Croatia Photo Journal, Part 3: The Pearl of the Adriatic

After a week of travelling along the Dalmatian Coast – from oyster farming and Diocletian’s breathtaking palace in Split to the serenity of the island of Korčula – today we arrive at our final Croatian destination: Dubrovnik. This ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dubbed “the Pearl of the Adriatic,” serves as the grand finale of our Insight Vacations journey along one of the most sublime travel routes in Europe. And for pop culture buffs, the city of Dubrovnik also stands in for Kings Landing – one of the most important locales in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones – with many pivotal shooting locations open to the public within its walls and streets.

Click through our slideshow below as we explore the streets of Dubrovnik, visit palaces and forts, rub a Renaissance playwright’s nose for luck and even visit a few sites that might prove familiar to GoT fans.

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The Streets of Dubrovnik

We arrived in Dubrovnik on a rainy afternoon, which meant the patios and restaurants weren’t as bustling as usual. Still, even grey skies and raindrops couldn’t wash away the city’s innate splendour.

Our first stroll was through Dubrovnik’s Old Town, down the main street known as the Stradun, where we passed restaurants, ice cream parlours and various other shops before laying eyes upon the 18th century Church of St. Blaise – dedicated to the city’s patron saint – which retains every inch of its baroque beauty in the rain. To the left of the church the bell of the 15th century clock tower rings out to mark the hour, a sound generated by twin statues – dubbed Maro and Baro by residents – that reside in the tower and clang the bell at the appropriate time. The original bronze statues, turned green with wear and age, now reside in a city palace while replicas keep Dubrovnik time.

Outside of the main avenue, Dubrovnik’s narrow stone streets reveal their own, quiet beauty, lined with restaurant patios and, in the case of the passage below, are capped by a quaint church.

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EDITDubrovnik03Marin Držić’s Nose

Marin Držić is a famed Croatian playwright born in Dubrovnik who came to prominence during the Renaissance. Though he only lived to age 59 (1508-1567), he left a legacy of great literary works that propelled him to national treasure status.

In real life, however, his nose wasn’t discoloured. That’s just the effect produced by visitors to this statue of Držić rubbing it for luck over the years. There’s no definitive answer as to whether it actually works, but given Držić was known for his comedic works he’d probably find the humour in the fact that his statue in his hometown boasts a golden beak.

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Cocktails at the Rector’s Palace

Incarnations of Dubrovnik’s Rector’s Palace date back to the 14th century and, thanks to fires, earthquakes and other catastrophes, were rebuilt in styles ranging from Gothic to Baroque. the palace has also served as a seat of government, a prison, an armoury and, currently, a museum, over the centuries. However, on our first day in Dubrovnik, the Rector’s Palace was transformed into the host locale for our own personal cocktail party.

The pre-dinner event allowed us to mingle with our fellow journalists and folks from Dubrovnik tourism as well as to simply explore the various levels and architecture this stunning building had to offer. And we’re lucky the rain held off, as there’s only one thing the Rector’s Palace is missing – a roof.

This is also one of the first Dubrovnik locations we visited with a Game of Thrones connection – on the show it serves as the Spice King’s home in the city of Qarth.

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Fort Lovrijenac

Day two of our stay in Dubrovnik was filled with sunshine and warm breezes – perfect for a trek up one of the city’s most renowned attractions, Fort Lovrijenac, otherwise known as St. Lawrence Fortress, which sits just outside the Old Town’s gates. For centuries it helped defend the city against invaders, like those pesky nearby Venetians, but today, aside from serving as a postcard-worthy historical attraction the fort also landed a role on one of the most popular television shows in history.

Picture the fort with a few CGI towers and fans of Game of Thrones will instantly recognize it as the Red Keep – home to the ruling Lannister family on the hit HBO series. As well, the water surrounding the fort, which you can see in the image below, is also the location of the Battle of Blackwater Bay in season two of GoT. One local guide who routinely gives Dubrovnik history tours told me that, due ot demand from fans, about 70 per cent of his tour now consists of discussing GoT shooting locales and stories instead of the city’s actual history.

The view below, however, needs no CGI enhancement. When standing atop Fort Lovrijenac one can view the entire Old Town, nestled by its historic ramparts, in all of its beauty.

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EDITDubrovnik09aLokrum and Minčeta Tower

Also visible from the top of Fort Lovrijenac is the island of Lokrum, just a short skip across the Adriatic. Steeped in it’s own history, the lush island boasts a centuries-old Benedictine monastery, a botanical garden, a castle and acts as a nature reserve. Lokrum also serves as a Game of Thrones shooting location, standing in for the prosperous city of Qarth, home to the feared Dothraki warriors.

After leaving the fort we strolled through Dubrovnik’s streets, which rise along a hillside and offer great views of city. But if you truly want a bird’s eye view, you want to visit Minčeta Tower, a 15th century fortification that is also the highest point in the Old Town and – you guessed it – a GoT shooting location. On the show, the tower stands in for the entrance to the not-so-inviting House of the Undying.

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Tyrion Slept Here

Clearly it’s difficult to go very long venturing around Dubrovnik without stumbling onto a site that’s related to Game of Thrones. The City Wall Hostel, however, is proud to directly boast about its connection to the show. As the story goes, series star Peter Dinklage, who plays the cunning and hilarious Tyrion Lannister, crashed here one night while filming season two. He reportedly woke up, paid his tab and hurried back to set. The sign above the space where he slept says it all: “Tyrion Lannister slept here (actually passed out is a better description).” We wouldn’t expect anything less from a Lannister.

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Goodnight Dubrovnik

Alas, our final day in Dubrovnik comes to an end and two things become evident – first, the city is just as beautiful aglow in the evening as it is during the day. And second, Dubrovnik, with it’s architectural wonders, centuries of history, incredibly friendly locals, delicious Venetian-inspired cuisine and, yes, Game of Thrones cred – is most definitely a city you’ll want to return to. As we said goodnight to Dubrovnik, and to the majesty of the Dalmatian Coast before heading back to Canada in the morning, I was already planning my return to the Pearl of the Adriatic.

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For more on Mike’s travels along the Dalmatian Coast, see the May 2016 issue of Zoomer magazine, on newsstands now.

For more on Insight Vacations and their luxury trips to the Dalmatian Coast, visit www.insightvacations.com/ca.