Dubrovnik by day is much different than seeing it by night, and today we had a whole day to explore – not to mention enjoying a Game of Thones Dubrovnik tour. We had scheduled the tour with Game of Thrones Dubrovnik, who touted tour guides who were extras in the show, at 1000 in the morning. This would be just in advance of the series finale Sunday evening US time – we wouldn’t get to watch it the until the following day in Kotor.
An early morning tour had the benefit of forcing us to get up early, and we also opted for the cold -cut and continental breakfast at the guest house (again prepared by Marija’s mother in-law). We were glad we did because it saved us some time, and the variety and the coffee were good. Coffee in a pot is hard to find in the Balkans!
We walked down to the city over the steep staircase we had become friends with the previous night, and enjoyed seeing some familiar cats along the way. At the bottom, we headed to Pile Square we were supposed to meet our guide for the Game of Thrones Dubrovnik experience. It was getting close to 1000 and the guide was nowhere in sight so we started to get worried – moments later we saw someone spill out of a bus and put up a sign for our names. We waited about 15 minutes for another couple who ended up being a no-show, and made small-talk with Vito, our guide. His English was a little hard to understand and he made some bizarre comments, not to mention rambling on about the weather for 5 minutes. We assumed he was still out of his groove and warming up for the day.
Vito took us first to the fort overlooking the city to relay some history and point out Game of Thrones Dubrovnik filming cites, relating it back to the series with pictures. But first, we took in some views of outside.
Entrance to the fort was 50 kuna each, and can be used to also purchase the city wall passes, which were 200 kuna each (save your receipt). We climbed up in to the Fort Lovrijenac (St. Lawrence Fortress), built in the 12th century in less than 3 months by the Dubrovnik citizens to preempt the Venetians from building it. The walls on the sea side are 40 feet thick, with a double wall system to protect from outside the fortress, or inside the fortress threats. It’s virtually impenetrable, as the shelling of it it during the Croatian War for independence proved. Vito, having a military background himself (and presidential guard), started to flex his knowledge discussing the fort’s defenses.
The fort from the outside is on the left, and on the right is a view from the interior – also where Joffrey’s Name Day tournament was held in Game of Thrones Dubrovnik scenes.
He even pointed out why the forts in the Dubrovnik city walls all had rounded corners – no point of weakness that way.
We saw several views of Dubrovnik and “King’s Landing” from the fortress as well as the harbor. I love photographing Dubrovnik because of the bright tiled coral roofs and the stark white walls, contrasted with aquamarine waters. From this shot below, you can probably see why it can withstand a siege. You can also see key landmarks, like the Sept of Baelor and the Red Keep.
Dubrovnik was established on ancient settlements as the city of Ragusa by the 10th century and fell under the protection of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, and then under Venice in the early 13th century. In the 14th century it achieved relative independence through a treaty with the Kingdom of Hungary. Until 1808 (Austro-Hungarian Empire), Dubrovnik remained a free state, while still paying tribute to the Ottoman Empire. It was regarded as a liberal and modern city, with ideals such as abolition of slavery, orphanages, water supply, and the first pharmacy in Europe.
Finally, we heard a fascinating story from Vito about his childhood and the involvement of his father in the war, when the Serbians attacked the city. His father was part of a skeleton crew stationed in the fort on top of the hill above Dubrovnik when the Serb attack on the fortress in late 1991 began. He saw the ships coming in to attack and he started running down the mountain. However, the Serbian troops didn’t realize that no one was up there, and they began to attack the fort. The Serbian soldiers, from the ground, also advanced on the fort to capture the position. This was part of the events of the siege of Dubrovnik, where Fort Imperial was intermittently fired upon by artillery from ground and sea, while being bombed by aircraft. The fort defenders retreated inside the fort, and there was a point where the Croatian navy devised a feign by firing on their own fort, Fort Imperial, to cause the Serbian ground forces to withdraw – which was actually successful. You can see references to it (although stylized with some bias) here.
Remember, the Croatian War of Independence was part of the unraveling of Yugoslavia, where Croats wanted self-governance of Croatia and to split apart, and Serbs living in the same territory wanted to remain part of Yugoslavia. Ultimately, the Croats accomplished the goals they set out to at the beginning of the war – retain their borders and get independence.
In 1979 Dubrovnik became a UNESCO world heritage site, which locked its architecture down since then. Being a UNESCO site, the shelling of Dubrovnik by the Serbs incensed the international community and turned the tide of public opinion against the Serbians and Montenegrans, and international recognition of Croatia’s independence.
We continued down to the city, but first taking a stop at the docks for some Game of Thrones fun. Recognize this scene?
Myrcella departeding to Dorn was also filmed down here.
Here’s a few other views from this vantage point of the docks. The scene on the left is where Robert Baratheon’s bastards were murdered in Game of Thrones.
Down in the Dubrovnik old city, in King’s Landing, we looked at the stairs and the route that Cersei took the walk of shame down. We had already sussed out this location the night before.
We also learned why several staircases in the city have their banister sides closed off – so that people below couldn’t look up the skirts of fine ladies! You can see this in pictures of Pile Gate, which is also where Joffrey started the riot where Sansa was dragged off in. GoT originally wanted to film the Shame walk in a different area, but the priest of a nearby church objected to a naked woman walking nearby. Somewhat unrelated by ironically, that same church is in possession of a holy relic that is a golden had and arm (presumably from some Saint) that really resembled Jamie Lannister’s golden hand.
We continued through the city and Vito mentioned the city orphanage, which was the first in Europe – featuring a drop-off point for impoverished families. Nearby, I found this lovely bench and simply had to capture it.
For one of our last stops, we came to the waterfront for another view of the city. Vito explained more about what is was like to be an extra in the series – he was a Gold Cloak and appeared in several seasons. He said the costume was extremely heavy, and mostly he was posted on the city walls – walking the stairs was difficult. He initially was disappointed that he got the assignment of Gold Cloak over Queen’s Guard (since he guarded the President in real life), but ultimately this led to being part of more seasons and he didn’t die! There was a lot of standing around. He also said that the casting process was looking for people over average height and build, which is why he was chosen – the costumes were not one size fits all!
Vito also told us more about Dubrovnik’s history and a ruling system that was used to keep the realm peaceful and prosperous. The system was extremely progressive and eliminated behavioral change due to second-term power seeking. This system was applied to the role of Rector – the length of the Rector’s term was limited to a month, and a person was only eligible for reelection after two years. 1 year term limits could also be found in the Senate. This system promoted stability. If you want to read more about historical Dubrovnik, I actually suggest you check out this Wikipedia link on the Republic of Ragusa (it’s old name).
At the end of the Game of Thrones Dubrovnik tour, we got to sit on the Iron Throne, which was good fun.
We said goodbye to Vito (he had definitely perked up once we started talking about the battle and the defense of the city) and Game of Thrones Dubrovnik, and were on our way.
It was nearing noon at this time so we decided to amble around the city and find a place for drinks. I was vibing on an Aperol Spritz while Brendan enjoyed the Dark & Stormy. The weather was pretty good at this point.
After drinks, we thought we would get a bite, and headed to the bakery on the main street. It was overrun with tourists so I decided I didn’t want it badly enough, and got out of there. An argument with Brendan ensued, citing the infamous Marrakesh restaurant purse debacle of 2017. It turns out we were both going to Abilene together, as neither of us actually really wanted to eat.
Instead, we decided to walk the walls, despite impending rain (what day on our vacation wouldn’t be complete without rain!?). I urgently had to go to the bathroom (we were told there was a toilet up there when we purchased the ticket, but there were none in sight) so it wasn’t a pleasant as it should had been until I finally did find the one toilet on the opposite side from where I entered 30 minutes later. There was also throngs of tourists, mostly Chinese again, making it hard to go at the pace you wanted to go at. Travel tip: going in the shoulder season should present some of the crowds, but also try to go in the early evening after the cruise ships have left. The timing of following that tip ourselves never worked out, but regardless, the views were spectacular. Here are the highlights from my pictures and walking the walls of Dubrovnik by day:
After the walls, and since it was now raining hard, we decided to just get back to our room as quickly as possible to take a break before dinner. It was probably 1600 at this point, and was likely the most miserable climb up that we had due to the weather and our exasperation with it. No cats on that climb due to Dark & Stormy weather (perhaps Brendan shouldn’t have chosen that drink!?).
We had a breather for a few hours and went back out around 2100, deciding this time to eat at Mea Culpa, a pizzeria that Marija had also recommended. You can find it by taking a right after the 5th street from the entrance, and walking until you hit a dead-end.
Besides having a cute name, the food was exquisite. To start with we ordered a Greek salad that had the most unusual presentation and ratio of Feta cheese to salad that we had ever encountered. For the mains, I had the truffle pizza and Brendan got the calzone. Mine won the day, and provided leftovers for breakfast the next morning.
I passed on dessert, but Brendan got the biggest nutella crepe we had ever seen, and it was waaaaaay too much dessert, even for him. My plan was to get gelato later, but it was all shutdown at midnight when we were ready to head out. Dubrovnik was a late night city, but like Split, the culinary scene did not linger past midnight.
So, we walked our familiar stairs back, said goodbye to our familiar cats, walked under our tunnel, through the winding alleys on the mountain, and up the final familiar set of stairs to our guest house. OK, so maybe I wasn’t going to miss this part – but it did force us to get some exercise several times a day. Asleep by 0100, we were scheduled to leave by 1000 to drive to Kotor, Montenegro.