Tuesday, 19 June 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

Radoslav Didović (29) from Zrnovo on the island of Korcula has placed 40 bottles of wine at a depth of 33 metres and some 450 metres from the shore and he will leave them there for two years. But before you were thinking of squeezing into your diving suit and helping yourself to a few bottles of vino he has protected them with metal cage.

Radoslav is a long-time lover of scuba diving as well as coming from a family of wine makers, like many families from the Peljesac Peninsular, however he isn’t a fan of wine. So why did he decide to trap 40 bottles in a watery Adriatic grave.

"I do not drink wine, but I love diving and the underwater and I love sea decorations and that was the main motive for creating a submarine winery. The dive, during which I placed bottles at a sea depth of 33 metres, lasted 90 minutes. The bottles are currently tied to each other, and over the winter I will move them to a special cage due to the strong sea currents. The bottles are glass, a protective wax over the cap is stops the penetration of sea water, and the winery has to be inspected once a month. They say that red wine is best stored at a constant temperature of 15 degrees, which is basically at a depth of 30 meters, so I will leave it down for two years, " explained Radoslav.

Over their two-year storage underwater the bottles are expected to take on “sea decorations” and will certainly be rather unique. He chose the location after consulting experts to look for the ideal combination of sand, stone and submarine vegetation.

Yesterday the Croatian Foreign Minister, Marija Pejcinovic-Buric, officially accepted the six-month chairmanship of the Council of Europe from Denmark. This marks the first time that Croatia has led the Council of Europe.

Speaking at the ceremony the Foreign Minister stated that “The chairmanship will be an opportunity to prepare the country for a much more demanding presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020.”

The plans for the Croatian leadership were presented and they included the fight against corruption, protection of ethnic minorities, protection of cultural heritage and decentralisation. Many have argued that these exact points should be first combated in Croatia.

Croatia will hand over the chairmanship to Finland on November 21 in Strasbourg, and the next meeting of the Committee of Ministers will be held on May 16-17, 2019, in Helsinki.

According to latest figures 35 percent of children in Croatia are severely overweight. Research by the Croatian Institute of Public Health the country is in the top five European members in regard to obese children.

Boys, at 39 percent, have more of a problem with controlling their weight, whilst young girls, at 31 percent, are far from at their ideal weight. There are many reasons for this unprecedented growth in obesity in young children, however experts state that modern diets, including high levels of sugar, and a general lack of exercise are the two main reasons. A massive 87 percent of children spend two hours or more in front of the TV or on their computers or mobile phones playing games at the weekend in Croatia.

The research included 5,664 second- and third-graders in 164 schools throughout the country, and their parents.

The Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) survey was organised in 2006 by the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe, along with 13 member states, and Croatia first joined the survey in 2015/16.

“It is driving me crazy,” said the café bar owner opposite me whose face was slowly turning as red as a lobster. “I found two new waiters and then just didn’t turn up, I’d even arranged accommodation for them,” he flustered. I almost answered that “It is driving me crazy as well, listening to all you café bar owners moan about not being able to find workers,” however I held my tongue and nodded. If I had a Kuna for every time I heard this “we can’t find workers” story I would clear the Croatian national debt.

It is nothing new and sorry to say this but it is going to get much worse. Hotels, cafes, restaurants, agencies, pretty much every company in Dubrovnik that work in the tourism sector is desperate to find employees. Every summer season Dubrovnik “imports” around 2,000 workers from neighbouring countries to fill the hole in the lack of local workers. It is basic mathematics. If 40,000 live in the city, and when you take away all the people who work for the state, are pensioners, are children or have apartments and have no need to work then you are left with only around 5,000 workers are available to service the 2 million guests every year, in other words not enough.

So we scoop up workers from all over the place. You’ll hear accents from Vinkovci, Mostar and Skopje serving drinks on the Stradun. So if someone says that can’t find work in Dubrovnik then they are not being completely honest. Are people from Dubrovnik just lazy?

Just the other day one particular restaurant owner was telling me a horror story. He was looking for a host or hostess to work part time in his restaurant. The job involved basically standing in front of a restaurant and welcoming guests as they arrived or answering any questions they might have. So not the “grab the guests by the sleeve” kind of hostess that plague the Stradun. A few hours in the morning and then again a few hours in the early evening, nothing too strenuous.

He was offering free lunch in the deal and a monthly salary of 8,000 Kunas! Not too bad.

After a week of advertising the job five people applied…yes, only five. But that was just the start. The first one arrived, ten minutes late and blaming the buses, “I just have one question will I have to stand all day or will you give me a chair to rest my legs.” Not the best start to an interview and this man was 23 years-old! This was just the beginning. The next candidate was worried that she would be all day in the sun. The third candidate didn’t like the idea of talking to foreign people. The fourth didn’t want to work two shifts because he had to come from Mokošica by bus. And the last was my absolute favourite, “When will I have time to swim?” So he gave up.

Well he gave up with local people. He gave the same advert to a recruitment agency in Slavonia and instead of taking one host he ended up employing two younger ladies, one worked in the morning and the other in the evening, and paid them 4,000 Kuna each. I have heard a similar story from many other restaurant owners.

Now you could argue, and you would be correct, that if the owner paid their staff enough then they wouldn’t need to find new workers every season. Or even if they employed them on a full-time basis. Of course that makes sense and in fact many employers follow these golden rules today. But the truth is that there are more job vacancies than actual people to fill them in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik has a specific problem that requires a specific solution.

Recently a report showed that Croatia has the lowest rate of unemployment since 2003. The government were quick to pat themselves on the back and issue statements that their employment policy was working. Of course the truth is slightly different. The biggest problem that Croatia faces today is the mass exodus, the demographic disaster that now means that there are more Croatians living in Germany than in Split. Yes, over 380,000 Croats now call Germany home, or should I say “haus.” And yes this is the very reason why the rate of employment has dropped like a pebble in the Adriatic. In the future not only will we be importing cheap souvenirs from China but also Chinese workers to sell them.

The tourist season in Dubrovnik is well and truly underway and the historic Old City was a hive of activity today. Numerous cruise ships were docked around the city and the city’s hotels are already running at full capacity.

However, in spite of the crowds the flow of visitors into the city today seemed to be relatively seamless today and the traffic measures that the city have introduced look to be working.

gate dbk

gate pile 3

Prince Harry Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will walk down the aisle in the much anticipated wedding of the year tomorrow. The ceremony starts at exactly midday in the St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle and an hour later the newlyweds will tour Windsor in a horse drawn carriage.

The new Royal couple will delay their honeymoon, quite possibly until the autumn of this year, as they both have a busy schedule of public engagements lined up directly after the wedding.

Details as to the exact location are of course still a secret, however Rwanda, Mexico and Turkey have been rumoured as possible destinations. But could Croatia also be in the bidding.

Prince Harry will remember his last visit to Croatia as an action-packed holiday, which included letting his hair down on the party island of Hvar. Aa a 26 year-old in 2011 the young Prince with a group of friends had a party in the open-air Veneranda club on Hvar and even managed to end up in the swimming pool fully dressed.

After tomorrow these wilder bachelor days will be behind him but for sure he will have fond memories of the Croatia.

The tallest building in Croatia is currently under construction in Split. The Westgate Tower Split will be, when finished, 110 metres high with 27 floors and will officially be the tallest building in the country.

The whole project consists of two new tower block, the smaller block has already been completed and with is 12 floors is the head office for a bank. The taller brother will have both office space and residential space and even a hotel, with six underground floors and 27 floors it will have a total floor space of 35,000 square metres.

The hotel part of the new building will include 189 rooms and a spa, witness centre, conference centre and various restaurants and bars. In fact, it will be managed by the world famous brand Marriott.

The future Peljesac Bridge could well be the motivation for more co-operation between Croatia and China. The Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Cao Jianming, visited Croatia today and met with the Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

“Your visit to the People’s Republic of China has put a great wind in the sails of our relations,” commented Jianming in reference to the Croatian President’s official visit to the Chinese President XI Jinping.

Both officials said that the construction of the Peljesac bridge, for which the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) consortium signed the construction contract in April this year, was an important step in fostering the Croatian-Chinese relations, and for the European Union, the President’s Office said in a press release.

Vice Chairman Cao Jianming said that there was a notable rise in trade and mutual capital investments between the countries, as well as the number of Chinese tourists visiting Croatia.




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The Voice of Dubrovnik


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