Teresa Machan, The Daily Telegraph, October 14, 2014
As they say in the industry – it’s a wrap. Filming in the fictional capital of Westeros - AKA Dubrovnik - for season five of the television fantasy epic Game of Thrones has concluded.
Equipment trucks have rolled out of town, cast and production crew have flown home, hundreds of extras have earned their keep (€30 a day) and local furore over one of the more controversial scenes in the forthcoming series (I'll keep quiet about it for now) has just about subsided.
HBO's production crew first came to Dubrovnik in 2011. Some of seasons two and three and much of season four of the cult series, including the sea battle at Blackwater where Stannis Baratheon attempts to dethrone King Joffrey and the fight scene between the Mountain and Prince Oberyn, was filmed here.
"His head exploded all over this place," said Ivan Vukovic, our guide on a Game of Thrones walking tour. Ivan showed us a screen shot from a flipbook of stills and pointed to a waterfront spot beyond Dubrovnik's eastern city wall.
It was here, at Belvedere Atrium, where “the Mountain” crushed Prince Oberyn's head in a duel to the death.
The Dalmatian coastal cities of Split and Sibenik have also been used as locations for season five. Unlike in previous seasons, filming in Dubrovnik was confined exclusively to the Old City and included, according to Vukovic, two days at Villa Argentina, a seafront hotel with huge gardens.
The city is well matched to its alter ego as King's Landing, the capital of Westeros. Its fortified battlements, great gates, drawbridges, baroque buildings and medieval monuments appear to have leapt straight from the pages of George R.R. Martin's novels; no more so than at dusk when swallows wheel and Gothic shadows loom in the tightly wadded streets.
And this historic Croatin city, which long ago was the capital of the formidable maritime republic of Ragusa, is itself no stranger to spilt blood. "We had a lot of noble families who were continually usurping each other," said Vukovic.
"Plus we like to slaughter people and decapitate them and stuff like that. And we have wars every 30 years or so.”
Since launching in June, Vukovic's tours have drawn up to 100 people a day. Our group numbered eight - British, American and Spanish. Such is the interest in the series' locations that the tourist board has recently put a Game of Thrones map on its website.
The walk offers a quirky alternative to fact-laden historical tours for Thronies and non-Thronies alike. From Pile Gate, the western and main entrance to the Old City, we walked via the central Stradun and St Dominik street to the eastern gate at Ploce. Views are more than a match for those seen from the City Walls (admission £10) - I doubt I'd have independently found my way to the top of Lovrijenac Fortress, whose ramparts offer unrivalled panoramas across city and sea.
Pile is the site of the peasants' dung-flinging revolt against the evil king Joffrey. Around the corner a small and frothy cove at the foot of Lovrijenac Fort was used as the setting for Blackwater Bay. Waves slap against two rocky outcrops and the small beach here, overlooked by Westeros's Red Keep, is a launch point for kayaking trips to the island of Lokrum, which doubles as a setting for Qarth.
Some of the most memorable scenes of season four took place in and around Lovrijenac. Minceta Tower, where Daenerys Targaryen tried to find the House of the Undying, is the highest point on the 2km-long City Walls and the Purple Wedding party was filmed at Gradac Park, a Mediterranean-pine-filled parkland located a few score steps above the fort, where we paused to enjoy the sunset.
To the south the Adriatic, milky and motionless, bled into the sky; in the north above mountains, whipped threadbare by the Bura (wind), hung a low moon.
“People sometimes choke themselves and take selfies and lay crosses or flowers at Joffrey’s grave,” said Lukovic, disturbing the peace. “During the Republic this park was used to hang people as there is always a light breeze.”
We arrive back at the heart of the Old City at dusk. As we walked up St Dominik street (think Gold Cloaks) to Fort Revlin and the eastern gate known as Ploce, the evening shadows and the wining swallows - or were they bats? - conjur villains and plotting, riddling and monsters. I half expected a Dire Wolf to run out and bite me.
Our tour finished at Fort Revlin where Vukovich pointed out the Villa Argentina.
"They have security. Don't try to approach," he warned. “First they'll beat you and then they'll ask questions.”
He suggests a panoramic boat tour instead, and taking a photo.
See the Telegraph's complete Dubrovnik city break guide
Game of Thrones tours depart twice daily ( dubrovnik-walkingtours.com or meet by the red umbrella at Onofrario’s fountain ten minutes before departure) and cost 180 kuna (about £19). Advance bookings are recommended in winter. Entrance to Lovrijenac Fortress is included.
A Game of Thrones map can be found at experience.dubrovnik.hr
Season 5 of Game of Thrones will air in April 2015.
Win one of 40 holidays worth £800,000
Telegraph Travel Awards 2014: vote for your favourite destinations and travel companies for the chance to win one of 40 luxury breaks worth a total of £800,000.
Visit the Telegraph cruise shows
Come along to the Telegraph Cruise Show in Liverpool (October 11-12, 2014) and London (January 9-11, 2015). Book tickets and sign up for the newsletter at telegraph.co.uk/cruiseshow
This article was written by Teresa Machan from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.