europe House Dubrovnik in co-operation with the Dubrovnik Neretva County.

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Adriana Kremenjaš-Daničić addresses the audience - Photo by Mark Thomas 

Every year since an event marking International Youth day has been held in a different city in the county and this year was the turn of Metković. Adriana Kremenjaš-Daničić, the president of Europe House Dubrovnik, opened the discussion and she was joined by Marko Kovačić, political sociology and expert in youth political participation from the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb and Cedo Vučković from the Dubrovnik – Neretva County. 

Kremenjaš - Daničić opened the discussion by presenting the work of the County Youth Program and all the problems and challenges they have faced in this project. This document, when fully implemented, will determine the direction of youth work in the county over the next few years. One of the problems that has been raised by youth in the county is the challenge of finding employment in a profession aligned with their studies. Dubrovnik is a region dominated by tourism and therefore finding work in other professions is often impossible.

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“If someone has studied politics, it is difficult for them to find a job for some time, and they often end up working for a travel agency or booking excursions. It would seem that in our county only occupations in tourism are important,” concluded Kremenjaš Daničić. Youbg people throughout the county have voiced opinions that the number of business zones and entrepreneurial incubators with special focus on non-touristic occupations should be increased.

Marko Kovačić of the Institute for Social Research pointed out that young people in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County accounted for 18.6 percent of the population and that they should not be ignored by government or local authorities.  "The creation of the County Youth Program is a very positive step, but it is fascinating that none of the units of local self-government has done this until now, although it is obligatory to have such a program. Communicating with the youth of today must be done through social media channels, most notably at Instagram and Snapchat, and unfortunately none of the local government units are communicating on those platforms. Young people are often inert, but nevertheless, it is the duty of the state and each individual regional and local self-government unit to reach them, " concluded Kovačić.

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Participants had a chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Neretva region - Photo by Mark Thomas

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Dubrovnik

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Humidity: 39%
Wind: NW at 22.53 km/h
Sunday
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Monday
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Tuesday
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26°C / 31°C
Wednesday
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The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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