The colour of the sea is so pristinely beautiful that it momentarily distracts me. It’s hypnotically green and rather calming; something that is at complete odds with its role as Blackwater Bay in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.
“This is where scenes from the slaughter of the innocents took place,” Ivana says before turning her attention to a man balancing precariously on rocks above the inviting Adriatic waters. “Visitors are always doing that because they see locals doing it. But locals know where the rocks are and visitors don’t. So a few end up injuring themselves…especially Australians.” She sighs.
Why Australians have a propensity for throwing themselves at rocks below Dubrovnik’s Medieval fortress walls nobody knows. It’s just one of the funny/odd little snippets that our guide, Ivana, throws in with the rest of the encyclopedic amount of information she knows about her home city and the filming of Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik; a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Viator’s Game of Thrones tour of Dubrovnik in Croatia is so new that we’re on the first one. Having only watched one series, we’re relative newbies to the twisting tales of skulduggery and heroics whereas Ivana was a fan of the books long before they were turned into a TV show. Ivana is also an archaeologist so, apart from loving the treachery and the scheming bits, she approves of the historical accuracy of Game of Thrones. It’s fantasy of course, but fantasy that has its roots in our own history.
Dubrovnik must be a film-maker’s dream. It is exquisite looking and, with the barest of tweaking, is a perfect Medieval setting for tales of swordplay and magic. Ivana confirms that the movie makers changed very little. Dubrovnik was simply perfect casting for the role of King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.
Although Dubrovnik’s good looks attract thousands of visitors each day Lovrijenic, a fortress just outside the city’s main gate and our first stop, is empty save for four Americans who are, not coincidentally, talking about Game of Thrones; Lovrijenic stands in for the Red Keep in the series. When they hear Ivana give us the low-down on some key scenes, including pointing out exactly where a knight was flung from the castle’s battlements, they move a bit closer. I have a feeling this particular tour is going to go down very well.
Whilst Lovrijenic is in a peach of a setting with some of the best views of Dubrovnik that you’ll find, we soon discover that gasp-inducing views are an ever present feature of the tour. As we move to the walls surrounding Dubrovnik, the epic vistas of one of Europe’s most ravishing cities just keep coming and coming along with Ivana’s informative, interesting and very amusing commentary. Having actually been an extra in season two, she’s full of all sorts of additional quirky information about the filming of the show; for authenticity the girls weren’t allowed to wear bras whereas some local male extras were equally authentic in their dress and didn’t wear underpants; sometimes the result was more exposure than was meant – not really a problem for a series like Game of Thrones.
As well as taking us around the locations where scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed, Ivana tells us about the history of the city and local legends (e.g. the curse of Lokrum). She points out a mix of classic Dubrovnik highlights and lesser known spots, such as a staircase with a modesty board so that impressionable young men couldn’t see ladies’ ankles.
She’s a font of knowledge and fascinating to listen to; information is nearly always dished up with a side serving of wry humour. Walking around Dubrovnik with Ivana for the three hours the tour lasts doesn’t feel as though we’re in the company of a guide, it feels like we’re with a good friend who just happens to be extremely knowledgeable.
I could listen to Ivana all day, and then again the day after that… and the day after that.
By the end we certainly know masses more about Game of Thrones than when we’d started; thanks to Ivana, we’ve also gained a greater understanding of the city and the people who lived there.
Buzztrips enjoyed the Game of Thrones tour in Dubrovnik as guests of Viator. Before we went we were vaguely interested in the series but had only seen season 1. Now we’re desperate to see the other seasons and all those drop dead gorgeous locations that we now know… plus we’ll be looking out for Ivana.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+