March 30, 2014

Dracula Tours

             Transylvania brings in almost 1/3 of the income of Romania. A lot of that income comes from tourism- most of this comes from "dracula tours". 

Transylvania is known for the amount of tourism, and, by extension, money that it brings into Romania. Among the biggest tourism draws are the Dracula tours. Dracula tours are still quite popular and are aimed at different types of tourists.  There are two different types of Dracula tours that people can take. There are the ones that are about Dracula and Vlad III Tepes, the inspiration behind the legend, and then there are the ones that are all about the vampire Dracula, and vampires in general, and these can be on the scary side.

            One of the tours that is based on the historical figures of Vlad Tepes and Dracula can be found through Adventure Transylvania tour guides. This tour is six days in length, and it starts in Bucharest city, Romania, in what was Wallachia. The first day is a tour through Bucharest. The next day, you visit Poienari castle, where Vlad Tepes grew up as a child. After that it is off to the city Sighisoara, in Transylvania, his place of birth. From there it is on to Bran Castle and Brasov. The final stop is Snagov Monastery.

            Then, there are the tours that are only about the vampire, and these tend to be on the scarier side. One of these tours can be found through Visit Transylvania Travel. This tour goes to the same places as the other tour. The main difference is that it focuses more on the fictional Dracula’s vampire traits and it takes place on Halloween. Granted, a party in Transylvania at Dracula’s castle would be a pretty awesome way to spend Halloween. Another one of these tours can be found at Dracula Tour to Transylvania. This one has their tour guides play up the spooky part. They also offer their tour during the summer.

            Offering different types of Dracula tours allows the tourism industry to target different audiences. The tours being offered allowed all of those interested in Dracula to visit Transylvania. It allows those who are interested in the vampire legend to have a good time and maybe learn some history. Those who are mainly interested in the history also have their own tours to go on. The tours focus on the history and have a bit more relaxed pace to them. The Halloween tours are pretty much an excuse for a cool way to party and have a good time. And, it doesn’t hurt to have them in Transylvania, the home of Dracula.

            Dracula tours are definitely a source of income for Transylvania. This does not mean that they are the only type of tours available. Transylvania is a beautiful country, and there are many different kinds of tours available to see the countryside. Transylvania is also known for its mines. Transylvania had gold mines, salt mines, and mines for many other natural resources, and there are tours that explore many of these industries. This just goes to show that although Dracula is a big part of tourism in Transylvania it is not the only part. Transylvania is a very diverse country.

Tour sites mentioned:

March 23, 2014

Hotel Transylvania The Movie and Transylvanian Castles

           The movie Hotel Transylvania highlights some interesting facts throughout the film. In the beginning of the movie, the home that Dracula lives in with his daughter looks like a normal, if slightly large, cottage. In the movie, Dracula builds a new castle as a safe haven for himself and his daughter. There was another castle mentioned near the end of the movie. They mention that while living with his wife, Dracula lived at Les Baux Castle, in France, which is owned by the Grimaldi Princely Family. Bran castle in Transylvania and Les Baux Castle are the only castles even remotely brought up during the movie Hotel Transylvania.

The image of the castle that Dracula builds at the beginning of the movie looks a lot like Bran Castle. The castle in the film, the hotel, does have some differences from Bran castle, though. It is slightly larger in appearance than the actual Bran castle, and it is also slightly squarer than the actual Bran castle, with more straight lines. This could just be due to the Hotel Transylvania castle being animated; the straighter lines would have made their job a little easier. Bran Castle is also known, colloquially, as Dracula’s castle in today’s culture. This is thanks to Bram Stoker, the author of the novel Dracula, published in 1897.  Stoker chose Bran Castle as Dracula’s castle because of its architecture. It is known to have narrow hallways and is maze like.

To have the film writers bring up Les Baux castle is a little interesting. Les Baux castle is located in Provence, France. When I researched this castle, I didn't find any legends about two lovers. What I did find in the history of Les Baux castle is that the lords who ruled it were some of the most powerful men in France during the Early Middle Ages. They ruled over 79 fiefs in the prime of their power. They were very strict rulers and ruled with an iron fist. The rulers who lived in Les Baux knew a thing or two about balance. They never allowed those who served them to rebel, and they had a lot of culture in their courts. It was in the French courts that the thought of courtly love came into popularity. With courtly love came the love ballads, knights courting the court ladies, and all the fun that followed. There was nothing in the history of Les Baux castle to link it to the legend of Dracula.

           One thing that does not line up is why the film writers used Les Baux castle in the movie. The legend they used was made up, so why use that castle and not one of the other castles in Transylvania? Transylvania has so many other castles than Bran Castle, and they have as much history. The only thing that could have made Les Baux castle useful to the plot is the duality of the rulers that governed over Les Baux. This is an aspect of Dracula that the film writers were really trying to portray. They wanted to show Dracula as both a monster to fear and as a protective father. They wanted to show that everything has duality, that there are two sides to the coin.

March 20, 2014

Writing And Publishing A Book About Transylvania

I've heard this phrase many times in my life and it generally goes like this "so when are you going to stop dreaming?"  Even after I've spent hours writing and reading and working on books, I still hear that phrase, especially when it comes to publishing a book on Transylvania.

We're all familiar with the old Winston Churchill quote, "never, ever give up," but what does that mean to a person who has tried ever harder to do something that they have always wanted to do? Writing about Transylvania takes effort and work behind the scenes.  A lot of writers have self-published books about Transylvania or about a specific group who lived there.  As good example of this is the German Saxons who live outside of Transylvania; they tend to self-publish memoirs of their time in Romania.

If I worked 20 hours a week on writing and editing and publishing my books, and working on my book reviews, I am still behind on everything else, I have a life outside of writing.  I have moments when I want to quit and not write any longer.  I have moments of anger where I want to go and delete this blog and everything else to do with writing or publishing a blog on Transylvania.  It's hard work, it's rewarding, it's frustrating as anything, and there are days I wonder about my success or failure.  I also wonder if I should stop, but, like writing in general, I don't.  

In the last little while, there was a bit of discussion about how using the Internet can be a challenge, both in finding factually correct information and managing your time wisely.  I had my doubts as to that statement being true or not — at least the part about time management.  I reasoned that it wasn't Facebook or Twitter that was taking away my time, it was something else.  I argued that I had it all worked out, and it was mostly a twenty minute thing that I didn't need to worry about.

I was not entirely incorrect in my argument, at least when it came to Internet research on Transylvania.  Some websites are correct in what they write; most aren't.  I spent nearly twenty minutes looking at sites about Elizabeth Bathory and the number of children she gave birth to.  To prove my point one website said four, and others eight.  Some gave names and others didn't.  It was a waste of time.  This was working on a dream to publish using methods that aren't tested or true.  When it comes to publishing about Transylvania, there needs to be a method of research, and that is by going to the books and primary resources, found in Romania, and Hungary.

I have been toying with the idea of opening up a blog where I review books, and that would mean that I have a need to manage my time.  I have a job outside of writing books.  I also enjoy reading books and commenting on them.  There is nothing wrong with a great book, just as there is nothing wrong with anyone wanting to write and publish.

I believe the problem lies with time management and knowing what works for you.  I know many new authors who wonder how they can possibly publish as many things as the "big name" ones.  My conclusion is that these writers have mastered one thing most of us are working on and that is understanding the hidden hours of distraction.  I want to continue my dream, I want to publish more books, and I want to have some wonderful blogs.  I want to be happy and healthy, living a life filled with joy and family and friends.  As long as I have time, and it can fit in my schedule.

Fitting it into my schedule is the wrong answer because I have time — time to research, to do the outlines, and to write about Transylvania.  Even if something is self-published I think everything has to be done in order for the book to be good. 

Ah, there you have it; I have time to write, I don't use it wisely.  I can understand why so many people ask new writers if they are going to stop dreaming.  I didn't manage my own time as well as I should have with my last book. With these next two, I have a better idea, and a better way to edit, now with my second and third books.  Publishing is a challenge, but it doesn't have to be this hard.  This is where reading comes in to play.

I'm engrossed in a book about writing, aptly called Writing with the Master.  In it, a new author, Tony Vanderwarker, works with John Grisham.  I find this one very interesting since Vanderwarker mentions that not only did he learn from Grisham about patience, but ,between the lines, I saw that he cut away a lot of distractions.  He focused and worked hard.  Not once so far have I read anything about Facebook or marketing or anything.  This book is about writing.  It's about working towards that dream.  It will help me when it comes to writing about Transylvania.

I'm not giving up, but I have to use my time wisely to get there.  My writing about Transylvania is important for me to build on my time management.

March 13, 2014

The TV Show Young Dracula

For this post I will focus mainly on the TV show Young Dracula. The show started in 2006 and is currently in its 5th season. Its premise is that Dracula has two children and that they cannot live in Transylvania because of all of the mobs. They still live in a castle and still talk about being in Transylvania. This show is set in England, but the characters believe that Transylvania is better. This is heard a lot in the 4th episode of the 1st season.

            In the 3rd episode they bring up the topic of Dracula’s wife. As the myths in Transylvania go, Dracula and his wife had the love that everyone wishes for. They change this story in the show, however. In this show, Dracula's wife, Magda, leaves Dracula for a werewolf. This is how the show explains the rivalry between Dracula and werewolves. In this episode, the show sees Dracula take his wife back when it appears that she wants him back. This episode shows that Dracula truly does love his wife, but was betrayed by her, which is why they are not together.

            This show has a downside to it, though. Dracula is especially cruel and nasty to his daughter. He does plays favourites with his children. He is very old fashioned in that he believes that his son is more important than his daughter. In the show when Dracula’s daughter mentions inheriting the family title, she is laughed at because she is a girl. It is used as a form of comic relief for the show, with the daughter trying to do everything that Dracula wants, but failing at every turn.

            This show also brings up the topic of Van Helsing. The show does have a Van Helsing present — well actually two Van Helsings present. Van Helsing is the family name used by another set characters. They are vampire hunters — at least the father believes so. The son takes time to get used to the idea and does not fully believe it at first. It is funny the way the senior Van Helsing always coming so close to proving that the Draculas are vampires, but never quite proves for the first few episodes. I do like that the writers kept Van Helsing as an enemy of Dracula, unlike the 2013 show Dracula. It keeps better with the myths.

One of the reasons that I enjoyed this show is because it is different. This is finally a Dracula show that is not in the horror genre. This show definitely falls more into the comedy genre. About 90% of the books, movies and shows involving Dracula that I have seen have been horrors. If anyone else knows more non-horror Dracula references please let me know. I do love a good horror, but every now and then I like to change things up and try something new. 

March 10, 2014

Writing Notes: Count Dracula or Elizabeth Bathory?

Writing about Count Dracula is one thing writers seem to love to do, if they are interested in the horror genre.  They have proven this point by publishing hundreds of books on the subject. There is also one other person who deserves equal ink space on bookshelves-- Elizabeth Bathory. I'd love to see a debate about these two people one day.  Both are infamous for the means in which they killed people.  Interestingly, there are countless books published on vampires because of Dracula

Horror lovers and most people love a good blood bath, and in Elizabeth Bathory's case, I mean this literally.  She was one of the world's first female serial killers, and that is a lot given the time in which she was alive.  According to the writings at the time it was said she had a hand in the murder of over 600 young women.  Vlad Tepes was much the same way, except that as a warlord, he had the muscle to do so.  As a man, he was also expected to provide the leadership to the princedom he lead.  He killed his enemies and pushed back against both allies and his people.

I also believe that there was a family trait for violence as both "the blood countess" and Vlad Tepes, both had  violent and rather cruel upbringings and both would be used as pawns in the grand scheme of the world they lived. (Tepes for his part, was given the name Dracul because of his being a part of the order of the dragon.)  This has lead to some very interesting books. I've read Dracula and now have re-read another vampire novel, written as a "sequel".  Publishing a book on Transylvania does not mean money.  Even if it is about Dracula.

Since I have re-read the book, Dracula: The Un-dead, I have been wondering about the concept that Dacre Stoker used for the blood countess, Elizabeth Bathory.  She is the other vampire in this book, and she has no fears about hurting other people, or toying with their minds.  I almost have some sympathy for one Count Dracula-- he found love, and it changed him.  This is because Elizabeth Bathory works well as an evil vampire, as she was a foe to everyone and a friend to none even in her own lifetime. 

It also made me wonder how much work Stoker and Ian Holt planned to have used his great-grand uncle's work to build on their writing.  Publishing a book on Dracula is one thing, but when you are re-writing a legendary character, it should be expected that people won't get as much out of it.  It should also be expected that the family name would mean very high expectations.

If this is the case, why should you worry about the fact that both Dracula and Bathory are vampires in the two novels?  It's a bit of "historical edits."  Again, there is nothing wrong with that, as it is a novel that is being given a "sequel."  It's the same as the original Stoker using some geographical license in the original novel.

Is this too much pop culture without a good reference to Transylvania?  I don't believe so, in a way having a different villain is a good idea.  Using a person who shocked the people of Hungary at the time of her trial makes for a good read.  Using a man who made the culture of vampires is also a smart marketing idea.  North Americans love the concept.

This also means that in this book if the choice was between Count Dracula and Elizabeth Bathory the reader will most likely hope for a some what good outcome for Count Dracula.

March 8, 2014

Transylvania, Hungary and Independence

Lately posts have been talking about Transylvania and independence. I have noticed that many readers feel strongly about Transylvania being a part of Romania. Transylvania has not always been a part of Romania though. It once belonged to Hungary. During the Early Medieval Era, the Roman Empire had already pulled out, leaving Transylvania open for the taking. The Magyar tribes stepped in, seeing land and territory for the taking. The Hungarians ended up taking control of Transylvania in the early part of the 11th century.

The Magyars tribes had gained control of Transylvania in the 5th century and were able to keep it until the Hungarians came into the picture. It was in 1003 that King Stephen I started to bring Transylvania under the control of Hungary. Stephen I had the support of both the Pope and King Henry II, the Holy Roman Emperor, who was Stephen’s brother-in-law. It was in 1018 that Stephen I gained control of southern Transylvania when he defeated the legendary ruler Kean.

It was in the 12th and 13th centuries Transylvania may have been under the control of Hungary, it was still subject to invasions. In the early 13th century King Andrew II of Hungary had to bring in the Teutonic Knights to help in the protection of Transylvania. It was at this point in time that the Cumans were trying to invade Transylvania. After them came the Mongol invasions.

Transylvania came under the rule of the Bathory family for a period of time during the late 16th century. This family is known as an infamous Hungarian noble family. They are infamous due to the one member of their family, Elizabeth Bathory, became known as the Blood countess. They ruled over Transylvania until the early 17th century.

It was in the mid-19th century the Magyars officially proclaimed Transylvania as part of Hungary, even though they had been a part of Hungary for a period of time. The Romanians in Transylvania weren’t too happy about this. They tried to rebel, and for a time, the Austrian military government had control of Transylvania. It was during the late 19th century that Hungary regained control of Transylvania.

It was in 1920 that Hungary officially ceded by Hungary in the Treaty of Trianon following World War I. However, Transylvania had officially announced their union with Romania two years prior to this at a convention in Alba Iulia, where the Romanians and Saxon population voted to join Romania. Hungary did regain part of Transylvania (Northern Transylvania) during World War II. at the end of the war, they did return Transylvania to Romania.

            Transylvania has had an interesting history. It has been a territory that has been fought over for centuries. Everyone seems to want to have Transylvania as a part of their country. Then again, in the Medieval Era, countries were always trying to add to their territory. It does help that Transylvania has a lot of natural resources to help make it more appealing. Transylvania has always been a popular area, even before it was known for vampires and supernatural beings.

Is This About Transylvania or Count Dracula?

There is no such thing as Count Dracula — at least if you consider that Dracula is a fictional character from a novel that was written by a British author more than 100 years ago.  It was published in English and owes its success to some great marketing and dark content.

Some people have even argued that Dracula was based upon another novella by the name of Carmilla.  There have been countless adaptions of the vampire genre, but, to this day, none can compete with the lasting influence of Dracula.  The grand-nephew of Bram Stoker even wrote a "sequel" to Dracula.  It is about Dracula, and vampires and one vengeful serial killer who is now vampire herself.

However, when you can get your information almost anywhere, real life can be misunderstood.  In this case, many people "see" where Dracula lived, but they don't have a good understanding of the geography of Transylvania to know that Bran Castle is not located where Stoker described it in the mountains.

This begs the next question:  Does the average reader of the novels or viewer of TV shows really understand the land where the "person" was born?

I decided to test this theory.  I asked 30 people if they knew about Transylvania, Romania.  I had hoped that with the little push of adding the word "Romania" I would find that more people would say it's a part of Romania?  Or at best they would ask about Bran Castle, which is one of the most famous landmarks of Europe.

I was wrong.

Most people (I would suggest nearly 90%) said "Is this is where Dracula came from?"  To me, this means that the culture, the character of Dracula is more popular to the North American population than Transylvania itself.  Even with the prompt of the term Romania, some had trouble realizing it was part of a country in Europe.  (I will not get into how this makes me feel about the educational system I have around me.)

It also makes me wonder about what Transylvania means to people.  Are readers coming to the blog simply because there might be an element of "Dracula" in it?  In a sense, it is entirely possible, as some of the most popular blog posts are about Dracula or about money.  (The major exception being a post called "Where is Transylvania?")

I believe that readers have many different points of view.  I was surprised with the finding of my little poll that most people had heard of the novel, but they had seen more TV shows that depicted "Transylvania" (many are filmed in Europe, but not specifically in Transylvania or Romania.) This means that people in North America are getting an idea of what Transylvania looks like, but it is in fact not even that.

Count Dracula is big business.  It has generated millions, if not billions, of dollars for the entertainment industry and this means that Transylvania does get its share of tourism dollars due to the fact that Hollywood has promoted a book that is more than 100 years old.  (Dracula was published in 1897.)  Publishing a book about Transylvania certainly does not increase income to any other author, unless it is about vampires.

Bram Stoker was lucky.  He didn't have much success as a writer until Dracula, but it wasn't until Hollywood caught on that Transylvania had a means to create both jobs and income in the tourism industry.  So is this about Transylvania or Dracula? It's both.

March 3, 2014

Where Did You Get Your Information About Transylvania?

I spend a lot of time writing about Transylvania.  I also spend more time reading about Transylvania so that I know what I am talking about to the people I am writing for.

The people who read this blog are intelligent — before you read on, if you haven't already, I invite you to read this post here, along with the comments to understand where the following commentary is coming from.  This blog's readers know their information about Transylvania, and they aren't afraid to say something, and they are passionate about Romania.  Often, they are too passionate.  They understand the history and the politics and the people of Romania.  They also know when they should correct the person writing.  I've seen it, and I encourage critiques.   It's a natural human reaction to question people on the subjects and facts they write about.  However, in this case passion went too far and turned into something that should not be condoned, a more personal attack and bullying.  However, the question remains, where would I get my information from?  I can not speak for Sabrina, but I will publish where I find my facts.

Where do I get my information on Transylvania?  I use trusted published books.  I have my "map reference" with me in the books and publications of National Geographic and their maps.  I have books on the Transylvanian Saxons for when I need some historical information about the Saxons. I have travel guides that I use for travel posts and for when I need information about other geographic features. (I often use Formmer's or Lonely Planet.) When I want history information, I look to Europe a History, by Norman Davis, Visions of Victory by Weinberg, Kann's History of the Habsburg Empire, and many others.  I trust these sources because they cite other sources I can look into.  Research is about knowing where to go and whom to trust. Even then, the information is filtered from the author's or editor's point of view.

I prefer articles that I can get from universities because most of them have primary documents, or I can go to my local university to find more books.  I find that more recent articles have valuable new information, especially in the realm of politics, that my own collected books simply did not have when they were published.  

However, for some there is another source of information, and for them it is the only source where they think they can find the facts:  the Internet.

What about the Internet?  Is that a Good Place to Get Information?

I go to the Internet to find out about Romania and its history from the Romanian government websites and other articles from universities I don't have access to.  This is especially important when dealing with "touchy" issues.  Such as the idea of Transylvania becoming an independent country.  I do not use Wikipedia, as I find it to be unreliable when it comes to historical facts and political views.  Because it can be edited by almost anyone, the fact is that while the writer's intention might be good, the facts may be wrong, or politically shaped.

A good example is that asking certain questions (Where is your information coming from?  Which source did you use?) can cause division among people. Let's take politics as an example.  Romania has people representing a lot of cultures living in a small area, and many political border changes that have happened in the past 50 years.  (In Transylvania, while most people identify as Romanian, there are several Germans and Hungarian communities who live there, and who do not historically see themselves as Romanian.)  If you visit the Romanian tourism website, they mention this.  They also say that this situation is rather ideal — remember, this website promotes tourism, which means money for Romania.

Can you trust that Source?

It is a website created by the Romanian government.  Its aim to continue to build up Romania so that people don't leave.  Is there tension? Not as much as there was in the 1990s, but there are still some which remains.  The last statement comes from a recent interview done by  the Huffington Post, which should be read with some caution — the Huffington Post has an agenda as well.  Again, when it comes to the Internet each entity an agenda to push: The Romanian government in generating tourism revenue, and the Huffington Post in gaining readership and revenue for their business.

Politics, especially those places where there are tensions, are a subject where you have to think long and think hard before you trust anything that you read at face value.  I know that it is easier to consider emotions rather than facts.

Whom should you trust? (An Internet Example)

When you look at a map of Transylvania you should be able to trust that map.  You should be able to trust that it is geographically correct.  Let's test this theory.  Below are three maps of Transylvania, Romania and the surrounding area.  Which one should you trust?

All three give me an idea of where Transylvania is situated, and they also show me something more specific.  While many people see this area as being rather large, (and it is) these maps show that like most of the Eastern European countries, these maps show a breakdown of the different parts of the region.

In the top and the bottom maps you see that Transylvania itself is highlighted in bright orange or yellow.  The rest, which some consider a "part" of Transylvania are smaller areas such as the Banat or Bucovina or Crisana.  Others label each one as an individual part of Romania. Again, it depends on whose view you trust.  I don't believe that with either one of those pictures you get a true view point.  There are no labels and, by extension, no information for someone who simply looks at them without knowing what they were. (I feel you would know that it's a country, but you might not know which one.)

However, without the middle map, you still don't have the full measure of information; you get more but not all.  I would have to tell you about the area, the mountains or the people who live there.  You would have to trust my judgement and my information (I could tell you that Moldova is close to Transylvania (true) and has low mountains (false), but you could only be certain of one fact based on these maps.).  If I found my information on a less than reputable site, then you would need to wonder about other things. The Internet is a great place, but also a deadly one with many websites out there.

Where did you get your information on Transylvania, Romania?  This is something I need to answer before I speak.  It isn't about guess work, it is about how we look at Transylvania, and information.