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.
Croatian banks are tightening their belts and making it harder for companies and people to get loans.
The number of outstanding debts from loans at the end of 2017 was 245.9 billion Kuna, whilst in 2016 this figure was over 15 billion Kunas more at 261 billion Kunas. Banks in Croatia, of which 90 percent are owned by other European Union countries, mostly Italy, Austria and Hungary, have recently made it more difficult for citizens to raise finance for buying properties.
On the positive side for Croatian banks the level of non-performing loans, or loans on which the borrower is not making interest payments or repaying any principal, has fallen. The number of non-performing loans in Croatia fell to 11.37 percent in 2017, whilst in 2016 it was 13.8 percent.
The number of inhabitants inside the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik has been dropping alarming for the past few decades and has now reached record lows. In 1961 the vibrant Old City of Dubrovnik had a population of 5,872, but today that number has plummeted to only 1,557.
According to figures just released 55 percent of the households in the historic city have only one or two family members, which offers the assumption that these households are older people. In fact, the population is dominated by the elderly, of the 1,557 inhabitants a massive 856 are aged over 65. “The historic core of Dubrovnik is a space of unwelcome demographic collapse. The depopulation and high rate of elderly citizens means that we can almost guarantee the continue of this process,” commented Dr. Sanja Klempić Bogadi, from the Institute of Migration and Civilisation.
Walking the ancient cobbled streets of the Old City in the winter highlights the depopulation problem. Although the city has a buzz in the summer when tourists from all over the world arrive, the winter months are a different story, with one of the biggest shocks the lack of local children.
Empty winter streets of Dubrovnik - Photo Mark Thomas
In the Marin Getaldić school inside the city walls a total of 156 children started the first class this year. That figure doesn’t sound too disappointing, however when you take into account that the school has been actively attracting children from outside the city walls just to fill the classrooms, it is a little disappointing.
For example, in one first grade class this year, of the twenty pupils in the class only four actually live in the Old City. The latest findings report that there are only 160 children, under the age of 14, who call the Old City home today, or there are three times more pensioners than children in the city.
In 1961 there were 5,872 inhabitants in the city, in 1991 this number had fallen to 3,525 and in 2011 to 2,116.
Two beaches in the Dubrovnik county have been featured in a list of the 25 best beaches in Europe by the popular UK newspaper The Guardian. The St. Jakob beach, which offers splendid views of the historic Old City of Dubrovnik, and the slightly more hidden Pupnatska Luka, on the island of Korcula, have found themselves recommended by The Guardian.
- Dubrovnik is usually intolerably crowded, and in July and August this little beach to the south makes a good escape from Croatia’s most popular tourist destination. Sveti Jakob is at least a 30-minute walk from the old town and down 160 rocky steps, so deters the casual beachgoer – write The Guardian about St. Jakob. Adding that the beach offers gorgeous views of the city walls.
And the stunning Pupnatska Luka beach on Korcula also features - The rugged southern coast of Korčula harbours numerous beaches – one of the most heavenly is Pupnatska Luka. At the top of a deep bay surrounded by thickly forested bluffs, this chilled-out beach of white pebbles and sparkling water gives a sense of being cocooned in aquamarine loveliness – says the article.
Pupnatska Luka on Korcula - Photo by marinas.com
In total The Guardian placed only four Croatian beaches on the list of the 25 best beaches in Europe, and two are in the Dubrovnik county, with Posedarje, near Zadar, and Livačina on the island of Rab, making the list.
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.