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Was Dracula A Monster?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 9

America's first encounter with Transylvania was when Bram Stoker published his famous Dracula. For a long time Transylvania was nothing more than a mythical country ran by a terrible vampire whose existence depended on his victims.

The first time that myth was demystified was in the 1970s when two professors of History, Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally wrote a book called “In search of Dracula and other vampire stories”.

I am not going into discussing the book right now, however it is enough to say that the two History professors, Radu Florescu being Romanian by birth (he was teaching in Boston at that time) and McNally did a very good job at presenting Transylvania as a real geographical presence with a long history.

Depending to whom one listens, Transylvania is either a territory with German, or Hungarian or Romanian origins. Truth being said, it is all of the above. For a long time it belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, as integral part of Hungary.

Its History starts though long time before the Hungarians took over its administration. Even the name Transylvania is deriving from Latin, meaning “over the forest”. When the Romans crossed the Danube and moved North, crossing the thick forest (sylva) they established settlements reaching a few hundred miles over the Carpathian forests.

Those were the places where the Romanian cultures started to take roots. In the ninetieth century a nomadic population of Hun decent settled West of today Transylvania on the Pannonia plane. Those populations eventually emerged as the Hungarian people. The Hungarian kingdom fell under the Austrians and eventually the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was formed.

In the same time, Germanic populations were trying to colonize the borders of the Empire and they settled along the Western sides of the Carpathians developing into independent communities of German origins and German culture.

The predominant population in Transylvania has been the newly formed Romanians however the Hungarians were the second majority in numbers.

Along the centuries, Hungarian and Romanians were a typical sample of nationalist stupidity, fighting with each others and being a pray to the ruling powers from the West. The Germans were not as prominent, although at times they had their contributions...

Actually Transylvania is the terminology to define the territory stretching from the Carpathian arch all the way to the administrative border with Hungary to the West. The central part of Transylvania is a plane situated at a higher altitude about 600 m.

This particular region is called Ardeal in Romanian, or Erdély in Hungarian or Siebenbürgen in German.

It is a terrific country with wonderful people, no matter what ethnicity they have. When I was a little kid I learned that it was very wise when traveling in the area as a Romanian to know exactly where you were. In the Hungarian areas it was good to pass for anything else than as a Romanian. In the Romanian areas it was good to pass only as a Romanian, while in the German areas was accepted to be anything you wanted, but if you spoke German it was perfect no matter what you really were...

In the Hungarian only villages or cities, everything was written in Hungarian from the street names to the shop signs, and most of the people were totally averse at helping if you spoke Romanian. If you tried any other language, all of a sudden they jumped to help you. Truth being said, a lot of them did not speak Romanian at all. The funny part was that their school books were the same school books we used in our school, however they were in Hungarian, and they were taking Romanian as a second language if they really wanted to.

During my Military service, I so happened that I was dispatched in Transylvania and I had a lot of interfacing with ethnic Hungarians. Most of them learned Romanian in the service... Once they could communicate they were very nice and warm people. I had made a few friends and I learned a lot of things from them, as much as they learned from me. The interesting part was that they had the same jaundice view of us as we had of them, but when we started talking, we made the same jokes, we had the same background and we swore in the same crazy ways...

Dracula apart, the region is a real mix of cultures and a universe on its own.

Unfortunately after the Communist break up people of all ethnicity went mad and they let go a lot of frustration accumulated for years. Reading some of the papers today though, it seems that things are going towards the better, even if they are taking back steps at times.

My father was a TV producer whose specialty was folklore and I had the chance to travel with him all over the country and I was witness to a lot of cultural events that a common citizen was not able to, mostly because of the ease of travel for economic reasons.

I also had the chance to travel on my own for about four years as a tour guide for national travel agency.



I think that before I get to Transylvania and Dracula I have to start with the beginning. How I got involved in the Dracula story.

In the seventies, Dracula was not really known in Romania and whatever was known was as against the national pride concept as it could get. Of course the party line was that the story was an aberration invented by a Brit who did not really play with a full deck of cards... Actually it was not a good idea to talk about it, if one wanted to have a safe future. The “nomenclatura” as well as the strong “nationalists”, Romania has always been full of them, were enough reason to stay away from the subject.

Dracula was one of an intelligentsia's preoccupation, those who were more likely to have imagination and education to understand a legend...

I was working for the National Travel Office at the time, and there were rumors that Dracula was a good money-making proposition. As long as we kept our “Romanian integrity and dignity” and we did not “succumb to the Capitalistic decadence”, there was no harm done in getting the money from some “crazy imperialists who were so dumb to believe in untrue legends and had the money to spend”...

What started the new trend was Radu Florescu's book published by an American University, “In search of Dracula and other vampire stories) which was trying to demystify Dracula and to revert the attention to Vlad Tepes, the historical character, and Ceausescu's mood change. He was getting older and wiser probably, no way...

Now, don't anyone think that the book was translated in Romania at the time. Radu Florescu although had the right ideas was after all a defector. He was living in America and to make a bad situation even worse, he claimed to be a descendent of one of the rebellious nobles against Tepes, known in Romanian as boier ( boyars ), punished to work on Easter Day. Not only to work on Easter Day which was considered a mortal sin in Greek Orthodoxy, but he, together with the rest of conspirators were carrying stones up the hill to build the castle at Poienari.

In 1972 from the foothills to the top where the castle was there were 1453 steps that had to be climbed. Originally the boyars had to walk the almost mile on a mountain path...

In the nineteen thirties, Radu Florescu as a young scholar of History, participated in archeological digs as Snagov Monastery near Bucharest where the legend had it that Vlad Tepes was buried.

So, after all the book was a good start for some really good marketing tool. Besides, it was the time when Americans had a lot of disposable income and they had the willingness to spend it for strictly romantic purposes...

I was able to get my hands on a copy it just so happened that I was assigned to a group of tourists from Sweden who wanted to ski on one of the famous ski slopes in Romania. Frankly there were plenty of other slopes in Europe at that time, much better run that the particular one in Predeal, the Romanian equivalent of St, Moritz in Switzerland, however it was much, much, much more affordable for the very lower end of the middle classes from Europe. Actually two weeks in Romania were about half the cost of a comparable package in Western Europe for one week.

Predeal is a locality in the Carpathians along the Prahova passage about one hundred and fifty km North of Bucharest. This particular slope was about a mile long and at its top, some 6300 feet, there was a nice hotel where the group was housed. It was not very steep but steep enough even for a professional skier to have fun.

I had the feeling that I was at Clabucet, the name of the peak, looking down to the city of Predeal, when I was at a rest stop in Montana, crossing over the Continental Divide, looking at the small town of Wallace Idaho. For a second I thought that I was really looking at Predeal...

Lady luck was on my side and as we got up there, a snow storm hit and snowed us in, up at the top, with very limited connections to the world down below. The only way to get there was the cable car which was shut down and in real emergency a special track vehicle used to maintain the slope. But the weather was so bad for three days, that not even those were able to go up or down the hill.

I locked myself in the room with bottles of Florio Marsala and the book. My tourists were interested in drinking, eating, and other “pass the boredom activity” in their private rooms... I am sure that the crop of young Swedish ladies coming to Romanian less for skiing, and more for the local male element were totally disappointed that they had to put up with what they had back at home, but after all a male is a male during a time of boredom, and any woman is a woman, and a real need, turns anyone attractive...

So, not only I read the book from cover to cover, but I had the chance to design an itinerary for the Dracula tour. By the time the storm was over, the connections were established and the slope open, I was done with the reading and the plan on the paper. Useless to say, I did not have too much sleep those days. The adrenaline level in my body was so high, that the alcohol did not stop me from working. I have to mention that Florio Marsala desert is really good. I used to smoke, and the cigarettes, Kent, where burning up in the ashtray without me touching them too much, ... It was intense...

Before I had the project started, I called the office in Bucharest to ask for the itinerary set up by the agency.

Based on the set tour, I laid down the points of interest, what story to tell, what activity to have and how to get the “imperialists' money in an attractive and pleasant way”.

There was one little hurdle that I had to jump over, at the time though; I thought that the idea was so great that I did not really think about letting the guys in the office know about it. When I was done I realized that what I did was great, but it was a product that the world might not be interested in, because they did not know that it existed.

Before I tried to sell it though, I thought that I needed some authority to support me in my endeavor... Back in Bucharest, I went to see a person who I thought could be a help in my project and using his name, I thought that I could secure a place on the Dracula Tour. You see, I was bad at politics, besides, I was kind of tolerated social freak. My record was not really along the party lines. All I did was mostly because I had ideas others did not... My social provenance was not exactly from a working class line. Well, my family was working hard before, but they were not considered “proper workers” they were “exploiters”... Just a short few years before, as a matter of fact, I could not even approach a position like that one working with foreigners, but things had loosened up a bit.

Boy, was it a bad idea. The person that I went to see was Professor Mihai Popp, PhD a folklorist who was in charge of the National Institute of Folklore.

How was I able to reach that guy? Very easy, my father being in the business was a friend and also collaborated with Professor Popp in a few projects before. Actually I knew him personally. I was part of the team a few times. I was still a young lad though, the obnoxious son of a colleague who was only tolerated because of my father. He was the producer-director of the projects...

I called his office , introduced my self, and it seems that my name was a door opener in certain circles... I was very surprised when in a few seconds Professor Popp picked up the phone and asked me in a voice that showed that his opinion of my father was far beyond my expectations, what was the reason for calling him... He even remembered me and the times we spend filming in the country...

He invited me in his office to talk about the matter. I did not tell him what I wanted to talk about, but I told him that I needed his professional opinion for a project that I was working on.

You guys” his response was after I introduced my project, “ this Dracula thing is just an imagination of that Stoker fellow and the tourism industry. There is no one shred of evidence of his existence in the Romanian folklore. The only thing that comes close, but it is not folklore though is Mircea Eliade's Domnisoara Cristina. There are no vampires in the local folklore. We have what is called “strigoi” (ghost) however they don't feed on people's blood, they don't live in a coffin during the day and wonder at night, and they don't turn to ashes if hit by the sun light. They actually are not solid presences, they are more or less like holographic projections with bad manners... We have what is called the “flying man” (Zburator) but those are not blood thirsty characters either. They represent more the coming of age of the young girls when puberty arrives. I wish I could help you with this topic, but I am afraid I can't be of any help. You probably know more about it than I do.”

I mentioned to him about the book and about Professor Florescu, that by the way he knew, he crossed paths with him in the past, but that was all he knew. However he was kind enough to invite me back any time I needed help with something he could help. He mentioned that he always helped my father when he could.

I thanked him, I left and I went back to see him in a few months for a different project, and boy was he helpful...

Now Bucharest was a city of about two million people at the time. Speaking about odds. In the weeks after my visit, I met at the agency a colleague of mine who actually was his grand-daughter. She had the same last name and I threw a line that she took as an attempt to engage a conversation with her. She was nice looking, not my type though, and she had a lot of character, that simple people like me classified as a “stupid bimbo with beautiful eyes”... She confirmed though that she was his grand-daughter and she was curious to know how I met him. I related the stories to her. “Sure”, she said “ that is my grandpa all right, he is a sweet heart”. We worked a few groups together, and she was nice, not trying to pull the bimbo stuff on me... I was nice to her also, and did not hit on her.

Any way, my day with Professor Popp was a total disaster as far as my project went. But I did not get discouraged, I just changed the way of attack, giving up the opportunity to use him as an authority...

The big chief in charge of my section was a guy whom I met on different occasions in the field. He was your typical apparatchiks, never the less a nice guy. He had always been pleasant to me. Probably because I offered him drinks and tried to entertain him when he was inspecting us.

The man was not particularly gifted as far as schooling was concerned, but he had a quality that very few people had at that time. His wife was Nicolae Ceausescu's wife sister. I don't think that their family ties were very strong, his position was not as high as it could have been in the hierarchy but he had a cushy living.

In my book, being decent made him a trustworthy guy.

So, based on my knowing him, one day I called his office. He was famous in the agency for being in his office long before anyone else, so one morning I waited for him to get in, it was around 6:30, I went to a public phone called him and asked him if he wanted to see me. He did not know me by the name, however I think that he was intrigued by the nut who called him with a business matter so early in the morning, and he said “come up”. The door man was already instructed to let me in...

When I entered his office he recognized me. He even offered me a cup of coffee. I was very brief, told him the story with the book, about the project that was about to start and I laid down on his desk the only copy of my project, with all the nice typing, nice hand drawn color maps, with all the menus and the shows proposed. My heart melted when he said that he wanted the copy left with him to see what he could do. It was Romania, long before personal computers color printers and copy machines... Did I have any other choice? I left and I was so worried about the faith of my paper that I could not rest too well for a few days.

About ten days since the meeting, I got a call from my direct boss. Boy was he as red as a lobster after boiling. I was on the phone, but the man was not shy to express his dissatisfaction with me jumping over his head. I went to his office, and before anything else, he asked me how I got to his boss. He could not get to see him unless he was asked to go to see him... My boss wanted to see how far he could go in chopping off my head. One thing was sure though, he could not really chop it off, but he could inflict some serious wounds.

The man upstairs called him in, showed him my paper work and asked him how came that I was not part of the initial team that was already lined up and approved. Of course I was not the proper guy, politically speaking, besides I was not into politics myself, and brown-nosing was not my skill. My boss was a retired Securitate officer, with a very keen survival sense.

Any way, although he was not Jewish and he was not a mother, he tried to give me a very strong Jewish mother guilty feeling. I let him vent his frustration, and in the end, I accepted the assignment without any apology. It was not like he could tell his boss that I turned him down for roughing me up...

Little did I know that in a ten days period the first group on Dracula tour was to arrive. They were travel agents from all over the USA who were giving a sample of what they were going to sell to their
“capitalistic crazies with enough disposable income to blow some our way”...

The man upstairs must have been very impressed with my work, because the boss put me in touch with the project manager and instructed her to give me everything I wanted. After all it was the prototype tour. I must have done a better job than the favorite competitor. Well, while the competitor was good, I know that I did it better. And I knew that putting everything on paper helped... Now if I had a presentation program at the time...

The time left before the tour arrived was very interesting and very busy. I had to call all the restaurants and all the hotels where we were supposed to stay, and pass on to them my requirements for menu and accommodation. I am sure that some of the managers were not really happy, because I had a lot of demands, but if the tour was going to be a success, everything was supposed to be according to the script.

I did not know at the time, but a project management software would have been a real blessing. I had to be my project manager program... Well, except for the Pentagon where the concept was developed, not too many other places in this country had one running on a computer, I mean main frame. But at that time I did not know anything about this.

It was interesting that I was discovering America that the Pentagon already did... Actually my knowledge of computers was not even primordial. I was still on the electromechanical machines, and computers for me were nothing more than some noisy things that ran noisy IBM punched cards.. Speaking about ignorance and backward technology mind... Well that was your Romania at the beginning of the seventies...

The interesting part was that actually the beginning of the tour was not to be in Transylvania, but right in Bucharest.

The city of Bucharest, Bucuresti, was officially funded by Vlad Tepes five hundred years before my story took place. The name of the city, Bucuresti, comes from Bucur a shepherd living in the area when the city was just a simple unknown village, at least according to the legend...

I have always been a sucker for comparative history.

Vlad Tepes was a name who inspired terror in Transylvania, but was a celebrated hero in the South part of the country called Wallachia. He was known to be cruel a little bit sadistic and down right crazy, but the people liked him for his sense of justice and the love for his country, Wallachia.

A name in American history who comes to mind right now is Al Capone. He was a terrible guy a little sadistic and down right crazy, however at the height of the Depression when people were literary starving in the streets, Al Capone was feeding four million Americans in his illegal enterprises of Mob activity. Socially he was an incurable, terminal cancer, however for the million of starving people courtesy of the inhuman economic Depression and “wise Republican leadership” he was a hero.

If anyone of the people reading these lines would like to go visit Romania, or Chicago for that manner, please if you don't want trouble don't badmouth Vlad Tepes in Romania or Capone in Chicago.

You have my blessing though to badmouth Capone in Romania and Vlad Tepes Dracula in Chicago, or the city of Brasov in the Saxon quarters...

Little did I know at the time that I was a little part of history... Today I hear the Romania is full of Dracula stories, memorabilia and a lot of other legends, Bram Stoker did not ever dream of, but this is the way it works.

It is like going to Jerusalem to buy a wooden piece of the cross Jesus was carrying to be crucified on. If one would collect them all and try to assemble them into a real cross, that thing would be the size of all Israel and maybe the arms will cover half of the Mediterranean to the West and half of the Middle East to the East of Israel.

Anyhow, I am talking 1971-1972 when Dracula's image in Romania was not tinted by the touristic distortions...



In 1459, the ruler of the Southern part of today Romania, also called Wallachia or Tara Romaneasca was Vlad, a descendant of the house of Bassarab by his father's and from Hungarian lineage on his mother's.

Vlad's descent has been a thorny subject due to its curious mixture. The combination was not such curious in the historical perspective of the time, however it become dividing if Hungarian, Germans and Romanian tried to settle the ownership of Transylvania.

When Hungry, tried to extend its territory to the South of the Carpathians they were stopped by the populations already established for a few centuries there. The fact that the two worlds were not only interested in territorial ruling, but also in religious dominance did not help the issue either. Transylvania was under Catholic influence, while the South of the Carpathians were established Greek Orthodox turf.

When I went to school in the sixties, the only things we knew about him was that he ruled Wallachia twice, hated thieves , however he tried to keep the Ottomans at bay, continuing the fight his grand father started.

In my exploration through the forbidden closets which contained books that were not really in line with the ideology, and which would have been a reason for jail a few years before I found them, I ran into some interesting stories about Vlad Tepes and his exploits. There was a collection of folk tales on him.

I remembered one about a person who stole some butter from the neighbor. Vlad Tepes ordered a few pounds of hot butter down the thief's throat to make sure that next time he will ask instead of stealing. A different story was about a woman who pretended to be pregnant, ready to give birth almost and she was stealing to feed the baby. Vlad looked at her and she did not seem to be in a late pregnancy stage. He asked her again if she was pregnant ready to deliver and she said yes. So he ordered her belly cut open to make sure that she was pregnant, which she was not, by the way. There were stories about pick pockets, and thieves who met their ends in painful ways.

And than there was the impaling, which were mostly performed on Turks. He hated them and he liked to put them on a stake and watch them die in agony. The legends go that he used to have lunch while doing it. As a matter of fact he was said to have impaled a whole Turkish army which came to depose him.

He would get totally upset if the victim died right the way and did not suffer. The executioner would be next on the stake for not taking his job seriously...

If all these things were true or not, to the extent the legends pretended, it is hard to say. There are no documents supporting them except for some German pamphlets which are the connection between the ruler and the vampire, which in a lot of people's minds were associated with blood sucking. The documents never called Vlad Tepes or King Vlad a vampire, but they called him “blood thirsty”. However there were documents to attest that during this rule, Wallachia was a safe place to be as far as larceny was concerned.

The matter gets confusing considering that Vlad spend most of his young age in Istanbul and in Asia Minor region of Turkey as a hostage of the Sultan. His father, Vlad Dracu was the ruler of Wallachia and the Ottoman Throne wanted to keep peach in the area. His father was kept obedient in order to keep his son alive. While at the High Court, Vlad was properly educated, sent to the prestigious schools of the empire. He was fluent in a few language, Turkish being one of them. During this time as a high level hostage Vlad had the opportunity to become familiar with a lot of the customs of the day which there were a fines of cruelty and mental deviation.

In Romania of the seventies, Stoker's Dracula was a curiosity among those who had access to it, and it was dismissed as a pure poor taste phantasy. Although there was talk about some strange creatures who used to fly and feed on human blood, nothing was made of it. It was a popular belief that bats would do a thing like that, and that is why people were not really fond of them....

Bats were not held at high regards, in spite of their contribution to keeping the environment safe of mosquito. They were as well regarded as the owl was regarded in Scotland where they almost wiped out the owl population due to superstitions, leading to major problems with rodent infestation...

By the way, if you are invaded by mosquitoes during the hot Summer, make some bat houses and place them around your house. Before you know it, you get a colony of the cute little things, and you get rid of the mosquitoes. You better prevent them turning into danger by providing them with the housing.

On I 65 I saw a big sign advertizing the services of a critter chaser, showing the image of a bat which had to be removed from the house. It is amazing how narrow-minded and stupid some people can be... Bats are our friend, and we should keep them around the house. A bat eats each night insects in quantities a few time its weight. They need a lot of energy to fly, thus they eat a lot. It is much safer to have bats around to house for pest control than chemicals.

Bats carry rabies and they may infect you. A few years back, in Wisconsin there was a case of a young girl who was bitten by a little bat and she had an encounter with death. Luckily for her the Children Hospital in Milwaukee was able to save her. Of course the fact turned into platitude, and the media was not interested to follow-up and to let us know how she was doing today...

Anyway, Vlad of the House of Bassarab or Tepes as it was nicknamed, was important in the Romanian History not only for keeping the Trucks at bay but by also signing a property deed for a land buyer mentioning for the first time the locality Bucuresti, Bucharest.

At the time, Bucuresti was just a little village, however in a few years its destiny would turn into something more glorious than a regular lazy plane point on the map.

Vlad's capital was located about fifty miles north of Bucuresti in a locality called Tirgoviste. He would move his official residence from Tirgoviste to Bucuresti. In his life time though, Bucuresti still a small growing village. Its first historical vestiges which are seen even today were built a few years after his death by one of his sons.

For the tour, Bucuresti was a good start to break in the Dracula infested minds of the tourists...

Before Radu Florescu's book a lot of our fellow Americans were convinced that Transylvania was just an imaginary mythical place. His intent was to start from Stoker and to trace step by step how the legend was created. I don't know if when he participated in the archeological digs at the Monastery of Snagov where the tradition has Vlad buried, he did it to debunk that legend, or because he was a Middle Ages scholar and historical facts had to be checked.

I wish I had my books with me instead of the boxes in the storage. I tried to get some facts and I can't really quote sources right now. I tried to run some searches on the web, and I found a lot of “historical” information, unfortunately everything that I am finding is noting more than tourist trash that I tried to stay away from when I was on the job.

I was born in Romania, my first years in school were in Romania. All my primary and secondary and part of the college education took place in Romania but I never heard about Dracula, before I got involved in the tourist business.

According to the present information on the web it seems that Vlad Tepes only existed as a backdrop for Dracula's introduction. I would really have fun to read a translation of the book in Romanian and to talk to some of those school age kids who take pride in their hero Dracula, oh boy oh boy oh boy...

Any way, as far as I am working mostly from memory right now, I have to mention for the interest of fairness that what I am relating is what I gathered through my personal research at the time when I grew up and later on when I was introduced to Dracula...

I want to make this disclaimer, because I noticed that part of the American culture is this “fact checking” and a lot of amateur scholars would crucify me if they read some of what is available on the web these days... I really want to avoid fights...

I am not pretending that I remember everything that I ever studied on the matter, however I promise to relate the facts as much as I got them at the time without being able to recheck sources right now.

In conclusion I would like the serious 'amateur researches' who would find discrepancies between what I relate and the unreliable, bombastic and tourist attracting historical garbage, to give me a slack and to think of may presentations as fiction more than historical truth, as entertainment, rather than claim to scientific work. If they really want to learn history, they should go to the library and read credible documents, not what vivid imaginations are posting in search for business...

Anyway, in my browsing the web I was pleasantly surprised to find a little document, a map which my tour was based on. Of course I originally did not designed the tour, I just picked up what the project manager did. My personal contribution consisted in organizing the events.

There where two variations of the tour, ten days and three weeks. I worked them both. I found the three weeks version tiresome for some Dracula's buffs. The driving to Borgo Pass was very long for the rewards when arriving there.

Bram Stoker was a very good writer with a kin sense to detail, but everything he so nicely presented was nothing but fiction, including the existence of Dracula’s' castle in Borgo Pass.

Borgo Pass is a wonderful place, but geographically speaking the mountains are not breath-taking with high elevations and vertigo creating feelings. They have a very loving hill like views, soothing to the eye and to add insult to injury there is no castle in that place. It is true that archeologist discovered long after the novel was publishes some ruins of an old settlement in that area, however the ruins preceded the story by a few hundred years also. Those driving there for a couple of days were nothing less than annoyed to see nothing from what was expected. ..

A construction similar with the one described in the book was to be found about four hundred miles South West of the Borgo Pass, and not even that was the real thing. The castle at that location though belonged to Vlad Bassarab Tepes' uncle whose, son, Vlad’s cousin on his maternal side was at one time the kind of Hungary and actually ended his first rule of the country.

And if that was not bad enough, the castle which might have looked like Stoker description was not actually located on the same position. It was not located on the top of a hill which took a while to climb and was hidden in the clouds...

There is not to say that such a location related to Vlad Tepes did not exist though. A few miles away from his capital city of Tirgoviste over the mountain in the locality of Poenari in a superb mountain gorge, Vlad Tepes build a castle which was actually high up in the clouds. There was the place where the plotting noblemen were forced to work during the Easter holiday hauling up the mountain on their backs the stones that were used to build the castle.

I really wish I knew at the time the famous commercials running these days on television: “and wait this is not all, for the price of the $19.99 we are going to double the order and you will only pay the shipping and handling”.

After all that was Stoker was actually doing...

Today I hear that there is a hotel over there with a Dracula theme.

Sometime in the seventies the now defunct Pan American Airline opened a hub in Bucharest and with it came the Intercontinental line which built a hotel downtown Bucharest. It was the most modern structure Bucharest had seen up to that point in its five hundred years history. First of all it had twenty some floors and right at the top, it had a couple of restaurants and a swimming pool mostly for the guests. It was a dream come true for Romania, unfortunately the place was mostly off-limits to the locals. Those who could afford the prices at the restaurants could get in, but they could not rent rooms or buy from the dollar shops which were quite popular in the building. Those shops were as exciting to an American as a seven eleven would be when not on the road or in the middle of the night, but for the native common folk there were the forbidden fruit, thus they were very desirable.

Working with the tourist agency I had access to the place, albeit is was not really Kosher because we were not allowed to handle private free currency. No one would bother us though as long as we did not abuse it...

The first group of people who arrived, as I said were tourist agents. They were all from different cities, but mostly they were from New York and LA. There were a some from other states also.

The adventures started right from the airport when I went to pick them up and to bring them in the city. The most common problem then, at it is known are the luggage. No one was limited to the number of pieces they could bring along, however the airlines were not limited to screwing up things either...

The first case was this guy who was totally upset that they did not bring his luggage. He was more upset because at the departure he did not trust any one, and he checked everything himself. By the time I got involved he argued with the ground staff for about half an hour. They were PanAm but they were the Romanian crew, and obviously they had problems handling a guy from Brooklyn hot under the collar.

I started talking to him and after a few minutes I solved the problem. I asked him how many pieces of luggage he had. He told me that he had three. I asked him what kind they were. He told me that they were American Tourister. I also asked him what color they were. He answered that they where blue. Than I asked him where did he checked them in with the travel agent of with the airline. He said that it was the airline. I asked him what airline. He gave me a dirty look and answered PanAm. And I asked him where did he checked them in to. He told me again, with a dirty look, and replied “Budapest”. Very seriously I asked him if he was sure. With the dirty look escalating to killing level he said “sure, I checked them in myself for Budapest”. “OK” I answered, “I assure you that they must be in Budapest, however we are in Bucharest here”... “What is the difference he asked”. “About seven hundred miles and a different country” I answered. “I be damn” he answer, “you are right”.

By that time Mr. Lamulariglia the director of the PanAm Bucharest came and I informed him of the problem. He assured the guy that they will have them in Bucharest next day using a different carrier and although it was his mistake PanAm would take care of the problem. We let the guy go to the bus, however he told me to wait a little because there was a different problem.

This guy Bob, who just so happened to be one of their guys, he was a navigator for PanAm accompanying his wife who was a travel agent, checked his luggage the proper way, but some kind of numb nuts in New York sent them to Bangkok and they could not bring the stuff in before about a week, almost half of the time into the tour. Luckily, they only misplaced his piece not his wife's also. He asked me to take the guy in town to buy whatever he needed. He gave me some money to cover the cost.

Bob and his wife were a real treat. He was Irish, and like any respectable Irish he had red hair, was tall and his face was freckled. However because he was in vacation his doctor prescribed him a regiment of whiskey, and he was ordered to keep the system at a reasonable level all the time. So when we went in town to buy his stuff he asked about a place where he may find good and inexpensive whiskey.

He never used to stay at the same table with his wife during meals, however they shared cigarettes from box kept in his shirt pocket. Whenever his wife needed a cigarette, all we heard was, no matter how many tables away, “Bob”. That very precise second, he would rich for his pack of cigarettes, pull one out and passed it to the person next to him to be passed to the next person until it reached his wife, while he was continuing whatever it he was doing.

It did not take too long before every one in the group was trained, and when she did not have a cigarette for a long time we started to miss the ritual.

The next day after arrival, we went to shop for whatever he needed. We bought toiletries, some underwear and other few things. He was not really stingy, he wanted to stick it to “those idiots on the ground who are doing it all the time.” Flying for PanAm there were plenty of times when they had serious problems with passengers whose pieces of luggage were sent all over the world except to the passenger destination... When we were done he asked me with an embarrassed face where could he “buy some, you know, condoms”... I explained to him that the particular item was a little bit of a problem to find in Romania. They did not really sell them all the time. There was a law against abortions in the country. It did not make sense not to sell the condom, but they did. Apparently Ceausescu wanted to increase the number census, especially the ethnic Romanians and it made it difficult to have abortions... Does it sound familiar for some people around here????




Jul 27, 2013 4:21am
Cheers Crin!

Oh I've read several things over at Hubpages about Vlad Tepes, and they're typically also involving some Romanian folks being very upset with the American or British author for their portrayals of the guy. He sounds like an Old Testament sort of guy to me from the history stuff I've read...no sort of forgiveness for anything at all, just ultimate punishment.

On the other hand, fighting off Islam is a wonderful thing, and something to be commended at ever turn. Letting Islam into a nation where it shouldn't be is an ultimate crime, so I've got mixed feelings concerning what I do know or have read about Vlad Tepes.

That Irish man of yours sounds like a real story teller. I guess if I were forever drinking whiskey I'd say I had a doctor that told me it was for my condition too! Ha!
Jul 27, 2013 7:45pm

History is always complicated, especially when you have a guy like Stoker. Actually, in all honesty he did not have in mind to write about Tepes himself. I doubt that he knew too much about him. When he was a child, till about the age of ten he had a medical condition that made him bad ridden. His mother was giving him books to read to keep him entertained. In his childhood, the topic in fashion was the Gothic novels. Around the middle of the nineteen century, Lord Byron, Shelly and his wife Mary, were spending a vacation in Switzerland around like Geneva, I believe, and they decided to pass their time writing novels with monsters. While Byron and Shelly did not produce anything the survive, Mary had her hit: the story of Frankenstein. It turned into a classic and it was in a way the inspiration behind the monster genre.
Some say that the young Stoker was exposed to those writings, including the master: Edgar Allen Poe.
He was attracted by the Gothic stories, and Dracula was his second novel of this type. He was a journalist and he managed one of his friend's theater most of his life. He was into fiction.
No one can explain Dracula though because his background was not in History and he did not know too much about that part of the world. His closest connection with Transylvania wa a friend, a Hungarian Professor who was from those parts of the world and it is believed he told him a lot of stories. Some of the realistic details in Darcula, were probably recounted by his friend, and this is how he got acquainted with some of the facts he described in the book. Whether he knew about Vlad Tepes himself or not, it is a matter of debate.
His friend was Hungarian born in Transylvania, and it is very possible that he did not have a good report for the Romanian element. It is possible that he did not even know anything about Romanian history more than the legend circulating around. That is the explanation for the vampire association.
You are right. Romanian over all were not too pleased by Dracula. Mostly because they did not understand where it was coming from, than Romanians and Hungarians feuded over Transylvania, and depending on which side you were, the other was horrible.
Actually it was sheer luck that the tours existed at that time. The word from upstairs was that Ceausescu had a fit when he first learned about Dracula and Professor Florescu and McNally' book. No one knows what made his change his mind, however he decided that it would not be a bad idea to make some money, as long as no one insisted on the fiction. We were supposed to spend time on Vlad Tepes not on Dracula...
Well, I never really care about what the directions were, and I followed the books idea and I focused on Dracula to arrive at Tepes.
The truth of the matter is that the Romanian History books did not concentrate on Vlad Tepes too much. I think that his character was talked about more in the forty years from the publication of the book, since he has been talked about since the mid fourteen hundreds to 1972 in Romania.
I think that he had a lot of assets that made him popular, however his half Hungarian origin was not a matter to talk too much about...

As far as Islam is concerned, what can I say? There is a very interesting take of that one also. You see, Europe by Islam means the Ottomans... The Turks. Actually at that time, everyone hated Islam, however the Arab element was not as hated as it is today. At that time that Arab world was under the Ottoman control, and they felt about the Turks, in the same manner the Arabs are today.

If you want to have a group of people totally infuriated today, all you have to do is mention Islam and the Arab world. At that time Islam was a reason of unhappiness, but the Turks were the population equated with Islam.

It is funny how things change, yet they are still the same...
Jul 27, 2013 5:30am
"to think of may presentations as fiction more than historical truth, as entertainment, rather than claim to scientific work" - I am glad You stated this because I am one of those "serious amateur researchers" who was gonna start saying things like: "To talk about the Origins of Romania and Transylvania fara sa vorbim de Daci este o mare rusine." But I guess this is not a serious essay and so we can leave historical facts and data and just talk about bats and tourists LOL

Entertaining read. Thanks for putting together. They have a Dracula Park now I think too - good for tourism, just like this article.

Jul 27, 2013 5:59pm
This comment has been deleted.
Jul 27, 2013 6:01pm

You are saying: "To talk about the Origins of Romania and Transylvania fara sa vorbim de Daci este o mare rusine."

First of all, you have to show some civilized behavior "speak in a language your company can understand" ( "vorbeste o limba pe care societatea o poate intelege"Gaitele-Alexandru Kiritescu)

"To talk about the Origins of Romania and Transylvania fara sa vorbim de Daci este o mare rusine." (to talk about the Origins of Romania and Transylvania without mentioning the Dacians is a real shame)

I totally have to agree with you. However the purpose of this little story down from the memory lane was not the Origins of Romania, nor Transylvania, was the origins of Darcula, which basically does not have anything to do with the history of those places....

If you are patient enough, I will get to that topic also!

Thank you for the comment...
Jul 28, 2013 6:54am
Greetings again,

Thank You for the response to my comment.

There is no need for anyone to feel uncomfortable because like I said in my previous post, I stopped looking for historical relevance when I read: "to think of may presentations as fiction more than historical truth, as entertainment, rather than claim to scientific work". Besides the fact that "may" should be "my", it is clearly stated that this was not a historical essay and it was a written piece which should be regarded as entertainment. Actually, I saw it a bit like a personal story since You talked about stories from your personal life. No harm in that.

And, I also think I showed that I am civilized by writing in languages You understand - the message was for You. : ) Then again, eu sunt Dac and as Dacians (some people may know) we are often talked of as "barbarians", uncivilized people. I highly doubt You were thinking that though ...

The other thing is, I joke around a lot. I may seem serious but in truth I am playing games, seeing how people react to certain comments and so on. Thus, do not take everything very serious all the time, it may not be the case - as my last comment was: a little serious, a little joking ...

Anyway, I am happy to meet You and thank You again for the reply. I am patient when needed and so, I will happily wait for more articles and I shall return.

Noroc! : )
Jul 28, 2013 8:43am
I am glad to meet you to, however I would like you to know that I don't fee uncomfortable about what I write in public... I only express my opinions, and I try to stay away, as much as I can from offending anyone.

I am not really interested in pure History, which is just a sequence of boring facts, and crazy events. I try to understand it, I like to look into it, but I am not a Historian by education. It never fascinated me to do it as a profession, however it is fascinating as an intellectual exercise..

The idea of the story was not so much Vlad Tepes, as it was Professor Floerscu's book. I thought it was a good idea at the time, and I was happy of my luck to get into the project. Unfortunately, I was not able to do more than three tours because I was drafted and things came to a sudden stop, but I really enjoyed them...

As far as you or I being Dacian is a matter of serious debate. We may have some genetic material in us, however the Dacian element has probably long been superseded by the other elements the Dacians crossed until they turned into Romanians. You are free to consider yourself whatever you want though.

About the "civilized behavior". I am not sure that we ever, human species, got to a point where we can consider ourselves civilized. But, I noticed that you mentioned in your article that your father was from Sighisoara. I assume that you grew up some place around there. I am not sure that you are familiar with Alexandru Kiritescu and his play, Gaitele, which is quite popular in the rest of Romania. This was just a line from the play, where a character tells another to stop speaking French, in a group of people who can't understand French...
Jul 28, 2013 7:00am
P.S. You can erase this comment here because I do not want this to seem as advertising on my part but I think it is only fair that You could comment if You wish on a short article I wrote for someone a while back: http://mrhappy.hubpages.com/hub/When-the-Pendulum-Swings-Heavily
Jul 28, 2013 8:24am
I never deleted any of the comments on my post, and I am glad that you made a link to your Hub Page. So, don't worry about it.

I read the article is interesting, however is not something that I want to get into an argument about. History is open to interpretation and everyone took a crack at it. It seems that according to the latest interpretations, Richard the III was not really the sadistic killer portrayed by Shakespeare, and the latest theory might be as good as the old one. We all know the jaundice good old Will was capable of...
Jan 25, 2014 10:14am
Fun article
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