Posted by Adam Mendonça
Croatia, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Morocco, and Spain.1 This is just a small sample of the countries that I was able to travel to this past spring while studying abroad at Oxford University. But what do these 5 countries have in common that piqued my interest in them? It’s simple. All 5 are the major filming locations for HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones based on the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. As a longtime fan of the books and show, I was not going to miss my opportunity to travel across the Seven Kingdoms and beyond (or at least as close as I could ever get).
I started off in Iceland with fellow ’13 scholar Andrew Wei. This cold, beautiful country provided much of the scenery for “Beyond the Wall” in the show. While I didn’t make it to specific filming locations because they were blocked off, just being in Iceland during the winter felt like I was in The North. The snowy landscape was gorgeous but also desolate, with mountains bulging out of the Earth making it difficult to navigate some areas. We even got caught in some snow showers, which ended with us trudging through a forest in snow a couple feet deep at times. If I knew even more winter was coming, I definitely sympathize with the wildling cause of getting south of The Wall.
Malta is another prominent location used in the show. As a city-island with British, Italian, and Middle Eastern influences, the place felt exotic, but was incredibly accessible because everyone spoke English. There I traveled to the Mdina, the old city in the heart of the island. It is here that a few Game of Thrones city-related scenes were shot, including one house that was featured as a brothel! Not too sure the family that lives there is very happy with that reputation of their home.
The last country that I visited is the Holy Grail of filming locations for the show. I am talking about the stunning walled city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. I was able to experience the excitement with fellow ’13 scholar Sam Hartke, another avid Game of Thrones watcher.
Entering the city of Dubrovnik was like walking into King’s Landing itself. The old walled city even prevents cars from entering, so it was all pedestrian (and bike) traffic. I was able to walk down the stairs where Cersei Lannister made her famous walk (Shame! Shame!). I stood on the stairs where angry mobs of men yelled at her. I went to the dock where Sansa fled from the Purple Wedding. I walked through a garden that Dany was in during a party in Qarth. Sam and I even stumbled upon an Iron Throne replica in a pretty remote area, where we had a mini photoshoot with it.
Through these travels, I’ve gained a new appreciation for one of my favorite shows and the world by being enchanted by old cities, mountains, deserts, and rolling country side. And now, the way I watch the show is forever changed. Not just because watching with me is more annoying because I bring up that “I’ve been there,” but because I now have a personal connection to the scenes and I’ve experienced the area myself. Dubrovnik and my travels to the other countries were well worth the waiting and planning that I did in anticipation of my study abroad semester. Now all I’m waiting for is the next book in the series. I’m looking at you, George. (But really, take your time to get a good book out…ASAP.)