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".
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.
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.
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
At 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.
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
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!