|Some tower in France:)|
Next, the Land Beyond the Forest, the home of Vlad Tepes, and all things Dracula, and the first ever horror writing workshop hosted in that country. The special guest instructor was Richard Thomas, not to be confused with John Boy Walton. Richard introduced students to Neo Noir, the New Black, and utilized several wonderful authors' work - Jack Ketchum, Stephen Graham Jones, and one of my favorites, Brian Evenson. The workshop was a good review for writers who have been published and an excellent introduction and learning experience for those who are just testing the waters. It was made perfect by the organizer and Commander and Chief, Tausha Johnson and her very capable and native Romanian side-kick, Ina Lolescu, both very capable and knowledgeable experts in the running of workshops, administration, and writing - please check the workshop site.
|The majestic Carpathians|
|Mama Conzonacilor Pensiune|
|The author and his wife at Rasnov|
Probably one of the most amazing activities was a visit to Bran Castle, an immense fortress located near the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. The castle, also with Teutonic roots, was destroyed in 1242 by the Mongols. Unfortunately, depending on one's point of view, it has more links to the English Monarchy than to the infamous Impaler, but as in most histories, tourism drives reality. The implements of torture,
|Vlad Tepes, possibly a tenant at Bran Castle|
Next came the actual birthplace of Vlad Tepes, the Impaler and Bram Stoker's infamous Dracula: Sigishoara. It was a beautiful, protected Medieval Village (UNESCO). It was like taking a step back in time, and I mean from the time we were in, which already felt like pre-Soviet Romania. Despite
|The author, his wife, and a very nice Roma woman.|
|Vlad and our flower offering|
So, Vlad Tepes birthplace... It has become a restaurant, with excellent food, by the way, and a tourist trap akin to a Tunnel-O-Love from the mid-twentieth century. Still, there was a certain charm, a chic, that can be found nowhere else on the planet. It was also the only certifiable link to the infamous Impaler on our trip, other than the empty plot of Vlad Tepes at Snagov (next). The setting and lighting were excellent for a nice snapshot.
Finally, on our way to the airport on the last day, we had to stop by Lake Snagov and the empty grave of Vlad Tepes made famous in Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. It was everything we expected. We especially appreciated our tour guide, Roxana Petrescu. It was a short, 20-minute drive from the airport. If you are traveling to Romania, an excellent site to see/visit
I plan to go into more detail, and include some commentary on each of the sites in additional detail, as well as our Paris adventure and our follow-on 4-day trip in the U.K., including Stonehenge, Avebury, and the city made famous by Jane Austen. If there are any errors, please let me know.