When in Croatia, there are several places on most tourists’ lists. One of them is inevitably the walled city of Dubrovnik in the southern region of Dalmatia. Game of Thrones fans will know this red-roofed city as King’s Landing. I’m here to tell you that Dubrovnik was cool long before the Lannisters made it a star. But it’s still incredibly fun to nerd out while you’re there.
I began watching Game of Thrones at the late date of August, 2017. Although I’m not even halfway through the show, I’m as hooked as a bass on opening day of fishing season (is that a thing?). As we clambered up to the top of the massive stone walls that surround the Old Town, we felt as if we prepared for war. Looking down from those heights to the foamy sea below, the memory of Geoffry’s whiny voice sent shivers down my spine. We retraced Sansa’s steps as she talked with the Hound about killing and fled through the arched hallways of the fortress. It was amazing.
But truly, Dubrovnik does not belong solely to the world of George R. R. Martin. Even those who have never heard of the books or the show (gasp!) flock in startling numbers to this ancient city by the sea. Dubrovnik does indeed boast some of the most impressive city walls I’ve ever seen, and the experience of walking all the way around them (a few kilometers) can’t be missed. As you look down onto the variably reddish-brown tiled roofs of the houses and buildings below, you’re seeing fresh evidence of the Croatian War of Independence. Because the redder roofs represent all those destroyed by bombs that have been replaced. And the lighter, more mottled brown and tan roofs are all that remain from before. There are not that many of those.
The tiny, winding streets of Old Town hide many treasures as yet unspoiled by the throngs of visitors. You might stumble upon a fig-shaded, Asian-Dalmatian fusion restaurant nestled along a rampart just inside the city walls. While searching for your Airbnb, you might be drawn to a small, green, wooden door in that wall which leads to a terraced, stone and concrete “beach” bar. People young and old lounge in the enclaves watching the sun descend towards the cliffs that jut out into the sea just beyond the city center. And while marveling at the awe-inspiring view from the city walls, your eyes might be drawn to a tiny restaurant by a plume of meaty-smelling smoke escaping from a rooftop brick oven.
Our stay in Dubrovnik began with a long, steep, and rainy trek up and down hills, bags in tow. As the sun came out and the slick paving stones dried, the little city beckoned. By the end of our two-day whirlwind tour, we had hiked the walls and marveled at the views, visited the fortress, learned about Dubrovnik’s extensive maritime history, wondered at the antique furniture and elaborately painted ceilings in the Rector’s Palace, watched the sun go down at the famous Buža Bar, walked alone down the famous “shame steps” at 6:30am, and sampled some truly delicious food, wine, and beer. And I have become even more enamored with Game of Thrones than ever before. Just don’t visit in August.