Sunday, March 23, 2014

Romania Road Ways Vlad Tepes Merged at Romania Road Ways

In response to requests, the posts relevant to Vlad III Tepes have been merged at the overall Romania improvised road trip site,

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Vlad Route


The Vlad sites are appropriately separated out here, because of the extensive identification of the country with that medieval ruler. Our recommendation is to incorporate Vlad in an overall trip to Romania, because the distances can be long and there is so much more to see.  See http://www.pitt.edu/~slavic/courses/vampires/images/vlad/vlad.html.
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We take a middle ground, and offer the Vlad sites here, on their own, and also refer to them in our overall route to show how they fit easily in a road trip.  Romania Road Ways I
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Our improvised road trip begins and ends in Bucharest. Here is the index to posts, with fast overviews.
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1. Bucharest - Fly in.  Have some Romanian cash with you already - we had $200 from home.  The airport has ATM's also and Bank exchanges, but those lines can be long. ATM's outside the airport may not be available outside main towns.  Get rental car and immediately head north. Our practice is to save big cities for the end, and immediately aim for the countryside.  Thus, the need for cash.
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2. Lake Snagov.  This is the possible-doubtful burial place for all or part of Vlad Tepes, beheaded on a battlefield, apparently.  The burial is at a lovely monastery, not the original, but a smaller reconstruction.  Parts may have been there, still lovely and worth being rowed over). Vlad. monastery island claimed burial place , and Lake Snagov;  for details on Vlad, read the novel "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova -- definitely a novel, but a good read with interesting facts and factoids, see http://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm/book_number/1589/the-historian
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3. Bran Castle (not much connection in fact with Vlad, but it is tourist-convenient), Brasov. Bran Castle.  The guides there will disavow any Vlad connection except perhaps an occasional overnight stay as a visitor.  Tourism has taken over, but enjoy.
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4. Poinari Citadel, Poinari Citadel, at the Transfagarasan Pass.  This pass takes you from Wallachia to Transylvania; on the way, through the steep and formidable vales, is the real castle, now a ruin but worth the climb.  To make it easier, the climb is an easy series of switchbacks for walking, and a rail. Transfagarasan Pass.  Take a few dollars for the guides up there. I understand that a dollar can buy a great deal. 
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5. Sighisoara (birthplace), Sighisoara, a lovely medieval town, long staircases from one level of the town to another for protection, great timbers for the stairs.  His birthplace is now a restaurant, and a good one.
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6. Bistrita (fiction author Bram Stoker and his "Dracula" site, tavern there).  This gets to the fictional side of Dracula.  The town is unremarkable except for the interest in how Bram Stoker, an Irishman, turned the historic Vlad into the vampire Dracula.
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7. Castel Dracula, at Piatra Fontanele.  There is a new hotel here, serving not only the tourists who enjoy Dracula's story; but also serious hikers, climbers.  This is where Bram Stoker's fictional character's castle supposedly located, in central hiking-outdoor-near wilderness type park, some kitsch but fine), Castel Dracula, Piatra Fontanele,
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8. Hunedoara.  Town. Its castle is known as Hunedoara Castle, a/k/a Corvinilor Castle, or Corvinilor Castulul.  It was built in the 14th Century by Hungarian John Hunyadi, ruler of Transylvania, sometime ally, sometimes enemy (he ordered the death of Vlad's father), see Corvin Castle, Hunedoara
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Iancu de Hunedoara. Johannes Hunedoara. Spellings from different languages, make researching complex.
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 This site underplays his role with Vlad, see http://biography.yourdictionary.com/john-hunyadi; this Angelfire site goes too far into areas of the occult, see http://www.angelfire.com/realm/shades/demons/vampires/vladlifeofvlad3.htm
Start research instead with Romanian sources? Try http://www.romanianmonasteries.org/romania/corvinilor-castle
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9. Targoviste (actual court), the Princely Court,  Targoviste, practice your browser's translation ability at http://www.targoviste.light-soft.ro/  For a touristy site but with a nice photograph, see http://www.draculasteps.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=55
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10. Curtea Veche (Bucharest), an actual court of Vlad III Tepes, the "old court", is still being excavated), Bucharest court, Curtea Veche, see http://bucharest.romaniaexplorer.com/page_10857.html
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11.Dracula Club (Bucharest).  This is a themed eating club, kitsch and fun, and clearly and appropriately geared for tourists. Dracula Club. Apparently the idea has caught on, see http://www.mysteriousjourneys.com/halloween-2011-transilvania/.  When we were there, unfortunately at the same time as a promotional evening October 31 for tour guides from the US, some guides were commenting to each other that the distance between Vlad sites would be a detraction from tours just focused on Vlad, and we agree.  So incorporate Vlad in everything else.  Fried rats.  Yum. Chicken breast covered with poppy seeds, tail of pasta, ears of pasta, whiskers, little beady eyes.
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If you prefer a formal tour, this one looks good; but bus rides over long distances must get boring.  See photos and narrative at http://www.covinnus.com/tours/tour005.html.  Here is a site with a fine introductory set of photographs on Vlad Tepes sites - at http://www.richardleveson.com/Romania3.html/.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Accommodations.

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We leave directly from airports, to more open country. It gives a chance to get accustomed to the car, maps. We have no fixed destination for the first night.  Just have cash on hand.
  • Eastern Europe may not be familiar to you.  See some videos for your own orientation about history:
Romania History Part 1 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=43...h&plindex=0;
Romania History Part 2 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=43...h&plindex=0
Romania History Part 3 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=43...h&plindex=0
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1.  Distances. Accommodations.
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Distances are substantial between the Vlad sites, so plan to stop many times along the way.  For distances between major towns, see Romania Driving Distances
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Most every town has several choices for accommodations.  No reservations are needed.  This idea makes some people nervous, so we include some possibles here.  Never once did we need a reservation anywhere in Romania, however, and all was safe, clean, and our choice of location.
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Prince Charles sponsors guest houses.  There is also a new category of accommodations, thanks to Prince Charles - he has been fostering the preservation and renewal of traditional structures, and use as guesthouses, see Prince Charles, sponsoring Guesthouses, other preservation sites.
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We enjoy the spontaneous stop, or seeing where we might have stopped had it been the end of the day - example Pensiunea Dracula at Cazare, see http://www.pensiuneadracula.ro/near Poinari Citadel.
  • A cazari is an apartment, we understand, and a pensione is a rooming house. We did not stay here - it is midday clearly, and we had miles to go.
  • Why travel on your own?  You can find places like this, that most tour groups would not touch perhaps because it does not have those ridiculous stars that mean only conformity. 

Pensiunea Dracula, Dracula Pensione, Cazare (accommodation), Arges, Romania




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2.  Overview map.
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For a simple map of where these Vlad II Tepes, Vlad Dracula, places are located, see  http://www.activtravel.ro/route-r4.
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Vlad tours:  beware that some tours may add filler sites to break up the tedium of buses only going to "Vlad" sites.  Those added ones, may be really peripheral: added by tour companies to beef up the ads. 
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Tour guides.  Watch yourselves.  You do not make good diplomats when not officially on duty.  Is that so?  You get overheard anyway, including by local people. FN 1
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3.  Counties. Regional highlights by time of year
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See a map of all the counties, click and find the accommodations. There is also a side menu by town.  County map, Romania - Tourist Accommodationsin Romania. Many sites are in Romanian: go here for another map of accommodations, http://www.cazari.ro/, and click to translate.  Cazari is not a town, it means accommodations.
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FN 1 

Bucharest at the Dracula Club on Halloween. There were American tour guides there, on tour themselves, in a large group figuring out how to package Dracula tours. A "Romania" tour without the specialty would be better, with highlights for Vlad. We stand by our Vlad sites here as the most historically solid.
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Some guides were discussing the long bus rides between sites (this is true - distances) and that they needed filler between, to keep tourists happy (probably true). Some tour guides also took pride in saying -- loudly -- almost like a brag, that they would never eat local food. With attitudes like that, especially so rudely said loudly, some of us would never take a tour.
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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Lake Snagov, Snagov Monastery - Vlad's island burial? Complex Astoria

Lake Snagov, 
Snagov Monastery, 
Burial, Possible once,  Vlad III Tepes
Complex Astoria
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1.  Lake Snagov.  This is a traditional resort area now, and about 18 miles from Bucharest. It looked like a perfect first destination.  We avoid motorways, so arriving there took longer than usual.  If you are pressed for time, take the motorway. Arrival is worth it. Even if you get lost, you will be safe we found.
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Lake Snagov, Romania. Rowing to monastery from Complex Astoria



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2.  Complex Astoria.  We had trouble locating the guidebook's recommendation for overnight, the "Complex Astoria".  No wonder:  it had closed for the season (we were there in October). Still, we drove in and enough maintenance and other people were there -- got a room.  The alternative would have been to drive on to Brasov.  See FN 1
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3.  Roma.  On the way, the first glimpse of rural Romania was stark. We drove through small, dirt poor either peasant or Roma villages. We believe they were Rom, or Gypsy, because of their darker skin and such poverty.  Along the road: old women bent double under firewood, gaunt faces in doorways. We could not be sure at that early time in our visit.  Everyone was helpful, pointed the way.
For any candidate in any country for any substantial elected office: what have you done to promote the well-being of the Roma population in your borders? Education? Structures? Jobs? Health?
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4.  Dinner when there is no dinner.  Magazin Mixt.
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That means convenience store. We had a fine meal from a general deli (dried sausage, rolls, cheese), a kind of bodega, at a village. People came around to stare, but we felt welcome.
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There were no other cars out there in the country where we were, dirt road, dirt houses, dirt everywhere, no amenities, even so close to Bucharest. There were deep ruts from the wagon wheels, and horses. Horse carts. That has probably changed by now, with the funding coming in from the EU membership. Has it?
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2.  Snagov Monastery:  The only way to get to the island monastery, and the alleged burial place of Vlad;s body (the claim) is by rowboat. Strong young men at Astoria will do the rowing. Leave plenty of time. Transport to the island is by rowboat. Go fast, before all this changes to motor launches and noise. See it at http://www.bootsnall.com/travelstories/europe/nov03vlad.
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The Monastery:
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There is a small church on the island, with a priest taking the entry tickets to the interior spot in front of the altar where Vlad is said to be buried. See http://www.draculas.info/gallery/picture_of_monastery_of_snagov_vlad_the_impaler_grave-12/  This looks like a Romanian offering an overview, to be preferred over the tourism sites, see http://dracula-transylvania.blogspot.com/2008/04/snagov-monastery.html
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Apparently he is not there any more.  The story tells that he was moved (his body - the head was decapitated during battle) to the outside, by the door, to protect it. Then, when places were dug up to find him, there was no sign -- only chicken or other animal bones.
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Still, there are records that he had once been buried in the church.
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The interior is lovely. One novel, "The Historian," by Elizabeth Kostova, see http://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm?book_number=1589 focuses at one point on where the head might have gone, then the body, and by whom, and what happened to the parts next. Are all reunitings good things? See and speculate about the stories at http://www.castleofspirits.com/vlad. - Vlad tales.
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FN 1.  Complex Astoria
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Overnight.  This had been a communist resort, still is a resort, see http://mapcarta.com/28166480.  Use your translator at http://www.tourismguide.ro/tgr/complex_astoria_snagov_1778.php.  Beware that it is seasonal. This was October, and just past the tourist season. More at http://www.world66.com/europe/romania/snagovlake. It was already in process of closing until spring completely, and we were the only guests there.  Nervous?  Why.  It's too late to go elsewhere, we don't travel fancy, our backpacks are all we have, and without faith in human nature no travel is worth it anyway.  When the door would not lock, we stuck a chair under the knob as seen on TV.  Done.
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Be sure to have some cash -- either from the US or an airport exchange or bank ATM because not all places are equipped to do credit cards once the place is closing.
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There are many campsites and chalets at the resort. The main building is a large hotel with atrium, long halls with rooms. Just fine. Back to locks. Check that you know how to work the locks before accepting the room and unpacking. They are not the same as ours. May take several turns. As it turned out, ours would have locked if we just kept turning, and turning.
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5.  Timing an arrival somewhere:
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Our flight landed just before noon, so we did not have this choice: But do the Snagov trip early in the day. That gives time to go back to the motorway to the next big town (even Brasov), if the Complex Astoria is closed.
If you find yourself in a place without restaurants or hotels, as here (we finally found the Complex) just stop at the nearest Magazin Mixt - at the nearest crossroads - convenience store - and make a picnic. Sit outside and eat, and just be friendly. Lots of horsecarts, people, children.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Brasov: Bran Castle - Popular tradition for Vlad. Not really Vlad.

 Brasov, Bran Castle
This looks "Dracula" but was he ever here? Probably not.
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1.  Bran Castle, in Brasov, is about 70 miles north of Snagov Lake, where the island monastery claims to hold Vlad remains, or did. Bran is about 87 miles north of Bucharest.  Brasov gets tourists because Bran Castle looks good, is indeed a real and very historic castle, see http://www.draculas.info/travel_transylvania/bran_castle_history_i/, and is not far Bucharest's airport.  It is located in a confluence of trade and military routes, defending against the Ottomans, and became wealthy with customs and other fees and duties.
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2.  Vlad's armies also attacked Brasov, but that did not relate particularly to Bran Castle. See the Draculas Info site.  The Bran Fortress is pivotal to Romanian history in its own right:  the incursion of Vlad tourists thinking this is pivotal Vlad does the castle a disservice, diminishing interest in real history.
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The guides at the castle will tell you that Vlad was only there as a guest once in a while, if even that, or was imprisoned there. It is lovely, well restored, but tenuous in any significant connection or any connection at all to the historic Vlad Tepes.
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Tours do hype the factoid that Vlad lived there. But it makes a buck - or lei, or the new leu.  For the claims, see, for example.
A recent TV show (this is an update 2/2/07) showed Bran Castle and the town of Brasov, as one of the walled towns that Vlad used in anchoring his rule, especially against the Ottoman invasion. There was no hint of that when we were there, but we see now that he had other connections to Brasov.  He was arrested near Brasov by Matthias Corvinus; and he later, for other reasons, led an assault on the town and impaled many on a nearby hill.  It was a successful commercial town, with many influential Saxon merchants.  Vlad led an assault on Brasov (no mention of Bran) to break the hold of the Saxons.  Credibility of all the accounts historically is questionable, but they clinched his reputation. See overview account at http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/vlad.html.

3.  Vlad the Impaler and "Impalement"

Impalement:  this was also a means of "crucifixion", see Crucifixion, history, uses, variations for etymology and more information than you want to know.  The point is that the method was common. Did Vlad do more than most? Probably, or not? Takes more research than merely looking at woodcuts with agendas, making a point.
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4.  Return of property.
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I read that the government is giving the castle back to the heirs, so it may or may not remain open as a tourist destination. Vlad or not, it is lovely.
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5.  Comparing history with legend
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Some sites do a fine job of comparing the legends with the historical reality, as far as that is known or debated now. We took time to read the exhibits.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Transfagarasan Pass - Carpathian Alps - Route from Wallachia to Transylvania

Transfagarasan Pass
Carpathian Mountains



Carpathian Mountains, Transfagarasan Pass, Romania

1.  Blasting open the Pass

The Fagaras Mountains, are part of the Carpathian Range.  Wallachia is on one side (Vlad was Wallachian) and Transylvania on the other.

There is a history of hardship and labor deaths here, from blasting a way across and through a tunnel, for vehicles. See http://www.expeditionplus.com/2006/07/the_fagaras_mountains_and_the_1.

The Pass was built as a way to move troops and ammunition to defend against a feared Soviet invasion, 1968. The Transfagarasan Pass, through and over the Transfagarasan Mountains, is more easily remembered by the name of the town at the north side, Fagaras. See http://www.transylvania-discovery-tours.ro/en/top/daily-tours-in-transylvania/land-of-fagaras-day-tour/

2. Accessibility

The Pass in these mountains is open as weather and season permit.

There is a sign at a town in the southern end of the road, at Curtea de Arges, that will give the information, we now hear.

We didn't know that, but went up anyway with the intention of using common sense, and turning back if the road was closed. This was the end of October - lovely for leaves, not quite New England, but fine.  The fine weather below can be misleading. Again, before going toward the Tranfagarasan Pass, check that the entire road north is open through the Carpathians. It closes seasonally, and depending on the weather. The gap on maps signifies tunnels, against rock slides and snow.

3.  Accommodations

Cabanas is the magic word. There are hotel-type places for sleeping, called Cabanas. Are they government-run? Not sure.  Just don't let it get dark on you. Stop in time. For an overview of the mountains in Romania, see "Romania's Road to Heaven," at http://www.escapeartist.com/efam/68/Living_In_Romania.

On the way, we knew there would be "cabanas" or small hotels, but did not expect the distances between. Don't wait too long in the day to stop. You need all the visibility you can get - not all vehicles have good headlights, and animals may wander in the road. We were just about to turn back, when one appeared. Do not expect signs to tell you when the next will emerge.



At the northern end of the pass are Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad III Tepes, and Sibiu; entry to the painted monastery areas, and much more. See Romania Road Ways.



Transfagarasan Pass, midday hike, Romania

Start early the next day.  There are hairpin turns, incredible cliffs and a winding road.

We took our time the next day. Stop along the way and take a hike. If you are a worrier about leaving the car, you will miss out. We never had a problem. How long will that last? There is the Car half of the Car-Dan Tour Company, snapped by the Dan, crossing a boulder-strewn creek bed with no particular destination in mind.




Then, in the distance and above, is the Vlad Tepes castle, where he sought to defend against the invading Ottomans.
This site does not name Poinari Citadel, however; but tells the story as he escapes to another castle at Targoviste.  See http://www.davidstuff.com/historical/vlad.htm; and the more touristy http://www.romaniatourism.com/dracula-legend.html

Vlad Tepes castle ruin, Poinari Citadel, Transfagarasan Pass, Romania

The castle ruin is to the left, on the mountaintop.

This Carpathian area is historically central to any trip to Romania, whether focusing on Vlad or not. His actual castle up here, one of them, is a fine attraction, but there is much else to see. See http://www.expeditionplus.com/2006/07/the_fagaras_mountains_and_the_1.







More blogs about Romania Road Ways Vlad Tepes - Impaler.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Poinari Citadel, ruin of castle of Vlad III Tepes (Transfagarasan Pass)


Poenari Citadel, Poinari Citadel.
Castle Ruin, Vlad Tepes
Phonetics change spellings. Search various ways.

Vlad's real castle.

At the top of the mountain is the ruin of the actual castle of Vlad Tepes, where he defended against the Turks, then escaped. His wife, however, had already hurled herself from the parapet in despair, and in fear of being captured. The site is known as the Poenari Citadel. See http://www.draculascastle.com/html/poenari.
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1.  Getting there.
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Watch for a small parking area below, few signs if any, near a utilities complex in the valley.  There is a manageable walk up a long S-curves; and there are even some long stair steps at places on the pathway. This is not a climb, just a long, long walk.

Dan Widing, Poenari Citadel path, Castle, Vlad Tepes, Romania
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Some buses or vans with tourists arrived after we started up,, and a small group was ahead.  We often had to leave the car far behind, and just trusted it would be there. It always was, and no reason for concern except our own.
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The ruin is good for climbing around, but not extensive in size.
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The path is safe, with a pipe-type railing to keep you on track. A group of Romanian teens behind us called the rail The Great Wall of Romania. Lots of laughs - Japanese tourists were ahead of us. This is clearly a worldwide attraction, but not crowded in October.
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2.  Guides.
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These are not really needed, because there are signs and pathways, but expect someone to join you and expect a payment. We did that, and I only regret not giving more.  Sometimes, however, with a larger tip, there is more intrusion as the guide wants to be sure you get your money's worth.
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Our guide appeared when we were just about at the top, from a little house up there. Do carry some dollars for people who are especially helpful. They really want them, and deserve to be compensated. I tended to tip in Romanian currency, however. Dollars: There is a midground to caution. I do wish I had been more generous with other individuals, like older women sitting asking for money at the monastery gates.
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3.  Arefu - the village that spirited Vlad away
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View from Poenari Citadel, Castle ruin, Vlad Tepes, Romania
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Vlad escaped with the help of villagers at Arefu nearby. I understand that the villagers still identify with that event and can name the individuals and their descendants.

Vlad rewarded them with land, an unusual step for peasants. For an account of places and his life, see the Vlad sites at http://www.ucs.mun.ca/%7Eemiller/vlad_romania.  Someone slept out up there. See http://www.ventureup.com/travel/dracula.
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View from the ruin itself, to the road below.



Friday, September 29, 2006

Vlad and current events: Uses of extreme interrogations, torture for political ends

Poinari Citadel
Ottoman Invasions of Romania

Vlad Tepes III engaged in torture, to preserve law and order, for which his citizens were grateful, and to fend off the invading Ottomans, for which his citizens were also grateful. Biography: at http://www.thenagain.info/WebChron/easteurope/Dracula.CP.html  His form of impalement was the Persian, through-the chest-breastbone area, judging from the woodcuts. See, if you must, http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Impalement

That worked for about 40 years. He is revered in Romania, as far as we could tell. See post. Still, his tactics did not last. The drastic measures just gave a reprieve until the Turks regrouped and came again. See Romania Road Ways

Needed now: 

Put the history of Romania and its reputation for torture and political repression in perspective. What uses do cultures make of pain, by whom, against whom, and why. Are we so far removed.   Is impersonal use of agent orange, or napalm, any more moral than impalement just because the victims of napalm are, or become faceless; and impalement is highly personal. Extreme interrogations: are those so much verbiage for torture but on an individual level -- any less worse?

Global Menswear - The Cap. Measure by Pi. Poenari Citadel


 The Driving Cap
The Practical Cap at Poinari Citadel

Universals in travel.  The men's driving cap. See it here at Vlad's castle ruin in Romania, worn by The Guide.

Many of us know little of the stitcheries of driving caps vs. newsboys' caps, and other similar caps around the world. The fashion is global because it is practical, the cap is easy to carry, stays on, and looks good.


Style details.  We understand this about details: the well-designed and well-fitting cap accommodates base of skull to hairline, no puckering.  It should be stitched (not snapped) at the front (we do not recall here).  There should be three panels to be a driving cap, and more like eight for the more circular, wider newsboy's cap.  Think of the 1930's - kids on the streets hawking papers.

Sometimes there is a buckle in the back.  The longer the brim in front, the tougher the look.  This fine guide, who lives near the ruin, was gentle and had a welcoming cap.

Measuring for a driving cap.  What is your size?  For a European cap, measure your head, say in inches for Americans, then multiply that times 2.54;  or, for an American cap, divide by 3.14 or pi.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sighisoara, Vlad's Birthplace; World Heritage site



Sighisoara: Birthplace of Vlad Tepes
The Home is now a Restaurant

1.  Birthplace: The big yellow house.

The home where Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 is now a restaurant. Expect and get generous portions of good basic food. Sauces and frills are few, so the atmosphere seems authentically Romanian.

The town is in excellent medieval condition, never bombed, or overrun. See the photo gallery at http://www.world66.com/europe/romania/sighisoara/lib/gallery.Although he ruled Wallachia for periods in a brief timespan, 1456-1462, his reputation suggests a far longer domination.

2.  Monuments and The Novel.

There are references to Vlad Dracula in many places, and they often refer to the novel, "Dracula", by Bram Stoker, even though it is far removed from the life.  Reread the Stoker novel at Dracula, http://www.literature.org/authors/stoker-bram/dracula/

As in other Romanian cities with ties to Vlad Tepes, there are excellent descriptive plaques in Sishisoara. They separate out the kitsch, giving historical information particularly where Bram Stoker made other claims. The result is to interest people who want to know what really is known, or reasonably so; as well as those who want to follow in Bram Stoker's characters' steps without critique.

There are entire tours devoted to Vlad. The Romanian Tourist Bureau provides an overview of his life as told in legend. See http://www.draculascastle.com/html/poenari.

3.  World Heritage

Sighisoara is a World Heritage site. See http://www.romanianvoice.com/images/orase/sighisoara.php. The full list of places on the Romanian World Heritage honor roll is at http://www.thesalmons.org/lynn/wh-romania.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Bistrita, Piatra Fontanele and Hotel Castel Dracula: Bram Stoker's Dracula Story

 Bistrita
Bram Stoker's "Dracula"

Bistrita is the town located near the area where the "Dracula" author, Bram Stoker, located his fictitious Dracula's castle.

His character, Jonathan Harker dined at the Golden Crown here.  Bram Stokerwas born in Dublin -  see http://www.online-literature.com/stoker/. This is the Literature Network site.

1.  Weekend slowdown.

On weekends in Bistrita and other towns, things do close down, so don't plan for museums or sites after lunch and especially on Sundays. Find an overview of the town at http://www.museum.ici.ro/transilvania/bistrita-nasaud/english/istoria%20oras.

A walk around was all we wanted.

2. Hotel Castel Dracula

It was time for kitsch, so we stayed here.  The good news is that the kitsch is restrained, and localized. The rest of the accommodation is a fine hotel, although in need of some repair. 

Hotel Castel Dracula, near Bistrita, Romania

Hotel Castel Dracula is to the east, past Bistrita, and supposedly at the place where the fictitious castle in the novel, Dracula, was supposed to be located.







3.  Kitsch

The hotel has a secret passageway and room, that you have to search for yourself and then - gasp - it is there. The Coffin. And cape for dressing up.


Dan Widing locates The Coffin, Hotel Castel Dracula, Romania


Other than that, it is a full-service, comfortable hotel: good food, books for sale in the lobby, much research on the Stoker's Dracula-Vlad comparison.

Wish for a foggy morning so that driving is risky. The horsecarts are a hazard despite reflectors.

Then you will have to stay a few hours longer, and curl up with a good book.

4.  Hiking Center

The hotel has been discovered by serious hikers. It is near a wilderness park, with Big Animals (real wolves and bears), and the trails look great.

5.  Games

There is also a pool table and pub up the tower. For enviro-tourists, despite the touristy name Castel Dracula, stay here as your base for side hikes. Any big facility needs upkeep, and they are working on it.

Other accommodations:

6.  Warmth

We had no difficulty with cold nights.

Usually we stayed at any family pensione, or a "cabana" in outlying areas. A cabana is like a villa, small hotel-hostel-pensiones for travelers, at well-spaced intervals in mountain or recreation areas. All clean, safe, warm, with thin compact mattresses, but plenty of felted blankets in the duvets. The felted blankets, think heavy, tight wool blankets, soaked and dried several times to tighten it up and make the felt, very thick - not like hats. We sometimes put the additional duvet underneath.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Resources: Reading list, chronology, reference sites, compare to Bram Stoker "Dracula"

Overview - There is a historical Vlad III Tepes, who may or may not conform to your own acquired understanding of him. Please put him in his own setting, with the dangers he and his countrymen faced, with the practices of others in his time, and look for his other qualities as a ruler - not just his extreme law-enforcement or cruel deterrent practices. For people who like heavy deterrence, and believe in it, this worked for Vlad but only lasted several decades. The Turks (fill the slot with any other invader) were back. Torture is temporary, and has its backlash.
  • For a novel about Vlad, try The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, 2005, Little, Brown&Co.
  • Overview and photos, sites and related issues: www.donlinke.com/drakula/vlad/photos., for Vlad Photos, sites.
  • Narrative, chronology, facts and resource list at www.royalty.nu/Europe/Balkan/Dracula. I was interested to see that Vlad was raised by Turks, a hostage as a child, or at least whatever one calls a person who is being kept as a guarantee that the father will conform to what the holder wants. He may have learned much, early.
  • More photos and a journey log: www.dunwich.org/draculea/draculea. Also, photos at www.ciaoromania.com/draculatour.
  • Here is a site showing where many stories originated: www.tabula-rasa.info/DarkAges/VladTheImpaler. This is a horror-site, so if you get to the home page, please do not leave in disgust. Just go fast to the Dark Ages section then in the left menu, to Vlad. The written account there is ok.
  • Here, an overview with list of resources and footnotes. www.eskimo.com/%7Emwirkk/castle/vlad/vladhist.
The sites for Vlad III Tepes, Impaler, are fine to see, but may detract from the rest of Romanian culture and places. So we put the Vlad sites at their own blog.

Because any visitor will be constantly reminded of Vlad, here are some reading materials to help determine what is fact, with reasonable corroboration, and what is legend, and what is sheer fiction - literally, thanks to Bram Stoker, the author and his "Dracula."

Reading materals here, for your next trip to the library or on-line source:

1. Bram Stoker, "Dracula" (the nineteenth century novel)
2. Elizabeth Miller, "A Dracula Handbook," Gerot Publishing House, Bucharest, Romania (English version-973-96601-4-2) (among books recommended by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula)
3. Ioan Praoveanu, "Castle Bran," C2 Design House Publishing, Brasov,Romania, 1999
4. Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu, "In Search of Dracula, a True History of dracula and Vampire Legends," New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, Connecticut 1972.


We had these books with us:

1. Lonely Planet's "Romania and Moldova"
2. History of Romania (paperback, in the house here somewhere, well-dog-eared)

The Name - Vlad III Tepes

All the names and what they mean, collected from a collection of sites:

a. Vlad. First name. See members.aol.com/johnfranc/drac05.

b. III. His father was Vlad Dracul, or Vlad II, I understand, so this Vlad is Vlad III.

c. Tepes. Impaler. See www.royalty.nu/Europe/Balkan/Dracula.

d. Dracula. Dragon, as in Order of the Dragon, to which Vlad's father first belonged, then Vlad. See www.rodoslovlje.com/medieval_serbia/eng/history-dragon.

See www.donlinke.com/drakula/vlad. This is a good site for the historical Dracula.

Hunedoara: Johan Hunyadi - Vlad Contemporary, Ruling Transylvania

This is fabulous. Maybe the best castle in Europe. Never bombed, in process of a fine reconstruction of the wooden parts and others needing preservation. Location=terrible. Abandoned communist era factories all around. Go anyway.

Corvin Castle in the eastern part of Romania. Castle of Janos Hunyadi, Hungarian - allied with Vlad off an on, both against the Turks. Hunyadi also ordered the assassination of Vlad's father and brother.

Hunyadi ruled the northern Transylvania; Vlad ruled the southern Wallachia. Janos' son ruled after him. See Hunedoara Castle at www.world66.com/europe/romania/hunedoara. Janos Hunyadi - John Hundedoara (see Huneduara in Croatia) - or Johan, was a Hungarian nobleman and general who was appointed as administrator of the area by the Hungarian rulers in the 15th century. He repelled the Ottoman invasion for many years. See www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107349.

Some sources credit Hunyadi with saving Europe because he halted the Turkish advance into southern Europe. See www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/endmiddle/bluedot/hunyadi.

The castle is 14th Century Gothic, never bombed, never cannoned. The restorations are splendid. The surroundings, however, are eastern european socialist looming skeleton factories - no glamor entryway - but the trip is worth it. Watch out for heavy air pollution after Cluj Napoca and Deva. Asthmatics take inhalers, and do not even think about the fallout on crops, and that the animals are eating in the fields. People and vehicles barely visible in the smog. How will the EU help with health?

Best history site, History of Central Europe - Vlad Tepes and Romania

Go to the History of Central Europe at mysite.du.edu/~etuttle/misc/europe.htm#Mong. Scroll down to the Romania section. This is the most concise but clear and complete accounting we have found so far.

Lake Snagov

This is not only the Lake where Vlad's burial (?) island at the monastery, is located, so they say. It is also a vacation spot, where fine estates line parts of the shore. As you are rowed out to the island and the monastery, you will also see Ceaucescu's palace, fishermen, and so quiet.

There are plenty of sites for Vlad - see a good collection at //www.donlinke.com/drakula/vlad/photos.

This one suggests that you get off those usual ones, and spend time with the Lake before it also is built up, the more of us that come there. You can stay at the Complex Astoria, a communist-era resort there. This was taken from a dock.

Many homeless dogs. We were told to keep our hands in our pockets, so we did. They trot along with you, just don't pet. Others not so friendly. Don't experiment. We understand that Ceaucescu would not let people take their pets when they were moved wholesale in Bucharest and elsewhere out of neighborhoods that were then razed for big government buildings and boulevards, into high rises. Puppies, show dogs, all set loose. Thousands.

Targoviste, Court, Vlad's Capital, Vlad as Ruler of Wallachia


Targoviste was the capital for Vlad III Tepes during one of his periods of rule over much of Wallachia. It is not far from Bucharest, and in the direction most tourists do not travel. See photo and comment at www.aboutromania.com/dracula4. There is a tall tower, full of exhibits and information. Wind your way up the large stairs and by the end, looking over the countryside from the top, you feel you perhaps have the beginning of an understanding. He was brutal, but is still revered for other things.

Most tourists head north, to Brasov, and Bran Castle (where Vlad either had been a guest a few times, or imprisoned there for a while, but no other connection we were told).

Targoviste has more than this small website suggests, but start here to get an overview: www.world66.com/europe/romania/targoviste.

The stories of Vlad III Tepes, the Impaler, vary. This one seemed reliable: www.royalty.nu/Europe/Balkan/Dracula. Note that Vlad III Tepes is different from the fictional Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel, "Dracula."

I read that Vlad's brutality could have resulted from his exposure to it as a youngster, inflicted on others where raised for a time among the Turks (no suggestion that he was brutalized), and he just got used to it. Others say that he was no worse than other medieval beings, and our own inquisition and carpet bombings and napalm are no winners, just farther removed from the sounds and visuals of what he was inflicting. This site examines what happened in a broader context: members.aol.com/johnfranc/drac05. Photo included. The address is there if you want to contact the Transylvanian Society of Dracula.

Bucharest, Curtea Veche,The Princely Court - Vlad


An earlier post, about Targoviste, used the term, "Princely Court," for that location.

"Princely Court" is also used here, for Vlad's court location after moving the political center to Bucharest. See www.rotravel.com/romania/sites/tour/old.php.

The area is a combination of ruin and structures, but is in process of reconstruction. Its history is given at library.thinkquest.org/C0125971/media/english/Map/bucu. Excavations are ongoing.

Here are photos and a description - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtea_Veche. Good old Wikipedia.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bucharest, Dracula Club, fried rats to eat

The Dracula Club, Bucharest, Romania
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The Dracula Club, Bucharest. Excellent for Halloween. Knock, and a little door in the big door opens and a face peers out. This is a reputable fine food supper club-restaurant, not just a come-on.

You will like the clientele.


Dan Widing welcomed at the Dracula Club, Bucharest, Romania (on Halloween)
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People emerge from the walls. Enjoy the fried rats - looked like chicken breast with dark pumpernickel breadcrumb coating, pimento puree within, and long tails and whiskers of something, perhaps fried angel hair pasta?

Halloween was dress-up night. Watch for the really good actor who suddenly descends, seeking Mina, Mina, Mina; and grabbing bites where he can. See "Dinner At The Count's" at www.travellady.com/Issues/Issue60/dracula.>. There was a group of American tour guides there, not a friendly group at all. One even said aloud, in the face of a lavish and excellent buffet, that she never ate local food, and I hope she chooses another career.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Links, archives, copyright


Linking:  we are doing direct linking now, as that appears to be customary and not a violation of copyright, if it ever was. To us, an address is public information. If anyone objects to our linking, let us know.
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Reminder on posts: We plan to arrange them in chronological order, with our arrival as a first post, to our departure, the post seen on the opening page. Dates of posting as we adjust to show our chronology may not be the actual date a post is put up. Archives are not necessarily earlier posts.
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