Who doesn’t like a good tv-show? Action and drama that makes you feel as though you are on the precipice of a great discovery. Sometimes when we reach the end of an astounding tv-show, we get an amalgam of strange feelings, ranging from the disappointment that it’s over to the sensation of regaining one’s breath after a long period of shallow inhaling and exhaling. This is the power of the screen, a power possessed by few, but which all producers and actors strive to obtain. “The Witcher” tv-show is considered by many a work of art after only one season, giving life to the beloved book characters of Andrzej Sapkowski. Just like Geralt of Rivia couldn’t run away from his destiny and kept returning on its path, I believe that our destiny can take us around the world, and why not to the filming locations of The Witcher across Hungary.
Upon hearing that Andrzej Sapkowski’s books about the brave monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia, were being adapted to the screen, I am guessing that many fans rejoiced. Since not all of us are gamers and wish to partake in imbodying these fearless characters on our computers, we have had to wait for a possible feature film or series patiently. Our patience was rewarded at the end of 2019 when Henry Cavill appeared in the role of Geralt, believed by many to be a perfect fit. Here are the filming locations of the tv-show that we can visit in Hungary, taking us in the steps of Geralt, and the mage, Yennefer. Be warned; there are spoilers ahead.
The fictional city of Cintra is where a lot of the tv-shows action takes place. Just like Cintra is located next to the river Yaruga, Fort Monostor in the city of Komarom, where Cintra was filmed, is also close to the Danube. The Danube is a river that, in some spots, acts as a natural border between countries. A car trip along the Danube touring triangle is a great way to observe the river’s beauty in Hungary. At the same time, the Danube River's floating houses in Berzasca, Romania, offer relaxation and lodging right over the water.
You might remember that Mousesack, queen Calanthe of Cintra’s mage, put a spell on Cintra’s gate to keep the army of Nilfgaard as much as possible out of the castle. That specific entrance to Cintra is Fort Monostor’s gate, located right between Budapest and Bratislava. The fortress was completed in 1871 and served as the Soviets’ biggest ammunition storage after World War II.
Three kilometers from Szentendre, the fabulous riverside-town is the Village Museum of Szentendre Skanzen. You might remember this village from the season’s episode called “Four Marks.” This town was portrayed as Yennefer’s birthplace, where her stepfather sold her to Tissaia, the mage, and rectoress of Aretuza. Even if it was against the wishes of Yennefer's mother, Tissaia still took her and taught her how to use her magic.
Szentendre Skanzen was established at the end of the 19th century to depict folklife across Hungary in eight regional areas, so eight villages in one. Group tours take place here if booked in advance, with a duration of up to 1,5 hours per regional area. The museum is spread across 46 hectares, with four consecrated churches on the grounds. This means that Szentendre Skanzen can host weddings and baptisms all year long.
A strong element of surprise in The Witcher was when we found out that Yennefer couldn’t be assigned to the Aedirn kingdom as a mage because her father was an elf. This is also the reason for her body malformations. Before the graduation ball of Aretuza, Yennefer gave up having children for beauty. She entered the hall of Aratuza a new woman and charmed King Virfuril of Aedirn. The high ceiling of the building and its architecture made us want to find out what this construction is and where it is located in real life. The answer is the Kiscelli Museum in the Óbuda district of Budapest. Formerly, this museum used to be a church and a Baroque monastery. There is also a cave on the premises. In this cave and in the ruins of the church, events are organized for a medieval feel. In the museum, tourists can also find permanent and temporary art exhibits. These exhibits and the hiking trails surrounding Kiscelli offer visitors a packed day, filled with knowledge and fun.
If you are a true Witcher fan, then you know that Yennefer ended up regretting giving up her option of being a parent. She tried many things to trick destiny, but nothing worked. At long last, she found a djinn who she wanted to be the vessel of, thinking that it would give her the ultimate power to become a mother. Her actions proved very dangerous, and she would have died, had Geralt not saved her. The house in Rinde where this was filmed is Tata Castle at Lake Öreg.
The city of Tata is close to Hungary’s border with Slovakia, in a hilly area filled with lakes and rivers. Lake Öreg, which translated into “old lake,” has continuously impressed its visitors, prompting the construction of Tata Castle on the northern side of its banks. This 14th-century castle was the summer resort of Hungary’s former kings, Sigismund of Luxemburg and Mátyás Hunyadi. The style of Tata Castle is neo-Gothic. I recommend getting a tour guide when visiting the inside of this little gem next to Lake Öreg since the staff doesn’t know much English, and the majority of information inside is in Hungarian. You can also skip entering the castle, which hosts the Kuny Domokos Museum if you prefer having a chill afternoon walking around the castle’s grounds and taking in the scenery.
Our last filming location in Hungary takes us to the Geological Park of Bauxite Mining in Gánt. You may remember this scenery from when Yennefer stopped by an archeological dig run by Nilfgaard, in her attempt to convince the mage Istredd to run away with her. When this didn’t work, a different mage approached her to go back with him to Aretuza, to ally with the sorcerers in their quest to stop Nilfgaard. The surrounding areas of those scenes made me think about Mad Max, a post-apocalyptic realm of dust, thirst, and hunger. Others would say that the mining grounds resemble what we would see on planet Mars. Either way, the red hills make for great pictures.
Once upon a time, this filming spot from The Witcher was the biggest producer of bauxite in all of Europe. It was first discovered in 1920 by the engineer Jenő Balás and by 1930, it exceeded every expectation that the miners had. In total, the mine produced around 10.000.000 tons of bauxite, which was especially harnessed by the Germans in World War II. The Germans overtook the mine because bauxite is the unprocessed material of aluminum, which they needed for their arms industry. Today, the bauxite mine is non-functional, but open for the public. A focal point of the mine is the 100-meter-long mine tunnel, along which visitors can see pictures of the mining process and the tools that the miners used. All in all, this Martian scenery makes it easy for us to see what the Continent looks like envisioned by Andrzej Sapkowski.
The world of The Witcher is very versatile, with lots of intricate twists. The tv-show is so popular across the world, that they incorporated Jaskier’s catchy song, “Toss a coin to your Witcher” in the games themselves. Not only the song managed to make viewers tune in and watch with perplexed attention, but it was also the quality actors and the exciting bouquet of landscapes. Next time you’re in Hungary, remember these filming locations of The Witcher. There is nothing like having Jaskier’s song in your head while walking in the footsteps of Geralt of Rivia and Yennefer. And don’t forget, however much we try to run away from destiny, it always has a way of catching up with us.
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