Šibenik and a Braavos for Game of Thrones
Between the end of 2015 and the start of 2016 I made a number of visits to the city of Šibenik, situated between the towns of Zadar and Split on the Croatian coast. Šibenik has an extensive medieval old town with photogenic houses, narrow streets and alleyways from the promenade on the sheltered bay to St John’s fortress above. The city provides a convenient access point for the Krka National Park where one of the world’s first hydroelectric plants was built in 1895. This plant enabled Šibenik to become the third city in the world to have an alternating current street lighting system.
Šibenik’s old town was used as the location for the fictional Free City of Braavos in episodes of the Home Box Office (HBO) Game of Thrones series. Braavos was the location of the Iron Bank which members of the Iron Throne visited, I assume to try and iron out some of their money problems.
"Braavos is the strangest, a city erected not by the Freehold, but against it. A labyrinth of illusion and deceit to hide the refugees from Valyria's slave-lords. After the Doom, the city emerged from the shadows to become one of the greatest banking centers in the world." ― Ser Jorah Mormont discussing the Free Cities.
The photos in this story were taken with the X Vario on various afternoons which accounts for the varience in lighting.
Driving off the main coastal highway I would pass through the modern sections of Šibenik park near the harbour and make my way to the old town. The promenade, the Cathedral of St James, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and an important example of Renaissance architecture, and its plaza provided many interesting ‘stage sets’ for street photography.
Climbing up from the plaza through the streets and alleyways of the old town I reached St John’s fortress on the top of the hill. The fortress provided excellent views over the sheltered bay on which the city sits. Access from the sea is by a narrow channel which can be seen on Google Earth at 430 43’ 40.60”N, 150 52’ 40.91”E and I could imagine the city would be almost invisible to a ship passing by outside the channel. I was told that the southern rock wall of this channel, which can be seen in the photo below, housed a German U-boat base during WWII.
Making my way back down to the promenade I had a very unfortunate encounter with some locals, one of whom launched a ‘full-on’ attack (albeit at knee height). I think they’d been watching too much of the Game of Thrones filming. In modern parlance I was ‘conflicted’ as my attacker carried a shield with the Cross of St George, the patron saint of England. Didn’t they know I’m English?
Reaching the promenade I found a place to eat, watch the locals taking the evening air and enjoy the sunset. The sunsets on this part of the Croatian coast are famous; Alfred Hitchcock is quoted as saying that Zadar, up the coast, has the most beautiful sunsets in the world. A local explained to me that this is because of the series of islands that lie off the coast. The setting sun is said to repeatedly reflect off the sea between the islands so increasing the complexity of the sunsets.
I noticed the fisherman and the swan out in the bay. Both moved languidly back and forth and I wondered if they were old friends carrying out a familiar daily routine. As the light faded I made my way back to the car to start my long journey back to Plitvice. Although I haven’t returned to Šibenik since I enjoy seeing the streets and plazas of Braavos on the television which takes me back to the pleasant afternoons I spent there.