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?
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.