Vitoria: the white city of Kraken crimes

There are many ways of getting to know Alava and, especially, Vitoria, but one of the best may be to follow in the footsteps of the protagonists of the literary trilogy of the white city. “Twin Murders: The Silence of the White City”, “Los ritos del agua” and “Los señores del tiempo” are the three novels written by Eva García Sáenz de Urturi, whose plot is mainly set in the province of Alava and its capital.  

Beyond its plot, the role played by the city in these books is fundamental and, therefore, it was also fundamental for its adaptation to the cinema, which was carried out by Atresmedia with the collaboration of the Vitoria-Gasteiz Film Commission. The plot takes us from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, in a portrait of Alava society through its way of life, its folklore and its history. 

Incidentally, although so far only the first novel in the saga has been made into a film, the adventures of its characters continue in other books that we hope will also be reflected in audiovisual fiction. The latest of these, “The Angel of the City”, connects Vitoria with another film setting: Venice.

Vitoria: white, green and medieval

But, let’s go back to Vitoria. For any reader of the trilogy who wants to get to know the real settings of the plots, the city council proposes a route that will allow them to follow the investigations of Kraken (Inspector Ayala) on the hunt for ritualistic killers. In the film adaptation of “The Silence of the White City” (2019), Javier Rey, Belén Rueda and Alba Garrido starred in this thriller, in a filming that we invite you to relive through the different locations of the city.

Santa María Cathedral, in the background of the square of the same name / Erredehierro.  Vitoria- Gasteiz Film Commission

Without a doubt, the cathedral of Santa María is the perfect starting point.  The old quarter, also known by its oval shape as the “medieval almond”, is made up of streets that recall the artisan trades that used to be based there: Blacksmiths, Shoemakers, Cutlers (the latter is the wine street, an experience not to be missed). 

A stroll through this area will allow you to contemplate the oldest and most unique buildings in the city. Behind the cathedral are two of its most iconic spots: the Portalón, a beautiful medieval inn, and the Torre de los Anda. Kraken’s route also takes us to the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, the nerve centre of Vitoria and a witness to life in the city. This is where Unai lives and where some of the most exciting scenes of the film take place. The White City route ends at the green ring, a perimeter route that connects ten of the city’s parks and makes Vitoria one of the green capitals of Europe.

Rioja alavesa and mountains of Cantabria

Urturi’s books also take us to other emblematic places in the province of Álava. In the municipality of Lagrán is the village of his grandfather, Villaverde, a refuge for Unai and his brother and a recurring place in the story of Kraken. 

There are details that remind Kraken of where he is when he visits Villaverde: “the smell of Bernedo bread that had been toasted on the grate of the wood-fired oven”. Bernedo is an attractive destination for nature lovers, in the heart of the Izki Nature Reserve. It is well worth a visit to one of the villages in this municipality, Markinez, with its artificial caves of hermitage origin and the Romanesque chapel of San Juan, declared a national monument of the Basque Country.

Javier Rey and Belén Rueda during the shooting of the film / Samantha López. Vitoria-Gasteiz Film Commission

One of the highest points in the Sierra de Cantabria is the peak known as San Tirso. Nearby is the rock known as the Bonete de San Tirso and the hermitage that gives its name to the crag, carved into the rock.

The beautiful town of Laguardia, emblem of the Rioja Alavesa, is another obligatory stop to follow the adventures of the protagonists. Strolling through its stone streets you can find its great landmarks: the church of Santa María de los Reyes (one of those Gothic jewels with an intact polychrome portico), the Torre Abacial (a privileged viewpoint), the Celtiberian pond (a water reservoir built 2,000 years ago), and the automaton clock in the Plaza Mayor (you can see it ticking every hour). But the best thing about Laguardia is its atmosphere. Being a land of wineries and good food, no matter what time of year you visit, there is always something to do.

Filming of “Twin Murders: The Silence of the White City” / Samantha López. Vitoria-Gasteiz Film Commission

The next stop on Kraken’s route through Alava is the Aizkorri-Aratz massif. Formerly known as “the border of evildoers” due to the continuous clashes and robberies that took place in these mountains between the inhabitants of Alava and Guipuzcoa. It is a landscape of limestone mountain ranges and endless beech forests whose main accesses are in the town of Araia in Alava and the municipalities of Oñati and Zegama, both in Guipúzcoa. It is undoubtedly a place that will delight all nature lovers.

Two film locations a stone’s throw from Álava

Deba and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (in Guipúzcoa) complete the tour of the settings that appear in the White City trilogy. Gaztelugatxe needs no introduction for lovers of screen tourism. Since the “Game of Thrones” team chose it to represent Rocadragon, this beautiful coastal enclave has become world famous. 

Deba is one of the most beautiful villages on the Basque coast. Surrounded by cliffs, geological peculiarities, quiet coves and beautiful beaches, it is an ideal area for hiking. For readers of the saga, it has another meaning. That is what they call their daughter Unai and Alba. 

We hope this guide will serve as inspiration for your next trip to this part of Spain, where literature, cinema, legends and tradition intermingle in a series of exciting stories. What are you waiting for to experience what you see?

By María Parcero

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