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.
Croatia is among the European Union countries with the largest decrease in unemployment. Compared with a year ago, the unemployment rate fell in all member states. The largest decreases were registered in Cyprus (from 12.6% to 9.8%), Greece (from 23.3% to 20.9% between November 2016 and November 2017), Croatia (from 12.2% to 9.8%), Portugal (from 10.1% to 7.9%) and Spain (from 18.4% to 16.3%).
Even though these latest figures are encouraging Croatia still has one of the highest unemployment rates out of the 28 EU members.
Figures from January 2018 reveal that Croatia has a 9.8 percent rate of unemployment which puts the country in 24th position in terms of unemployment. Greece has by far the highest unemployment rate in the EU, at 20.9 percent, whilst the Czech Republic has the lowest rate at only 2.4 percent.
“Did you buy some extra flour and sugar,” I overheard the lady in front of me in the shop talking to her husband. “Yes, I also got some extra salt, vegeta and coffee,” added the husband, who was quite clearly agitated with his wife’s questioning. “I just heard on Radio Dubrovnik that the snow will continue for a few days more…so we don’t want to be without flour,” she added. I am not really sure what she was planning to do with so much flour, was she thinking to bake a snowmobile?!?
Yes, winter is coming…or rather winter is already here. Snow in Dubrovnik. Those words just don’t seem to go together. Snow in Dubrovnik seems like a heat wave in Siberia. Or a flood in the Sahara. But as I am writing this column the “white stuff” is swirling around my window like confetti at the biggest wedding of the year.
And the couple of pensioners in front of me were stocking up for the end of the world. As my mother-in-law always says “you’ll never be hungry if you have flour, oil and salt in the house.” I am not Jamie Oliver but I don’t really know what you can make with those three ingredients. But try telling that to these aged shoppers. She had enough flour in her trolley to fill the Rector’s Palace, I guess she was expecting the worse, to be snowed into her house until the mountain rescue dug her out. It seems a little strange writing again about snow…I mean I only did it last year.
I have been here twenty years and in that time it has snowed a grand total of four times…this being the fourth. So that means in the last two years it has snowed twice. Coincidence? Probably not. I don’t really believe in coincidences. I am more of the opinion that it is an effect of global warming. Little strange that global warming can cause snow…but it can. Just because some of us are suffering through a particularly cold and snowy winter doesn’t refute the fact that the globe is warming as we continue to pump carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Of course I am quite used to snow in the winter. Pretty much every second year of my childhood was marked with snow…and I mean real snow. Of course being a child was great, sledging, snowmen, snowball fights, crunching our teeth through huge icicles…it was our winter wonderland. Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood. But then when you get a bit older and realise that you have obligations apart from just decorating snowmen the snow is quite frankly a pain in the arse. Well to be more precise the first three days are fun and then it is all about shovelling snow off your car, off the road and off just about everything.
It’s just what you get used to. And let’s face it people in Dubrovnik haven’t had a chance to get used to snow. I can never remember my mother stocking up on flour and oil like the end of the world was around the corner. In fact, we didn’t even really wear warm clothes, or gloves or scarves, we just got used to it. I remember once having to go to work early in the morning. We had a half glass front door at the time. I remember thinking why is the glass so bright in colour. But being half asleep I opened the door. Like in some cartoon I was greeted with a complete wall of snow; I mean right to the top of the door. And as I opened the door, and released the snows support, the whole wall fell into the house, turning me into a real life snowman in a flash. But even with that snow disaster I still dug out my car and drove to work, without winter tyres or snow chains.
Yes, surprisingly enough winter tyres and chains are not obligatory in the UK. In fact, I had never heard of winter tyres before I moved to Croatia. Which if you think about it is a little crazy. Of course I realise that by the time you read this text the snow will be melted and normal Dubrovnik winter time will be back…one day bura…the next jugo.
Snow just feels like an added bonus in Dubrovnik. And of course great business if you are the flour producing industry! “Snowing is an attempt of God to make the dirty world look clean,” once wrote a prophet. If that’s true he needs to send a lot, lot more.
The popular, and traditional, Dubrovnik film festival “Quiet Please” or Tišina Molim, opens this Sunday the 4th of March. The festival, which will be held in various locations around the city, will last for six days until the 10th of March, with a rich program of films from all over the world.
This film event in Dubrovnik, is a festival that offers an interactive educational content, film screenings, visual attractions, and plenty of surprises. During the festival, tourists and Dubrovnik locals of all generations will have the opportunity to become acquainted with all of the ties between Dubrovnik and the history of film culture over the last hundred years.
The wailing of sirens will echo over Dubrovnik tomorrow, but don’t be alarmed it is just a test. The emergency sirens that are placed around the Dubrovnik region will be turned on tomorrow, the 3rd of March for a minute as part of a regular testing.
The County Emergency Centre 112 announced that "On March 3, 2018, starting at 12:00 o'clock, County Center 112 Dubrovnik will conduct a regular monthly testing of the alarm warning system." The sirens will be turned on for a 60-second continuous tone.
The Dubrovnik restaurant 360º has become the first ever restaurant in Dubrovnik to hold the prestigious Michelin star.
The result comes after a very secret tour of Croatian restaurants by professional Michelin inspectors, who visited hundreds of restaurants around the country in 2017. A new guide to Croatia has been published on the Michelin website, the world's most significant and most prestigious restaurant guide.
There are now three restaurants in Croatia with Michelin stars, the first restaurant was Monte in Rovinj, who were awarded the star last year, and now Pelegrini in Sibenik and 360º in Dubrovnik have been awarded one Michelin star.
"Croatia is on the gastronomic chart of the world, which we certainly deserve. The new Michelin stars and recommendations to Croatian restaurants are proof that our gastronomic scene meets the very demanding international quality criteria,” commented the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Staničić.
According to the latest study about environmentally unfriendly cars in the European Union and the damage they cause to the environment, Croats are among the Top 5 environmentally unfriendly drivers in the European Union.
The British organization Eco Experts, which is engaged in the energy efficiency, published the list in mid-February, which had been made upon data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (EAMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
While compiling the list, Eco Experts took into account the average age of the car, the number of vehicles per thousand inhabitants, the percentage of vehicles that use alternative fuels as well as general air pollution.
The most ‘’toxic’’ drivers in the EU are the Czechs with the sixth lowest percentage of vehicles that use alternative fuels (0,7%) and the sixth oldest cars (14,5 years). It is not surprising that air in the Czech Republic is the third when it comes to air pollution on the Old Continent. The Czech Republic is followed by Poland, Estonia, Croatia and Slovakia.
By the number of vehicles per thousand inhabitants, Croatia placed as the 25th with 392 vehicles, followed by Latvia, Hungary and Romania. The average age of cars in Croatia is 14,1 years placing the country at the top of the EU list of old and environmentally unfriendly cars.
On the other hand, Sweden has the cleanest traffic and the least air pollution. Other Scandinavian countries and Ireland follow the country.
In the last year’s report, the European Environment Agency (EEA) pointed out that air pollution causes more than 500,000 premature deaths in Europe annually, however, this number is shrinking.
The agency also added that around 90 percent of European cities are exposed to air pollutants in concentrations that are considered harmful to health.
After the patron saint of Dubrovnik, St Blaise, Gor Asatryan is quite possibly only the second Armenia doctor to work in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is certainly an international city but to find an Armenian is rare, there is a grand total of two living in the city and they are related. Gor is very well-loved by his patients at the Dubrovnik General Hospital where he has made a name for himself as a general surgeon. A fan of Dr. House, yes he even dedicates his free time to medicine, he explains to us about his journey to Dubrovnik.
How does a doctor from Armenia end up working in Dubrovnik General Hospital?
It is difficult to explain the journey briefly. I had been to Dubrovnik on holiday for a couple of times and during my third visit I started to ask about how the hospital in Dubrovnik is organised. I should have added that my sister lives in Dubrovnik and of course she was the reason that I visited on holiday. She organised a meeting with the former director of the Dubrovnik hospital and we discussed the options of me coming to work here. It was suggested to me at that meeting that if I was interested I should specialise in general surgery. He asked me about the conditions in hospitals in Armenia and he offered me a position to work in Dubrovnik. I accepted his offer. This was back in 2008. A year later I left home and started working in Dubrovnik.
Yes, your sister was the main reason behind you discovering Dubrovnik
That’s correct. My sister is a pianist and she came to Dubrovnik to perform a concert in the Rector’s Palace. She then fell in love with the city and decided to set up home here. Now we are both living here.
What were your first impressions when you saw Dubrovnik?
Like most people my first impressions were extremely positive. When I saw the Old City for the first time I was shocked at its beauty. I think it is the most beautiful city in the world. The combination of the historic city with the glorious blue sea…well this is just the perfect combination. There are many spectacular cities in Europe but the combination of this unique city and the incredible nature is not so easy to find.
Are there many Armenians living in Croatia? Are you and your sister the only Armenians living in Dubrovnik?
Yes, as far as I know my sister and I are the only Armenians living in Dubrovnik. There are a few more that I know of who live in Zagreb. I would guess that there are around fifteen Armenians living in Croatia. I know a few of them, one works as a violin teacher in Zagreb at the musical academy and there is another one who owns a jewellery shop. There are millions of Armenians living around the world, in fact more outside of Armenia than in the country.
So where do Armenians go when they emigrate?
The USA and Russia and the two most popular destinations. There are around 600,000 living in Los Angeles alone and another half a million in France. Germany is also a popular destination for ex-pats. Around 2.5 million live in Armenia, but in the US and Russia live 4 million ex-pats. It is estimated that the diaspora is three times bigger than the actual population. But in Dubrovnik only two, well four at the moment as my mother and father are visiting us.
What do you miss the most about home and was it difficult to adapt to life in Croatia?
Actually I very rarely go back to Armenia, the last time was seven years ago. I miss my good friend who I met whilst I was doing my military service. My parents come almost every year and they stay for a few months. Of course at the beginning I missed some foods from home. But now I have become accustomed to the cuisine here and I love the seafood and fish. One of the things that was difficult to find was accommodation. I think I have changed my address six or seven times in Croatia, now I have finally found an apartment for a long-term rent and I am more relaxed. Accommodation, or the lack of it, in Dubrovnik is certainly challenging.
Getting used to a new way of working must have been a challenge for you, how long did it take you to get up and running and what were the most difficult moments? We have heard of many satisfied patients you have treated.
Yes, I think working in any country that isn’t your home has certain trials. To be successful the employee must be flexible and be able to not only adapt but also accept his or her new working environment. If you continually compare your working life in a new country and home then you will lose time and energy. If you are prepared to work, and work hard, then the journey will be much easier. Of course I had new barriers in my way, such as learning a new language, and without learning the language there is no way that I could live or work in Croatia. I am now a specialist of general surgery and am very happy in my position.
Is it possible to compare Croatia and Armenia?
There are some similarities, both cultures and both people have a welcoming and friendly feel. I would say that the two mentalities are also similar but democracy and freedom of speech are much more developed in Croatia.
What were the reactions of your friends and family when you told them you were going to live in Croatia?
They joked “See you on the Adriatic.” Armenia is a football mad country and many remember Croatia at the 1996 European Football Championships in England, and then 1998 and the World Cup in France. Davor Suker is a household name in Armenia.
Where is home for you now?
My home is now Croatia, but year after year I can see myself slowly becoming a citizen of the world and I think now that my home is this planet.
The extreme cold weather that has hit Croatia has forced many roads to close, close schools and generally completely disrupt normal life. It has also given some unique views of the country’s nature, with the spectacular National Park of Plitvice looking even more incredible.
Snow, ice and sleet have brought a winter face to the most popular National Park in Croatia and we have chosen just a few of the hundreds of “snowy” Plitvice photos that have been published on Instagram.
The winter wonderland of Plitvice Lakes
Photo by - Ali Xanat
Photo by - mi104
Photo by - Riva Travel
Photo by - Passport Images