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.
An earthquake, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, rumbled through the north of the Dubrovnik – Neretva County yesterday.
The epicentre of the quake was in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and seventeen kilometres away in Metkovic the ground shook as the quake rumbled through. According to the Croatian Seismic Centre the estimated population in the so called “felt area” of the earthquake was 130,000. No injuries or severe material damage has so far been reported.
If you are travelling towards the Dubrovnik suburb of Lozica be careful as a road traffic accident has just occurred blocking the busy road in both directions.
The emergency services are on the scene and are attempting to clear the road.
One eye witness told The Dubrovnik Times that “It would appear that the car lost control on the wet road and crashed into the wall.” It is still unclear as to whether anyone was injured in the accident.
Boninovo – a place where love is treasured in Dubrovnik. With panoramic views over the Adriatic Sea the security fence stands guard over the sheer cliff drop, and apart from this more practical purpose it also holds romantic dreams.
This seemingly plain green fence has become Dubrovnik’s love lock wall. It is hard to say when it started, at least ten years ago is our best guess, but now the fence is awash with pledges of undying love from all over the world.
Padlocks with the initials, messages, hearts and poems are snapped into place on the fence and the keys are then thrown in the sea. It the modern day version of carving your names in a tree trunk, but once more environmentally friendly.
“Love U 4ever,” from a Swiss couple – “Be my Valentine” in French and “U complete me” from Juan in Mexico. The Dubrovnik love fence is as international as the guests that land every summer.
If you want to add your own enteral love message on a padlock then from the Old City head up the road from Pile Gate for around a kilometre, when you get close the clank of padlocks in the wind will led the way.
Croatia has the fourth most expensive hotel room rates in Europe, with the average price of a room a whopping 135.9 Euro. According to research by the leading agency STR Global into the price of accommodation in Europe the most expensive room rates are in Switzerland with an average price of 192.8 Euro.
The agency investigated accommodation, travel agencies, tourist attractions and prices across the whole of Europe and Croatia came out as the fourth most expensive room rates. After Switzerland, Italy came in second place at 142.8 Euro, followed by Malta at 138.3 Euro and Croatia at 135.9 Euro.
Croatian accommodation is more expensive than France (118 Euro), Spain (114 Euro) and Greece (119 Euro). Whilst some of the cheapest countries were Germany (101 Euro), Great Britain (105 Euro) and Finland (103 Euro). According to the research the cheapest room rates in Europe can be found in Austria which had an average hotel room price of only 101 Euro.
“Overcrowded destinations are successful, but there is a thin line between success and failure,” commented the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, at the recent ITB travel trade fair in Berlin.
Overcrowding is a huge problem is many popular tourist destinations, Venice, Barcelona, New York and London are all facing problems tackling the downside of being tourist magnets. And Mediterranean destinations have the extra pressure of thousands of cruise ship passengers arriving every day.
With cheap flights and online accommodation agencies travel has never been cheaper or easier, meaning that many tourists arrive for shorter trips, in fact the average stay in Dubrovnik last year was less than 3 days.
However, the advantages of easy travelling have led to overcrowding, in a survey by the consultants IPK around 9 percent of travellers commented that overcrowding negatively affected their vacation.
According to a recent report the City of Dubrovnik is getting creative in order to cope with the crowds. By the end of this year the city will launch a new app that will inform visitors when the historic Old City is overcrowded. It will feature a real-time people counter that will show the number of people in the city core at any given time.
And in an attempt to disperse tourists to other regions around the historic walls the city plans to launch a car-sharing scheme.
And the last, and quite possibly most important measure, will come from the Port of Dubrovnik, who will work on rearranging the arrivals of cruise ships to the city in an attempt to ease the infrastructure problems in peak times. This scheme will come into force this year but the full effects are expected to be seen from next year. The city is also looking at overcrowding solutions in New York and Venice.
The runway and aprons of Dubrovnik Airport are currently undergoing a major overhaul with the works on schedule to be completed by the middle of March.
The current works are the second phase of the development project aimed at increasing the capacity of the airport to almost 4 million passengers a year.
The runway and taxiway works that are in progress will expand the western apron, include the construction of two new rapid exit taxiways, a new east apron and the construction of a new commercial aviation apron on the western side.
For the eighth time the state owned hotel chain, Hotel Maestral, has been put up for sale. The Centre for Reconstruction and Sales (CERP) have announced the public sale of 355.520 shares in the Hotel Maestral company for a total nominal price of 71 million Kuna. This amount of shares makes up 68.9 percent of the shares in the Dubrovnik hotel chain.
CERP are calling for interested parties to send a letter of intent for the purchase of the shares by the 9th of March 2018.
Hotel Maestral consists of five hotels in the Lapad Bay area of Dubrovnik. This last remaining state owned hotel chain in Dubrovnik has been up sale for the past few years but so far every deal has fallen through. The current management of the company are even considering putting together a management buy-out package for this latest sale.
Do you ever have the feeling that you are caught in the same day over and over again? Does the day to day routine somehow give you déjà vu? It’s like that 1990’s film with Bill Murray, Groundhog Day, where he continually wakes up in the same day for weeks. I have that Groundhog Day feeling at the moment.
It could be the winter blues. Dubrovnik may be a hive of activity in the warmer months when the swallows arrive but let’s face it in the winter it is a little…well boring. Maybe it’s good to be bored a little. But I am not really the kind of person who has time for being bored normally. I looked at the event calendar on the Dubrovnik Tourist Board website the other week looking for some inspiration, only to be greeted with two events that week, two all week!
At the moment I feel like I am running on auto-pilot a little. But it seems I am not the only one running around in circles. I was flicking through the newspaper archives a week ago and many of the headlines and articles I came across from five years ago and exactly the same headlines that are being used today. Coincidence? Probably not. Many of the problems Dubrovnik had five years ago, ten years ago and two decades ago are exactly the same problems it has today. Coincidence? Probably not.
Instead of forward movement, there is stagnation. This could be due to a couple of reasons. Lack of willing to move forward and solve problems. Lack of adequate knowledge to be able to solve the problem. Or a lack of sight, so as to be blind to the actual problems. I would suggest that a combination of these three is the situation. Most people can get excited about the results, the finished product, but they dread the process of doing the actual work, so they don’t bother to try.
Many of the challenges that the city faced decades ago - infrastructure, social issues, cultural inadequacies, education, health, finance and even something as benign as sewerage and exactly the same today. We are stuck in a never-ending Groundhog Day.
I was with a businessman from the US last week and he was reminiscing about how he had visited Dubrovnik in the early 2000’s. “To be honest apart from the odd building facelift and a few new hotels nothing much has changed,” he said over his coffee. I was desperate to prove him wrong, to praise a new development, but I was left scratching my head. “Of course you have a few more tourists and cruise ships coming, but apart from that it seems like status quo,” he concluded. He was right, unfortunately. Is it a lack of creativity? We have all been blessed to live in such a unique city, but maybe we really need some unique ideas and unique people to go with the city, to breathe live back into all of us. Change your thoughts and you change your world.
We seem stuck to this routine of – work all day every day through the summer – hibernate in the winter. And we all conform to this pattern, to this way of life, not wanting to break the mould and start something new. Of course that’s the easy option. It’s much harder to be a non-conformist than a conformist, especially in a small town. So we go with the flow and not rock the boat. “What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” said Bill Murray in the film.
And here we are in March already. Soon the flights will arrive, soon the city will be full again, soon we will all be working at top speed, and in that melee of madness we will all forget that winter was even here. The same old problems will arise again, the same old shouts for something to be done and the same old excuses that we have all heard. And, guess what, nothing will be done. The sun will melt our memories as an ice-cream on the beach and the life will go on in our Dubrovnik Groundhog Day. And then the colder days will be here again and once again we will hibernate and like an emu bury our heads in the sand. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower, once said Steve Jobs.