Gdańsk

The Witcher in Gdańsk: How the city inspired the world of the award-winning game!

11 Feb 2020
Netflix's The Witcher, starring Superman Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia and the curiously-exotic Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg has been hugely successful and, for the binge-inclined masses, the series has filled the fantastical void that was left after the disappointing finale of HBO's Game Of Thrones in 2019. Newcomers to the franchise may not know much about what preceded Season 1: notably an equally-successful game and, of course, the book series that it's all based on. Most importantly, both are Polish creations!
 
    The video game version of Geralt of Rivia on a
6zł postage stamp, commissioned by Poczta Polska.
               Poland has it's priorities in order!
The books, written by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the cheesy Polish TV show adaptation Wiedźmin (PL: The Witcher) in 2002 were influential enough for a then up-and-coming Polish computer game industry to have a crack at bringing the saga to life. Warsaw-based CD Projekt Red released the first Witcher game in 2007 and garnered more attention with Witcher II: Assasin of Kings in 2011. However, it was the multi award-winning Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, released in 2015, that really gave the franchise its international following and the momentum to have another series on Netflix. Within the homeland itself, the game had such a cultural impact that Geralt of Rivia even appeared on postal stamps!

Much like the books, steeped in Slavic traditions and folklore as well as some uniquely-Polish elements influencing the politics on The Continent (the world in which the saga takes place), the game have drawn upon real places in Poland to bring Sapkowski's uniquely-crafted universe to life. Just of these many sources of inspiration that can be found in The Wild Hunt is our beloved city of Gdańsk.

If you want to know more about other locations in Poland that have made their way into the game and Netflix series:
Read the full blog post.

The Free City of Novigrad is The Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk)

The name says it all! Though it goes beyond just a nod to the interwar name of Gdańsk. The main city in Witcher III: The Wild Hunt is a major port on the continent, within the Kingdom of Redania (yet maintaining independence) with a multi-ethnic community of humans, elves and dwarves and a Red-and-Gold crest topped with a crown. These are just a few of the minor details that you would only pick up if you were familiar with Gdańsk history. There are, however, several more tangible elements that you would pick up if you had visited Gdańsk Old Town before playing the game and visa versa.

Hierarch Square in Novigrad featuring Prussian Wall architecture, which is also prevalent in ​​​​​Gdańsk Old Town locations, like Granary Island.
Prussian architecture is most prevalent in the north of Poland, most of which is found in Gdańsk.

 

Novigrad Coat of Arns
  Coat-of-Arms
    of Novigrad
     Coat-of-Arms of
The Free City of Danzig

Direct inspiration for each kingdom on The Continent are still debated to this day, however there is no doubt that the Nilfgaardian Empire is, at least in part, a reference to the German Empire and Kingdom of Prussian that occupied Northern Poland in centuries past. In the game, the Germanic language and representing-colours of Nilfgaard are a bit of a giveaway. Nilfgaard are at war with The Kingdom of Redania, reigned over by the rather Slavic-sounding Radovid the Fifth, is a little more obscure. In one way, the geography of the continent would suggest that they are Poland and the representing colours and crest certainly would point towards that.

Others have suggested that Redania represents The Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th Centuries when Poland had been partitioned by both Russian and Prussia, which would comfortably fit the earlier Nilfgaard explanation. In this instance, a non-existent Poland is represented by the conquered Kingdom of Cintra or even Temeria or Kaedwin. As for names, a theory exists that 'Redania' was inspired by the Radunia River and Canal that runs through Gdańsk.

     Coat-of-Arms of
The Free City of Danzig
Black, Yellow and White crest of Prussia.
Crest of Redania,
a white eagle on red.
Crest of Redania,
featuring a white eagle on red.

The Crane on Novigrad Docks

The most obvious influence over the city design of Novigrad, the Crane is often synonymous with Gdańsk and, undoubtedly, the most unique structure in the city. As you can see, the one in Novigrad is not quite the same but the mechanics are virtually-identical. Much like you would see when visiting the long waterfront in Gdańsk, the replica galleons that ferry tourists around are obvious influences that Novigrad has also used docks! The historic Danzig Bowke are an obvious inspiration to the drunken sailors that harass you for coin and regularly cause fights. 

The Crane on Novigrad's Docks
Gdańsk's iconic Crane on the long waterfront
Interestingly enough, the game's concept art developed by Andrzej Dybowski revealed that the intention was to incorporate more of a prussian wall look up the top. This refers to the half-timbered outside-frame look, which is most prominent in the north of Poland due to the Prussian and German influence of the region. It is not surprising that Dybowski is a native of Sopot, the son of an Architect and completed a Master in Architecture degree at Gdansk Technical University. Back to how the crane turned out: Ultimately the game artists opted for a simpler look! 
                                                                              Concept art by Andrzej Dybowski for the Crane on Novigrad docks.

The Prussian Wall 'look' in Novigrad

Other examples of prussian wall architecture can be found all over Novigrad. The architectural style is distinct from other locations in the game, which have drawn upon other influences. It purposefully contrasts from, for example, the brick and red-tile-friendly Oxenfurt or the Scandi-influenced island of Skellige. Again, we can thank Pan Dybowski​​​​​​​ for representing this rather Pomeranian architectural flavour in the game!
Prussian walls in Novigrad market square
Concept art for Novigrad
by Andrzej Dybowski.
Novigrad Fish Market

Whilst there are no equivalents in Gdańsk Old Town, notable buildings with this architectural style include Granary Island, the Millers' Guild House and the Ołowianka Inn.

 

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