There is one essential thing you need to pack for your trip to Dubrovnik: a pair of really good sunglasses. Not only to look fabulous but to protect your eyesight. This city is dazzling. And I don’t mean the glamour; it is actually very bright. Some call it the Pearl of the Adriatic and I can see why. The light beams from the waves reflect straight onto Dubrovnik’s white walls. It’s like an underwater scene from the Little Mermaid. These are not simple fortifications. These walls have survived innumerable volleys of cannonballs over the years. Even ground-splitting earthquakes or devastating civil wars during the breakup of former Yugoslavia were not enough to take it all down. Dubrovnik can you give a sense of perpetual déjà vu, especially if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones. Yes, this is where they shot dozens of the famous HBO series. Remember when it was a contender for the show of the decade? Before the final season happened?
You’ll recognize some key sights even from a distance. Like the Bokar Fortress, which I prefer to call the “Bottle Cap Fortress” or the “Marshmallow Castle”. It looks almost surreal, but it was an essential structure during the city’s defence against enemy forces. The fort appeared in a couple of scenes in the GoT show. Notice the holes in the walls? Soldiers used those to fire guns from within the fortress. Bokar is the world’s oldest fort with that kind of utility. Fort Lovrijenac is the most famous military structure of Dubrovnik. It stands on a massive cliff and is…imposing. You might recognize it as the Red Keep from the series, though I admit I couldn’t tell at first. It’s a very interesting building, almost designed as a death trap. Outer walls, the ones facing the sea are 12 meters thick, while the ones towards the city are paper-thin. They could blow it to pieces in case the enemy would occupy it. Cool stuff. Climb a tower; look directly below and you’ll see the West Harbor. That’s my favourite part of the city by far. It used to be a very quiet area where you could relax sitting on the pier, cooling your feet in the water. Now it’s a pilgrimage site for GoT fans. Blackwater, one of the shows best episodes was filmed here.
The best thing about Dubrovnik is that everything serves as a stage for artists during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. The entire city comes to life during to sounds of folk music and theatre plays. Stages pop up everywhere and most squares and streets are packed with people. Even the Crkva Svetog Vlaha, a beautiful Baroque church, becomes an art venue. Sveti Vlaho or St. Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik. Locals commemorate him during a feast held on the 3rd of February when they throw a parade and a huge party. Haven’t seen a feast though, maybe those are exclusive events. Orlando’s Column is a monument that connects both festivals. Two flags are placed on top of it, one following the Summer Festival and one after St. Blaise. Orlando is a hero of legend, who supposedly saved Dubrovnik saved the city from Saracen siege. We now know that it’s historically false and the statue is just a dud. The guy also has an unusually large head; I guess the sculptor messed up the proportions.
Stradun is the main street here and the city’s artery. What made it earn such a title? Long ago it wasn’t even a street. It was a canal back in the day when Dubrovnik was a small island city. They eventually filled it in and now it goes through the middle of the Old Town. Stradun is only 300 meters long, but gets VERY crowded in season. It looks and feels like an actual canal, but with people in place of water. Especially during evenings when people pre-game before a night out it gets extremely busy. Partying in Dubrovnik is an unforgettable experience. The architecture here is particular; there aren’t many spacious buildings. That’s fine with me really; I’d rather go to a cosy pub than a neon-ridden mammoth of a dance floor. Okay, there is one that I like, but it’s a very special kind of club. It’s located in the Revelin Fort in the eastern part of Dubrovnik. I have a soft spot for those kinds of venues. Cold brick walls, candle-lit dungeons; you never know what kind of secrets are waiting to be disclosed. Hit the Copacabana Beach and Club for an after party and marvel at the sunrise following the best night of your life. Don’t miss out on the Lokrum island located 600m away from the city. I’ll just say it’s not without reason that they called it The Love Island. Dubrovnik might have gained fame because of Games of Thrones, but it was always worth visiting. I suppose it was hard to break through all the giants of tourism around the Adriatic.