One of the wealthiest trading ports in Europe in the past , Dubrovnik in Croatia, has come alive again courtesy the cult series Game of Thrones being shot here.
My first, rather hazy,memory of Dubrovnik was from a travel show which showed young boys jumping into sapphire blue waters from what appeared to be the walls of an old castle; but it wasn’t till last year when the name came floating back into memory , courtesy the epic fantasy drama.
The walled city of Dubrovnik once the capital of the wealthy seafaring Republic of Ragusa (1358-1808), ‘plays’ King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros and the seven kingdoms, as imagined by George RR Martin in his series of high fantasy novels, A song of ice and fire in the TV adaptation. For Go T fans, Dubrovnik quickly become an important scenes were shot here, in cluding the mountain and prince oberyn. And along with that came hordes of curious Thronies’.
Dubrovnik as a destination doesn’t need the additional pull that GoT brings with it. with its pristine beaches, the blust water you’ve ever laid your eyes on, stunning sunsets, medieval architecture, fresh-off-the-boat seafood and a UNESCO world Heritage tag to boot Dubrovnik is one of the most visited cities in Croatia.
One of the best preserved walled cities in the world, Dubrovnik has a charm in the that’s as old worldly as they come. With a rich shipping past that rivalled that of Venice-the Adriatic sea Separates Italy and Croatia- Dubrovnik was a city known for its wealth and thalassocracy.
Game of Thrones has given the walled city, known for its red-tiled rooftops, a new buzz and its economy a fillip. Several GoT-themed walking toures have come up, and can cost up to 240 kuna-the local currency –in the season. Such is the interest in the series’ locations that the tourist board has recently put a Game of Thrones map on its website. The show adds $10 million to Dubrovnik’s tourism revenue and is attracting new visitors. Like me. But what’s most interesting is that it’s an affordable destination. A much weaker currency –one kuna is currently equivalent to Rs. 9.50 as against the euro which is a whopping Rs.72- means you can have European holiday at a discount. Over my eight days in Croatia, I chose to cover Zagreb-that’s where most international carriers are likely to drop you- Spilt , Hvar and finally ended my travels in Dubrovnik. The best way to travel there is on a bus, and you can easily get one from the Split harbour. A stunning drive -that takes you through a nine- Killometre stretch in Bosnisa complete with a border security check- primes you for what awaits you in the walled city.
Most visitors enter the old Town through Pile Gates. The outer gate of Pile Gate , stone bride gate, a stone bridge with a wooden drawbridge built in 1537 is what grets most visitors –the main city tourist information centre, bus and texi stop is right opposite it. 1460 opens into Dubrovnik’s main promenade, or Stradun as it’s called.
It’s easy to see why the production crew thought Dubrovnik could become King’s Landing. Its fortified battlements, great gates, draw-brides, cobbled pathways. baroque buildings and medieval monuments look straight out of the pages of novels.
This historic Croatian city is no stranger to spilt blood. The city has been under attack numerous times, last in 1991, during the Croatian War of 824 building there, almost 70 per centwere struck by shells.
Dubrovnik’s walls sustained 111 direct hits and there were 314 more on its baroque buildings and marble streets.
Enamoured by the Old Town’s medieval charm, I chose to stay within the walled city, with one of the locals. Sadly, today less than 500 locals stay in the historic centre, as most have moved to more comfortable, modern apartments in Lapad.
While staying in the walled city means climbing lots of stairs that can leave even the fittest breathless, it is an experience worth investing in , especially if that means a bedroom with the view of Minceta Tower , the highest point on the two-kilometre city walls. A home cooked Croatian meal of chicken pasta and zucchini seared in olive oil and orange liqueur for dessert was compensation enough for the punishment that my calves suffered.
One of the best things to do in Dubrovnik is to take a walking tour of the wall. The two-hour walk will reward you with Instagram-worthy view-the blue sea on one side and the trademark red-tiled roof of the town on the other. Make sure to do this before the sun gets too strong.
After you, ve got your breath back, treat yourself to a gelato. The Croats love their gelato, just as much as their Italian neighbours.
Eating in Croatia doesn’t require you to wrack your brains as most streets sell burgers, pizzas and hot dogs. But if you’re willing to spend some time, and a little money at a restaurant, then you could treat yourself to some rarely –seen dishes in India like a grilled octopus salad. Or try one of the traditional Balkan pastries like burek (filled with minced meat or cheese) or Krumpirusa (with potato).
Dubrovnik has enough charms up its streets to keep the seeker in you satiated. You can catch a rectital at the St Saviour Church, which withstood the earthquake of 1667 and is today a fine example of the Old Town’s Renaissance architecture. Or quench Onofrio‘s Fountain, one of Dubrovnik ‘s most famous landmarks. Right next to it is the world’s third-oldest monastery. Franciscan Monastery has been in operation for over 700 years and anyone an ailment can still walk in to buy medicine. The Stradun, with its polished-and at times slippery – limestone pathway and the clock tower on one end, is the Vantage point to people watch, especially when the sun sets.
Another must–do on the list is a visit to the peacock-inhabited island of Lokrum. Known for its Botanical Garden and a deserted Benedictine monastery, founded in 1023, Lokrum offers magnificent views of the Adriatic Sea and is a quick boat ride away. Enjoy a quick dip in the Dead Sea a small salt water lake, take a walk among the olive groves and then enjoy a crispy cold beer and pizza at the island’s only restaurant. And a peacock may just decide to give you company.
While 48 hours may be enough to cover all the sights and attractions of Dubrovnik, the walled city hold secrets and treasures that deserve more time.