Sucking Blood & Eating Dick : Visiting Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania
I have been obsessed with vampires since I was a child. I was always a creepy kid but after watching Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 movie “Dracula” I was sold. What can I say? Babely blood suckers speak to me. This love for tales of the sexy dead has resulted in my journeying to the lonely, beautiful and vast Carpathian Mountain range to commune with the dark legend himself. But where to go? To chart the trajectory of my map, I turned to literature, legend, and well, corn-ballness…
My first stop as a vampire tourist was to the castle made famous by Bram Stoker – Bran Castle. Located approximately 45 minutes away from the medieval town of Brașov, the fortress is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, and is commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle”. The castle announces itself in literal size, and also in the explosion of tourists and kiosks selling every manner of vampirealia imaginable. Historically, it’s hard to find direct association between Vlad the Impaler (the man thought to be the basis of Dracula) with the castle or the town of Bran. He was gifted this home by the imagination of Bram Stoker, the author of the Dracula, and the world so hungry for beautiful monsters, accepted his story as fact. The legend of Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler/Dracula) is murky and the town prospered from Stoker’s artistic license. Blood money, it turns out, is a lucrative business.
Encountering Bran Castle for the first time is somewhat of a shock, in that the castle itself is pink. Not Hello Kitty pink, but that fucker is a pale pink and no one can say otherwise. The castle, like so many others, is vast. You find yourself wondering how the fuck they heated it during the merciless Romanian winters. With peaked spires piercing the sky like spears and tiny twisty staircases that lead to little rooms the castle is a great, albeit crowded, place to explore. In addition to historical relics from the Romanian royal family, the castle is home to a brutal torture museum – imagine every nightmare you have ever had and then multiply them by a thousand.
While the story of Vlad the Impaler casts its fictional grisly glamour, Bran Castle does have a delightfully gory history. The castle was once the most-loved home of Queen Marie of Romania. When she died in 1938, upon her request, her heart was carved out from her chest and brought to rest in a specially built tomb on the castle’s property. Now, if that’s not metal as fuck, I don’t know what is.
I decided that to channel with Transylvania’s undying son, I should go further afield, to the former mining town of Turda, Romania. You may not have heard of this picturesque town. It’s very small, but it is known for being home to both the ancient Salina Turda salt mine and the Hunter Prince Lodge & Dracula Hotel. I had the pleasure of spending a night here a few months ago, and for a horror story junkie, this place was the jam. The building is an immense lodge that caters to the likes of hunters and vampire enthusiasts to equal measure. The decorating scheme leans towards the more S&M side of the border with a generous amount of fur, iron, and taxidermy applied to each room.
The Dracula Hotel takes the Transylvanian vampire mythos to the next level – cornily and without apology – I mean they have a dining hall that sports blood splattered walls, skulls, a wonky mannequin dressed like Vlad. The Hunter Prince Castle also has a vampire inspired menu that features a spread of Dracula inspired foods – including a beguiling dish called “Worn-Out Vampire Dick.” Naturally, being a gourmand, I ordered this. What was it? Well, it certainly wasn’t vegan and it most definitely was not kosher. Beyond that, it was a delicious mystery.
Did I find my vampires? No, unfortunately. But chasing monsters is good fun. You meet some very interesting people, you collect some pretty good stories, and you get to eat a dick.