Sunday, August 21, 2011

Romania, Where Count Dracula Still Lives

In Romania, Count Dracula, the Master of the Dark, is alive and well. Part of Romanian tourism thrives on this popular vampire. Although not an original character of Romanian folklore, Bram Stoker’s character has been forever linked to Romania. And, by the looks of it, the link between Romania and Dracula may never be broken.

The Count Dracula-Vlad III Connection

In 1897, Bram Stoker wrote a novel about Count Dracula, a resident of Transylvania. Many believe that Stoker based his blood sucking, nocturnal character on Vlad III who ruled Wallachia and fought the Ottoman Turks sometime in the middle of the 15th century. Vlad III was also known as Vlad Tepes, Prince Vlad, Vlad Dracula and more notoriously, Vlad the Impaler. Tepes actually means “impaler.” This adjective was used to describe Vlad’s propensity to display his victims while impaled on stakes.

The name Dracula is historically linked to a band of knights who called themselves the Order of the Dragon. Vlad II, the father of Vlad III, was a member of this order. The emblem used by the order was that of a dragon with wings extended and hanging on what appears to be a cross. When Vlad II became ruler of Wallachia, he used the dragon symbol on his coinage and was known as Vlad Dracul which translates to Vlad the Dragon. Vlad III was known as the son of the dragon or Vlad Dracula. In Romanian language, it is worthwhile to note that “drac” is the term used to mean “devil.”

Vlad III was definitely blood thirsty for he tortured his victims not only by impalement but also by cutting off their limbs, blinding them, cutting off their ears and/or noses, mutilating their sex organs, nailing nails to their heads, strangling them, burning them, exposing them to wild animals or to the elements, scalping their heads and skinning them. Vlad III’s victims came from all social classes and age groups; many coming from Transylvania and Wallachia. It is no wonder then that Bram Stoker found inspiration in Wallachia’s one-time ruler, Vlad III.

Capitalizing on Count Dracula

Today, Romania thrives on Dracula tours. It is a big money maker for this country located at the junction of Southeastern and Central Europe. A number of tour companies have dedicated themselves to bring tourists around the supposed haunts of the King of the Undead.

Dracula tours run the whole year round. There are day tours, night tours, and tours that last for a few days to more than a week. If you really want to party with Dracula and scare yourself out of your wits, spend Halloween in Romania. Some activities you can expect are: seeing the rituals followed by the brave when killing a vampire; tasting Tokaj, Dracula’s wine of choice to serve his unfortunate guests; listening to a Romanian ethnographer who will introduce you to fantastic creatures of Romanian folklore; dining on Jonathan Harker’s (a main character in Bram Stoker’s novel) menu while he was in Bistrita citadel; staying at Dracula’s Castle; visiting legendary Transylvanian castles; and joining the Halloween Party held at Sighisoara Citadel.

When you go to Romania, do not expect to see Christopher Lee in character as Count Dracula. But do expect that there are more than enough Dracula impersonators to keep you terrified and amused at the same time. Go on a Dracula tour but at the same time, see and experience the other sites and activities Romania has to offer. After all, Romania is a beautiful country dotted with unforgettable destinations and one-of-a-kind attractions.

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