A party in Dracula’s castle? How could I refuse? When I originally outsourced my fall vacation to the whims of my friends, this was the big selling point and basically the only point of the entire trip that I had any knowledge about. I had decided that a mystery vacation to a country I’d never been to would be a grand scheme. How pleasantly surprised was I when the train deposited me and my party to our first location Brasov. For the low, low price of surviving the tribulations of Hell Train, I was treated to a feast for the eyes.
Founded in the early 13th century by Teutonic Knights, the city was perfectly positioned to gain economic and political and influence, due to it being situated at the middle of trade between the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe. This affluence helped the city to grow into the impressive place that it is today. It is not hard to recognize the old world beauty of this town. Resting in a valley, like most cities in a mountain range, the city is overlooked on all sides by lush forested mountains.
It is a city which is proud of its heritage with a great number original medieval buildings still standing in the historical center. This medieval splendor is something that was eminently visible once we realized that our Airbnb had a rooftop terrace. Red roofed buildings radiate outwards from the center of the city, reaching outwards to the fall tinged hills overlooking the town. It was definitely something that my meager photography skills struggled to adequately represent.
After a brief period for refreshment we began to prepare ourselves for the evening’s event. Donning costumes and preparing makeup our little group became ghoulishly presentable over the course of a few hours. The evening greeted us with a fall’s expected chill as we set foot into the grand square of the city. Our destination this evening is one overpriced taxi ride further into the Carpathians. The village of Bran is a small and unassuming mountain town that looks as though it is normally home to ten shopkeeps. However, on this date, the population was bolstered by what had to be several thousand foreign merrymakers. The one main street and every store front were bursting with ghouls and ghosts. The boisterous becostumed crowd was here for the draw of the evening. The city too donned its costume for Halloween.
“I can’t believe that we’re standing where the real life Dracula lived.” I’m sure that my brain boozily muttered to itself as we turned down the walk which would lead to the famed structure Castelu Bran. Bran Castle, as it very simply translates, nestles itself picturesquely between two very large and prominent mountains in the Carpathian range. Fittingly, the castle in question is also a place that lies in between fact and fiction. The purported infamy and mystery surrounding this location has somewhat less to do with historical truth than with the power of myth and misunderstandings.
Over one hundred years ago, an Irishman with a flair for the melodramatic heard the name of a Wallachian prince with a nasty reputation. The prince’s name lent an air of mystery to the Irishman’s manuscript about malevolent supernatural beings that went bump in the night. It is also believed that said Irish author was exposed to an image of a castle in distant Romania, one whose exterior could easily instill a sense of foreboding and dread. It would be a place where readers could imagine repugnant rituals and devilish deeds being perpetrated. Thus was the most classic of horror tales penned with strange connections to the reality which inspired it.
Closer to historical record though is that various internal power struggles in medieval Central Europe led to Vlad Tepes also known as Vlad Dracul also known as Vlad the Impaler being captured by a Hungarian army because anyone who is blessed with the moniker “Impaler” probably isn’t the nicest guy. Our dear old Vlady did indeed reside in Bran Castle, but he only did so for a few months as a prisoner in transit.
Now, whether due to it resembling the descriptions of Count Dracula’s Castle or its location deep in the Carpathian Mountains or even due to the fact that encouraging the connection brings in tourism dollars, this structure has been irreparably associated with the Dracula mythos.
This string of historical research was likely lost on the line of hundreds of entrants just looking to witness Halloween glory. Fictitious or not the castle was sure outfitted to draw on the expectations. There was something awe inspiring in the way an imposing obelisk was cut into the night with Technicolor laser light shows. It sets the stage rather well. There was a kaleidoscopic light display running its way across the face of the castle. It was a feast for the eyes, crimson hues danced across the roiling beclouded sky. Blood dripped down the most prominent façade. It was very gothic in the pants with too many zippers kind of way.
We went up the hill that lead to the castle. There we traded in the trite and uninteresting activity of waiting around in a big open exterior area for the glamour of standing still in line through claustrophobic stone corridors of a castle. There was only one path to take and it corralled the drunken masses single file through the castle. My girlfriend had again taken on the persona of the undead pirate, which was something that a string of drunken Russian pirates loved to no end. I don’t speak Russian, but I do believe that they were inviting her to be their captain. She tactfully declined. Our tour proceeded under the watchful eye of “Vlad Dracul” who excitedly offered photo ops to good looking women.
Rain fell as we descended slick stones towards the last event of the evening. Down in the clearing, overlooked by the castle’s watchful gaze, a driving beat was fueling a heaving mass of becostumed bodies. This was the part of the evening I most looked forward to, an all-night dance off led by the creatures of the night, only to disperse as the dawn drove the undead to their darkened corners. As we stood in line to get into the bursting at the seams tent, the light rain became torrents of water descended upon us. What had been the polite concept of the line then decided that all life depended on entering that tent. We were swarmed as the rains pelted the cold and angry mass awaiting to gain entry to the capacity filled party. I was excited to play up my role as lord of the dance, but I could glean from the looks of my friends and the angry words from their mouths that they were unwilling to wait for the line to dissipate. So we called it there. We left the pounding beat and luminous castle behind to procure near suicidally reckless transportation back.
We were cold and tired, but since me and my miss were all dressed up we decided to give partying one last chance. We marched up the central tourist area looking for an establishment to haunt and found and Irish basement bar. In the brick vaulted basement there was joyous chaos. Dancing on the table was highly encouraged. We got some drinks and listened to Romanian punk rock music as I loosened into my groove. Before too long the DJ worked his way into 80s and 90s English hit songs. I twirled and swirled to the music, but I really came into my own as Tina Turner began to roll down the river. A circle was formed so that I could ply the wondrous wares of my motion for my growing fanbase. Camera phones came out, and I was the evening’s dancing queen. We left not long after because a flock of floozies elbow checked my Pirate Queen to get a closer look at me. Good for my ego, not so good for the happiness of my long term partner. Somewhere along the way my vest was unfortunately sacrificed to appease the deities of dance.
Thus do I wrap up my tale of Halloween havoc. Tune in next week as I finish recounting the events of fall break and finally proceed with my life. Thank you for coming along with me through this adventure, my fair listener. To all of you out there, I say good day, good night, and good reading.