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.
Heights and I have a relationship, I don’t go near them and they don’t come near me. Yes, one of the phobias that I have is acrophobia, in fact it’s probably the only phobia I have. I have tried on many occasions to conquer this fear, but all attempts have left me shaking like a leaf in the north wind. I’ve been up the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the domed roof of St. Paul’s Cathedral and even on the roof of Harrods and they all left me trembling like a jelly.
So when I got a call “We would like you to invite you as a guest to our newly opened attraction, a zip line in Dubrovnik,” I was hesitant to agree. “You’ll fly 60 metres above a rocky beach at speeds reaching 50 kpm,” the call continued. Yes, that wasn’t helping. But you only live once.
I had tried a zip line once, a long time ago when I was younger and more stupid. I dragged along my wife for moral support. So this latest thrill-seeking attraction is in Vrbica. It is kind of tucked away and the line, which is a monumental 250 metres long, hangs precariously over a beach that can only be reached by boat. We met our guides for the day, who were cool, calm and collected, of course they had done this ride many times before. I, on the other hand, was slightly less composed.
“OK, before we take you to the wire we need to do some training and safety course,” said the friendly guide. We donned helmets and a harness that squeezed me in places I didn’t want to be squeezed. “One of the most important things you’ll need to learn is how to brake,” smiled the guide. I agreed 100 percent. “When you come to near the end of the ride you’ll see a guide and he will give you two signs. If you see him gently patting his head it means you need to slow down, and if you see him spinning his arm then speed up,” he added. OK, I don’t think I’ll need the speed up sign, I thought to myself. “Now we will take you to the start point,” he said as he wandered off through the woods.
If you ever want to commit suicide, then the cliff that I found myself standing on the edge of would be the perfect location. The beach was way, way down somewhere in the distance. “I guess there is no chance of the wire breaking,” I nervously joked. The comment only brought a smile form the guide. So that is how I found myself strapped onto a tiny wire 60 metres over a rocky beach. To give you an idea of the height, the Dubrovnik Bridge to the Adriatic is 50 metres. Yes, I might as well have been flying.
“When you are ready just let go of the brake and gravity will do the rest,” shouted the guide in my ear. I had no real desire to a) let go of the brake and b) rely on gravity to take me across. I am not sure if I closed my eyes, because I can’t really remember much of the first few seconds after take-off, but then I looked down and saw my feet dangling with lots of nothing between them and the beach. I picked up speed rapidly. The air rushed past and so did a seagull. Now I know how a bird feels and if I am reincarnated as a bird I will immediately crash into a window. The only sound was the zipping wire above my head. I moved my head slightly to catch some of the view and Sipan, or was it Lopud, flashed by. I was going surprisingly fast. And even more surprisingly I was starting to enjoy it. Yes, I was basically hanging from a metal wire and flying through the air with nothing but a seagull to keep me company but it was fun.
I had reached over half way and now let out a scream of joy, or fear, make your own conclusion. I could see the team at the other end of the line now, my landing spot. As one of the guides came into view I noticed that he was not patting his head but he was whacking his head violently. “Oh blimey, what does that mean,” the fear and adrenaline had wiped my memory clean. As I sped ever closer I heard his shouts. “Brake, brake, brake…” echoed around the cliff side as he continued to whack the top of his head. “Ah yes, I remember…brake,” my memory came flooding back. I was flying like a kamikaze into the hillside and hadn’t slowed down at all during my flight. With all my strength I pulled down on the brake and was jolted from top speed to no speed in a few metres.
Quite obviously the ride had been so impressive that I had completely forgotten to slow down. As I was unclipped from the wire I looked back up and in a flash had a horrible feeling of acrophobia. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or as Mahatma Gandi once said “Fear has its use, but cowardice has none.”
After the recent unusually wet and stormy period in Dubrovnik the sun finally broke through the clouds today and the whole of the region is backing in blue skies.
The weather forecast indicated a week of settled weather in the city with temperatures rising to thirty degrees. The Adriatic Sea is currently 24 degrees so with the sun shining tourists and locals will be hitting the beaches.
Check out our photo gallery from today over Dubrovnik
Slovenia has become the latest European Union member country to open its borders to Croatian workers. As of the 1st of July this year Croatians will no longer require a work visa for neighbouring Slovenia.
The Slovenian Labour Ministry announced on Friday that work restrictions for Croatian would be lifted as of the 1st of July. The Ministry commented that “Considering the current situation on Slovenia's labour market, low unemployment rates and a big workforce shortage, there was no need to extend the restriction on Croatian workers for another two years.”
It is believed that between 1,000 and 2,000 Croatians with work permits were employed in Slovenia last year, however with a lifting of restrictions this number is sure to increase.
Earlier this year the Slovenian government put forward a bill to continue with work visas for Croatian until 2020, however this proposed bill didn’t pass through parliament and therefore the restrictions will be lifted. It is believed that the Croatian government will now follow suit and lift the work visas for Slovenians wishing to work in the country.
The United Kingdom and the Netherlands have also recently announced a lifting of work visas for Croatian nationals as of the 1st of July this year. The only EU member still to lift the work restrictions is Austria.
It certainly turned heads this morning. At anchor between the island of Lokrum and the historic Old City is a rather unusual looking super yacht. “Shadow” is fresh onto the seas and this is her first visit to Dubrovnik.
This is a super yacht with a difference, an explorers yacht, as it features a number of separate modes of transport, in fact Shadow is classed as a support vessel motor yacht. With a helicopter landing pad, enough space on the deck for two extra speedboats and even room for a small seaplane, this is a yacht for the adventurous types.
With three cabins and a capacity of six guests and 20 crew it’s a height of luxury and was completed in 2017 in the Netherlands. Shadow is not for charter, however similar ships in her range go for around $75,000 a week.
Croatia will mark five years of European Union independence on Sunday the 1st of July and according to information from the Croatian Chamber of Commerce the country has benefited economically for membership.
The Croatian Chamber of Economy (HGK) said that by joining the EU on July 1, 2013 Croatia had achieved one of its main foreign policy objectives and formally became part of the European single market.
With full membership has come the benefits of not having tariffs on exports to EU countries and this has led to a strong increase in exports. However, it also means that other EU members can export their goods to Croatia much easier and cheaper.
Figure indicate that over the past five years, or since becoming a full member of the Union, Croatian exports have increased by a massive 56 percent, with exports directly to the EU leaping 70 percent.
By joining the EU, Croatia has also gained access to €10.7 billion in grants from EU's structural and investment funds. The latest figures provided by the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds showed that contracts worth €4.8 billion have been concluded by May 31 this year, which amounts to 45 percent of the total funds earmarked for Croatia, with 8 percent of the total allocation already paid out to end users.
Rain, storms, grey skies and a depressed population often all stem from one weather condition in Dubrovnik – a southerly wind.
The south wind, known as the jugo, is a Mediterranean wind that comes from the Sahara and when it blows it tends to dump large quantities of rain all over the Dubrovnik region. And the heavy air and moisture throws most of the city into a bleak depression.
In fact, the effects are so widespread that during the time of the Republic of Dubrovnik a special law was brought in. whenever the jugo or sirocco blew no Council session or decisions or laws were allowed to take place. Quite simply the south wind, and its negative connotations for people’s health, closed down the city council.
A famous Dubrovnik author, Tereza Buconic, summed it up when she wrote “One does not even like oneself when jugo is blowing so how can a decision be made about another with such a confused mind.” Even crimes that were committed during heavy southerly winds were treated with more leniency.
Check out more from our series From the Archives
What’s in the name of Dubrovnik
Croatia’s population is shrinking rapidly. According to a new report published by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Vienna Institute of Demography and reported by the news service N1 since 1990 the population has shrunk by 13 percent.
The population of Western Europe keeps growing largely thanks to immigration, while Eastern Europe has been hit with serious population drain, a recently published analysis by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Vienna Institute of Demography showed.
The survey highlights the difference between populations across Europe from the period of 1990 to 2017. And it is clear from their findings that south-eastern Europe is struggling with a major demographic problem.
The country with the highest drop in population was Bosnia and Herzegovina which saw a massive 22 percent loss of citizens within the 17-year time period. And a large proportion of this loss can be put down to the war in the region, however more recently the situation hasn’t improved as people leave for financial reasons.
At the other end of the scale Ireland saw the largest growth in population, an incredible 36 percent, followed by Switzerland with 26 percent and Norway with 24 percent. But in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latvia, Moldavia, Bulgaria and Lithuania more than 20 percent of the population immigrated.
The rate of unemployment in Croatia is steadily falling. At the end of May the unemployment rate fell from 10.4 percent to 9.2 percent. Over 1.40 million people were employed in Croatia in May, up by 2 percent from April, of which 1.19 million were employed in companies, or 1.5 percent up, the national statistics bureau said on Wednesday.
Somewhat unsurprisingly the number of people employed in the tourism industry rose as the tourist season began.
At the end of May, there were almost 142,000 jobless people registered with the state employment bureau, down by 17,800 or 11.1 percent from April. As a result, May's unemployment rate fell to 9.2 percent from 10.4 percent in April.