May 31, 2013

Transylvania, Romania: History, Opinions and Cultures


There is a lot of history in the country of Romania, specifically in Transylvania. Transylvania has a lot of connections with the Hungarians and Germans, not to mention the Holy Roman Emperor. History is a funny thing — it is always evolving. We are always learning something new about what happened in the past that could change the way we look at what we thought we already knew. When we look at history of Transylvania, or even Romania as a whole, there are many ways to look at it. Cultures of a country are a lot like the histories of a country, always changing.

For one thing, we can look at Vlad Dracul as an incompetent man. He swore an oath to serve the Holy Roman Emperor in order to gain the throne of Wallachia. He gave up two of his sons to the Turkish King in order to keep the throne of Wallachia. He made connections with both the Turkish and Austrian kingdoms in order to keep power. This did not stop people from rising up and assassinating him and his eldest son. For this reason Vlad Dracul could be called an incompetent fool who had power but was unable to hold on to it. Or, he could be called a smart man. He could be called smart for realizing that he never would have ruled over Wallachia for any given amount of time if he had not sworn to serve the Holy Roman Emperor. Vlad Dracul could be called smart because he sent his two younger sons away to live in the Turkish court. If they had been with him when he and his eldest son were assassinated there would have been a very good chance that they would have been assassinated as well. 

There is something to be said, though, for a country that was constantly being invaded, yet still ended up being independent. Sure, they still have good contacts on the international scene, but they are their own people. Actually, when going over some of the history, it is as if they have always been their own people. They were definitely influenced by the other cultures that invaded them, like Germany and Hungary. Transylvania is an extremely diverse country due to the amount of influence from the other cultures. There are many different basic cultures, religions, etc. 

The country that had the most influence in the culture was Hungary. There are also a lot of Roma (Gypsies) in Transylvania who made up the rest of the culture of Transylvania. Austria and Germany had less of an influence on the culture in Transylvania, but both countries were still able to influence Transylvania. Their influences can be seen more in the architecture and art of the area. This shows that Transylvania was a kind of sponge when it came to its culture, soaking up everything that it could but still retaining its shape. 


May 29, 2013

Portrayals of Dracula, or Count Dracula and Movies



So, I have been looking back at some of my previous posts. I was looking at the Dracula posts to be specific. I found that different media each portrayed Dracula in slightly different ways. From the historical posts you can see that Vlad Dracula was a medieval man who just wanted to hold onto power while he could. He did go on a little rampage when he learned of his father’s and older brother’s murders. The thing is that he was out in the public eye during his life. He was assassinated, and while we do know this for a fact, we’re just unsure of the exact year and location where he died. Something all of the Dracula portrayals have in common is that Dracula stays out of the public eye. He sneaks around dark alleys. He stays in castles (Bran Castle for instance) that are in the middle of nowhere.



One of the portrayals I want to talk about is the Dracula in Nosferatu. Sure, it is an amazing movie and kind of sets the standard for all other Dracula movies to follow. The Dracula is kind of weird, though. He is always creeping around the castle. He is the essence of "creepy" in this movie. He is always surprised, though, when someone walks into the room. As a warrior, the actual Vlad Dracula would not have acted this way. He would have been aware of those in the area, especially if he was planning on killing someone.

The next portrayal I want to talk about is the one from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Dracula made an appearance for the first episode of season 5. He was apparently intrigued with Buffy, since she had killed so many vampires and demons by this point. It is this specific interpretation of the character that I want to talk about, though. This Dracula was very subtle in his movements and mannerisms. He was also very confident. Unlike the Dracula in Nosferatu, this Dracula was never surprised by others. Ok, Buffy did surprise him when she staked him, but that does not really count. The thing to keep in mind is that he was very quiet and subtle as a character. He was also very determined; every move he made had a purpose.
                The final Dracula I want to talk about is the Dracula from Van Helsing. This guy is almost a complete opposite to both the other Draculas from Nosferatu and Buffy. This Dracula is all over the place. He is big and dramatic and a bit eccentric as well. He draws people to him. He taunts the people who rule the village in the movie. All of the villagers are aware of his existence. He does not keep to the shadows like the other Draculas. This Dracula also has a bunch of minions under his control. Neither of the other two had minions. The others only had wives, which the Van Helsing Dracula also had. Just goes to show that the character of Dracula is open to different interpretations.

May 27, 2013

Nosferatu


The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about old movies, about Dracula and Vampires. As all of you can probably figure out, I love movies. I really like the older movies as well. There is one, Nosferatu, that is just amazing. Released in 1922, it was the first Dracula movie ever made. Yes, this means that it is a black and white movie. It is also a silent film.

A lot of people do not realize just how much work went into making silent films. Sure, they do not have all of the special effects that we see in modern movies, but they still had to put a lot of work into them. Film sets back then were most often an actual location that best represented where the scene was to take place. For example, when the action takes place in a castle in Nosferatu, they are actually filming in a real castle. This is not the case for all movies; sometimes they had really good set crews. The set crew of Nosferatu got really lucky and found a castle in which they could film.



Another thing that is not always considered is the skill level of the actors in the movie. Acting in a silent film was not an easy job. The actors of Nosferatu would not have been able to do take after take after take. They would have been limited because film was really expensive. They did not have the option of digital filming like we have today. The actors in Nosferatu also had to actually portray all of their emotion for a line within a few seconds of screen time. Sure, there are times when they were overly dramatic, but they had to be in order to get the emotion across.



Keeping with the idea of portraying emotions to the audience, the composers working on Nosferatu, any silent film really, had an important role. Ok, I know that the genre title "silent film" can be a little misleading — these films did have music, but the actors were not heard. The only audio that the audience got was the music. I really think the composers of Nosferatu's sound track did an amazing job. The music they created really made people aware of the emotion that they were trying to portray.


Normally at this time I would be looking at the make-up artistry that went into this film. When looking into this stuff I found some interesting reports. Apparently the actor who played Dracula did not have any make-up or prosthetics done. That is how he actually looked in real life. He only acted this one time in Nosferatu, and he was never heard from after filming finished. It is said that he volunteered for the role, not accepting any pay for the job. He also would not be seen until the sun set and would be gone before the sun rose — only filming at night. There were also some reports of a few of his assistants disappearing. There were two or three of them and all were young women. So, I have to ask the question: Do you think that they were just trying to create hype for the movie with these reports, or did this guy actually think he was Dracula?

May 12, 2013

Cachtice Castle and Elizabeth Bathory, Countess of Blood

Cachtice Castle, formerly in Transylvania, was made famous because of its resident Elizabeth the Countess of Blood.



In previous posts, I had talked a bit about Cachtice Castle, where Elizabeth Bathory  "the Countess of Blood" lived, and there are readers who wish for me to expand on it. I couldn’t be happier to explore this topic. There is so much to talk about. Cachtice Castle is located on the top of a hill just about the village of Cachtice. The castle was a wedding present given to Countess Elizabeth Bathory in the 16th century, along with the 17 surrounding villages. Elizabeth moved into Cachtice Castle when she was 14 years old. It was not until 1615, when Elizabeth was about 40 years old, that she started killing young women within the wall of Cachtice.

For those of you who have not read my previous posts on travel and Elizabeth Bathory, I will share a bit of the historical person and castle. Elizabeth Bathory was a countess who lived in Cachtice Castle in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. She was also known as the Blood Countess. She believed that if she bathed on the blood of young women she would remain youthful and beautiful. Over an approximately five year period, Elizabeth Bathory apparently killed about 600 young women from the surrounding villages, the numbers are not known exactly since many of the women were from poor farming families who lived around the castle, and were not viewed as important. Once these crimes were discovered,  (this was after she began to murder lower- class noblewomen) Elizabeth was found guilty, but since they could not kill a member of the nobility, they walled her up in the castle and left her to die.

With all of that in mind, one might surely think that Cachtice Castle must be haunted; so many deaths took place here. Since the late 18th Century, the castle is in ruins. Today people are allowed to go on a hike to the ruins.  There are also endangered plants found in the area, but they can’t go in due to the ruins being a historical landmark for the local people. There could be some superstitions connected to the castle and anyone who chooses to walk in there. There is also a museum within the village of Cachtice that is dedicated to the castle and relics that were able to be saved after the castle was burned down in 1708.

In 1708, the castle was laid siege to and burned. In 1715, they repaired the castle, and after that it was used as a jail. No one has used Cachtice Castle as a residence since 1708, and not many people remember that this castle was used as a jail, as it is most famous for being Elizabeth Bathory's residence.  Ironically, it was also her jail.

I have read about 10 articles that talk mainly about Elizabeth Bathory and horrible things she did during her life at Cachtice Castle. Most readers want to learn about where Elizabeth Bathory lived during the infamous years of her life, along with the details of the horrible things that she did during those infamous years. One can never forget to mention why Elizabeth Bathory is infamous.  It is because she was the world's first known female serial killer.


Sources:
http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/ruins-cachtice-castle

May 6, 2013

Time Travel to Transylvania, Romania



So, I got a comment on my post about travelling. YAY!!!! I love it when people give me feedback; it lets me know that people are reading the post and are enjoying it. The commenter asked me which era I would like to travel to. The answer is a no-brainer for me — it would have to be the High Middle Ages. For those who are unaware, it is the period between 1066 and 1500. Vlad the Impaler lived right at the end of the High Middle Ages. I know that a lot of people call this period the Dark Ages as well, mainly because they believe that nothing of significant importance happened during this era. They are very wrong, though. So much happened during the Middle Ages.

                For me, the draw to Transylvania in that time period would be the people more so than the events that took place. Compared to the rest of the world, the Middle Ages were pretty quiet for the people of Transylvania, at least in the number of "major historical events" that took place. There were not too many major battles, so it would have been a relatively safe place to live. Sure, there were a lot of the small battles where people tried to seize power or maintain a hold on power. These battles were inevitable during the Middle Ages. But the people would have kept daily life interesting for themselves. They did not have television or movies or the internet. Their entertainment was the gossip or news that was circulating at the time. 

                Another draw for me would have been the activities that did take place; for example, the fairs or even just the day to day life of the common people. Yes, I would choose to live life as a commoner, not a person of nobility. Sure, life would be harder for a commoner than a member of the nobility. I love doing crafts like knitting, crochet and sewing. These are skills that would have been used on a daily basis in the Middle Ages. Each region or village had their own styles and patterns that they would have used. The Transylvania styles and patterns can be hard to come by now a days, so the idea of having the opportunity to learn them is something that I would not be able to pass up. 

                The final thing that would bring me to the Middle Ages in Transylvania would have been the people who did become famous. I would love to have a chance to meet both Vlad the Impaler and his father, Vlad Dracul. I would like to meet Vlad Dracul to learn what kind of father Vlad the Impaler had. I am also somewhat obsessed with anything that involves dragons, so learning more about the Order of the Dragon from those who were actually in the Order would be another temptation that I could not pass up. The desire to meet Vlad the Impaler comes more from a curiosity to comparing the man he was to the character of Count Dracula that Bram Stoker created.

                This was a post I had a lot of fun with. I really enjoyed looking things up and deciding when I would travel if there was a time machine available. For those of you wondering why I did not name Elizabeth Bathory, it’s because she was not alive during this period. Well, that and I would be afraid that she would want to kill me and bathe in my blood. Please feel free to comment and leave more ideas for future posts.