Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I should've made a left turn at Albequerque...

Hmmm... Blighted landscape at twilight... Foreboding clouds... mist enshrouded valleys... isolated and huddled village... Knife point cliff with a decaying fortress that thrusts up into the sky in a defiant gesture... Must be Castle Dracula! Of course. We've all seen it a thousand times. How could we not recognize it?
Except this is Castle Dracula -- or is it? Well, the Romanian government wants you to think it is. It's Bran Castle and if what the realtors say is true, that it's all about location, location, location... Then this must be the place. The castle is a medieval fortress situated on the border of Wallachia and Transylvania -- yes, Virginia, there is a Transylvania. The place has an impressive history. The original fort on the site from 1212 was a stronghold for the Teutonic Knights. By 1378, it was a frontier fort keeping the invading Turks in check. In the modern age, it was a residence of the Romanian royal family, a branch of the Hapsburgs, until their overthrow by Communist forces after World War II.

Did you notice something? Not only did I say nothing of nightfiends stalking the corridors in search of blood, I didn't even mention the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes, known as The Impaler. Yet during Communist rule, this was the Official Home of Dracula. Yep, a Commie Tourist Trap. Let's face it, if you're Communist Romania, what do you have to offer? That's right, nothing but Dracula. There are no other exports, and no other good reasons to visit the country. Near the end of the Communist era, they were actually doing a pretty good business in Dracula tourism, even if it did pander to those who expected elegant men in evening dress and opera capes rather than Medieval Warlords. There was good reason for this, by the way. Fantasy vampires -- bloodsucking ghouls though they may be -- have more in common with Communist dictators than freedom fighting heroes struggling against tyrannical invaders-- which is the reputation Vlad has among the Eastern Europeans.
When the Communists were overthrown, the democratic government had little choice but to continue the sham. At least they were friendlier toward the annual convention of Dracula scholars and buffs. They also made some efforts to present a picture of the historical Dracula, which has been buried under tons of myth thanks to Bram Stoker's fictional version. With so many eager to link the Factual Vlad with the Fictional Count, the worst stories about Vlad Tepes were the most often repeated. Scholars are currently debating a more balanced view of the Wallachian prince in which certain atrocities attributed to him may well have been mere propaganda to scare the Turks.
Of course, you still have to wonder about a man who spread stories about himself dining amid a forest of his impaled enemies while listening to their screams as dinner music. "Children of the night. What music they make..." indeed.


In any event, the Hapsburgs recently won back their property rights to Bran Castle and have put the place up for sale for a cool $77M. And, if a remember correctly, for an extra $10M they'll throw in all the furnishings -- give or take a coffin or two. I'm sure they'll find a buyer. There are certain people who think it is cool to own a house with a real ghost story attached, or even a house in which a murder took place. (Last time I checked, there was a fmaily living in the alleged Amityville Horror house.) Reputations don't come creepier than this. I think Tom Cruise needs someplace to hide Katie and their spawn...


You have to admit, this place looks cool. But it's entirely too well kept to be a proper home for the King of Vampires. For the kind of decay you'd expect, you have to visit Poienari Castle in deep Wallachia. And coincidentally, Poienari was used as a residence by Vlad Tepes. And it's much harder to reach. It's isolated on top of a dagger-edged ridge line covered by a wilderness of trees in which wolves use to roam. The population is sparse in this wild country, and the peasants are a superstitious lot. It's not the kind of place tourists like to visit, you see... Unless they are the kind of tourist who only travels at night...




3 comments:

WingLess Avian said...

Hey that really helped me because my class is doing a report on different countries and I have Romania. Im looking at pictures and the picture that came up ws the castle. we also have to gather pics... Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally...I am from Walachia, Romania... and i don't agree with u fuking red neck that thinks we are a wild country..moron

jrf said...

Anonymous:

Thank you for visiting. Your grasp of English grammar is fine. Your spelling, however, is atrocious. Also, you seem to have a very limited grasp of English literature, or you might recognize the concept of "poetic license."

Thanks for reading and commenting.

@ WingLess Avian (?)
You should also recognize the concept of poetic license. I hope you are more discriminating in your academic research than to believe everything you read on the Internet. This is a blog. It has an occassional staff of one (1). I do attempt some research before I write up these posts, but I don't have time to check all my facts (or I might've responded with comparing the GDP of Romania to say, Mississippi for Mr. Anonymous). Using the pictures is fine, but I hope you cross-checked my other "facts" before you used them in a school paper.

...yeesh...