Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New York Post: A BLOODY FUN TIME - TAKE A BITE OUT OF TRANSYLVANIA

A BLOODY FUN TIME
TAKE A BITE OUT OF TRANSYLVANIA
By GRETCHEN KELLY

October 31, 2006 -- I ARRIVE in Sighisoara, Romania in the middle of the night.
What better time to enter the medieval city where the real Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, was born? A huge white moon hangs over the cobblestone streets and the silent, winding alleyways seem bare without a crowd of peasants carrying torches and clamoring for the death of some monstrous presence was haunting the night.
After checking into my 200-year-old hotel, I find a traditional Romanian wine cellar that's still serving dinner at that late hour. A goblet of blood-red Romanian wine and a plate of rare beef seems an appropriate order, given the setting.
Founded by German craftsmen and merchants known as the Saxons of Transylvania, Sighisoara is one of the most amazingly intact medieval cities in Europe. It was until recently the projected site of a Dracula theme park - which was squelched before it could get on the drawing boards in part by pressure put on the Romanian government by Prince Charles, a patron of the Mihai Eminescu Trust, which renovates medieval houses and churches in the area.
Sighisoara feels like Venice, reshaped by the Transylvanian mountains. As in Venice, there is nothing to distract the traveler from the beauties of the medieval architecture - like the famous 14th century Clock Tower.
Starting from 1899, the Clock Tower has housed the Museum of History, as well as a medieval pharmacy from 1670, artifacts of ethnography, a section of fine arts and, appropriately enough, a collection of clocks.
Walking up the creaking, winding staircase gets you to the top and a fine view of the whole city. As you lean over the parapet and watch Sighisoara's own town crier walk the streets below and call out the time as his ancestors did centuries ago (a conceit for tourists, but it works), you feel that New York is very far away, indeed.
Downstairs, in the dungeon, Sighisoara's centuries of prisoners have etched Count of Monte Cristo-like messages in the stone. "God will give me justice," says one. "I have been here for four months," says another.
And then of course there is the infamous Casa Dracula, the ancient house where Vlad Tepes, the sadistic Transylvanian prince and inspiration for Bram Stoker's "Dracula," was born. The house is now a café and restaurant.
Hokey souvenirs T-shirts, plastic teeth, ale tankards bearing images of a toothy, but benign looking Vlad are for sale just outside.
Somehow the small concessions to Sighisoara's biggest tourist draw don't dissuade you from pulling your collar up over your neck as you walk through its doors.
INFO: romaniatourism.com

http://www.nypost.com/seven/10312006/entertainment/travel/
a_bloody_fun_time_travel_gretchen_kelly.htm

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