How to play the game

Dubrovnik is a de­light for fans of a mega-hit TV se­ries

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - CAR­RIE KABLEAN

High­born and saltwives, knights and wildlings, please know I have been to Wes­teros and walked the Path of Atone­ment. Well, a bit of it any­way.

Read­ers of Ge­orge RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice will know of what I speak; watch­ers of HBO’s Game of Thrones, now air­ing on Fox­tel, will have to wait un­til near the end of sea­son five to wit­ness a spec­tac­u­lar fall from grace.

How did I get to Wes­teros? Easy. Flew to Croa­tia and en­tered the for­mer Repub­lic of Ra­gusa, now known as Dubrovnik, through the Pile Gate. When HBO’s film crews are in town, this is Kings Land­ing; and the Pile Gate is the very spot where nasty King Jof­frey was pelted with dung.

The good folk of Dubrovnik know a thing or two about Game of Thrones, living as they do in the shadow of the Red Keep and walk­ing the mar­bled streets and twist­ing al­leys of Kings Land­ing. It is some­how fit­ting that this an­cient walled town, it­self fought over by var­i­ous em­pires, is a key lo­ca­tion for the se­ries. Large parts of sea­sons two, three, four and five were shot here, and con­tracts have been signed for the next.

Game of Thrones tours are now part of Dubrovnik’s rich mix, along with walk­ing its me­dieval walls and check­ing out its plethora of palaces, mu­se­ums and churches. Tourism is in­creas­ing rapidly, es­pe­cially in the 18-35 age range, which may have some­thing to do with the city’s new-found fame as Kings Land­ing.

Ex­tras and oth­ers in­volved in film­ing have signed con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments but in Dubrovnik the walls do have ears (it claims the phrase as its own, cour­tesy of the Old Town’s nar­row streets and cheek-by-jowl hous­ing). We haven’t been in the city an hour be­fore some­one refers to the route of the up­com­ing “Walk of Shame”.

But first a dis­claimer to pro­tect the en­gag­ing Tomis­lav, our Game of Thrones guide via Mediter­ranean Ex­pe­ri­ences. Not wish­ing to jeop­ar­dise his liveli­hood (or his sis­ter’s role as an ex­tra), he’s cagey about up­com­ing episodes but happy to share his knowl­edge of the var­i­ous lo­ca­tions, props and ac­tors, pep­pered with some light­hearted gos­sip. We walk up to the Red Keep (aka Lovri­jenac Fort), the strong­hold the Lan­nis­ters de­fend against Stan­nis Baratheon (and Dubrovnik’s sym­bol of re­sis­tance to the Repub­lic of Venice). The fortress is spec­tac­u­lar in its own right but has ac­quired crenel­la­tions post-pro­duc­tion. “The spend is about $US6 mil­lion an episode, a lot of it on com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery,” says Tomis­lav. “CGI is the real star of the show.”

We look down on Gradac Park, set­ting of the Pur­ple Wed­ding cel­e­bra­tions; across to the Minc­eta Tower, where Daen­erys Tar­garyen tries to find the House of the Undy­ing, and to the is­land of Lokrum, which th­ese days dou­bles as Qarth. We see where Sansa was res­cued by the Hound; the al­ley where Cer­sei seeks High Spar­row (and told how present-day aircon­di­tion­ers are hid­den by “me­dieval” arches).

To­wards the end of our tour, Tomis­lav says he has a spe­cial se­cret for us. Are we go­ing to hear some­thing we shouldn’t? He takes us into a mod­est hos­tel, past some­what sur­prised guests, and points out a framed no­tice over a small day bed: “Tyrion Lan­nis­ter slept here”. The story goes that Tyrion, aka Peter Din­klage, fell into drink­ing with a bunch of Aussies who, as the night wore on, took him back to their place to help empty the bar fridge. Lord Tyrion awoke the next morn­ing, suit­ably hung over, checked his watch and shouted for a taxi. At the door of the hos­tel, he was con­fronted with sev­eral flights of stone steps and a manager who was unim­pressed with an un­ex­pected guest and not at all both­ered that m’lord was late for his shoot.

The best part, es­pe­cially per­haps for those who are not Game of Thrones fans, is that his Aus­tralian drink­ing com­pan­ions had no idea who he was. dubrovnik-walk­ing-tours.com tour­thegame­ofthrones.com in­sight­va­ca­tions.com.au

Car­rie Kablean was a guest of In­sight Va­ca­tions.

Se­ries five of Game of Thrones screens on Fox­tel’s Show­case at 11am Mon­days with an en­core at 7.30pm.

Dubrovnik’s old town, top and above left; scenes of

shot in Dubrovnik, above right and be­low left

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