When we crossed the border between Hungary and Romania we thought it was just another EU country. The first surprise came when it turned out that they actually check your passports at this particular border (no Shengen or just over-cautious?). The next surprise came when we realised how remote and wild Transylvania is. The third surprise was that there are no Corgis whatsoever in Transylvania, and perhaps even in all of Romania (I found this out from a Romanian lady who kept screaming ‘Corgi’ at the top of her lungs and grabbing me every 5 minutes at the dog show and kissing my nose enthusiastically). Little did we know that there are a lot of other mythical beasts that still populate the Transylvanian countryside…. So, we encountered a number of sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens, rabbits, deer, elk etc. on the roadside and even in the middle of the road at all times – which made the going rather slow at times.
We had been in Transylvania for one day already and stayed in Cluj-Napoca when we decided to poke our Corgi noses into the vampire myth. It was dark by the time we arrived at Sighișoara. That is where he was born. Some people claim his real name was Vlad Țepeș, but this was a nickname he got after he had first impaled thousands of people and then “died”. His real name was Vlad III Dracula (Son of Dracul).
We saw signs of the Vampire’s influence everywhere we went.
You won’t believe what happened as we were getting out of the car to explore. Darkness was falling over Sighișoara by then – it was cold and raining. Our people had parked the car at the foot of the Citadel where the old town is. Bonnie and I had just been taken out from the car when suddenly thousands of bats flew out of the tower and passed over our heads. Monika said it was just a flock of crows but we knew better. After all, this was Dracula’s birthplace.
Dracula’s father, Vlda II Dracul, was a famous knight and a member of the order of the Dragon. When Dracula was five, his father became King of Wallachia. The family moved south from Transylvania and Dracula did not actually move back to Transylvania until after he “died”. Some historians say the event that shaped him, both as a man and a vampire, was the fact that he was kidnapped by the Turks at the age of 13 along with his brother Radu. Radu was a very subservient hostage and won praise from his captors for being handsome and well behaved. Vlad Dracula did not get such good references from the Turks.
Transylvania is famous for its Vampire tourism. I thought at first this meant that human tourists (with their dogs, obviously) visited the local sights because of the Dracula legend. However, I noticed there were a lot of funeral parlours in every town in Transylvania. These shops are open 24/7. I wondered why there were so many and why operated round the clock. Then it dawned on me. Their main customers were vampires who came to visit Transylvania to pay their respects to the great vampire and they obviously buy their sleeping coffins locally. We visited one of these excellent establishments and the owner was more than happy to show us all of his coffins
Dracula himself is very well organised. Throughout Transylvania there is a network of banks and ATMs called the Bank of Transylvania. At first we thought this was a regular bank but when you go to the Automated Taker of Money you can either purchase blood for money or donate blood for money.
No search for Dracula can be complete without paying a visit to Dracula’s Castle. This is also known as Bran Castle. They claim that Dracula never visited this castle when he was alive. This may be true but he definitely visits it now that he is a vampire.
The place was crawling with tourists from all over the world, including a lot of Japanese tourists with huge cameras. They were so busy taking pictures they completely ignored our host – Count Dracula. We had only our iPhone to take pictures with because we had foolishly forgotten to take anything else so we kept bumping into Dracula at every corner – in fact he was posing because he was doing a promo-shoot for some local TV. The tour of the castle ends in a courtyard with a medieval well in the middle. I tried to take a picture of this well when I was alone (humans are suspicious of dogs who use cameras). In spite of the fact that I though he wasn’t there at that time, when I looked at my photo afterwards there he was again, posing next to the well. The guy is obviously some publicity freak.
So, we had a very exciting trip. We researched the Dracula business extensively (albeit using nose and iPhone), made friends with many exciting and smelly creatures, got kissed on the noses and admired by the locals, and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. We can therefore recommend Transylvania as a wonderful Corgi getaway.