Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vlad Tepes' Mountain Fortress, or, The Curse of Dracula

I've tried to post on this part of my Romania trip several times, but every time I do the photos mysteriously refuse to load. At first I was blaming Blogger, but then I realized where I was trying to post about. The mountain fortress of Vlad Tepes (historical Dracula), where he withstood a Turkish assault after (allegedly) kidnapping unsupportive villagers from an Easter feast and forcing them to build it stone by stone until they died.

A photo curse?

You decide.

Me, I'm still blaming Blogger.

Near the end of our trip Hot Stuff and I were in historical Wallachia. Romania has been many, many countries over the years, but the traditional political regions are Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia. What's funny is that although everyone associates Dracula with Transylvania, he was actually a ruler in Wallachia, and was only in Transylvania when he was being held prisoner by a pissed off royal.

And of course when I say Dracula I mean Vlad Tepes, whose father's surname was Dracul, and whom many believe is the historical figure that inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula. (Also interesting to note is that, while not eavesdropping on conversations because I couldn't understand them, I noticed a group of twenty-something guys repeatedly mentioning Dracula. "Weird," I thought. "They must really be into history." Until my husband kindly explained that the base for that name is one of their worst swearwords. Which makes much more sense, but I think I'll pretend like they were having an animated discussion of Vlad's depiction in modern media.)

While Transylvania is mostly hills and plains, Wallachia has the most incredible, dramatic mountains I've ever seen--and I'm a mountain girl, so you know when I say they are amazing, I'm dead serious. Hot Stuff's local friends had told us that it was quite a hike to get to the fortress, and they mentioned 1000 stairs.

"Psh," I thought (since I often think things like, "psh," or "meh," my inner thoughts being startlingly less articulate than you'd expect). "It's probably like 500." Romanians tend to exaggerate these things. So we got there, and looked up at this:

Oh, hi, mountain.

Oh, hi, stairs.

The camera couldn't really capture the depth, but the slope of the hill is almost straight down, and those stairs keep going and going and going and going. To give yourself a better idea, please cut and paste this image about 100 times in your browser. Turns out Hot Stuff's friends WERE wrong. There are, in fact, 1,480 stairs to get to the top. But when everything is green, and you're up so high that you're actually walking through the clouds, and you're with the hottest translator ever known to mankind, well, 1,480 stairs are actually kind of fun.

I miss the green. It was the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. So many areas we went to were, for lack of a better descriptor, magical. Like somehow we'd left behind the 21st Century and anything could happen.

Like those soul-devouring slugs. But we won't talk about them.

Finally, after conquering the steps, we got to the ruins of the fortress.

"Yay! I did it! And the trip is almost over and I'm out of clothes, and if Vlad could see my lavender-and-black striped shirt with my brown capris he'd have a stake made just for me!"

The guy in a station at the top apologized for the cloudy day, but I couldn't have asked for better weather. A) It wasn't hot climbing up those infinite stairs, and B) Holy freaking gorgeous.


600-year-old Fortress Walls

And honestly, when the Turks lay siege to the fortress, I don't think it was anything personal against Vlad. I think they just wanted the real estate for the views.

That building way, way, way down there is a huge hotel.

Walking around the remains of the fortress, knowing that one of history's most infamous (and probably unfairly so) figures lived and fought there, was all sorts of cool. Hot Stuff and I also had fun discussing the finer points of an imaginary video game based on his life that mostly consisted of impaling as many people as possible during the time limit. It was, umm, delightfully gruesome.

The breathtaking views, however, trumped any sense of history for me. One of the saddest parts of visiting historical sites in Romania is how little they can afford to keep them up (which makes sense considering they are EVERYWHERE), but one of the best parts is how unspoiled they are. We were the only ones up there, and I keep trying to come up with adjectives other than incredible, but, well, it was incredible.

They even had thistles. I think they planted them just for me.


26 comments:

Piedmont Writer said...

You are so lucky. What a fantastical magical trip! Thanks for sharing the gorgeous pictures. And kudo's to you for doing the whole stair thing.

Jamie said...

Absolutely beautiful...a great visual for how great the world "used" to look! Thanks for the photos!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

These are beautiful. I'd love to hear how Vlad was possibly maligned. I only know him as the impaling blood bather. Teach me, Wise One.

Wicked Walker said...

Wow these pictures are amazing! Now I really want to go there! Thanks for sharing them with us...and weirdly so today...since I was reading Insatiable last night and it had a part in there talking Vlad Tepes. Now I have pictures to put with the descriptions!

My 5 Monkeys(Julie) said...

its looks beautiful there and thanks for sharing.

Stephanie McGee said...

Gorgeous! Though I bow down to your stamina for climbing all those stairs. I can't imagine how much of the day that one took. Though the going back down would be worse because you're so tired from the whole day.

Kristan said...

Fog and thistles! What more could a girl ask for? (No really, it's beautiful.)

Patti said...

I just read the Historian, so that's cool to see pictures of where some of that book takes place. Great photos.

Jessie Oliveros said...

Lavender, black, and brown don't go together? Time to reassess my wardrobe. I loved your pictures, and I may have to add Romania to countries-I-want-to-see-someday. Maybe Romania will find its way into one of your Paranormalcy novels?

moonrat said...

argh. these photos made my heart pound with travellust and other unholy sentiments.

word ver: stori. a hint?

Jess said...

Ooh, gorgeous & spookylicious! I love it. And I'm impressed that you climbed all those steps!

Mireyah Wolfe said...

Wow, that's just Gorgeous!! Um...if you guys go again, can I come too? I'll totally fit in a carry-on bag or something. Because...wow.

Did I say wow? Really, WOW.

Tere Kirkland said...

Amazing photos! That must have been a wonderful trip. What an experience.I love being surrounded by history.

(I love thistles, too. I actually have a big thistle tattooed on my lower back. My family's Scottish.)

Glad you had a fun trip!

Amanda J. said...

Absolutely gorgeous!! :D

Caroline Grace: said...

So beautiful. The fog, the atmosphere...magical. Gorgeous pictures!

JEM said...

Ohhh, gorgeous pictures. Makes me sad when I stare out my work window and stare at the cars passing by the dirty buildings. They could at LEAST give me a woods view, sheesh.

I just have to add: my word verification is "sessy." Oh yeah.

maybe genius said...

Wow. You may have inspired me to add Romania to my list of Places to Visit at Some Point. Gorgeous!

sraasch said...

It is one of my unfulfilled ambitions to be EXACTLY where you were. Dracul's castle. Vlad Tepes. Whoever he was, he had one hell of a taste in real estate.

Jessica said...

Glad the pictures finally came through...*badcursebad!*
GORGEOUS! I am so jealous. Romania was never on my list of places to go before, but wow...it is now!

PS - Any inspiration for more Evie adventures found in Romania????

Dara said...

Definitely looks like something out of an old fairy tale especially with all the clouds and mist. Super beautiful.

Midnight Sapphire Books said...

WoW those pictures are breath taking! Absolutley beautiful ...

Jarrod said...

Did you see the crypt... I mean, er, bedroom?

Vicki Rocho said...

I don't think of Romania being beautiful. Obviously, I need to update my mental memory banks.

I'd love to go, but 1,480 steps? Are you freaking kidding me? If you figure 14 stairs per flight, you climbed past the 100th floor of a skyscraper. Holy moly. Were your legs jello the next day?

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

Love the pics and I think the misty/cloudy day would be perfect for Dracul's fortress! Thanks for sharing and glad you had such great time! You did about a months worth of stair-stepping. Hope you treated yourself to some yummy food!

Claire Dawn said...

I don't do stairs, but it really is beautiful. I'm glad you enjoyed it. But I'm also glad we followers have our Kiersten- er- um- you back. lol :)

Whirlochre said...

All that way up and you still manage to throw out a dainty knee...