The old city of Dubrovnik, Croatia—filming location for King’s Landing in HBO’s Game of Thrones—feels mobbed with tourists and blasted by the sun. Zadar was quieter, mellow, with the Sea Organ and the indigo water, so clear you could see down for meters. Šibenik and Trogar seemed almost sleepy, and out in the islands there are intimate beaches and tiny resorts that remind me of Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers from Tender is the Night. But Dubrovnik — Dubrovnik feels as if all the tourists of Europe have converged there, and it’s only July. They say it just gets worse in August.
The marble-paved Placa-Stradum is beautiful. The bell towers ring the bells, the bells, the bells that failed to stop Daenerys. But there is a sense in which all these European tourist places start to feel the same. The sidewalk cafés and gelaterias, the candy shops and clothing stores. Louis Vuitton.
The Champs-Élysées, Karl Johans Gate, Covent Garden, the Placa-Stradum. All the same.
But then, off to the the side toward the mountain, there is this alley, a handful of people in a quiet moment in the shade, the paving stones worn slick. Behind them, steps, air conditioners, balconies, and a sense that maybe the old city is not just a big shopping mall after all.