Meet our guides: Milka Maria Varela

Meet our guides: Milka Maria Varela
Were you wondering what your walking tour guide will be like? We've made a series of posts interviewing our guides for you to have a read of and get a taste of what you can expect on your tour. 
This time we’d like to introduce Milka Varela, a soon to be historian, born in Argentina of Croatian descent and a passionate storyteller of Dubrovnik chronicles; as you can see yourself by browsing the Story About The War Tour reviews.
  • How long have you been working as a guide?
I was working as a tour guide for 3 years, and now it will be my 4th year as a local guide.
  • Name two things you like and dislike about being a guide?
I absolutely adore teaching, especially to children. And I love when people think of what I’m talking about and then ask questions, I love the curiosity and the thirst for understanding and knowledge.
What I dislike is when people come to a tour without an ounce of interest – sometimes I even prefer rude or demanding guests to passive ones. Another thing I dislike is lack of teamwork – I am always open to communication and teamwork, so when someone in the group acts on their own hand even though everyone else follows, it makes the tour difficult.
  • What do you consider to be the best thing about Dubrovnik? 
The best thing is by far the history of the place and the beauty of its stone walls and streets and the clarity of its blue sea.
  • Can you share a less-known titbit about Dubrovnik history with us? 
We may be very small and of little importance today, but we were once one of the main players in global diplomacy! We had people in all the courts and played mind games with the big fish, like the Ottomans, the Vatican, and Venice.
  • One of your specialties is the Game of Thrones Walking Tour. Can you describe what makes it so good and different than other tours of Dubrovnik? 
It brings a fantasy air to Dubrovnik, makes it come alive in a different way. If you’re into fantasy and the geeky life in general, it can make the city much more interesting than it already is. It’s also interesting because of the way it was filmed and how the shooting merged with the tourism that doesn’t stop for anybody, including HBO.
  • Are you a fan of GoT? 
I’ve been a fan since my early high school days, I was around 15 back then. That makes it 10 years. I was reading the books back then, dead convinced that nobody else does – so the filming of GoT in Dubrovnik was the best kind of shock imaginable.
  • Did you read the books by G.R.R. Martin?
Almost all of them. I stopped when Daario Naharis came into play – I was too annoyed by him to keep reading.
  • What is your favorite scene in the show?
There are several, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d say the Dracarys scene. And also when Dany walks out of the flames very much alive and with her dragons.
  • Do you have a favorite filming location in Dubrovnik and what happened there?
My favorite filming location would probably be the Gates of Pile in season 2 when the riot happens. It wasn’t a major scene, but it was very demanding to film and it really showed off not just HBO’s skills but also the personality of the local people.
Were there any special requests from your tour-goers, what was the most interesting one? 
None that I remember. One did insist on calling me Khaleesi though – I will always remember you, oh great human, wherever you may be. I did hear, however, that a woman asked a colleague to take a picture of her on the Shame Steps, and while walking down the steps she pulled her shirt up. No bra underneath. Please do not attempt to do this.
  • What part of the tour gets your guests most excited about? 
By far the Shame Steps. At least wear bras, please.
  • Have you been around when the HBO was filming GoT? If you did, can you tell us what that was like?
I have only managed once, for the scene when Tyrion and Varys discuss the defense of King’s Landing against Stannis. It was an out of this world experience. People I have known for years walked right by me, and I didn’t recognize them. Cameras all over the place, famous actors sitting just a few steps away from me, King’s Landing coming to life in front of my eyes in my very own town!  
  • People have been saying the Game of Thrones had a huge impact on Dubrovnik when in reality, the number of guests coming solely for GOT is smaller compared to cruise tourism, how does it look from your perspective?
It seems to me that a fair number of people from cruise ships only come down thinking of King’s Landing, too. 
  • What are your thoughts on some people being vocal that doing just Game of Thrones tour cheapens the heritage of this historic town? 
I am absolutely in agreement. Some people come to our town thinking there was nothing there before Game of Thrones. I am already used to it, and it’s my job to inform and educate, so I do my best to show them how Dubrovnik is so much more than they think. But such ignorance can very easily be offensive to someone with just a slightly different mindset than mine. 
  • Do you prefer talking about the history of Dubrovnik or Game of Thrones fiction? 
That’s a tough one. My favorite, actually, is when I can combine both – teach about history by using Game of Thrones references. It’s astonishing how easy it is to do this.  
  • Besides doing a Game of Thrones Tour, what would be your Top 5 things to do recommendations in Dubrovnik be? 
Definitely a history tour. Then take a day, at least an afternoon, to bask in our sun and dip in our sea, you won’t find many like it. Do it on the rocks, as we locals do – there’s no better way to discover the beauty of it. Visit our islands, walk our walls, and try to eat as many local dishes and meals as you can!