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Saturday, January 5, 2013

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DRACULA


THE WRITING OF

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DRACULA:

A PERSONAL JOURNEY AND TRAVEL GUIDE




By

Steven P. Unger


     My obsession to travel to every site related to either the fictional Count Dracula or his real historical counterpart, Prince Vlad Dracula the Impaler, grew out of a visit to Whitby, England, where part of the novel Dracula takes place.  I stood on the cemetery hill where, in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray spent hour after hour sitting on their "favourite seat" (a bench placed over a suicide's grave near the edge of the cliff), gazing out toward the "headland called Kettleness" and the open North Sea beyond—while Count Dracula slept just beneath them.
In my mind's eye, I could see the un-dead Count Dracula rising at night from the flattened slab of the suicide's gravestone to greedily drink the blood of the living.
The graveyard where Count Dracula spent his days sleeping in the sepulcher of a suicide looks the part that it plays, with its weathered limestone tombstones blackened by centuries of the everpresent North Sea winds.  That graveyard made the novel more visible, more visceral, to me, and I wondered if the sites in Transylvania and in the remote mountains of southern Romania would evoke the same feelings. As I was to discover—they did.




Old Parish Church CemeteryWhitby, England

At that moment I decided to visit and photograph every site in England and Romania that is closely related to either Bram Stoker's fictional Count Dracula or his historical counterpart, Prince Vlad Dracula the Impaler—to literally walk in their footsteps and to write a book about my experiences.



Goth Girls Adorning Whitby's Bram Stoker Memorial Seat

Eventually I traveled along the Dracula Trail alone, using only public transportation, to some places that I'd seen before and to others I had only dreamed of, trying my best to systematically strip away the layers of myth about Count Dracula and Prince Vlad the Impaler to find the reality within.  I discovered in broken stones and parchments signed in blood why Prince Vlad's monstrous deeds in life would brand him forever with the name of Vlad Ţepeş (pronounced Tzeh·pish), Romanian for Vlad the Impaler, soon after his death.
     In my research and travels I discovered two fascinating coincidences that link the historical and the literary Draculas.  First and foremost is that Bram Stoker chose to name his villain "Dracula," based on the translation of the Romanian word "dracul" into "devil," never knowing that the historical Voivode (Prince) Dracula he had read about was also Vlad Ţepeş, with a horrific and compelling biography of his own.




Vlad the Impaler Surrounded by his Victims

Bram Stoker's Transylvania was the pipe dream of an armchair traveler with a genius for writing:  real enough for the 19th Century reader, but bearing little resemblance to any Romania that ever existed.  For example, Stoker wrote of "hay-ricks [haystacks] in the trees" based on illustrations of Transylvanian haystacks built around stakes, with the ends of the stakes poking out like branches.  Thus, generations of Dracula readers assumed that Transylvanians put their haystacks up in trees.


Haystacks along Transylvania's Borgo Pass
     The second coincidence is the uncanny resemblance of the real Castle of Dracula—Vlad Ţepeş' fortress at Poenari, which Stoker had no knowledge of—to Count Dracula's fictional castle in Transylvania.  Perched on a remote peak near a glacial moraine in the Făgarăş Mountains of southern Romania and mirroring Count Dracula's fictional castle at the top of the Borgo Pass almost stone for stone, Poenari remains pristine and almost inaccessible.



The Fortress Ruins at Poenari
     One of my favorite places on the Dracula Trail is Sighişoara, in Transylvania, the birthplace of Vlad Ţepeş.  I was enchanted the moment I entered Sighişoara's Upper Town.
     All at once I was in the middle of a perfect storybook medieval village enclosed by thick fortress walls, with cobblestone streets and Easter-egg-colored houses leaning every which way.  Guarding the town square was a spire-roofed and turreted 14th Century clock tower replete with carved wooden figures that circle a track to mark the passage of time.  In one window, a drummer plays to signal the hours; below the drummer, the angel of the night replaces the angel of the day at the final stroke of midnight.  In another window, gods and goddesses appear, changing for each day of the week.



Piaţa Cetăţii—Sighişoara

     But let's get back to Poenari, the real Castle of Dracula.  I had traveled to other remote, forbidding places before entering the almost lightless forest of Poenari.  Near Albania's southern border, I hiked the Vikos Gorge, a dozen miles from the nearest stone-housed village.  I baked beneath the unrelenting sun of the Timna Valley close to the Red Sea, where 120º in the shade is considered picnic weather.  But never before or since have I felt the apprehension and isolation I did while climbing to Vlad Ţepeş' mountaintop fortress at Poenari.  The forest was as quiet as a tomb; I can't recall hearing the song of even a single bird.
     The ascent was exhausting.  At last I arrived at the lone approach to the fortress, a wooden footbridge (see top left of photo).  Of all the places I explored that are associated with Vlad Ţepeş, only at Poenari did I feel that he was somehow still keeping watch.  Thousands of boyars and their families had been force-marched there from Tărgovişte to die rebuilding the castle for Prince Vlad; it was here that his treacherous brother Radu stormed the fortress with cannons, reducing the once courtly residence into broken turrets and formless rubble.  And it was here that Prince Dracula's wife cast herself from the highest window of the eastern tower, choosing a swift death over the torture of the stake.
Walk along the top of the thick fortress walls of Poenari, look northward, and you can see part of the Transfăgarăşan Road, leading to a glacial moraine and one of the deepest lakes in the world.  (According to local legend, a dragon sleeps at the bottom of the lake, and the villagers nearby will caution you not to throw stones in the water lest the dragon awake.)  The view south from the fortress is straight down, to the Arges River far in the distance, and even farther, the road to Curtea de Arges.



Footbridge to Poenari Fortress


The Transfăgarăşan Road, as seen from Poenari

 Parts of this article have previously appeared in Romar Traveler and other online publications.
In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide, is published and distributed by World Audience Publishers (http://www.amazon.com/Footsteps-Dracula-Personal-Journey-Travel/dp/1935444530/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262485478&sr=1-1).
In the Footsteps of Dracula can be ordered from your local bookstore or online at www.amazon.com,. www.amazon.co.uk, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.fr, www.amazon.de, www.amazon.com/Kindle, and with free delivery worldwide from www.bookdepository.co.uk.





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hi just to remind my readers that I do book features on my blog, book advertising is always so expensive so I offer a free service My blog has over 38,000 hits and a large following, am what I do is lots of book features as well as life as a teenage vampire. Send me a book cover pic, book blub and details on where it can be purchased along with author details and photo etc........ any thing that will make it good reading and i will do a book feature on it. my email is: amymahvampire@aol.com  In return all I ask is that you help publicise my books in anyway you can such as also doing a feature on your blog on my books. 






A self help guide by Amy Mah (Vampire) for teenage vampire girls, the guide is fully illustrated by manga Artist Heby and is written in an easy to follow A - Z format explaining everything a teenage vampire girl would need to know about living life as a modern Vampire. What is fashionable to wear when eating out? Fang maintenance & how to keep your claws sharp. Should you let a boy bite you on the first date? Easy to understand clear advice is given to every day problems Example: When you get an urge to bite: We all get those normal urges to bite things, and I must point out it is very normal, Claws are all well and good in a fight but a bite gives the extra advantage of getting a refreshing drink at the same time. Lots of girls worry about showing their Fangs in public believing that to show your fangs is rude, but don't be shy they can be a girls greatest asset (ok second greatest asset) if a boy is being rude to you, don't just snarl at him, just bite him! You are a vampire why do you think you have sharp teeth if not for sinking them into a boy that is being rude to you.



Today's world is difficult for everyone, especially teenagers. They face the stresses of school, deciding whom to date, and the biggie of sex, just to name a few. Imagine all of those things ten times worse, and you might get an idea of what it's like being a living, breathing teenage vampire. At last, the world can read about the life of a girl with good teeth, her problems with strong sunlight that gave her spots, and the sunblock that made her hair go yucky and produced more spots. Yes, sunlight was dangerous, as she could be the first teenager in history to die from terminal acne! In her everyday life, older vampires expected her to walk about at night in the traditional female uniform, a see-through, 18th-century nightdress, without undies! Well, this female vampire knew why the cold winds blowing along the corridors were called, "male winds," so she wore her see-through nightdress over jeans and a very thick jumper. To be sure that people would still know she was a vampire, the jumper had a very large, pink bat on it. And as to guys, well, it was normal for a girl to dream about guys; she just wished the dreams could have involved chocolates and holding hands, not leaping out at someone, ripping off his shirt, and demanding to know what blood type he was (at least not on the first date).














Review of Vampire by Amy Mah

Since the author of this unusual and humorous book is herself unusual and a bit off the charts, I am doing something a little different with this review. Of course, I mean that in the most loving way. You don't doubt me, do you, Mistress Amelia? I think it is necessary to give a brief account of how our Amy sees herself and her writing. This is borrowed from Amy's blog with some minor editing on my part. Clears throat! 

The author, Amelia Mah, is a 20 something snarky, sarcastic and cynical author who has a very popular blog of how she sees the world from the point of view of a modern teenage vampire. Following the success of her first book, "FANGS RULE A Girls Guide to being a Vampire," she has now expanded the idea of life as a teenage vampire into a full novel. Amelia has given her avatar her own name so you can see the world first hand from a very bored teenage vampire that has been forced to remain a teenager for far too long. She may have very good teeth and the ability to hang from ceilings but life is far from easy.

Below you will find the full color illustrated version of Vampire by Amy Mah. The edition that I read was the first printing and was not illustrated. Since I love the new version, I have decided to share that with you. 


Vampire
Amy Mah
Reardon Publishing
ISBN 9781874192619

   This is not your typical vampire story where vampires are jumping in bed with humans or are entangled with werewolves for one reason or another. This is the story of a teenage vampire who is just trying to survive in her day to day existence. It is humorous and will make you laugh out loud when  Amy is just being her own unique self. She has a way with words that is like no other. This book gives us insight as to how how Amy meets her boyfriend Max and becomes best friends with his sister Ice, who were introduced in her first book. Amy is so outrageous that you can't help fall in love with her. I'm sure she would have something to say about that... No matter! The book is a delight and if you are into the strange and unusual, you must get your copy and see for yourself. You better get a copy unless you want to hear from the author. She has her own version of bending you to her will. In all seriousness, get your copy, it is a great book.
    Disclosure: I received a copy from the publisher for reviewing purposes.

I give Vampire 5 out of 5 stars   

Links: 
www.fangsrule.com/buy.htm and can be found on the amazon US and UK sites.


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