Fair warning: this might be a quite lengthy essay!
When I was younger, I was royally pissed by the fact that most people came to Romania thinking of vampires and associating Vlad Tepes with Count Dracula. Bran Caslte, one of their favorite vampire destinations, has nothing to do with Vlad or Dracula, but there are hordes of souvenir vendors that capitalize on Bram Stoker’s book and the subsequent movies.
This year, Dracula the TV series debuts in the States, so I expect a fresh wave of people wanting to see the home of said vampire count. Years ago (and in my early days of blogging), I made a point to write an article clearing things up about Vlad, the Bran Castle, and the whole Count Dracula thing. Especially since Elisabeth Batory was Stoker’s main inspiration for the book…
I’ve never been alone in this. Author Ioana Visan has written a really cool vampire series (in English, get it now on Amazon) where Vlad pretty much starts a kill-all-vampires movement and Romania is the only vampire-free country in the world, I’ve also seen a Dracula is dead account on Twitter, or something like that. And I know a lot of people who, over the years, have probably gone from eye rolling to murderous intent due to way too many jokes about Romanians being vampires.
I can honestly tell you I cannot remember a time where I’ve talked to someone planning to visit Romania or who has already been here and haven’t gotten into the vampire conversation. I have been called a vampire a few times. I kinda look pale in the photo of me at Bran, I did have red hair at the time, but I promise I have not drained anyone dry. Now, biting is a different story altogether 😀 Or draining them with my being annoying! Plus, given my ability to talk a lot and for indefinite stretches of time, I can assure you a lot of people would prefer to shut me up with a little of their blood.
Jokes aside, I did feel like telling people to stop coming here in search of Dracula. They’d be disappointed. There is nothing that has anything to do with Dracula at Bran. Or elsewhere. Actually, my feeling is Romanian folk tales are not that rich in vampire lore. Strigoi are more often mentioned. That’s what you refer to as zombies or the walking dead. Apparently, garlic repels a lot of supernatural creatures!
Over the past few years, I changed my mind. Frankly, the first and foremost reason I want to visit New Orleans is Anne Rice’s series on vampires. Do I expect to find Lestat there? No. Would I love to? Oh, yes, I’d interview the hell out of him! Are there other things to see in New Orleans? You bet there are! Would I be disappointed? Not really, my imagination would still run wild.
So if you want to chase Dracula and Vlad Tepes in Romania, be my guest! You might not find him in Bran, but if you visit the castle on a gloomy enough day, you’ll get into the right mood and you can always get a Dracula themed fridge magnet! Then go to Sighisoara to see his alleged birth place. And wander throughout the country to meet us vampires living here today.
Getting anywhere will be murder, just ask Robert! I still think it’s worth it. He might disagree. See, every destination in Romania has its own charm, if you want to discover it. It’s just really hard to get from one place to another without getting seriously annoyed.