When someone distant future explores the legacies of human civilization and randomly digging in Northern Ireland, it could be that he wonders what those gods and rulers who was once worshiped here: three-eyed raven, a dark king with bright blue eyes , scaly dragons, octopuses and giant wolves – all remains of a powerful narrative that has developed a life of its own, as it was probably only the “Star Wars” saga or the “Lord of the Rings” brought.
Shortly after nine, Ballygally Castle, today a four-star hotel five kilometers north of the Northern Irish town of Larne, is still having breakfast. It is a time that is rarely associated with murder and manslaughter, although Northern Ireland’s national breakfast “Ulster Fry” (sausage, thickened bacon, fried eggs, mushrooms, half fried tomato, soda) is recommended for its content, if you have planned a conquest campaign, a siege battle or at least a foray on the same day. In front of the breakfast room a group of tourists gathered. They set their phones’ cameras on a massive beechwood door decorated with carvings. Above, a wolf’s face, swords, axes, and below a skinned man, nailed upside down on a St. Andrew’s cross, flanked by two teeth-splashing Mastiffs. An elderly couple approaches and makes his way through the group to pass unmoved by the martial door. She nods friendly: “Lovely, is not it.”
Initiates know without explanation what can be seen on the door: the coats of arms of the houses Stark and Bolton from the series “Game of Thrones”, which is based on George RR Martins book series “The song of ice and fire” and in which the big ones Noble houses of “Westeros” are located in a never-ending beating around the Iron Throne. The series, which was largely filmed in Northern Ireland, has given the long-neglected northern part of the island a huge boost since its premiere in 2011. Tourism Northern Ireland estimates that more than one hundred and twenty thousand visitors come each year to visit at least part of the 49 outdoor rehabs.
Since 2011, pubs and hotels have also scented their opportunity. In addition, the series created a huge job market for the locals. Hardly anyone from the taxi driver to the guide to the barman who does not know one who has held a bow, a shield or a sword in the camera as an extra. Many who started as interns at “Game of Thrones” are now on film productions all over the world, producer Bernadette Caulfield recently told the European premiere of the first episode of the eighth season in Belfast.
The marketing goes on so many levels – bus tours, jogging tours, “Location Experiences”, Medieval Festival, a traveling exhibition , which is just starting at the Titanic Exhibition Center in Belfast – that it is difficult to escape the circus. But hardly anyone who asks around the locations, complains. They are pragmatic here. After the dark ages and the escalation of violence between Protestants and Catholics in the late sixties, Northern Ireland has long been a scarred country. Tourists even after the end of the “Troubles” drove mostly to the safe and gentler south.