Having just returned from Halloween partying in Transylvania, on the premises of a medieval castle where Vlad the Impaler may once have been imprisoned, I feel knowledgeable enough to give my two cents worth on the topic.
Ironically, my costume, which depicted the more modern incarnation of Dracula as per Stoker and later Bela Lugosi, won first prize out of over 100 revelers. My prize was a somewhat campy Dracula clock, depicting the more modern Dracula familiar to the casual vampire fan.
The “real” Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, was the son of Vlad Dracul, a voivode or prince of Wallachia. Adding an “a” in Romanian gives us “Dracula” which translates literally as “Son of the Dragon”. He lived at a time when the Ottoman Empire constantly threatened Eastern Europe and he was in fact held hostage in the Turkish court during his youth. Contemporary texts suggest that such hostages were often subjected to abusive practices which may have led to Vlad’s later penchant for impaling Turks, something he did to people by the thousands, though generally not to Romanians. In fact Vlad is something of a hero to the present day Romanians, having used his “stick handling” skills to punish wealthy Saxons and Wallachian noblemen (boyars) who oppressed his countrymen or on invading Turks who wished to conquer them.
Vlad once surprised a large group of boyars exiting from their Easter services, having them “staked” or rounded up for slave labor to build his castle at Poenari, still clad in their Easter finery.
When the forces of the Mehmed II, the Turkish sultan, advanced on Targoviste in 1462, Vlad had several thousand Turkish prisoners impaled along the road side. The Ottoman ruler seeing this gruesome sight, got the “point” and turned back!
Vlad received a lot of negative press from the Saxons and they used their access to the recently invented printing press to depict him as a monster. Perhaps he was, but according to intelligence reports conveyed to the Russian court (still in their archives!) he was no worse than many of his contemporaries. The only story of him consuming blood was on an occasion when he was reported to have dined among a forest of impaled victims, sopping up blood with his bread and consuming it.
Not so for our contemporary Dracula who dined regularly on blood and eschewed wine according Irish novelist Bram Stoker. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula repeats this sentiment in the 1931 film version.
This schizophrenic dichotomy between Dracula, the vampire and the historical Dracula is dealt with by Russian novelists Fotina Moro and Ecaterina Buley in their book, The Mist and the Dragon. In this work a dialogue ensues between the two conflicted characters.
For more personal insight into Dracula fact and fiction, plus about the hippest and coolest way to spend Halloween there is, I’d recommend the reader to take a tour of Transylvania themselves. Modern meets Medieval here and visitors can sample the Middle Ages in its most authentic modern incarnation in its myriad towns, including Vlad’s UNESCO World Heritage Site birthplace, Sighisoara.
You’ll have a great time. You can “count” on it!
A few more images from our trip.
For more information:
You can also “count” on the poetically named Romanian travel agency, The Company of Mysterious Journeys to get you to all the Dracula hot spots efficiently and with a top notch English speaking guide.
To contact Fotina Moro and Ecaterina Buley about their book The Mist and the Dragon, click here.
All photos by George Burden – All Rights Reserved