Maybe you've never heard of Dubrovnik, Croatia, a tiny town on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, but fans of the hit TV show Game of Thrones have.
Since its founding in the 7th century, the city has been home to several palaces and cathedrals, as well as a valuable port.
In modern times, its sunny location and Croatia’s affordable exchange rate have made Dubrovnik a bit of a tourist hotspot, as travelers flock to see the buildings that earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
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But in the last decade, the city has become overwhelmed with travelers eager to see Dubrovnik's sights up close, creating a tourism disaster that the city blames on their newfound fame.
"It's chaos, the whole thing is chaos."
Dubrovnik has always been a popular stop for cruise ships sailing the Adriatic, but a starring role on Thrones has brought more tourists to Dubrovnik than ever.
Since the show premiered in 2011, Dubrovnik's historic buildings have doubled as the fictional city of King's Landing, home to the scheming nobles and knights that make Thrones a sensation.
And as tourists disembark by the thousands to get a photo with the local landmarks, lifelong residents feel like they’re “living in the middle of Disneyland.”
It's not uncommon for 8,000 tourists to descend on Dubrovnik's historic district, home to just 2,5000, on a given day.
But despite the huge volume of visitors, local shopkeepers say the tourists - who have all-expenses-paid packages on their ships - eat and buy next to nothing on land.
“We feel sorry for ourselves, but also for them (the tourists) because they can't feel the town anymore because they are knocking into other tourists," said Dubrovnik resident Marc van Bloemen. "It's chaos, the whole thing is chaos."
The crowds have grown so large they’re actually putting the town’s tourist trade in jeopardy.
UNESCO has threatened to rescind the city’s valuable heritage title, and travel blogs are recommending other nearby cities with less crowded streets over Durbrovnik.
Plans have been proposed to shrink the number of cruise tourists allowed to stop in the city each day by about half, but until then visiting the city’s landmarks will be a game of crowds.
[H/T: Associated Press]