The Meereen filming experience- Season 6 - Peniscola, Spain
WARNING : Potential Season 6 Spoilers
In summer 2015, it was announced that Peniscola, a small town on the East coast of Spain, was to be used in the filming of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. Rumours persisted throughout the Summer regarding what location this old city would stand in for. Would the lighthouse represent Oldtown? Would the City Walls represent Meereen or would the castle represent Kings Landing.....?
On a few days notice, I managed to get a cheap flight to Barcelona and then took a 2 hour train journey down to Peniscola. Like many towns, I didnt think Peniscola knew the full magnitude of the filming that was going to take over the town as thousands of crew, extras and fans descended on this beach resort.
Upon arriving, it was obvious the location would represent the slave city of Meereen, the front of the old town looked exactly like the former quarry set located near Split,Croatia. The question remained whether Peniscola would represent any other cities of Westeros such as Kings Landing, especially in light of the old town and Castle which would remind many a casual onlooker of Dubrovnik.
Upon arriving, we were informed the reservation for our hotel had been cancelled due to Game of Thrones crew booking up our hostel to prevent spoilers leaking. The hostel overlooked a key filming location and it would appear after recent leaks in Spain and Northern Ireland HBO didnt want to take any chances and so I booked a new hotel outside the old town walls, which actually ended up being much better for various reasons.
The Game of Thrones crew were already setting up when we arrived, certain areas were already shut off to allow set up while traffic was restricted in other areas. As I was aware of certain areas that would be used for filming, I took the opportunity to on the first night to get photos around the key locations before they were shut off to the public.
The set up for the extras and costumes was near the hotel so I walked around and took a few pictures of the costumes on display.
Wandering around town you couldnt help but bump into the occasional cast member, I ran into the show producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss on the seafront and congratulated them on their recent Emmy Win. Heading back from dinner one night I bumped into Conleth Hill, AKA Varys on the main street and he, like David and Dan, was happy to pose for a photo and have a chat about his time in Peniscola.
One day, while sat on my hotel balcony I noticed, through a stroke of luck, that I could view filming from long range. The area in question was Artillery Park, which had been closed since our arrival. Through the long range camera zoom, I could make out the Unsullied, Tyrion and Missandei - while the photos were very grainy it was still an interesting insight on the production process.
The next day we managed to get a few shots of the filming going on on the city walls, including photos of a new red priestess.
When filming had finished in Artillery Park we were able to access the location I had observed earlier in the week. This park is attached to the fantastic Peniscola castle and looks out onto the Mediterrean Sea.
We also visited the castle, although I dont believe this was used in filming even though the castle was closed for 2 days but this was because the castle has unobstructed views of Artillery Park where the actual filming was taking place. If there was no filming in the castle, this seems like a real wasted opportunity. While there are certainly a lot of tight internal areas that would not be compatible with a production of this size, there were a number of outside areas overlooking the sea which would have been ideal for Kings Landing or Dorne but it would appear the production had other plans.
Generally speaking, it had been a cool experience to be in Peniscola during filming and was certainly one to tick off the bucketlist, but it had been relatively uneventful in terms of what I had observed. That all changed on my final day when I spotted someone who shouldnt be there hanging out near the rehearsal area.
Yes, Sibel Kekelli, whose character Shae had been killed off in Season 4 finale by her ex-lover Tyrion, was staying in peniscola and led to the set by GOT security. The subsequent photos went around the world on multiple outlets, and it later emerged that Sibel was seen on set in Full costume the next day. While we dont know why she was there, it would seem likely that there will be some sort of flashback or Red Priestess antics in Season 6 to torment Tyrion further.
To sum up Peniscola, the castle is amazing, the old town has some fantastic restauraunts and very friendly residents. It's got a very intimate feel, like its some sort of well kept secret. I would be interested to see if the town manages to change and adapt as it becomes more of a tourist attraction once Meereen is shown on tv. Seville, for example, has already seen a 30 percent increase in tourism since Game of Thrones filmed there and I would expect similar numbers in Peniscola in the near future.