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A Visit to Belfast

Earlier this month, I posted about our experience at the Dublin Worldcon and the Belfast Eurocon. But in Belfast, I had the opportunity—courtesy of Northern Ireland Tourism, who’ve invited us to see the “Game of Thrones Territory” twice before; the first of these is recorded here—to do a bit more than just convention events. Not only did I get to visit the Belfast leg of the Game of Thrones Exhibition and the Glass of Thrones stained glass monuments placed at notable locations within the city.

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I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a similar exhibit once before, four years ago in Stockholm, but that was at an entirely smaller scale than the touring exhibition as it now exists. An incredible range of costumes, armor, and other items like larger props were on display. The weapons and armor in particular always strike me as particularly interesting, so I’ve focused on those in this collection of images. Here, you see a close-up detail of Heartsbane, the Valyrian steel sword of House Tarly.

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Euron Greyjoy became a part of the show with the sixth season, and I have to admit his ax was a pretty neat design. Referencing the bearded ax which was a staple of Scandianvian early medieval warfare, it incorporates the kraken that’s part of the Greyjoy arms.

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Gregor Clegane’s armor was on display, which I believe was last seen in season 4. Its a design that managed to stay relatively unchanged from the first season, when a similar suit was worn by the original Ser Gregor, Conan Stevens. I don’t believe the season 2 Clegane armor, which was basically a version of the standard Lannister soldier armor, has ever been displayed, but elsewhere in this exhibition the “Robert Strong” Kingsguard armor was prominently shown.

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As one wanders the exhibition, one of the aspects that makes it stand out from previous exhibitions is the work to theme each area a bit, most notably at the start when one passes through a “weirwood grove” heavy with mist. This dragon skull was at the entrance to a much larger collection of the skulls produced for the final seasons of the show, representing those beneath the Red Keep which Robert had taken down from the throne room. This was a unique part of the Belfast exhibit, not to be repeated anywhere else because the large skulls are fragile and cannot be shipped around easily. The skulls ranged in size from that of a small dog’s head to a couple of truly monstrous examples which were probably intended to represent the dragons of Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters.

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Besides costumes and weapons and props, there were a handful of photo opportunities such as the one shown here with Ned Stark’s sword, Ice. Another allowed you to pose with Needle, and another still to try and replicate Jon Snow’s last stand at the opening of the Battle of the Bastards.

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The next day, I was given a guided tour of the Glass of Throne monuments. Each features iconic images from the series. The first, outside of Belfast’s city hall (which has its own, quite beautiful stained glass windows that are worth checking out), is devoted to the Starks.

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The second of the stained glass windows is located outside Waterfront Hall, quite close in fact to the venue for Eurocon. This one had particularly vivid colors, featuring the wildfire explosion that consumed the Great Sept of Baelor and “Robert Strong”.

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At the Lagan Weir footbridge, Melisandre of Asshai dominates in a stained glass monument to House Baratheon.

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This is a detail from the especially impressive monument to House Targaryen, with Daenerys sending down a column of fire from Drogon and other images related to her. This one is outside the SSE Arena, at Odyssey Point.

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Outside the berth of the SS Nomadic, a former tender now turned museum that had ferried passengers to the RMS Titanic, is the chilly monument devoted to the White Walkers with the doomed Hodor as its centerpiece.

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And last but not least, the Iron Throne stands at the end of the Titanic Slipway, within sight of Paint Hall and its mysterious sets for Jane Goldman’s pilot. Unlike the others, this one features a seat so one can sit on the throne. I think at the time this photo was taken, I was pointing out some of the arms of the great houses that surrounded it.

My understanding is that the stained glass features will remain up and available for tourists to visit for years to come, rather than being temporary installations. The Game of Thrones exhibition has closed its Belfast leg, however, and will re-open in Madrid (less the dragon skulls!) in October. However, a much more permanent and apparently elaborate exhibition will present itself next year, as we noted in April with the announcement that Linen Mill Studio will host a Game of Thrones studio tour beginning in Spring 2020. Should be an exciting destination for fans of the show, and we hope to have more details about it in the coming months.

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