Wowed by Game Of Thrones locales in Croatia
IF YOU'RE familiar with the hit fantasy TV series Game Of Thrones, based on the books by George R. R. Martin, you'll know that parts of the show were filmed in Croatia.
It's not hard to figure out why, considering the magnificent sights.
In the city of Split, other journalists and I on a media trip were led by a guide through a labyrinth of streets and the ancient Diocletian's Palace, which is the heart of the city.
I was bowled over by the sheer size and complexity of the palace. Scenes of Daenerys' throne room and Meereen's streets were shot there for Game Of Thrones.
It's huge at 30,000 sq m and doesn't just consist of the stone-walled palace. There are other buildings, many of which were used as barracks.
The complex belonged to Roman emperor Diocletian, who settled there in the fourth century.
Architecturally, the complex is like a mix between a villa and a fort, with many impressive archways.
There's even some real-life fantasy, sort of. Past the palace's north gate stands a towering figure of what resembles a wizard.
A tour director pointed out that the statue was, in fact, that of Gregory of Nin, a 10th century bishop who promoted the Croatian language.
Apparently, touching or rubbing the statue's big toe - which was very shiny - brings good luck.
Split isn't the only location Game Of Thrones was shot in.
If the Croatian city of Dubrovnik looks familiar, that's because it's the set for King's Landing, the capital of the show's fictitious Seven Kingdoms.
Specifically, it's the Old City of Dubrovnik which is King's Landing's real-life counterpart, with its thick, imposing walls, and the bright orange roofs of the houses within.
Entering the Old City by its main entrance, the Pile Gate, is an experience in itself. The gate features a wooden drawbridge and has been featured several times in Game Of Thrones. In summer, there are even costumed city guards in decidedly old-world garb.
Exploring the ancient walled city, the scenery changes at every turn.
Past the Pile Gate is Stradun, the main public open space in Dubrovnik. It's also the city's main shopping street and seems to be a great location for beautiful wedding shots.
Stradun dates back to the 11th century, although the houses of the street sport Baroque architecture following reconstruction efforts after an earthquake in 1667.
A scene involving 500 extras was also shot on the street for the fifth season of Game Of Thrones.
Then there's the grand city ramparts, parts of which overlook the sea. Some battles in the TV series were filmed on the walls.
With many sections dating back to the 15th or 16th century, and the first fortifications from the eighth century, the high, imposing structures give off a strong mediaeval vibe.
Another location where fights were filmed in the series is Fort Lovrijenac.
It's located outside the city walls on a 37m-high sea cliff. The ancient fort was completed in the 16th century and in it, you can also find a chapel of St Lawrence. It's now often used for staging plays.
The fort is a strong symbol of freedom for the city. Engraved at its entrance are the words, translated from Latin, "Freedom cannot be sold for all the treasures of the world".
Beyond the city's architectural marvels, I also had a peek into the local residents' daily lives. A little boy playing ball under his mother's watchful eye. A cat walking on a roof. Laundry flapping in the wind. Workmen doing repair work. A whiff of aromatic cooking.
I wondered how the residents must feel, sharing their space with tourists every day.
If you plan to visit Dubrovnik, the weather is generally pleasant in late April, which happens to be spring. I was also told that October, which is in the middle of autumn, is a good time to visit as there won't be large crowds of tourists.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK