GOT Fans Special: Will true fans of the series travel to Srinagar for the Iron Throne experience?
Srinagar, August 21, 2018: The war of the five kings couldn't solve the conflict that Kamran Wani and his team have set out to resolve. While Indian fans of the George RR Martin epic sit tight in anticipation of the final season in 2019, a family of Kashmiri restaurateurs have come up with an elegant solution - they have recreated Winterfell in our own northern province - Kashmir.
"Kashmiris hail from the north, have distinctive features, and are generally privy to a struggle quite similar to what the Starks have been depicted to go through", says Kamran Wani - who launched Winterfell cafe with his brother Ummar in December, 2016. He maintains that there are subtle similarities between the situation in J&K and the conflict that keeps the citizens of Westeros in perpetual peril.
Winterfell normally brings to mind a dark, gloomy and cold town as depicted in the internationally viral HBO series ‘Game Of Thrones’. Some fans will argue that the town of Winterfell is just as important as its pivotal characters. Today, Indian travel enthusiasts have a chance to visit Winterfell in Srinagar. On the banks of the famous Dal Lake, 'Winterfell Cafe' stands tall, thanks to two brothers who were so inspired by the series that they took it upon themselves to recreate the Winterfell experience for residents and tourists alike.
A fleeting reference to the cafe's existence got me interested in unearthing more about this unique eatery. It wasn't too difficult to spot, and I finally set foot inside Winterfell cafe in June, 2018. A narrow lane on the main road across ghat number five on Dal Lake leads to the cafe, which is large enough to seat a crowd of forty people comfortably. That kind of makes the place perfect for people planning red wedding-themed bachelor/bachelorette parties!
Visitors are greeted with four prominent banners, representative of the four prominent houses - those of the Starks, the Lannisters, the Targaryens and the Barathoens. And the steps that lead to the first floor (where the cafe seats visitors), are full of framed references to some immortal quotes from the series.
The prime attraction, however, is a true replica of the famous Iron Throne, a symbol of penultimate authority within the GOT universe.
Kamran, on a little prodding, was candid enough to reveal that he was peronsally involved in the design of the replica throne, and how he got craftsmen from Srinagar to execute this masterpiece without any additional logistics, is a story in itself.
Winterfell Cafe is not your regular hangout zone. The Wani brothers have extended their thematic hospitality to local and global performers, as a platform to support the talent of budding artists, including musicians (Ali Saifuddin and MIB - Fallen Rockers have performed at the cafe), poets, social activists, painters and more.
The cafe's eclectic menu serves as a fantastic extension of the Winterfell charm, comprising mouth-watering alfredos, piping hot lattes, and iced shakes for bravehearts.
When I jokingly asked Kamran about the choiciest iced beverages that people opt for, he was quick to retort.
"Why, KitKat Oreo shakes and Popcorn Caramel blends, of course!"
A life-sized portrait of Jon Snow smiled stoically at us from the wall across the room, as we continued our chat. He clearly knows nothing about Oreo shakes.
Kamran Wani resonates the spirit of both a postmodern Indian consumer and a fierce entrepreneur who knows how to keep his audiences engaged.
"I might write a column about this, you know!" - I dropped a hint as I was about to step out. "I'll send you pictures!" came the response.
Was my experience as magical as I thought it would be? Absolutely. More than that, it gave me a whole new perspective about thematic references from the series that apply so well to our lives today. Or according to the Wani brothers, at least to the native populace of Kashmir.
So, when are you planning your trip?
Note: The images used in the article have been clicked by Xayd Bhat for Gayatri and The Times Blog.