08 March 2007

Nothing Went Bump in the Night

I'm using Eszter's computer here in Cluj Napoca, which means I will take the time to post some pictures so far from the Odyssey. First, let me write about my visit to Bran and ''Dracula's Castle.''

The real Dracula was Vlad Tepes, a ruler of Transylvania in the late 1300s. Dracula means blood of the dragon, a nickname alluding to the fact that Vlad's father was a member of a military order in Nuremberg, Germany which used a dragon as its symbol. Vlad developed a very unique execution method which involved driving a wooden stake through his captured enemies' spines and avoiding any major nerves or arteries. This technique ensured an agonizing slow death over a couple days. He would leave the bodies or heads of his victims on the stakes to leave a message for any would be invaders or attackers. This earned him the nickname, Vlad the Impaler.

Bram Stroker toured Transylvania in the late 1800s and the local folklore fascinated him, especially the stories about vampires. He embellished the legends, warped history, and arrived at his classic horror novel, ''Dracula.''

Towards the end of his life, the real Dracula was imprisoned when he lost control of his region. A mere two weeks of his imprisionment took place at the castle in Bran. This is the only conection between ''Dracula's Castle'' and Dracula. I knew beforehand that Vlad never truly lived in his namesake castle, but I thought he at least commissioned its construction. This weak link in the reality of the legend was but one of the disappointments in Bran.

The other main one was the village itself. I anticipated to find the kitschy souvenir hawkers and other foreign visitors, but I also believed I would be able to wander to an untouristed side of town and allow it to take me back in time. In reality, the village is so small there's not really anyother side of town to visit. Dingy houses only from the fifties, and hotels for the tourists line the three or four roads that spur out from the center, which lies near the entrance gates to the castle museum grounds. While a few old buildings existed, the curbless streets and utility poles helped to obscure any possible quaint views of the village. However, not all was bad.

The castle itself, while lacking in any truly interesting or spooky history, was one of the best castles I have visited due to its authentic look and feel as how one would imagine such a residence. Turrents and towers dotted the walls and roof lines of the fortress. Dark wood furniture and even one Transylvanian black bear skin rug decorated the enterior with other classic castle decor. I even walked up one secret set of stone stairs hidden behind a wall. The castle, as well as a short hike in the Transylvanian woods, helped to give my visit to Bran something of a worthwhile feeling.

The tourist numbers were not too high, but then again I wouldn't expect as many tourists in this part of the world as in London or Paris. Although they tell me that this is the low season for tourists. Yes, apparently Romania has a low tourist season.

After three hours, more than necessary, I left Bran and began my way to Cluj Napoca. Another four hours and a very rude dinning car attendent later, I arrived. Eszter, along with her warm greeting, met me in the train station and we walked to her aparment at around midnight.

Considering I had not seen any familar face in nearly a month, it felt very good to finally see a friend.

Tomorrow I leave for Budapest, Hungary, where I will also meet and hopefully stay with a couple other friends I made in Eichstaett.

Here are some of the photographs from my travels:

One more view of the Parthenon and the Acropolis in Athens.

One of the few streets of Bran, Romania.

A delicious gryo in Greece.

Part of the complex from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

One of the enzones guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens.

Riding the rails through Bulgaria.

The castle of Bran in Transylvania.

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

The trulli of Alberobello, Italy.

Gjirokastar, Albania as seen from its castle.

A monastery amongst the clouds in Meteora, Greece.

The Porch of the Maidens on the Acropolis in Athens.

A plaster body cast in Pompeii.

A Margarita pizza in Naples.

The Colosseum in Rome.

Ruins of the the Temple of the Vestal Virgins in Rome.

The Trevi Fountain in Rome.


DaddyO said...

was the gryo better than one's we get here in Memphis? I haven't been to our Greek restaurant since you left. however looking at the picture of the gryo you had makes me want to go.
enjoyed the pictures, how many do have (given the camera incident)?

natalie said...

Hey you're a quite a photographer!

Nick O. said...

Dad: Actually the quality was not that much better, except for one chicken one that was excellent. The also put french fries one them. By the end of my stay I was asking them to leave them off, surely that's not an original topping.

Natalie: Thanks, I will try to capture my experiences and travels through photos.

quererysipoder said...

Amazing photos!
The pizza from Napoli was the one Da Michele, right???