I'm back in Bucharest after a three-day jaunt into Transylvania. My boss gave me one of GBG's cars to drive up there, which worked out well, 'cause lemme tell ya, Transylvania is medieval! It's every bit as unmodern as you probablly pictured it to be. I mean, they have electricity and running water and stuff, and little public transportation, but except for in Brasov, there is very little architecture newer than 16th century, except for those ghastly communist era apartment buildings that you see all over Russia and other ex-commie places.
Anyway, on Saturday morning I left Bucharest and drove for a couple of hours to a small ski town named Sinaia, which is right on the edge of deep-woods Transylvania territory. The town itself was rather generic, but they have the coolest Castle I've ever been in there, named the Peles Castle. It was built by King Charles I, who was a German noble and was politically maneuvered into becoming Romania's first King. Other than that, I'm a bit fuzzy on the history, and even as much as I've stated already is probably suspect, as the tour guide was a Romanian who spoke English as though he had a truncheon in his mouth. Anyway, if I actually tried to remember all of the things tour guides told me on every little castle, palace, museum, or whatever that I've been to, I might as well be a tour guide myself. And I wouldn't be the type of tour guide who asks you if you have any questions at the end of the tour, either. I mean, who has questions after those things!? Nobody really wants to know more about a dusty old rock after hearing someone drone on about it for an hour. Anyway, I digress.
The castle was really frikken cool, though. If I were in the market for one, that's the one I'd get.
Then I continued on to Bran which was a tiny, dirty little town where the tourist trap known as Bran Castle is. It is also a neat little castle, and you could actually call it homey. But the tour guide there will be the first to tell you that Vlad the Impaler never lived there, and the reason that it draws so many Vampiremaniacs is simply a tale of the 'Vampire Who Wore No Capes'. It is, in the public imagination, the perfect ideal of a tiny, off-the-beaten-path Transylvanian castle, and since the only person anybody knows of who ever came from Transylvania is Dracula, well then, he must have lived there. They had a nice little Vampire Bar and Haunted House there, the quality of which can only be found at cheap roadside funfairs. Other than that, they didn't have much. So after 2 hours in Bran, I continued on to Brasov where, I very much regret, I spent 2 nights so that I could have a full day. Brasov is very, very, very uninteresting.
So on Monday morning I checked out of my hotel in Brasov, and continued on up the road to Sighisoara, which was very, very interesting. It's a small medieval city, and is the actual home of the Dracul family. Vlad Dracul had a house there where Vlad Tepes was born. Dracul is actually latin or German or something for Dragon, and when Mr. Tepes was off impaling all those people, he often referred to himself using the family name, and that's where Mr. Stoker got the name Dracula from. Again, my knowledge of the history here is suspect, but that's what I've managed to piece together during my extensive Vampire research in Sighisoara (ssiggy-sow-are-ah).
The town is wicked cool, though. Lots of really old buildings, dead trees, howling wolves, bats in the belfries... that sort of thing. I have two pieces of advice here, for anyone wanting to experience Transylvania sometime in the future. 1) Skip Brasov. Spend as much time in Sighisoara as you can. And 2) Don't wear all black when you go, and especially not a black longcoat. My belief is that because it's Transylvania, and because Sighisoara must be such a mecca for vampire hunters, what must have happened there is that wearing black very quickly came to be understood as something that weirdo vampire freaks wore specially for their super-cool trip to Transylvania. And so people who are normally dressed in what, elsewhere, are actually quite fashionable and attractive clothes, and are not, in fact, weirdo vampire freaks, are instantly and unjustly singled out as weirdo vampire freaks.
Not that that happened to me. I'm just saying. I mean, what if someone's best color happens to be black? Damn commies.
Otherwise I only have two overall observations from my trip. The first is that I can't get over how Transylvanian Transylvania is, you know what I mean? It wasn't exactly how you picture it when you think of the mythological place which, let's face it, you didn't realize was actually a real place until later in life than you'd like to admit. But it was closer than I would've guessed. My other observation is that a major source of employment for Transylvanians is pushing around bundles of sticks in carts on roads in the middle of nowhere. It's apparently quite lucrative, because lots of them do it. I had to pull over at one point to relieve myself, and no less than 4 guys, wearing peasant clothing, went running by pushing carts with rickety wheels full of sticks. One of them even stopped and said to me, "Psst. Hey man, you wanna buy some sticks?" I was too frightened to ask what exactly I was supposed to do with the sticks, so I just said "Naw, man, I got some already." And hopped in my car and got away quick.
And now I'm back in boring ugly Bucharest for four more days... I have some more work to do, and I leave on Saturday for Baghdad. I think I forgot to mention that, actually. I was only supposed to be here for a week to meet the lawyer guy, but while I was here, alot of stuff came up and my boss decided to keep me here an extra week, with the option of a nice long weekend in Transylvania. So it worked out well for me, that way.
Pictures From my Transylvania haunt, I mean jaunt, are now up!