Ah, Winter is coming: the eternal warning in Game of Thrones (GOT), and preferable to its other motto (The night is dark and full of terrors) which leaves something to be desired as a rallying cry. We had arrived near Dubrovnik, aka, Kings Landing, the show’s major city and seat of power. To say I was excited was something of an understatement. These were the very streets that Peter Dinklage had trod!
Who he? A very fine actor that I first came across in a charming little film called The Station Agent. As Tyrion Lannister, the somewhat unwilling and drunken voice of reason in a GOT world of war-ravaged madness, he absolutely slams it. If they kill him off in the next season, battlements might get hurled from, that’s all I’m saying.
On the way to the campsite we’d stopped for coffee at what looked like a small hut in a lay-by. It turned out to be a wine bar, selling stuff from the vineyard that sloped down the mountain ahead of us. Tyrion would have been delighted.
The girl behind the counter was the founder’s grand-daughter, and another couple were already sitting on a bench nearby with two stout glasses of red. They were appalled that I only wanted coffee and told me off, albeit nicely. I found it interesting that a country with a zero tolerance policy towards drinking and driving should have a wine bar you can only reach by car.
At the campsite we got a phone call from one of our lovely new Angloville friends (see previous posts on Angloville). Sarah hailed from New Zealand and was spending a good six months travelling solo around various interesting parts of Europe. She would be in Dubrovnik the following day – did we want to meet up? Oh hell, yes. Sarah is great.
Despite the fact that as soon as I entered Dubrovnik Old Town I had to keep scooping my jaw up off the floor, I did spot her in the crowd and we had a lovely day together. My agenda of seeing as many of the filming locations as I could may not have been her cup of tea, but the place is so beautiful that it didn’t matter where we went. We saw the steps where Cersei began her ‘walk of shame’…
…and then all sorts of other recognisable bits…
…before freaking out this fella. Steve isn’t that scary. You know NOTHING, Jon Snow! (apologies to those who don’t get the references, but I just can’t stop myself).
While we were debating whether to get the funicular up the hill, a nice girl selling tours suggested an alternative. For the same money we could have a chap drive us out to see the big bridge, down to Europe’s shortest river (wait, what? That’s me sold), up the hill to see Dubrovnik at sunset, and back to where we parked our car, saving us a massive walk back out of town. Seemed a good deal, so we said yes.
Here’s the shortest river. You see that white gate thing over to the right of the picture? That’s where the river comes out of the mountain. And the weir in the foreground? That’s where it meets the sea – a distance between the two of 35 – 40 metres, depending on the tide. As rivers go, this one is a bit of a rank amateur.
Our tour guide, Chris, then drove us up the mountain and through a bombed-out village, named for the Bosnian girls of easy virtue who used to fetch up there when food was scarce. As we were driving up a tree-lined road, he dropped the bombshell; –
‘Do any of you watch Game of Thrones, because this is The King’s Road?’ Yes we do, and I am a bit of a pushover for Tyrion, it’s got to be said. ‘Oh, I am his driver when they are filming’. WHAT! You know him? Tell me everything! (And I shan’t disclose what he actually said, but apparently Peter is a very nice man, so there.)
A few days later we met Antonio, who took us in his boat to the island of Lokrum. This is where they have an iron throne (just like the one in the show) which you can sit on and take endless selfies. Lokrum is also home to more rabbits and peacocks than I have ever seen in my life, wandering peacefully around the ruined monastery and looking rather picturesque.
When I lived in London the pigeons foraged around the pavement cafes, and when we lived in Dorset it was seagulls you had to watch out for. Now, as we sat drinking over-priced coffee and eating more weird salad, the peacocks pushed past my legs and pecked hopefully around my feet. The disgruntled waiter was sick of them, but I was enchanted. The rabbits were less friendly but more plentiful, because they were, well… rabbits.
Then it was time to do some sight-seeing and find the throne. Although it was less impressively displayed than I expected, it was free to see and to sit on, and you could take as much time as you liked. Surprisingly comfy and not actually cold. Felt sort of born to it.
We’d been told the time of the last boat home and we wanted to avoid the rush, so we slipped off to the jetty in plenty of time for one of the earlier ones. It didn’t come. No sign of our boat, just others that they wouldn’t let us on because they were going somewhere else than we had embarked. Every half hour, Antonio? You’re having a laugh. The last boat arrived and it was not ours. Thankfully, they let us on despite us having the wrong ticket and we got a nice look at Dubrovnik as we sailed in.
A couple of days later we decided to ‘walk the wall’ that surrounds the Old Town, and there was bloody Antonio, taking our ticket as we went in. The wall takes a couple of hours to go all the way around and gives you a real appreciation of the city. One of the sad things to witness is the number of newly tiled roofs. During the Homeland Wars of the early 1990’s, Dubrovnik was targeted and nearly destroyed. Over 11,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed in the bombardment, gutted by fire, and subsequently looted. The stone walls mostly withstood the impact, but the roofs show the extent of the re-building that had to take place.
The wall did produce more GOT moments for us, however. We had a good view of the bay where Tyrion fought off Stannis’ attack by sea, and the tower that is used as The House of the Undying sits on a corner – this is the place with no visible door, that Daenerys walks around after her dragons have been kidnapped, and then disappears into. We also passed this sweet couple, who’d just got married and gone up onto the wall to take selfies, because, why not?
Walking the wall also gave us the chance to see the backs of people’s houses, which is where I discovered the sport of competitive laundry hanging. We’d seen it before but they really nailed it here. The rules are simple – all laundry must be hung in order of object, size and colour, and absolutely no mixed loads or pegging it up as it comes out of the basket. See what I mean?
Back in town, we also searched out Little Finger’s brothel and the steps of the Palace in Qarth. Then, as we were walking up a side street, we saw a shop with GOT merchandise and ANOTHER THRONE. So for those of you who don’t want to be caught off guard by Antonio and his flaky promises, you don’t actually have to go to Lokrum.
Just outside Dubrovnik is Trsteno Arboretum: a lovely little place where more filming of GOT takes place. It’s where all the outdoor scenes of Margaery and her gran (played by the elegantly acerbic Dame Diana Rigg) have tea in the garden and plot. Also used for Sansa flirting with Lorus, and Tyrion being withering to… everybody. Even Cersei wafts about there on occasion, so this was a ‘must do’ on my list.
It has wonderful views down to the sea, some trees that are over 150 years old…
…and – surprisingly – a field where a load of Martians have stopped by and left their brains all over the grass.
The next day we drove down to Montenegro to find out about Green Cards, which validate our motor insurance whilst passing through the country. Having heard about the average driving capabilities of people, there and in Albania, this seemed beyond necessary. The man in the booth said not to bother, just get one when we get to Albania. Of course, when we turned up at the checkpoint a few days later, they refused to let us through because we hadn’t got our green cards yet. And I’m so glad we got them because the next few day’s driving was unlike anything I’d experienced so far.
But I’ll tell you all about that next time. Until then, have a happy Christmas, and thank you for reading this. xxxxx B