July 26, 2013

What Does Bran Castle Mean To Transylvania and Romania?

This post will focus on the Bran castle history and what it means to Romania.

Bran Castle is one of the castles that inspired the castle that Dracula lived in. Two of the other castles that are linked to the Dracula legend are Poenari Castle and Hunyad Castle. Even though these other two castles are connected to the Dracula legend, Bran Castle was and still is said to be the home of Dracula. This could be because of the link to Wallachia, Vlad Dracul and Vlad Dracula. 

Bran Castle is located on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. When we look at the location of this castle, we should consider its historical occupants. There is the possibility that Vlad Dracul and Vlad Dracula lived there. Vlad Dracul was named Prince of Wallachia by the Holy Roman Emperor. Vlad Dracula later took this title from the men who assassinated his father and elder brother. The Prince of Wallachia was in charge of guarding the border of Wallachia. 

Since Bran Castle is located on the border of Wallachia, it would have been an ideal place for the Prince of Wallachia to live and carry out his duty of guarding that border. Vlad Dracula was part of the inspiration for Dracula, and one only has to look at the name to appreciate that. It was more than just the name, though. Bram Stoker based Dracula’s lust for blood and behaviour attitude on Vlad Dracula. It is quite possible that Bram Stoker also gave them the same castle to live in. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence that Bram Stoker even knew about Bran Castle’s history when he was writing Dracula.

Bran Castle is now a national treasure in Romania, and it has a royal residence for a fewroyals throughout the years. Queen Marie of Romania truly loved Bran Castle, and her descendents apparently own the castle now. This does not really sit well with me, as I kind of ranted about in a previous post (Who Owns Bran Castle In Transylvania, Romania?). It is currently a private museum run by the Archduke. The museum has on display art and furniture that was collected by Queen Marie. Just at the base of the hill on which Bran Castle sits, there is even a small peasant village set up as an open air museum that people can walk through. This makes me believe that Bran Castle is important to the people of Romania. They want to preserve their history, and they are using Bran Castle as a means to do this. Bran Castle is not only the castle that inspired Dracula’s home, it always will be a national monument to Romania.

July 20, 2013

What Are The Top Five Dracula Movies You Need to See?

As people may have noticed, I love Dracula. I wanted to know what the favourite Dracula movie of my friends was. I got a few different answers, so we came up with the top five Dracula movies we believe people should see, and then saw that someone had requested this topic as well. Now these are not, perhaps, the best Dracula movies ever, but we think that they are ones that everyone should see. As I name them I will go through why people should see each movie. Hope you enjoy the list!

Let's begin with Nosferatu. I have done a post on this already so if you would like details about the movie you can check out that post. The reason a friend of mine chose this movie to be on the list is because it was the first Dracula movie ever made. It is a silent black and white movie, so yes, it is an old movie. Some people may call it ancient. That doesn't mean that it isn't good. It boasts some pretty good special effects for the time period in which it was made. Being the first movie made about Dracula it was what started everything rolling.

From there people should watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Technically Bram Stoker’s book Dracula, first published in 1897, actually introduced Dracula to the world. Dracula is Bram Stoker’s best-known character, so to see the movie where they actually used the book in order to make the movie is a must do. People should realize that a movie does not always follow the book that inspires it to the letter. They have to interpret in in a new way to bring audiences to the theatre. This movie gave Dracula the image that has kept him popular in today’s time.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula inspired the movie Dracula 2000. This movie is definitely sticking to the horror theme of Dracula. It is also a commemorative movie about how Dracula was still popular going into the new millennium. It shows Dracula from a few different perspectives as well. It shows him with his wives as well as other women. It shows him turning other people into vampires and threatening to kill innocent people. It seemed like an interesting mix to me.

Then, there is Hotel Transylvania. I have written a post about this movie as well, if you would like to know my full thoughts about the movie. This one kind of annoys me when it comes to the mythology of Dracula, but overall is a good movie. We put it in the top five list because it is a children’s movie. I am intrigued to see how we are teaching our children to see the monsters of our childhoods. Apparently, Dracula is a loving father who just wants to protect his daughter in Hotel Transylvania. "Loving father" was not something that we would have thought of when we thought of Dracula when we were children. Even the historical Vlad Dracul and Vlad Dracula could not really be considered loving fathers

In the final spot in the top five list is Van Helsing. This movie is all about the perceptions of Dracula. We have seen things from the perspective of random victims in some of the other movies. In Hotel Transylvania we got the image of Dracula through the perspective of his friends and family. In Van Helsing, we get the image of Dracula from the point of view of his worst enemy. This movie rounds out out top five list because of this different perspective. I also enjoy how it shows Dracula as being eccentric and kind of entertaining.  

What are your top five must see Dracula movies?  Are there more which are not hollywood based?

July 13, 2013

Who Are The Owners of Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania?

I particularly love castles and the history that each castle holds within its walls, and this is no different if it is in England, France, Scotland, Wales, or even Transylvania. I have talked about Romania's most famous castle, Bran Castle, the castle that belonged to Count Dracula- which was the basis of the novel, and was not in the same location. 

There are some connections to Vlad Dracula, the actual person, but not many. Bran Castle was the inspiration for the castle in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. This actually made Bran Castle a major tourist draw in this area of Romania, as it borders both Wallachia and Tranyslvania. 

Queen Marie of Romania chose Bran Castle as her royal residence  in the 1920s. Her youngest daughter Princess Illena, Archduchess of Austria-Tuscany, inherited it after her. There was a period of time where the communist regime seized the castle but did not hold it for long. 

It was eventually returned to Queen Marie’s grandson, Dominic von Habsburg, second son of the Princess.  His sisters and he are the owners of Bran Castle in Romania.

This leads one to wonder why a Romanian national monument is owned by an individual family and not the Romanian Royal family or the government. This was made official in 2009 when the administration for Bran Castle was transferred to Archduke Dominic and his sisters.  

Some people noted that as it was Queen Marie of Romania's royal residence, and her daughter was a Princess of Romania, it is still, loosely, a part of the Romanian Royal Family's possessions. Granted, The Archduke and his sisters have refurbished the castle and opened it as a private museum. When  taking a look at the reasoning behind their decision to open Bran Castle as a private museum and I discovered that it was a way for them to maintain their dominance in the Romanian tourist circuit. 

This was a way to encourage economic growth in the area- around Bran Castle, and Brasov one of the major cities which can earn and grow because of the near by cable  I just cannot get past the fact that it is about dominance in the tourism of Romania — that and the fact that it is a private family doing this. 

I would be able to understand this a bit better is the government or even the royal family was doing this. If this was a government project, the profits would be going back to the country and go towards road repairs or something like that. If the current royal family (King Michael of Romania is the Archduke's cousin) were the ones getting the money, there would be more of a chance that the profits would be going back to the people of Romania than there are at the moment. 

I do not fully trust that Archduke Dominic is giving the profits of the museum back to the people of Romania or even to the people in Transylvania. It is highly likely that he is giving at least some of it back in charitable donations, but those are just tax write-offs for him. 

As a history fan it kind of hurts me to see that a national monument of a country is in the hands of private ownership. It is a castle which is a major draw to Romania for tourism. It should be under the administration of the government, in my opinion, however I am not Queen Marie of Romania. That way there would be a better guarantee that it will be taken care of in the way it should be. 

I am happy that Archduke Dominic has opened the castle as a private museum; it is better than nothing. I am just surprised at how recent the administration was transferred to him. This was done four years ago, in 2009. I am wondering what the reasoning behind it was.  It might be restoration of seized property but it is hard to imagine that people would not want to know where the money is going.

July 6, 2013

The Politics of Transylvania and Bucharest

I have been asked to talk about Transylvania and Bucharest and their politics. This is not something that I know a whole lot about, so please forgive me if I get anything wrong. I will mainly be looking at things that could have helped influence the politics of Transylvania and Bucharest today. I plan to look into the past, and I will talk about some current situations, if they are relevant to what I talking about. 

When looking at politics in Transylvania, people have to take into consideration the Unia Trium Nationum. Roughly translated it means the Union of the Three Nations. This was a pact that was made between the three estates of Transylvania. This meant that the nobles, mainly Hungarians, the middle class, made up of the Saxons (Germans), and the lower class of the free military Szeklers. This was to be a unifying pact between these three estates against the peasants, who were apparently mostly Romanians. There had been an uprising rebellion by the peasants, and the other three classes decided that this would be a good way to deal with them. They believed that they could try to keep the peasants out of the culture of Transylvania, even though they made up the majority of the population. The Brotherly Union was a precursor to the Unia Trium Nationum. This pact was made just after the rebellion of the peasants that happened in the 1400s. It was at this time that the peasants, or serfs as they were called at the time, were excluded from the Transylvanian culture. 

I am sure that it comes as no surprise that things have not changed too much in modern times. The lower classes are still working themselves into the ground while the upper classes sit and debate. The current subject of debate is their elected president and what crimes they can actually accuse him of. One of the sites I found actually described the politics in Transylvania as a movie trailer. They described it as an Eastern European B movie.

Bucharest has a long history to it. It is the capital of Romania and was the seat of power of the principality of Wallachia before that. Bucharest became the political centre for the Kingdom of Romania in 1881. There have been many battles fought over Bucharest. There were five treaties relating to Romania signed in Bucharest between the years of 1812 and 1918. Another thing to consider when thinking about Bucharest politics is that they are not a part of a wider county. This makes Bucharest unique to all other cities in Romania. Their municipal council has equivalent power of any Romanian county council. To this day there are a lot of arguments and debates that surround the president of Romania. Since Bucharest is the centre of Romania, a lot of these debates take place there. A lot of the sites I saw while researching politics in Bucharest mentioned the presidential elections. 

Bucharest and Transylvania are very different when looked at through a historical and political lens. They formed very differently. Transylvania was an area focused on the nobility, the middle class and the military class. Each of those classes represented a different nationality within Transylvania as well. Transylvania was focused on those specific cultures. Bucharest was different. Being the capital, it was more of a merging place for different cultures. Bucharest is the centre for everything.