The Luxury of Game of Thrones: A Trip Around the Westeros World and an Island Waiting for HBO to Discover
My journeys to the worlds of Westeros have included Iceland (The Wall), Northern Ireland (Winterfell), and Croatia (King's Landing).
In each world that stood in for the imaginary kingdoms of George R. R. Martin, I found a unique history and art and culture that sometimes mirrored and sometimes was in distinct contrast to the worlds that you see on film.
Take the famous "Shadow Baby" caves (their real name is Cushendun) just outside of Belfast. In GOT, they are the site of a horrific and visceral "birth" of the shadow child of Melisandre. In reality, the caves are a place of peace and lapping ocean water, near small towns, friendly pubs and the legendary green fields of the Northern Irish countryside.
In Iceland, pristine glaciers and ice flows are CG'd into the foreboding "Wall" where Jon Snow and crew have their watch. In reality, the air is bracing and pure and friendly locals have nary a white walker among them (although the Icelanders on the whole believe in an elder race of "unseen" folk).
Perhaps one of the most surprising destinations I visited on my Westeros tours was Croatia. I've been to Dubrovnik (site of Cersei's "walk of shame") and to Split (where the palace of Diocletian doubles as Denarys' throne room). On my last trip to this country of a myriad islands I visited Losinj--which has not yet made it onto the screen as Dorne or Kings' Landing but in my opinion it's just a matter of time. In the days of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the island was the Emperor's getaway for chilling with his mistress far from the prying eyes of the Viennese. It was also considered a health resort where people could get the soot from the urban sprawll out of their lungs.
The island is full of pines and rare flowers and herbs that release their scent into the remarkably clean air. The water is so crystalline, you can see sea life and your own feet at the bottom.
History lovers will find the tracks of ancient roman wheels, and there's a booty of of a found masterpiece from ancient Greece in a local museum--Apoxymenos--an athlete whose beauty of form would rival any of the young studs of GOT.
It's only a matter of time before the location managers of HBO find Losinj and turn it into some new conquered city-state or one of the contested lands in the battle between Jon Snow, Arya, Denarys, Cersei, et al.
GOT fans--go now!