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Maria and Gerry’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 29 Jun 2006

Location: Brasov, Romania

MapAn 8.20 start this morning and on our way to Bran Castle the one one featured in Bram Stokers well kown book Dracula.In actual fact it has nothing to do with Vlad the Impaler as the locals call him but through some very clever PR work it has become the most visited castle in Romania.It is situated on the wrong pass for starters but Stoker was convinced that this was the place and the rest as they say is history.
Dracula or the son of Dracul lived in turbulent times where armies marched all over the Balkans,allegiancies were fragile and your friend this month could well be your foe next month.Dracula was very cruel but so were a lot off other rulers.His method of impaling his enemies was neither new nor novel,the Turks were well known for this method of execution.Dracula and his brother were held hostage by the Turks to ensure their father adhered to a treatry.When his father and another brother were assasinated by Romanian nobles the boys were sent home.Dracula the eldest set about revenging the deaths.He invited all the nobles to a feast then as they arrived they were impaled.It seems Dracula was abused while in Turkey and became a rather twisted soul.He too met his end by assasination by offspring of the nobles he had nobbled.Thus are Balkan politics!!!
The castle is situated on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia thus had strategic importance but by the 1850 had become a ruin.It was given to Queen Mary a granddaughter of Queen Victoria,her father the then Duke of Edinburgh,her mother a Romanov.
She restored the castle mainly as place to meet up with her many lovers but not all at once it is thought.She turned it into a German type castle,very comfortable and cosy with lots of ceramic stoves and inner courtyards.There are many photos and paintings of her on the walls.She looked like one of those pre-Rafael ladies.There was running water and power.Our castle guide Mihai spoke almost perfect idiomatic American English.
Time for coffee,postcards and souvenirs.Coffee was had in a place which looked like a vampires sleeping quarters complete with coffins etc.The coffee was good the music loud and lousy but we did get it turned down.
While walking back to the bus we saw six men sitting under a tree,against the fence were six scythes and gunny bags.Asked our guide what they were doing there and were told that they are waiting to be hired.It was 11.00 by this time.Their pay for a days work would be NZ$2.50 and food.
Back in Brasov we did a town walk to look at the medieval walls and lookout towers each defended by different guilds.
Walked through on of the main city gates through which the Romanian peasants were allowed entry into the city to sell ther produce but they had to pay a toll, and be out by sundown.
The Germans were mainly traders and went as far as Asia Minor.About 500000 of them lived in Transylvania though only a few thousand remain today but they still have a high school were all lessond are in German.
Final stop in our town walk was the Black Church so called because a long time ago it had been burned out.It started life as a Catholic church but is now Lutheran so many of the statues and altar remain just as Martin Luther intented it to be.Its the biggest Gothic style church betweenVienna and Istanbul and the furtherest one East.
We sat in the main squre to have lunch and later joined Larry one of the Americans in our group.We talked about the newly indepentdent states and opined that they had swung from communism to extreme consumerism.
We have seen more expensive cars and 4wheel drives in the Balkans than in Auckland.After what they call the revolution many state assets were sold at bargain basement prices (sounds like NZ in the 80,s) and a number of people became very wealthy.However the bulk of the population especially rural people are living in poverty and unlike New Zealand there is little welfare.We were joined by an American who had lived in Romania these last 8 years.She talked about obstruction froom government agencies who are supposed to help her in looking after abused teenagers but in reality do not give a damn.She sometimes wondered what she was doing in that country but was determined to carry on for the sake of the kids.
That night we wondered around town passed an Irish Pub and finally had some chicken and a beer at KFC.Only difference was the availability of beer.