Monday, January 08, 2007

Scotsman: Romania sinks its teeth into the tourist trade

Romania sinks its teeth into the tourist trade
CHRIS STEPHEN IN SIGHISOARA

ROMANIANS have gone Dracula crazy, hoping that the country's association with the fictional vampire will trigger a tourist boom.
Tourism officials have long marketed Dracula to visitors, but EU membership and visa-less travel have seen the cottage industry hit the big time.

Hotels and restaurants across the northern province of Transylvania have slapped Dracula on their walls, shops are jammed with Vampire Wine, while the national car maker even uses vampires to market its latest model.
"Using Dracula like this is a good way to get tourists to visit, and then you hope they will come back in the following years to explore other parts of our country," says company director Patricia Horotan.

However, purists worry that Romania's charms are being swamped by a sea of kitsch.
The epicentre of this boom is Sighisoara, a medieval town wedged into the mountains of central Transylvania. The real-life Dracula was born here in 1431, earning his fame after holding out against a Turkish invasion. His preferred method of dispatching his enemies was to impale them on a sharp wooden spike, earning him the nickname Vlad Tepes - Vlad the Impaler.
But it is the fictional Dracula, created by Bram Stoker in the 19th century, which dominates the place. In the town's medieval square, the yellow-walled villa where Vlad was born is now a restaurant featuring blood-red décor and cocktails named Dracula's Blood and Dracula's Kiss.
Outside, plasterboard models show smiling fanged vampires; nearby shops sell gaudy vampire badges, cloaks and postcards and street artists produce Dracula portraits.

"Without Dracula Sighisoara would not sell at all," says Mitea Codruta, manageress of the imposing 500-year-old Hotel Sighisoara.
At least Sighisoara has a genuine Dracula connection. To the south, the imposing Bran Castle is marketed as 'Dracula's Castle' even though there is no proof Vlad ever stayed there.
Codruta says: "In Bran they have fake coffins and vampire stuff for the tourists, it is really over the top."
But Rupert Wolfe-Murray, the Scottish chief executive of local film production company Productiv, said: "Romania has a lot to offer tourists. The real history of the place is fascinating, but they may blow it by selling Dracula as a tacky product."

http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=32482007

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