Dubrovnik: A Game of Tours

12 May 2017

Today was the day. The day I was most looking forward to throughout my entire Journey to 30: the Game of Thrones walking tour in Dubrovnik!!! I woke up feeling giddy and the city bells chiming in the distance really gave a King’s Landing vibe.

I’m not one to skip breakfast so I headed back to Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Café before I met with my tour guide. I had a seaside table, therefore, I was also right next to the pigeons who were pretty aggressive trying to steal my bread. NOT TODAY, PIGEONS!

Then it was 9:30AM. Go time. Our meeting point was right next to the cafe so I walked over and met Robert, the tour guide, or Bobo as the locals know him. Robert is a current Game of Thrones extra and has been since season 2. His ultimate goal? To be killed off on the last season of GoT. The tour group was small with only 5 of us (plus a baby strapped to a mother’s back and a toddler. Go Mom!).  

Robert led us to our first stop: Fort Lovrijenac, where many scenes were filmed including Joffrey’s name day and various Red Keep scenes. The Fort also provided vantage points overlooking the Adriatic. It also overlooked the scene for the Purple Wedding, aka Joffrey’s wedding scene and [SPOILER ALERT!] his subsequent death. Muahahaha!

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This site was chosen for Joffrey’s wedding scene, aka: The Purple Wedding.

We headed back down the stairs towards Pile Gate and looked at another filming site from Season 2, where Joffrey orders Gold Cloaks to kill all of Robert Baratheon’s bastard children.

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Then we stopped at Pile Gate where Robert talked about filming the riot scene where King’s Landing peasants attack Joffrey … by throwing “cow pie” at him as Tyrion says. Robert was one of the peasants in the background.

 

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Robert proudly presenting his work on the riot scene.

We then walked up more stairs to the infamous steps where Cersei’s Walk of Atonement took place, or, walk of shame. Shame. Shame. *bell rings*

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This was actually taken on a different day, but with far less people than there were when I took the tour.

At this point we also took a little break while Robert went to get replicas of GoT swords! He had an almost-replica of Needle, Arya Stark’s sword, a Lannister shield, and of course, Longclaw, Jon Snow’s Valyrian steel sword. When he asked if I wanted to hold the Lannister shield, I believe my exact words were, “I’m not about that Lannister life.”

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I am no one. #ValarMorghulis

After our photo-op, we walked through the city following the shameful steps of Cersei, and towards Kula Luda, which provided a vantage point of the Old Port. Robert ended the tour here and told us some amusing anecdotes.* Overall, it was such a great experience! I highly recommend completing a tour with this group as all of the guides do have some involvement with the show. For more info, click here.

My Nosh for the Day:

Lunch @ Barba

I had the shrimp salad and salmon sandwich with the Barba Pale Ale from LAB Split Craft Brewery (located in Split, another seaside city north of Dubrovnik). The name of this casual restaurant and name of the beer is purely coincidental. Their menu is simple but delicious, serving seafood only. Most popular dish? The octopus burger. I highly recommend this place if you like seafood.

Drinkies @ D’Vino

Of course, I had to come back again. This time I ordered the flight of white wines. Then I bought a glass of a sauvignon blanc. I stayed here and talked with friendly employees (shout out to Ana!) until I had to leave for my dinner reservation.

Dinner @ Nautika

Nautika is known to both tourists and locals. It’s a high-end restaurant specialising in “Sophisticated mediterranean cuisine” as their website states. I normally do not eat seafood but everything was locally sourced, and hey, “When in Dubrovnik.” I definitely had to take advantage of my location and Nautika’s Head Chef Mario Bunda. And people, the man knows what he’s doing. OH.MY.GAH! My dinner was worth every F***ING penny. I spent somewhere around £80 for everything. The check does look scary in Croatian Kuna though.

I started with a cocktail: Nautika Mule

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My starter: Shrimp Polenta

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Main: Sea Bass on a bed of tomatoes paired with a white wine my waiter chose for me. I apologise everyone, I was too eager and forgot to take a picture of this freaking delectable dish. My bad.

Compliments of the chef:

A matcha goat cheese and HOMEMADE chocolates with figs. I. CAN’T. EVEN.

To be completely honest, I was drunk by the end of my dinner. C’mon though, can you blame me? I had a flight of wine, two full glasses of wine, and a strong cocktail. Oh and I forgot! The aperitif Nautika gave me, which I could smell when it was placed in front of me. After dinner I headed back to my Airbnb and passed out. Best day evvaaaa!

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*Robert’s Anecdotes:

  • One of Robert’s favourite scenes actually involves his former chemistry teacher. He happily watched his former teach being grabbed by the throat by a Gold Cloak in the scene where the Baratheon bastards are being killed.
  • If an extra dies and his “dead” face is seen on camera, that extra can no longer work on the show. Huge red Xs are scribbled across their photos and they’re done with GoT. Because of this, most of the extras try to hide their faces if they are part of the dead in the background. One of the directors encountered this while filming a scene and ordered extras to lie dead on the ground. All of them decided to lie face down. When the extras were told that some had to turn around, the extras would lie face up but threw their arms across their faces. The director had to explicitly state that he had to see some faces. HAHAHAHAHA.
  • Robert personally thanks Malta for preventing further GoT filming there as it was the location for King’s Landing in Season 1. After a squabble, GoT moved to Dubrovnik, for which they are grateful.
  • Dubrovnik extras loved Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) because he explored the city a lot and played the tourist. They also loved Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) because he took the time to learn about the city and its history. They were also pretty unanimous about who they did not like, but this isn’t a gossip site so move along. Or better yet, do a GoT walking tour and ask!

Magic of Dubrovnik

11 May 2017

My final destination during my Journey to 30 was Dubrovnik. And you guys, Dubrovnik took me. I fell in love with the city as soon as I saw the view from my Airbnb (Shout out to Anesa!). I mean, there’s stairs to get everywhere: stairs to my Airbnb, stairs into the Old Town, stairs within Old Town, stairs to get out of Old Town – but having ran a marathon the previous weekend, I was ok with all the extra workouts.

I was originally drawn to Dubrovnik because I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and HBO has been using sites in and around Dubrovnik for King’s Landing, among other Westeros and Essos locations. However, Dubrovnik is so much more than a GoT filming location, and its medieval walls were breathtaking. Like, if I were to retire tomorrow, I’d probably head to Dubrovnik….but real estate is expensive, so, wishful thinking.

When I first arrived I dropped my things off and headed out into Old Town Dubrovnik, the main centre enclosed by the medieval castle walls, which was a perfect walking distance from my Airbnb. Also nearby was the bus stop for the shuttle to the airport and the entrance for the cable cars that go up Mount Srd. So my Airbnb was in an ideal location.

As I took pictures of the beautiful city I made my way to D’vino, a popular wine bar amongst tourists and locals. I loved it so much I went there my next two nights. Thank you exchange rate for the cheap price of Croatian wine! 🙂 I bought the cheese platter — usually for two but because it’s me I ordered it anyway — paired with a white wine: Antunović Graševina Premium 2010. DEE-LICIOUS! #DLiciousDVino™

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D’vino’s Cheesy Platter featuring dried figs, fresh baked bread and Croatian cheeses. Yummy!

I walked around the city a little more and made my way to a restaurant (the cheese platter for 2 was just an appetiser). I ate at Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Cafe and had a fantastic view of the Adriatic. Also I walked into the place with ice cream in hand because I’m an adult and I decided to have dessert before dinner. Seriously though, great views!

I walked around a little more, and yes, it felt like I was walking through King’s Landing, then I headed back to my Airbnb as I would have an early start the next morning for my GoT walking tour! Woo-hoo!

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“That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.” – Tyrion Lannister, Season 6

Vienna: Day 3

10 May 2017

So fun fact: I had to bring work with me during my Journey to 30 holiday because my PhD supervisor scheduled a Skype sesh for this morning. However, after a really productive meeting, I headed straight to Schönbrunn Palace!


I purchased my ticket online so I just had to scan the barcode on my phone to gain entrance. Beforehand, I had a quick lunch at the Residenz Café Restaurant. Delicious coffee and even more delicious pastries! I had a spinach and goat cheese strudel, which was perfectly flaky. Yummy! The café also offers private Strudel shows in the Imperial Bakery.

After my lunch I headed inside the Palace where, unfortunately, photography is not allowed even if you’re not using flash. *Sad Face* …. So I switched from my Canon to Phone again for a clandestine operation. Shhh, don’t tell them. #SnitchesGetStitches.

Then I headed to the absolutely beautiful gardens. If I was part of the Imperial family I’d be in the gardens all the time, chillin’ and drinking champagne while playing human chess à la Mel Brooks’ History of the World. Obviously joking, but I would definitely love to lounge in the gardens with a good book.

I then made my way to Gloriette, a lovely belvedere with a vantage point of the Palace and the surrounding neighbourhood.

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After my Schönbrunn Palace visit, I made my way to Naschmarkt, basically the Borough Market of Vienna. I was overwhelmed by the shops and stalls available and the amount of food to choose from. I decided to eat at Neni and basked in the sunlight with a glass of white wine.

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I headed back to my Airbnb to get ready for my night out at Porgy & Bess, Vienna’s popular jazz club where I snagged a front row table to watch Enrico Rava and Geri Allen. This place is cash-only so make sure to bring those Euros if you book a table here. After my jazz and wine I was definitely feeling the need for sleep. This was also my last night in Vienna and I had a fabulous three days! I definitely need to go back to Austria though to visit Salzburg. Until next time, Austria!

Vienna: Day 2

9 May 2017

Another full day of adventure. I left my Airbnb early and headed to Café Neko, a cat cafe — these seem to be trending. Don’t get me wrong, I love cute kitties, but where are the puppy cafes? I’d like to see a puppy or doggo cafe before I die. If one does exist, please let me know so I can book a trip immediately.

Unfortunately the food menu was not really existent, but cats and coffee were plenty! I had a cafe latte and took a few pictures of cats observing the “If I fits, I sits” rule, and generally just lounging around. There was really cute artwork too.

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If I fits I sits.

 

Afterward I walked over to the National Library of Vienna and saw the State Hall. It. Was. Stunning. I seem to be ranting a lot in this post but just once, I wish there was a working library with medieval and modern texts. Can’t I just lounge and look at digital copies of these books or their later editions? I wanted so badly to explore upstairs and pretend to be Belle but alas, I was only able to admire from afar and take a few pictures. One day I want a library just like this one! … a bit ostentatious, but a girl can dream!

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I explored the city some more, took a few wrong turns, and headed to the Vienna State Opera for a 3pm tour. Again, I used a student discount – 3.50 y’all! That’s a steal! Our tour guide was great and she mentioned that the Tea Room can be rented for 15 minutes for the low price of €800. She also mentioned people actually book this room to fit in a 15-minute wedding ceremony! I wonder how much the library would be though …

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After the tour, I headed to the MuseumsQuartier (MQ) which has modern artwork and museums.

 

I had a late lunch/early dinner (linner?) at Halle (English and German menus available)…
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… Then I took the metro to see the infamous Hundertwasser Village created by artist and architect, Hundertwasser. It was funky and colourful, and these are working apartments, so unfortunately tourists cannot enter unless you happen to know a resident. A shame since I really wanted to see the rooftop garden/forest, but understandable of course. I wouldn’t want a bunch of randos walking through my flat either.

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“I am opposed to destruction and favour a constant evolution in harmony with nature and individual creativity.” – Hundertwasser

Before I went back to my Airbnb I stopped for some delicious ramen at Karma Ramen. I had the yasai ramen (vegetarian) that had sweet potato, which I was wary of but it was surprisingly delicious and paired really well with the miso broth. Yum!!!! Once again, I ate everything. I imagine I looked like an anime character if anyone happened to watch me eat. Ya’know, bowl to my face as I slurp and shove noodles in my mouth with chopsticks. Luckily no one was sitting next to me so I didn’t have to give any warnings about the splash zone. After a full day of walking, and with a full belly, I was ready to unwind and get ready for the next day.

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*Drools gracefully*

Vienna: Day 1

8 May 2017

The second location I visited during my Journey to 30 was Vienna, Austria! Mostly because the train ticket from Prague to Vienna was under 25. #Bargain

I walked to my Airbnb from the train station and met with one of my hosts (Shout out to Ivan and Neva!). Ivan was really helpful and provided me with a map, and info about public transport and cool places to visit. He even suggested I visit a nearby tobacco shop to purchase a public transport ticket – which I did. I’ve noticed several tourist-y websites that suggest purchasing a “Vienna Card,” which will provide discounts around the city, and can be used as your transport ticket, but I overheard another tourist who said it sucked. His words, not mine. Having said that, I got by just fine purchasing a €16 week pass for all transport (bus, tram, metro), and using my uni discount everywhere. Worth it!

And with my public transport ticket in hand, I ventured off to experience the city. I first looked up vegetarian places to eat and Google suggested Wrenkh, which I’m glad it did because the food was delicious. Wrenkh did have meat options on the menu but it was predominantly vegetarian/vegan.

I ordered an olive tapenade, mushroom ragu, and the house white wine. Of course, I ate it all because I was starving.

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After that I snapped a few pictures of St. Stephen’s Cathedral before I headed down to the metro.

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I specifically took the metro to Prater so I could go on the Wiener Riesenrad (ferris wheel), and overlook the city. It was unfortunately raining at this point but it was still beautiful. Afterwards it was getting late and cold, so I grabbed some takeaway and I headed back to my Airbnb to get an early start the next day.

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Czech Yourself in Prague: Day 3

7 May 2017

Marathon Day!!!! Luckily, I woke up only mildly sore from the previous day’s adventures – YAY! However, I did have a stress dream about missing the start time …. I can never seem to get away from those dreams no matter how many marathons I run. Anyways, I put on my running gear and walked over to the start line, conveniently located in Old Town Square. There was music to motivate runners and I headed to my start area to drop off my bag and do some stretches before the marathon.

The marathon itself was organised around Prague so I got to see most of the city on this day. We even got to run across Charles Bridge, which is usually filled with tourists during the day. So yes, I did take the time to snap a few pictures and selfies. I finished later than I usually do since I’ve been having issues with my shin…but also because I was so inconsistent with training. I get so lazy when it comes to training. I’m pretty sure the most I ran was 8.5 miles/ 13.5 km per day. Woops.

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But I finished and got my medal! Woo-hoo! Then I did my post-marathon ritual of eating pizza and beer, one of my favourite combinations in life. I ate at the lovely Giovanni Pizzeria.

The trick to not waking up sore the next day is to keep those legs moving. So after my pizza I headed to the Old Town Hall and walked up more spiral staircases to get to the vantage point just above the Astronomical Clock. I snapped a few pictures and went out in search of dessert.

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Views from the Old Town Hall

The Czech pastry, trdelník is a common type of cake you’ll find around Prague. It’s everywhere, but I headed to a specific shop – Good Food Coffee and Bakery which sells these “chimney cakes” with more extras (Nutella, ice cream, homemade whipped cream, strawberries, etc.). I had the classic one filled with vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries. It was sooooo delicious. I was thinking about heading out on the metro to see more of Prague, but I was so exhausted. I meant to go out with a bang in Prague, but instead, I went quietly and completely full of ice cream. I’ll take it! There was still so much of Prague I wanted to see, mainly, the Strahov Monastery and Petrín Hill. I guess I’ll just have to plan a second trip! Until next time, Prague!

Czech Yourself in Prague: Day 2

Saturday, 6 May 2017

My second day in Prague was a FULL day since the next day was the marathon, and I would be leaving on Monday. Naturally, I did as much as I could on Saturday. I started by heading to Prague Castle by tram. It’s an uphill trek and visitors have to get in line for a security check. The entire estate is quite large and includes the Golden Lane, Old Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica and more, all of which require a ticket. I cannot stress how great student discounts are. Technically, to get a university student discount you have to be 26 years old or under so I just made sure to ask for a student discount while showing my uni card without mentioning my age, and it worked! Assertiveness pays off!

Full adult tickets to visit all buildings are CZK 350 (£12/€14), but I got the student price at CZK 175 (£5.65/€6.50). Win! Totally worth it to visit this entire medieval estate. FYI Tickets are sold in a cafe/shop once you enter the estate.

I first walked through Golden Lane, which I can only describe as cute, quaint and colourful….that is if you didn’t enter one of the buildings which housed medieval torture devices and swords (still cool though!). These homes were originally inhabited by castle servants and other artisans.

 

Next, I went into St. George’s Basilica:

 

I then went into  St. Vitus Cathedral which was simply breathtaking. I was already in awe of it as I looked at it from the outside but the inside was simply amazing:

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I then walked up the South Tower of the Cathedral and severely underestimated the amount of steps there were leading up to the worth-it vantage point. I mean, I really should have guessed just by looking from the outside but as I ascended the spiral staircase I stopped halfway through and thought what the HELL am I doing?! I’m running a freaking marathon tomorrow!! I better not wake up sore! Alas, I was already committed and onward I went. And I’m glad I did:

Lastly, I walked through the Old Royal Palace and noticed there was a “No Photos” sign…so I took that as a friendly suggestion and switched from my Canon to my phone.

While there was much more to see, I had to cut my visit short — even though I already spent several hours at the Castle — because I had much more to see around Prague.

From Prague Castle I walked to John Lennon Wall:

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Afterward I rushed to the Staropramen Brewery where I had booked a brewery tour, which included a free beer at the end! Yay!


To end the day, I did one of my favourite things before running a marathon: Carb-o-loading!! I ate at Oliva Verde, another restaurant in the Old Town Square and had pasta and bruschetta. Yuuuummmy! I then went back to my Airbnb and did a few stretches after the full day of walking and climbing staircases and slept early to prep for Sunday, AKA: marathon day!

Czech Yourself in Prague: Day 1

Friday, 5 May 2017

The first stop in my Journey to 30 was Prague, Czech Republic. This is where I strategically planned for a marathon so I could spend the rest of my holiday relaxing, exploring new cities, and eating whatever I wanted, but let’s be real, I would have eaten anything I wanted without running a marathon as well.

First things first, it was pretty easy to get into the city, made easier by the fact that I only had a carry-on. From the airport, I took the 119 bus to Nádraží Veleslavín, where I switched to Metro A that took me into town. Sounds complex, but pretty straight forward once you’re there. Feel free to review your options from the airport here.

I stayed at an Airbnb close to Old Town Square. It was literally a 2 minute walk to the Astronomical Clock if even that, and also right next to a Sex Machines Museum. Yup, I repeat, a Sex Machines Museum. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to explore the museum but I’m assuming sex contraptions of some kind are involved. I, of course, took a few pictures of my initial arrival: Clock, market, the neighbourhood. The market sold various trinkets and food, and also, puppets because I learned that puppet-making an puppet shows are a huge thing in Prague and part of Czech culture in general.

Afterward, I went on the tram to the sports expo to pick up my running swag and bib number for the marathon. You guys, “twerking” was legitimately a planned show during the expo. I caught the tail-end of it (pun intended), but polls were involved and children were watching. No one seemed to mind.

 

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The planned “twerking” show.

I headed back to Prague 1 (the city is divided into several zones), where I went on the hunt to find something to eat. I instead, went to a bar first (lol). It was one I heard about – Anonymous Bar, inspired by the film, V for Vendetta so Guy Fawkes masks were a major theme of the bar. It was actually pretty great! Of course, the cocktails were on the pricier side but they were also priced at the Czech Koruna so they were still cheaper than cocktails you would find in London.

Both cocktails I had were under £10 each so that’s saying something. And they were both delicious! My drinks of choice were: Scarlet Rose, which consisted of gin, creme, and egg white, and the Japan, which was a plum-based drink. My fave was Scarlet Rose as it wasn’t too creamy. It was perfection, and it was yummy. Another cool factor of this bar was that after I ordered my first drink, the waiter gave me a black light which revealed hidden drinks in the menu. How cool is that?! I noticed empty boxes when I was first looked through the menu but once I showed a black light on those “empty” spaces, more cocktail items were revealed!

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After my two cocktails I went back to looking for dinner and settled on Spanish-themed restaurant, El Toro Negro, right in Old Town Square. I had a great view of the Astronomical Clock, and I was even invited to sit at a table with other travelers! Usually I keep to myself when I travel and I’m not one to initiate conversations with randos even if I hear them speak and realise they’re from the same country as myself – this has happened before (yes, I’m a bit of an introvert, but an adventurous one!). When I was invited, I thought, sure what the hell, you know? So I ended up having dinner with two individuals from Brazil, and one from Argentina, all of whom were in Prague for business. They initially invited me over because they pegged me for a Spanish-speaker and they were right! Almost as soon as I sat down I was asked, hablas espanol?

It was great though, I spoke in Spanglish as one of the Brazilians was not great with Spanish but could understand pretty well. We had dinner and I called it a night since I wanted to keep a regular schedule in the days leading up to my marathon, but not before I recorded the Astronomical Clock as it struck 11pm. Thus endeth my first day in Prague.

P.s. If you ever wanted to try absinthe, it’s EVERYWHERE in Prague.

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