3/10/2009

It was snowing in the Dracula Wonderland



It takes three, four hours by road to reach the city of Brasov. A mid-February Friday afternoon trip from Bucharest is no joy when it's snowing. At least it was daylight. A trip to Brasov was offering an escape from a stressful reality of a lifestyle of modernity mingled with technology one is normally surrounded by. I was heading for a 14th century wonderland of Eastern Europe, Brasov, once one of the powerful medieval fortresses of Transylvania. 


Someone said that it would be snowing in Brasov, yet the city of Bucharest was moving out to enjoy a weekend of winter sports at Poiana Brasov mountain range, or a wedding-in-the-snow at the 15th century White Tower outside the fortress walls. Did they ever ...


For me it was the snow-covered rooftops of Brasov, the time-blackened city walls, towers and a town square, that's what attracted me. For one more day or so, I could reclaim a few vestiges of history and piece together a mosaic of styles - Romanic, Gothic, Byzantine, Renaissance or Baroque. Add to it expressions of religious influences - Roman Catholic, Orthodox, the Reformation age, Jewish ... This was different! Walking down the Nicolae Iorga Street and its tiny Jewish cemetery all seemed very black & white. The connection with such a diverse past was powerful, even when the snow was turning into slush.


Snowing or not, a visit to Bran and one of the castles associated with the cruel Vlad the Impaler, fictionally made famous as Count Dracula, had a different take. It looked spooky. If it wasn't for the colors of the market stalls offering local goat cheese and a myriad of gory souvenirs, the Teutonic castle walls looked foreboding. Only the Queen Marie's of Romania portraits which dotted the castle's interior rooms brightened the spooky atmosphere of a place where the enemies of the evil Vlad met their destiny. To make a livable residence, the queen installed an elevator in the fountain in the interior court. A comment from Carmen, our local guide, reconnected me at once with my profession: The queen knew the power of the image. She sold her profile to Camay cosmetics. Apparently, this wasn't some legend.  


Escaping from reality is an essential part of life's safety valves needed to cope with ... the reality. A Dracula tale can be useful at times, even when a local tries to persuade you that this is only a legend. Right, I said, and turned away. A disturbed dream is no dream at all.

The Dracula reality - no, not the blood and guts stuff. No. This is not appealing to me at all. The Dracula reality also happens in the freezing rain. But soon all slowly turning into snow. And it's the snow that covers everything. Or nearly everything.

3 comments:

  1. what a striking account of a place that seems otherworldly and that much more real at the same time. gorgeous pictures. I'm seeing a father-son gallery in your future. :)

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  2. The father-son idea is not too bad. But it scares me that I would have to improve my skills and get rid of a notion that we may be competing with each other! Oh, horrors! :-)
    The Brasov/Bran visit was very exciting and I was frustrated not to be spending more time there. Learning more about the religious mosaic of the area was a fascinating aspect of the trip.
    The other aspect was that one of the Polish kings, Stephen Bathory (1533-1586) was a Duke of Transylvania from the Siebenburgen realm of which Brasov was one. He was a very tolerant ruler who protected religious freedom and religious minorities, and believed that religion should be spread by preaching and good example, and not by forceful coercion and persecution. So, there you have it.

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  3. Its wonderful to hear tales from the crypt of the old world. The contrast of the old and the new, life and death, grand and simple, quality and kitsch - all beautifully offsetting each other and living in happy harmony in the old world is marvelous.

    What your pictures are missing are sprinklings of fresh crimson blood on the barren white snow...

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