Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dubrovnik, Croatia and Game of Thrones

We just got back from a wonderful trip to Croatia.  How did we pick Croatia?  Jake started reading Game of Thrones and watching the TV series a few years ago.  Out of curiosity a couple years ago he looked up Game of Thrones filming locations and found out they film some scenes in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  We looked at some pictures and saw how beautiful it was and we put it on our list of places we would like to visit.  After we moved to Stockholm for Jake's work we realized the dream could turn into a reality.  September and October are considered the shoulder season, the not peak season but still a great time to visit, so we worked it into our fall trips and I am so thankful we did.  It was just as beautiful as we were hoping and the weather was absolutely perfect during our entire trip.

When we booked the trip we were hoping to tour some Game of Thrones locations and there was a chance they might be filming in Dubrovnik or Split but we weren't sure if it would overlap with our time there.  About a week before our trip they released the filming schedule and we realized they would be filming in Dubrovnik when we were in Dubrovnik.  Jake was pumped and I had some work to do.  I hadn't watched a full episode of Game of Thrones but Jake thought I should give the first two seasons a try before our trip so I could get excited with him and enjoy the tours more than if I hadn't seen any of the show.  So I watched the first two seasons in about an week and a half before the trip.  Each episode is one full hour without commercials.  I had just started subbing for a long term position and I was busy and tired but I powered through and finished the last episode on the plane before we landed in Dubrovnik!

Some of you might be wondering if the whole reason we went to Croatia was for Game of Thrones and the answer is . . . kind of.  Game of Thrones put Croatia on our radar but the pictures of Dubrovnik and Split put Croatia on our list of "must visit before leaving Sweden."  Even if you have zero interest in Game of Thrones you would still love both cities.  They are incredibly beautiful.  Originally we were planning on taking a Mediterranean cruise that stopped in Split and Dubrovnik as well as four places in Italy but then we decided we wanted more time at each port than the cruise would allow.  If we were on the cruise we would have been in Dubrovnik and Split from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm which is actually a pretty long port day but then we would have missed having dinner in each city and we wouldn't have been able to see the cities at night so we opted for going to Croatia and Italy separately and not on a cruise.

We flew to Dubrovnik from Stockholm on Saturday, September 27th at 6:30 am.  We found one of the last nonstop flights before they take a break for the off season so we were able to land at 9:30 am on Saturday to start our trip.  We go back and forth between whether early morning flights are the best way to go but for this trip it just made sense.  (I have an upcoming post about travel tips and things we've learned over the past year of traveling and I'll share more about flight times in that post.)

Our flight was okay but taking off and landing were awful.  Over the last year we've been on 25-30 flights and in general I like flying but taking off and landing always make me a little nervous but I usually handle it okay.  I did not handle the take off very well and when we landed I kind of flipped out.  When we took off the plane was very shaky.  The plane went back and forth a lot but then we also turned right and then left and then right and then left.  I just felt like the pilot didn't know what he was doing.  Once we got to cruising altitude it was fine but when we landed I seriously thought we were going to crash.  We flew over the Adriatic Sea, which is just beautiful and we could see Croatia and the mountains out the window, but the plane was shaking back and forth so much.  As we landed we turned pretty hard to the left and I felt like we were pointing straight down and weren't going to pull up.  I grabbed Jake and prayed hard.  Thankfully we landed safely but I was not impressed with the pilot :).  One one of our flights in the last year I actually told the pilot how great his landing was because it was really good.  After this flight I was half tempted to tell this pilot the opposite but I didn't.  Jake said it was the wind and not the pilot which I guess could have been a factor but I was just thankful it was over.

One of the perks of not checking luggage is that you are able to walk off the flight and go.  We walked straight to the shuttle bus to get a ride into Dubrovnik.  We decided to take the shuttle bus into town because they had a bus scheduled after most flights so we thought we wouldn't have to wait long and it was only about $10 instead of a taxi for $40.  After sitting on the bus for about 30 minutes waiting for it to fill up with other people from our flight who did check bags and people from other flights :( we started questioning our decision.  Jake did a good job of reminding me to have patience and not worry about it taking a while since we still had plenty of time before our tour.  We ended up waiting about an hour after our flight landed before we left the airport which wasn't fun but I'm not sure it would have been worth the extra money just to get there a little bit faster with a taxi.

During the shuttle bus ride they told us to avoid Old City of Dubrovnik if possible that day because there were six cruise ships docked which added about 12,000-15,000 extra people to the city plus they were filming Game of Thrones so it was extra busy.  Awesome.  Remember how we didn't want to take a cruise?  We were trying to avoid the crowded cruise ship but we kind of forgot they would still be there even if we didn't come on a cruise.  We were planning on getting off at the main gate to the Old City because that is where our hotel was and where we were meeting the tour guide at 1:00 pm.  When we got off the bus we could not believe how many people were there.

On our way to the hotel we walked by the parking lot where they had the Game of Thrones trucks parked and we tried walked by where they were filming.  Jake had the filming schedule and places marked on his phone but of course the streets were blocked off with security.  We were able to see some props but we couldn't see them actually filming.
We had a hard time deciding where to stay in Dubrovnik.  They have fancy hotels with huge pools but those are farther away from the city and then they have some places to stay in the middle of the Old City.  We choose to stay in the middle of Old Town since that is where we would be doing the most exploring and we thought it would look really cool and I'm so thankful we stayed there.  In Dubrovnik there are some big hotels but most of those are outside of the city.  If you want to stay in the old part of the city then you will most likely stay in an apartment or you can rent a room in a bigger home.  Dubrovnik has been a tourist destination for a long time but the city itself isn't that big so many locals rent out rooms in their home or turn their apartments into bed and breakfast rooms for tourists.  We stayed at Rooms Old Town Eden which just had two separate rooms you could rent on the third floor of a building in Old Town.  Our room was really up to date and clean but it was similar to a bed and breakfast without the breakfast than an actual hotel which was fine with us.
The top right hand picture was the view from our room which may not look neat but it was.  The bottom right hand picture is me in the entryway of our apartment building.  We had three flights of stairs to our room and the main entrance wasn't very nice but it was secure and there were lights for the stairs so I felt safe.  We packed in backpacks again for this trip.  We have our main backpacks plus we put a smaller backpack in to use during the day.
There were lots of stairs in Dubrovnik.  The main street used to be a channel leading out into the sea so it is the lowest point in the Old City which means each of the sides of the city curve up so there are lots of stairs to climb.  If you walk towards the sea there are stair cases going lots of different directions.  If you walk inland the streets going that direction are really just long staircases.  Cars are obviously not allowed in the walled off Old Town area of Dubrovnik.  We also saw lots of laundry hanging up to dry all around the city.

After we dropped off our bags at the hotel and grabbed our day pack we found a place for lunch before our Game of Thrones tour.  We ate at a little vegetarian place.  Vegetarian and vegan places always intrigue Jake but I'm not really a fan of them.  I like the taste of meat and cheese and other animal products and it grosses me out to think about what they put in things to make them taste like meat when it isn't meat.  I'd rather just have the real thing.  Lunch was okay for me but not the best meal.  We sat next to a couple who was on one of the cruise ships.  We talked about their cruise and they complained about being at ports for too short of a time and not seeing the cities at night which were the exact reasons we decided not to take a cruise.  We were thankful to hear that from them even though we had already realized it was the best decision for us.
We booked a tour for Game of Thrones (GoT) through  The tour was just the two of us with a guide.  He walked us around several parts of Dubrovnik and told us about the history of the city as well as what scenes were filmed in different locations.  He had photos on his phone of scenes from the show that we could look at when we were standing in those places to compare the two which was neat.

These pictures are from Pile Dock or Bay (I'm not sure it has an official name) but in GoT it is Black Water Bay.

You can tell they added a castle to the city when you compare the bottom pictures.  The castle in the picture on the left is the Red Keep.

(Side note: I bought this dress at the end of the summer and only got to wear it once so I was excited to wear it in Croatia but I realized after taking lots of pictures that it doesn't photograph very well with the lines and because of the flap in the front.  I guess if you really care about your pictures you'll make sure your outfit looks good in photos ahead of time but I was just excited to wear a dress since the weather was going to be so nice.  The weather in Stockholm the week before our trip was cloudy, rainy and about 45-50 degrees so the sunny and 75 degree weather was amazing!)
The water was so clear!  The side of the bay you can see is Old Town Dubrovnik.  It is surrounded by a wall that you can walk all the way around on and the sides of the city go up so there are lots of stairs going up from the main street inside Old Town.
We walked up to the Lovrjenac fortress which is just on the other side of the bay.
This is the view of Lovrjenac fortress from the wall.  You can see the bay on the right hand side of the picture.

Here are some Game of Thrones scenes at Lovrjenac fortress which is the interior of the Red Keep but the exterior shots of the Red Keep are not taken here.

This is also at the Red Keep (Lovrjenac fortress) from the tourney on Joffrey's name day.

It was nice having a tour guide who was willing to take lots of pictures of us :).
 On our way through Old Town we ran into some GoT sets.  They were getting this area ready for filming for the next day.  It was neat to see them covering up air conditioning units and other wires so it would be ready to shoot.
 When they are filming they had security guards set up stopping you from walking that direction but they were all very nice.  Once they finished filming for the day and they were putting props away we were allowed to walk through the set even as they were cleaning up which was neat.
 We didn't realize until after several days but if you zoom in on this picture you'll see Cersei who is one of the main characters in GoT.  She has on a black dress with reddish hair.
Towards the end of our tour I had some ice cream as we walked around the outside of the wall.  Our tour guide talked to us a little bit about the war in Dubrovnik that happened in 1991.  Croatia has been controlled by several different countries and in 1991 there was a pretty big war and Dubrovnik was hit really hard.  They were under attack for about a year with lots of damage done to the Old City.  Our guide was about 11 years old at the time and he told us a little bit about what it was like living there during the war.  The city would sneak food in on ships at night and restaurants started giving away food once the power was cut because the food would just go bad.  Our guide remembers having lobster once since they had to give it away.  Dubrovnik has bounced back from the war but it helped that they were already a tourist destination before the war so they could continue to be one after the war was over.
 This map shows the damage done by the war in 1991.  The black triangles are roofs damaged by direct hit, red rectangles are burnt down buildings, black outline triangle are roof damaged by shrapnel and the black circles are direct hits on the pavement.
After our tour we took a bus to Trsteno Arboretum which is about 15 minutes outside of Dubrovnik and another film location.  One of the nice things about filming in Dubrovnik is that they picked this city and these locations because they are beautiful so even if I don't have a clue, or even really cared, what scenes were filmed there it was okay because it was gorgeous.
 Bamboo forest (At this point in our trip we started to realize how many bug bites we were getting.  Our ankles were covered in bites.)
I've realized there are lots of pictures of me on this trip because Jake always wanted the camera to take pictures which meant I was in lots of pictures :).

 There might have been a sign saying for safety reasons don't enter the pavilion. . . and I'm usually a rule follower but everything looked safe to me so we ignored the sign for a few minutes so we could get a few pictures.

 Some bombed out and abandoned homes.

 An aqueduct
This tree was huge and the sun was setting which made the lighting really neat.

We took a bus back to town for dinner and we were able to see some of the sunset on the bus but we wish we would have planned that a little better so we could have fully enjoyed it.
We had pizza for dinner and it was really good.  Mine had prosciutto on it, which was very popular in Croatia, and it was okay.  It was a little stringy but the flavor was good.

The next morning we decided to stop by one of the filming locations before getting breakfast.  We found the location along with 100 extras for Game of Thrones.  They were all having breakfast while the crew was still setting up.  We decided to stick around for a while to watch the action and then we saw a grocery store and thought buying breakfast and eating it with the extras sounded like a fun idea.

Jake wanted to take a picture with some extras but none of them would let him so he just stood by this guy even though he wouldn't look at us.  We later heard that they all sign a contract that says they can be fined up to 150,000 Euros if they pose for pictures which is probably why no one wanted to pose :).  They make about $50 a day being an extra plus they are fed pretty well throughout the day.  Plus that whole, they get to be in a popular TV series.

The two pictures on the right we took but the one on the left is a screen shot from the show from season two.  While Jake was looking for other screen shots to help me make these comparison shots, thanks babe, he noticed that this extra was also in two shots we took from that morning.

A smoke machine
 You can see the big green screen at the top of the stairs.
The cat on the left was next to us during our breakfast but there were lots of cats all over Dubrovnik that were really cute and friendly.
 After breakfast we walked around the top of the walls protecting the Old City of Dubrovnik.
The Minceta Tower, also known as the House of the Undying in GoT.  I walked around the tower the wrong way but you can still tell it is filmed in the same place.

You can see the Lovrjenac fortress from the wall.

 This fountain is right inside the Pile Gate which is one of the main gates into Old Town.
 The main street in Old Town Dubrovnik on the morning when there was only one cruise ship.  You can imagine what it looked like when there were six.
 The Minceta Tower from farther away,

 I could not take enough pictures of this view.  I just thought it was gorgeous.  I love the water, the rocks and the clay rooftops.
 We only walked around a little over half of the wall.  You can make a complete circle around the city but we didn't feel like we needed to do that.  After walking the wall we took a boat from Dubrovnik to Lokrum Island, which his only 15 minutes away.
 On the way to the island we passed this abandoned hotel.  Some GoT scenes were shot there but we decided not to go look at the hotel.  It is a huge hotel that has just been sitting empty for a while but our tour guide said someone recently purchased it so we are interested in finding out what they do with the hotel.
 We walked through the former monastery and the botanical gardens.
These scenes are from season two when Daenerys is in Qarth which is really the gardens in the middle of the monastery.
 They have wild peacocks living on the island.
 This peacock tried to enjoy part of our lunch but he wasn't able to convince us to share.
 After lunch Jake took a dip in the Dead Sea which is a really salty lake.  From Jake's reaction it was really cold refreshing.
 After his quick dip in the Dead Sea we moved to the edge of the island so I could lie out on the rocks and Jake could swim a little before he lay out.

We went back to Dubrovnik to drop off our things before taking the cable car up to a viewpoint over the Old City.  We stopped to check on the filming and saw the extras taking a break.  I mentioned the security guards that were around the filming seemed to be pretty nice but firm about not going where the filming was or talking pictures.  We felt bad for them because they either had really excited fans wanting to get peeks of the action and take picture or tourists who had no idea what Game of Thrones was and they were annoyed they couldn't get through.  The security guards were patient with both sets of people.  They weren't uptight or pushy but they let you know that it wasn't okay to take photographs.  So how do we have so many pictures?  We could take pictures of props and when the extras were chilling but we weren't supposed to take pictures over the fences or boundaries.  When we left Jake told the security guard he was doing a great job, I was too embarrassed to tell him, but we thought he should know.

One of the "streets" we took to get to the cable car.

The Old City of Dubrovnik from above.  When we plan a trip we always put pins on a map so we get to know the city from a bird's eye view but when we visit the city we don't always get to see it from above.  I was really thankful we were able to see Dubrovnik from above.  I love the water, the clay rooftops and seeing the city surrounded by a huge wall.  The island you see off to the left is Lokrum Island which is the island we visited right before taking the cable car up.
Some of the mountains on the other side.  
The sunset was beautiful.  I loved seeing all the islands in the distance as the sun went down.  This is still Dubrovnik but the newer part, not the walled off Old City.  We thought about staying in a bigger hotel on the peninsula but I am really glad we didn't.  The Old Town was just really neat.

After the sun set we had someone take our picture from above.  The path you see behind us goes all the way down to the bottom which we could have hiked up but we chose the four minute cable car ride instead.

We would have missed Dubrovnik at night if we had decided to take the cruise instead.  I'm glad we didn't.  The wall looks so neat lit up.

Walking back down the "street."  They had neat lanterns to show the names of stores and restaurants.

These stairs were used as part of the set earlier that day but they were tearing down when we were headed to dinner.  If you remember there was a big green screen at the top of the stairs but they took that part down already.  We had dinner at the top of the stairs and to the left.
Jake had two oysters for an appetizer.  I had beef medallions with gnocchi and carrots for dinner and Jake had sea bass.  We both had desserts because they looked good :)  Jake had rozata which is a lot like flan.  I had chocolate fondant which is basically chocolate lava cake with ice cream and berries.

We walked around a little after dinner.  Everything looked so pretty lit up at night.

You can see our room from this picture but it is kind of hard to point out.  

The next morning we had breakfast again in the same square hoping to see a few extras but they weren't there.  We found out later they took a break from filming that day while they set up a few locations.

 An outdoor market selling fruits, vegetables, sweets and souvenirs.

Pile Gate
We stopped by the bay one more time before we took a bus to the main bus station to get on a long distance bus to Split, Croatia.
We had an awesome time in Dubrovnik.  I would definitely go back and hopefully after reading this post you'll think about putting it on your list of places to visit, even if you don't watch Game of Thrones :).  Check back in a few days for the post on Split, Croatia.

*All Game of Thrones screenshots are property of HBO.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...