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This is the second in a series of photo posts, aimed at sharing the highlights of my Romania holiday. I've written an overview of the holiday itself here.

Bram Stoker never visited Romania, drawing his descriptions of the country and its history entirely from library-based research. But that doesn't mean you can't trace the footsteps of his characters through the actual landscape if you do go there - and that, of course, is exactly what the Dracula Society likes to do. The relevant parts of our holiday are shown below, in the order in which they occur in Stoker's novel (though that wasn't the order we did them in).

The novel begins with Jonathan Harker in Bistritz (nowadays more usually spelt Bistrița), writing up his diary from the Golden Crown hotel, where he is staying overnight before travelling up the Borgo Pass to meet Dracula's carriage. The Golden Crown is an invention of Stoker's, but in the early 1970s, an enterprising local businessman built his own 'Coroana de Aur' to capitalise on the western interest in Dracula tourism. I didn't bother taking any pictures of it, because it is just a 1970s hotel really, though you can see what it looks like from its website if you're curious.

Inside is the Salon Jonathan Harker, where we had lunch on our eighth day:
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The company was very convivial, and the meal enjoyable, while the hotel had made sort of an effort by way of dimmed lights and a thunder-and-lightning soundtrack as we came in, and black-and-white Gothic-themed photos on the wall with quotations from Stoker's novel. But there's no denying that it is a pretty theme-parkish experience, really.

Bistritz is Bistritz, though, and we had plenty of time to wander around it before our lunch. This is what it actually looks like:
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On the broad Strada Liviu Rebreanu, just opposite the cathedral, I found this historic restaurant, which will play the role of Stoker's Golden Crown in my personal imagination rather better than the 1970s tourist version can ever manage:
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As for the local children, I can't say whether or not they live in fear of vampires, but chalk drawings on the pavement certainly suggest that castles loom large in their consciousness:
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In order to reach Castle Dracula, Harker travels up the Borgo Pass from Bistritz in a stage-coach, through "a green sloping land full of forests and woods, with here and there steep hills, crowned with clumps of trees or with farmhouses, the blank gable end to the road". Stage-coaches weren't available to us, but from time to time Harker's coach also passes "a leiter-wagon - the ordinary peasants' cart - with its long, snakelike vertebra, calculated to suit the inequalities of the road". These are still in common use in Romania, and enterprising local farmers are very happy indeed to earn extra money transporting parties of Dracula-obsessed tourists through the Borgo Pass, just like Jonathan Harker. Thus it was that on our seventh day, we did this:
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I was a bit worried about that bit of the holiday, actually, as I am catastrophically allergic to horses - so bad that as a child I had to be rushed to a doctor for steroid injections on one occasion, after having been left by my mother for a riding lesson. But I'm pleased to report that a single Wilko's all-day allergy tablet saw me through very nicely. OK, so there were a few sneezes, but far fewer from me than from two fellow-travellers who insisted that they were fine and didn't want to take anything (both male - I'm saying nothing). So I was able to enjoy the breeze, the sunshine, the beautiful valleys and the sensation of thundering along the gravelled surface of the forest road we were traversing, all the while imagining myself a little bit in the role of Jonathan Harker - but if I'm honest rather more as one of the party of English travellers from Hammer's Dracula Prince of Darkness, the novelisation of which I read during the holiday.

Dracula failed to meet us at the top of the pass, no doubt because it was still daylight, but his castle awaited:
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It is in fact a sister institution to the Coroana de Aur in Bistritz, built by the same people and opened in 1983, but they have made rather more effort here. OK, so it is basically a 1980s hotel, but the architecture is about as castley as you can get while still providing your guests with a modern hotel experience, and they have done quite a good job in the rooms of using simple wooden fittings and furniture to create a suitably Victorian look. This was mine:
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Certainly, the interior décor had the requisite effect on one member of our party, who swore blind that she'd heard a scratching in the middle of the night, and someone calling her name. Or maybe that actually was Dracula?

Meanwhile outside stood a slightly boss-eyed statue of the man himself:
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And the carpets were embossed with the logo of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, who have held conferences there and acted as consultants on hotel renovations:
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Stoker's novel ends with a wild chase back to Dracula's castle, which sees the party of vampire hunters catching up with the gypsy cart carrying the count back home just as the sun sets. As Mina puts it in her journal:
The sun was almost down on the mountain tops, and the shadows of the whole group fell upon the snow. I saw the Count lying within the box upon the earth, some of which the rude falling from the cart had scattered over him. He was deathly pale, just like a waxen image, and the red eyes glared with the horrible vindictive look which I knew so well. As I looked, the eyes saw the sinking sun, and the look of hate in them turned to triumph.
The count's triumph is short-lived, of course, but still there was something about watching the sun set over the Borgo Pass from the terrace of the Hotel Castle Dracula which momentarily brought him back to life, and will stay with me forever:
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Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
thanatos_kalos
Jul. 26th, 2015 10:47 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous pix-- the hotel reminds me a bit of the Hotel Sherlock Holmes I stayed in when I was in Meiringen for Reichenbach Falls. :)

Shame Dracula didn't meet you, though-- I'd imagine a selfie with him could be hard but I bet he tells great stories. :)
strange_complex
Jul. 27th, 2015 09:38 am (UTC)
Ah, yes, I see - just looked up the Sherlock Holmes hotel, and it does indeed seem very much in the same vein.

TBH, Dracula missed out by not meeting us - but that's his funeral. ;-)
thanatos_kalos
Jul. 27th, 2015 09:00 pm (UTC)
True, but that Drac's a bit batty, so, he may have just lost track of time.
parrot_knight
Jul. 26th, 2015 11:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you for these - evocative of so much. I want to go myself!
strange_complex
Jul. 27th, 2015 09:39 am (UTC)
I can't recommend it enough.
spacelem
Jul. 28th, 2015 10:11 am (UTC)
That looks really nice! I'd love to visit there myself some day.
strange_complex
Jul. 28th, 2015 10:25 am (UTC)
Do! It is a fantastic country, and you can get a good three times as much bang for your holiday buck there as you can in western Europe because everything is so amazingly cheap.
davesmusictank
Aug. 3rd, 2015 12:29 am (UTC)
Some wonderful pics there.
strange_complex
Aug. 3rd, 2015 08:55 am (UTC)
Cheers! :-)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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