Taking a Closer Look at Dubrovnik’s Game of Thrones

Total Croatia News

As Game of Thrones main storyboard artist William Simpson arrived back in Dubrovnik on February 11, 2016, local resident Ivana Sepak starts a new series for TCN looking at Croatia’s very own King’s Landing. 

The year 2011 was historic for HBO. Namely, that is when Game of Thrones was shown to a worldwide audience for the first time. HBO’s mass spectacle started spreading around the globe like a forest fire very soon after it was aired. This TV show received many very flattering titles, Emmys and Golden Globes were won, and a new record was also set – GoT became more popular than the Sopranos! It seemed almost like a dream when in summer 2011 cast of Game of Thrones came to Dubrovnik to make it King’s Landing.

Of course, the locals didn’t have a clue what games and thrones might have in common, but in years to come King’s Landing became Dubrovnik’s alter ego. It is surprising that this brutal TV show incorporating mutilations, massive murders, gallons of blood, nudity, orgies and similar charming family scenes, became such a massive hit and the number one show in the world by the number of times it was illegally downloaded. Well, once you place all that gruesomeness into some of the world’s nicest scenery – you have a global hit! Here’s a quick reminder how it all began.

George R. R. Martin – World’s Most Hated Man?

There should be a petition started that all his book covers must contain warnings like those on cigarette boxes: Choosing a favorite character in any of the author’s books may cause you to not want to leave your bed because of severe heartache and questioning of the meaning of life – you have been warned. It’s hard to imagine if there’s any person on Earth more despised than this precise author (or Joffrey, but George created him so it’s kind of the same).

His writing is so detailed and brutal that you get to find out everything about a particular character. His books are works of pure genius. It’s amazing how he makes you hate the character, then start loving him, then wanting to bury him alive, then all over again – if the character is around for long enough though. For fans of SciFi, George’s name is not a novelty – he became popular long before HBO decided to bring his characters to life. Not a lot of people might know that he actually visited Croatia in April 2003 and went to Dubrovnik as well. Who could have guessed that in 8 years it would become the capital of Westeros!

Dubrovnik wasn’t chosen to be King’s Landing from the start. In fact, the first season with scenes from there was shot on Malta. The local government chased HBO off the island because they devastated a national park. Of course, a substitute location needed to be found quickly. As soon as the decision-makers set their eyes on Dubrovnik, they knew they had found the perfect spot. The shape of the old town and integrity of locations fit George’s fantasy world like a glove.

Filming started in August 2011, and season after season HBO would come back with their stars (well, with the ones that survived). Last year was quite peculiar, namely, HBO was very conservative in their statements about coming back to film in Croatia. The stakes were no longer only about Dubrovnik – Split was incorporated, Šibenik, the crew even went to Pula to scout for additional locations… One of the ministers that went to USA last year, victoriously claimed as he returned to Croatia that HBO is coming back to film in autumn 2015. If there’s something that was learned in Croatia, it is that when a politician vouches for something, then the truth is exactly the opposite.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be the case with this. August 2015 came with a deafening silence. Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron, but August is usually the time when local costume designers are contracted, accommodation is sought out for cast and crew, extras are auditioned and hired (usually extras that were on the set from the beginning were just re-invited), transportation was organized… now nothing of this was in motion, eyebrows were raised, questions were asked, but no answers were received, until the very misfortunate news came – season 6 will be shot in Spain. That was it! Not a single other line of an official explanation came from HBO’s officials, or if they’d be back.

Croatia was left wondering what went wrong. In addition, season 6 would not be accompanied by George’s book. All the seasons by now had followed author’s books and this time, George had a creative block. Nobody is blaming him, he must be a perfectionist (judging by the work delivered so far) and he’s not willing to compensate with under-achieving. It’s a high price, but he can afford it and one can only applaud his brave decision.

A lot has been said and written about this brilliant man’s life and achievements. In these series of articles a different angle will be taken. The actual history will be compared to the story plot from TV series Game of Thrones with a focus on King’s Landing versus Dubrovnik. It’s sad that some people visiting Dubrovnik might think that it was as cruel and dirty as it was depicted in Game of Thrones.

We hope to inspire you to do several things: visit King’s Landing if you did not so far, start watching the series if you haven’t already and change your viewpoint of history if you think it is boring– if you think so, sorry to break it to you, you probably just had a lousy history teacher and allow us to prove you wrong. Those of you that are well acquainted with Game of Thrones can share with us when exactly did George bring you to tears.

Send a raven – more articles are coming on this topic.



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