As any Game-of-Thrones watcher will know, the hit HBO show is finally returning! As a superfan, I knew that, despite being abroad, I will need to watch the show when it airs live. When I tried to access the show, however, I hit a roadblock — HBO won’t let you access the U.S. version from a foreign country. I decided to pay for a HBO España subscription, but soon discovered that you need a Spanish credit card to open an account. Panic ensued, until I was finally able to access the show four hours later. Similar issues have occurred when trying to access Hulu, Showtime, NBC and CBS app… basically, Spain hates good television.
But, despite all of the frustration, Juego de tronos is worth it. To celebrate the premiere that the world has waited well over a year for, here are cities of Spain, Europe, and Africa as Game of Thrones characters! **Will contain spoilers**
First and foremost, Granada. The city is chalk full of Spanish history; the site of Christopher Columbus’s funding for his excursion to America, where the final fight of the Reconquista occurred, and where Isabel and Fernando signed a decree to expel Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula. Based on this intense history, Granada represents Cersei Lannister; as strong-willed as Isabel the Catholic Queen and heavy-handed. While Cersei blew up part of her city (the Sept of Baelor), Isabel expelled thousands and thousands of her own people to make Spain a Christian-only country.
Next, the Sierra Nevada (okay yes, it’s technically Granada), which represents Ned Stark. Most obviously, the Sierras embody the house words “Winter is Coming.” There’s also the fact that my ski partner got a head injury on our second trip to the mountains (thankfully not to the extent of the original Warden of the North).
The Beas of Granada is a 12 mile hike that I did from a nearby city into Granada, and it is represented by Jaime Lannister because of the big transformation he has had throughout the series. Jaime goes from a hated villain to one of the best liked protagonists. I personally believe that he is actually the ‘Prince who was promised’ of the show in place of Jon Snow (who would just be too obvious a choice), but the point is that he has come a long way over the last seven seasons, just like my group of fellow hikers and I did when we finally arrived back in Granada.
Next, we’ve got Málaga. It’s a beautiful city on the edge of Mediterranean sea, a bit too touristy, but amazing. I spent one of my very first weekends of Europe here, and it was a much needed, relaxing weekend, and one of the first times I really connected and got to know the friends that I now hold dear. This city represents Oberyn Martell; a great contender but a bit full of himself in the end. While he very nearly beat the Mountain in combat, he let his emotions and pride get in the way and lost the fight. While Málaga’s city center is stunning, I also think it sees itself in higher regard than many southern cities.
Nerja, a nearby beach town to Málaga, is the more humble, more beautiful sister city. Arya Stark represents Nerja to me because, while she is just as deadly as Oberyn (actually much more so), she doesn’t feel the need to show off at every chance she gets.
Córdoba was the capital of Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain, from 711 to 1492 when the Catholic Kings “reconquered” Granada) most of its lifespan, and therefore has one of the most amazing mosques in the world. After the christians took over the city, they built a church in the middle of it, but it’s a stunning mixture of two diverse architecture styles. To me, this city represents Jaqen H’ghar, because it has more than one “face,” or identity. This city is especially interesting for Game of Thrones fans because it contains the bridge used as the Long Bridge of Volantis (which yes, I crossed).
Realizing I’ve been to way more European cities than I had thought, we’ll continue with León. León is far from the earlier cities on the list, all the way on the northern coast. I am spending Semana Santa here this week, visiting an old exchange student that I met over two years ago. Even though the bus ride here was ten hours, it’s already well worth the trek. We have already spent time walking around the city, getting tapas, watching processions (Semana Santa parades), watching movies, and eating the best food I have ever tasted. This city can be embodied by Tyrion Lannister. First, because the symbol is literally a lion, so it [obviously] has to be one of the Lannister family members. Tyrion because he’s the most moral and has made large contributions to the storyline (much like how León has influenced my love for Spain — when I first came here over two years ago, the city made me fall in love with Spain and is a major reason I returned to study abroad here in college).
Madrid is another stunning city, although I have mixed feelings about it. First, no matter how much Spanish you speak and how much effort you put into your Andalusian accent, everyone just replies in English, which is why I have decided to use Missandei as Madrid’s character. I also might be biased because I was exhausted from a flight during my time in Madrid, but while it’s an amazing city, in general large cities have very similar vibes (whereas the culture in smaller areas like Granada or León are more prominent). My favorite part of the city was definitely el Escorial, where almost all of the Spanish royalty are buried.
Gijón is another northern city, right on the edge of the Bay of Biscay. It has an amazing aquarium and even better seafood. For this reason, Gijón is embodied by Yara Greyjoy (part of House Greyjoy, which relies on boats and the sea for their culture to survive).
Segovia is a city near Madrid and hosts some of the most amazing architectural wonders I have ever seen. First of all, they have an old Roman aqueduct, which is how people were able to get water into their homes before modern plumbing was available. Segovia is embodied by Gendry, who functions a bit like an engineer in his role as a blacksmith.
Our last Spanish city on the list is Astorga, where an episcopal cathedral designed by Gaudí proudly stands. In Astorga, we visited a chocolate museum and tried cocido maragato. There’s a lot of ingredients, but most notable was the pig feet, ears, and snout that I tried. Sandor Clegane represents Astorga purely based on his scene in front of the Twins where he eats pig feet and waits with Arya right before the Red Wedding occurs.
Outside of Spain, I have already made my way to Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Morocco, France, England, Germany and Portugal. It feels like cheating to leave out these stunning, unforgettable European cities, so even though this post is already pretty long…
Milan, Italy has one of the most amazing cathedrals in the world, actually listed as the fifth largest worldwide. It was also home to my favorite wine of Europe which we found at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. My friends and I had so much fun getting to know each other better, and based on the friendships and drinks I would give Milan to Bronn, the sellsword. He proves himself a Lannister friend throughout the series and doesn’t mind celebrating.
Brussels, Belgium is next on the list, and found its way into my heart through it’s life-changing waffles. While I only spent a day in the country between Italy and Amsterdam, it had some of the best food. I also met a sweet older woman in the hostel going to visit her daughter, and the next morning we walked to the bus station together. Belgium is best represented by Hot Pie based on its expertise in food.
Amsterdam is certainly the wild child of Europe, with its liberal laws. I had a great time exploring the beautiful bridge and canal city, and also had the opportunity to see the Anne Frank House, which is breathtaking. It definitely puts life into perspective, and I would recommend it as a must-see for anyone with the chance to visit the Netherlands. The character that best represents this city is Shae.
Tangier, Morocco was certainly one of the most culturally-shocking places I have been. While Spain was different than back home, I have gotten extremely accustomed to the way of life. Europe in general is very similar to the U.S., but this small dip into Africa was quite a change in culture for me. We had only one full day in the country, but I would represent it by Lord Varys because he comes from Esos, which tends to have a different culture than Westeros does. In general, while I absolutely loved the city that we were in, I was also very out of my element since I haven’t really dealt with much culture shock in my semester abroad.
Lastly, I visited two cities in Portugal, Lisbon and Sintra. Sintra was my favorite of the two, with a beautiful colored castle on top of a mountain and stunning floral hikes all around the city. It was also slightly less touristy, which was a nice change of pace. Sintra can be represented by Margaery Tyrell, who has some of the best dress out of characters in the show. Lisbon, on the other hand, is also stunning. We were so absolutely lucky to get to stay in an AirBNB on the eighteenth floor of an apartment building, well above the skyline of the city. Because of the stunning bird’s eye view we were given, Lisbon is represented by none other than the three-eyed raven, Bran Stark.
I think that is where I will leave it; I have also traveled to Paris, France; London, England; and Stuttgart, Germany, but enough years ago that I don’t have access to the photos. While I’m sure many may not understand the Game of Thrones characters, if nothing else, I do hope my extremely brief insights and memories of my journey through Europe are interesting. And to those of you who are megafans like me: winter is here.