Transylvania is a cultural and scenic cinema. But thanks to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, western imaginations – mine included – fly into vampire overdrive.

rasnov castle romania

Rasnov Fortress dates from the 13th century.

And there’s alot to let fly … Set amid the Carpathian mountains, Transylvania is peaks and dense forests, a land of fairy-tale towns and Gothic castles. A fantastical place where anything might be imagined.

sighisoara romania

Stoker’s vampire story is obviously fictional. But did you know the name Dracula is real and rooted in history? Dracula is derived from “Dragon”.

val dracula tepes statue romania

Bust of Vlad III – AKA Dracula – in his birth town of Sighisora, Transylvania.

Dracula’s birth name was Vlad III of Wallachia.

And King Vlad belonged to the Order of the Dragon, a Medieval European group who defended Christianity from the advancing Muslim armies of the Ottoman Turks.

Transylvania sighisoara clock tower above town romania

Built in 1280, the clock Tower of Sighisoara dominates the hometown of Vlad – Dracula – Tepes.

While it’s debated, many believe Bram Stoker’s novel to be inspired – in part – by this Vlad guy ¹.

Yes there’s the view of Vlad as a hero defending his country. But in the wider schedule of things he is also darkly infamous and remembered as Vlad Tepes – Vlad the Impaler. One of history’s nastiest nasties.

sighisoara clock tower features

Sighisoara’s clock tower has rotating wooden figures – dating from 1648 – based on ancient Roman and Greek societal values of peace, law, justice …

Why was Vlad so bad? He was really twisted.

It is said that “Vlad the Impaler” murdered – mainly by impaling – 40-100,000 people (including political rivals, criminals and anyone he considered “useless to humanity”). Add to this Turkish invaders, in which he amassed another 100,000 victims.

dracula bran castle romania Transylvania

Bran Castle was built by the Saxons in 1382 to defend the Bran Pass. It is known as “The Dracula Castle” thanks to movies. But historians dispute whether Vlad Tepes even stayed as a guest here during his retreat from the Turks back in 1462 …The only fright you’ll ever get here is the endless line of tourists waiting to enter the castle.

OK, Medieval mass murder. No surprises. Genghis Khan did pretty damn well too (and if we get into 20th century tyrants well, the prizes to hand out are staggering). But anyway, back to Dracula.

IMPALING … is really evil.

Meaning: Insert and push a long stake into a victim’s rectum, and up thru their guts – missing vital organs; so you don’t kill them immediately – exiting the stake out their mouth. Ensuring an agonising, slow death. Displayed like a spit-roast skewed pig. Maybe that’s where the stake thru the heart to kill a vampire idea came for Stoker’s novel ? Who knows.

An aside: Back in 2000-2002, when I worked for the United Nations Peace-Keeping Forces in East Timor, socialising with two American CivPol (Civilian Police) I recall them telling me that while they’d been on the UN mission in Bosnia during the war of 1990-95, that similar atrocities had been executed.

What can I say … Humanity, well, there’s a real dark side.

But fear not friends, Transylvania is not spooky. And the only blood-suckers I saw – were mosquitoes.

Transylvania sighisoara citadel tower romania

I leave you with a picture of Dracula’s hometown on an ambigous, mid-summer’s day.

Travels in Romania – 2015



¹ Despite being the most widely known vampire novel, Dracula was not the first. It was preceded and partly inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 “Carmilla“, about a lesbian vampire who preys on a lonely young woman (which was probably based on Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who tortured and killed – wild estimates but ranging from – 36 to 700 young women. She committed these crimes to bathe in their blood, believing that this preserved her youth).

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