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Bram Stoker's fictional vampire, Count Dracula, comes from Transylvania. It is interesting to note first of all that Stoker never visited Transylvania himself. What he knew about that part of Europe he learned from his research. He came across books and articles which supplied him with information about the history, geography and customs of the region. Another point of interest is that when Stoker selected Transylvania as the homeland for his Count (in the early 1890s), Transylvania was not even part of Romania (it joined after the First World War as a result of the Treaty of Trianon). But because Transylvania is part of Romania today, this section is called "Count Dracula Sites in Romania".

There are two significant places which play an important part in Stoker's novel DRACULA: the town of Bistritz (the German spelling that Stoker uses, Bistrita in Romanian) and the Borgo (Birgau) Pass.


Bistritz is a town of about 50,000 in northern-central Transylvania, established in the 12th century. It was on the main rail line from Vienna and Budapest, the route that Jonathan Harker takes in Chapter 1 of the novel.

Golden Crown HotelIn Stoker's novel. Jonathan Harker stays at the Golden Crown Hotel before traveling eastward to meet Count Dracula. While there was no hotel by that name in Bistritz when Stoker wrote the novel, one has been built to accommodate the interests of visitors who come to the area having read the novel. As a matter of fact, it is possible to drop in at the restaurant and have the very meal that Harker has in the novel - the "robber steak". While I did not have the meal, I did get a copy of the special menu that is distributed on request to guests. It was given to me by the president of the local chapter of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, who knew I was coming and was there to meet me.

Borgo Pass

A far more important site for Dracula fans is the Borgo Pass. In the novel, Harker leaves Bistritz and heads eastward on the road that linked Transylvania with Bukovina (Moldavia), still the main route today through the eastern range of the Carpathian Mountains. The first time I took this journey, I had a copy of the novel with me and read the appropriate sections to compare what Stoker wrote with what I was looking at. Even though Stoker was depending on second-hand sources, the similarities are quite striking. While the area is not nearly as rugged as in the novel, some of the description is accurate: green sloping land, farmhouses, wooded mountains, fruit orchards. One drives through a series of small villages dotted along the "Birgau" (Borgo) valley before finally starting the ascent into the Pass itself. Here we passed a river, tall and straight trees, higher mountains in the distance, so part of the effect is there. These mountains, though, could hardly be classified as forbidding.

Dracula HotelAt a high point in the Borgo Pass is Romania's one major concession to the Dracula of the West - the Castle Dracula Hotel, built in the early 1980s in the general area where Stoker located the fictional castle in his novel. While this hotel caters to tourists looking for the vampire Count (it even has a crypt complete with coffin), it has the advantage of being in the "right" fictional location, and the view of the Pass is magnificent.

"Welcome to the Carpathians"

I have been back to this area three times since my first visit, two of which were especially memorable. In 1995, the final sessions and closing ceremonies of the World Dracula Congress were held at this site. [The World Dracula Congress was a scholarly conference/Dracula tour that attracted well over 100 participants. It was sponsored by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula.]

Closing ceremonies included the awarding of a number of honors, including one to me. I was invested as a Baroness of the House of Dracula. In recognition of this, my portrait was painted and now hangs in the lobby of the Castle Dracula Hotel.

My most recent visit was in May 1998 when a rather uncanny incident took place. We left Bistritz on the evening of May 4 (the same date that Harker made his fateful journey into the Borgo Pass in Stoker's novel) and traveled by car (with 3 others) eastward towards the Borgo Pass. It had been raining for the hour or so before we arrived in Bistritz (for a brief stop at the Golden Crown Hotel) but nothing major. We had a couple of minor delays as the windshield wipers on the car kept falling off. Probably just as well, in light of what awaited us.

We left Bistritz at 8:30 pm for what should have been a 45 minute drive to the Castle Dracula Hotel. We didn't even bother to eat while in Bistritz (or take care of nature's pressing matters) as we were sure we would be at the hotel shortly after 9. Were we ever wrong!

We were passing through the last of several villages that lie along the Birgau valley (Muresenii Birgaului) when we were forced to stop because of a roadblock ahead of us. There had been a very short while earlier a major flash flood. Three houses had been swept away - no deaths or injuries fortunately, though some animals had been lost. There was water gushing across the road as well as major debris, and the police were on the scene. Before long, a couple of dozen cars and trucks joined us in the lineup. There was no turning back, as traffic had been reduced to one-way and everything was blocked solid on both sides of the flood. Water was rushing down the sides of the Carpathian slopes on to the narrow mountain road. We were stuck.

10 o'clock came, then 11 o'clock. Still no movement. Bulldozers and graders squeezed along to get at the trouble spots. In the meantime, we are in the middle of nowhere, no street lights, no moon, just the sound of water and a line of vehicles. There was nothing we could do but wait. In the meantime, a couple of us had to answer nature's call, and had quite an adventure. It was close to midnight when we knocked on the door of a modest dwelling and asked to use the facilities. I was shown down about 10-12 stone steps to a lower level. I could hear the rush of water, as the house was built close to the now swelling stream. The animals were housed in this lower area, and off by itself on stilts, right over the river, was the John! As I availed myself of its services, I could feel the little structure shake in the wind and hear the rush of water just a foot or so beneath me. I did what I had to do and got out of there in record time. Even Jonathan Harker didn't have to go through that! :)

Finally, about 1 a.m., after 4 hours sitting in the car, we were given the OK to drive on. We hit a couple of bad spots where water was rushing across the road, but at least the trees and debris had been removed and we could progress relatively unhindered. It was close to 2 am before we reached the hotel. Castle Dracula never looked so good!

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COPYRIGHT©2005 Dr. Elizabeth Miller