Fans can get close to world of ‘Game of Thrones’ in Croatian city

Thomas Bremser –

Medieval fortifications, Gothic palaces, a picturesque harbour – the old centre of Dubrovnik would seem stuck in time, but for the countless tourists sporting sandals and selfie sticks.
For a few weeks each year, the “Pearl of the Adria” is transformed into another world – the world of the fantasy saga “Game of Thrones.”
A seventh season is now starting up, and once again the Croatian city of 40,000 is the setting for the fictional city of King’s Landing.
The narrow streets of the old town centre are as if made down to the last detail for the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.
Key scenes from the prize-winning television series based on the books by George R R Martin are filmed through the city’s centre.
“The first time we saw Dubrovnik, I was in shock, because the whole city really looked the way we pictured King’s Landing looking,” says David Benioff, one of the series’ authors and producers.
Dubrovnik’s historical centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was especially prominent in the fifth season’s final gut-wrenching episode, Walk of Atonement.
Queen Cersei of the House of Lannister, played by Lena Headey, must walk naked through the streets to atone for her adulterous sins.
The film shoot took four whole days, costing some 200,000 dollars.
The costs to produce the fantasy saga are immense. While the studios are in Belfast, Northern Ireland, many of the settings are in Spain and Croatia. Crews must coordinate work and keep changing locations.
In Dubrovnik, shops and restaurants that must close down for the filming are paid compensation. Nor are tourists allowed to visit the famous city centre during the filming, notes Jelena Simac.
Simac is a tour guide for the agency Dubrovnik Secrets, which takes tourists – many wearing “Game of Thrones” T-shirts – to the original film locations. Simac holds up photos from the series and explains how the scenes were shot on location. Many buildings were, with the latest computer imaging technology, later integrated into the scenes.
“Because of the series, more and more young people throng to Dubrovnik,” Simac says. On virtually every street corner, guided tours to the film locations are offered, with some guides even in costume. In one souvenir shop, visitors can have their pictures taken while sitting on a replica of the intense-looking Iron Throne.
The filmmakers are thrilled that the old city centre is a car-free zone, although this does mean that they must carry their heavy equipment up the main steps.
In addition to “Game of Thrones,” parts of the new Star Wars film due for release in December were filmed in Dubrovnik, as was the remake of “Robin Hood” with Jamie Foxx and Jamie Dornan, coming out in 2018.
The Croatian government, through an incentive programme, has been promoting such film projects, offering filmmakers a 20 per cent discount on goods and services that they may buy in Croatia.
Fans of the series are almost as sorry as the local restaurant owners to learn that it’s set to wind up after its eighth season in 2018.
Simac says she hopes that the final big battle for possession of the Iron Throne will be filmed in Dubrovnik. It certainly would not hurt the coastal city’s business. — dpa