In Search of the Original Vampire: An Escorted Tour through Romania

Group Travel, Romania — By on January 22, 2012 at 2:00 am

by Sophie McGovern 
Special to Lost Girls World

Twilight movie marathons just weren’t cutting it for Lost Girl Sophie McGovern, who felt sucked towards a more authentic Vampire experience. With visions of Gothic European castles and stunningly moody landscapes, she set off to discover the home of Dracula: Romania.

Escorted Tour of RomaniaEdward Cullen, William Compton, Spike—Count Dracula would turn in his coffin if he could see the state of vampires today. Leather trench coats, ethical diets and glittery skin are all very well for the teenage scene, but I like my vampires a bit more authentic. You know, hiding in castle turrets wearing high collared capes; dreaming of damsel maids in a most dishonourable way. No real vampire would be caught dead (or un-dead) driving a Volvo or bleaching his hair. Hence for the true vampire groupie, there is no more evocative a destination than Romania, inspiration for the original vampire story and one of Europe’s best-kept beauty secrets. My escorted tour promised to show me Gothic castles and towns of antiquity as well as some of the most stunning landscapes on the continent.

Medieval Saxon towns, castles and rural churches awaited us. Thirteenth century Prejmer Church is like something straight out of an Eastern European fairy-tale with its portcullises and gingerbread spires. The nearby town of Brasov is surrounded by mountains and full of picturesque lanes perfect for wandering. Hearty Romanian stew accompanied by fresh peasant’s bread made for a delicious lunch after our tour of the town.

Before setting off to Romania, I had taken myself off to a local antiquarian book store and bought the most decrepit looking copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula I could find. This was the perfect reading material for our journey on to Bran Castle, where Dracula’s home stands surrounded by ancient woodland. The castle’s classic features are a feast for the imagination, and the whole area is the type of setting myths and legend are conjured from. Extracts from Stoker’s novel echoed in my head as we explored the castle’s interior. There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they may solve only in part.

The tour took us on to UNESCO listed Biertan with its fortified church, and then to Sighisoara through the stunning Romanian countryside. The landscape was dotted with golden hay stacks, forest and farm land where shepherds tended their flocks. Smoke drifted from stone chimneys and our coach was passed by traditional horses and carts. Aside from the enticing mythology of Romania there is a timeless beauty to its people and landscape which is equally as alluring.

The open-air Astra Village Museum was a highlight for me, where-folk art galleries house beautiful examples of traditional craft and relocated historic houses decorate the grounds. Lunching in the nearby restaurant said to be Dracula’s former home was a lot of fun. Plenty of tall tales were told by staff and locals, and information boards give further insight into the man behind the myth.

Ending in the city’s capital proved that there’s a lot more to Romania than castles and fangs. Bucharest is full of interesting landmarks and has a colourful history. Tree lined boulevards, palaces and squares make it a capital to rival any in Europe.

Sophie McGovern is a writer and freelance journalist. Originally from Scarborough, she has travelled throughout Latin America, North Africa and Europe, and currently lives on a house boat near Bath. Her articles are featured on various websites including Heading There, Lonely Planet and Southbank Centre Literature. She has a Masters degree in Creative Writing.

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