At some point, every fan of HBO's "Game of Thrones" or George R.R. Martin's series "A Song of Ice and Fire" has fantasized about visiting Westeros, the fantastical continent on which most of the action in the series takes place. The scenery and architecture seems so much more beautiful, and the lives of the Westerosi so much more dramatic and exciting, than they do on plain old Earth.
But for all it's imaginary natural beauty, Westeros affords its denizens lives that are, for the most part, nasty, brutish and short. They face all the calamities faced by Europeans in the Middle Ages, but also clash with dragons, warlocks and ice zombies. Also, Westeros doesn't exist.
One place that does exist: Northern Ireland. And that's where pretty much any outdoor scene in "Game of Thrones" is filmed -- plus many of the interior scenes, too. True, the region has its own tragic history of violence, but at least you won't have to worry about any fire-breathing dinosaurs.
The connection hasn't escaped the attention of many "Game of Thrones" fans, who have already started to visit the U.K. to get a glimpse of the landscape they love from TV. Several companies even offer tours of locations used on the show.
And in recent weeks, Northern Ireland has been looking even more like Westeros than normal. That's because Tourism Ireland, which promotes tourism in both Northern Island and the Republic of Ireland, has been placing "Game of Thrones" memorabilia, such as dragon eggs and sign posts to prominent Westeros locations, in picturesque spots around the island in an effort to drum up excitement among the fanbase.
Since "Game of Thrones" fans become more numerous and devoted with each passing season of HBO's show, there's a good chance this campaign will help boost Northern Irish tourism in the same way that "Lord of the Rings" boosted tourism in New Zealand.
It should be noted, though, that Northern Ireland is just one of four places where "Game of Thrones" is now filmed: Iceland stands in for The Wall and the wilds beyond, Spain stands in for Dorne, and Croatia stands in for King's Landing, Meereen and a few other cities in Essos. So if you care more about the Martells or Daenerys than you do about Sansa or Brienne -- and, hey, no shame in that -- these stunts might not excite you one bit.
Here are a few of the ways Northern Ireland is promoting itself with "Game of Thrones":
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