I attended a Dracula Walk this summer in Whitby. Surprised by the dress and deportment of the very learned and knowledgable lady who stood in front of me, I was further surprised and entranced by the stories she shared of the ‘Whitby of old’.
None of what she uttered scared me. No freakish corpses with fresh bite marks on their necks jumped at me.
No flying vampire bats searching for fresh blood swooped around my head.
But what she did tell me, of the life of Bram Stoker while he lived here in Whitby – listening to the stories the sailors in port from the Baltics re-told, in the dark corners of ale houses swirling with smoke and atmosphere – about a man who drank the blood of his victims and whom all in the lands they came from, feared. I was drawn in and the cogs in my head started to turn.
Over the next few weeks I researched the stories and the history of Vlad the Impaler (the man who reputedly drank the blood of his captives) and his attachments to Bran Castle in Transylvania .... One day, I woke up and decided I HAD to go there... it was like a magnet.
Two weeks later I was on the road – a 4,000 miles long road – to Bran Castle. The journey took me through 10 countries, stopping in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and some of its most beautiful Alps and old towns such as Hallstatt.
Onwards through Hungary and an overnight on the waters edge of Lake Ballaton. Up to Budapest and through Timisoara in Romania – where I had arranged to meet up with a motorcycle group.
They talked me through the history of Romania and it’s most recent bid for Independence. Explaining to me that now there is a new wave of ‘Corporate’ and the economy is growing.....many of them had very good computer orientated jobs and earned good money.
I could outwardly see the divide though – the youngsters who were taking the country and their lives forward – and the older generation whom had lived very poor lives, and would for the rest of their days.
I navigated the Carpathian Mountains travelling down a road called Transfargarasen “The Best Road in the World” according to Jeremy Clarkson ..... and it IS!
Sixty miles of twists and hairpin turns, switches and sheer drops. Built under the direction of Ceausescu the road is a massive feat in engineering, with more tunnels and viaducts than any other road in Romania. The Castle Poenari stands high among the mountains and is purported to be another of Vlad the Impalers fortresses.
Castle Bran is exactly as you would expect it to be ....with gothic towers and wrought iron twisting around gates and windows.
It is suggested that Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) had little to do with the castle but may have visited during his reign. What I DID find interesting was that Marie (granddaughter of Queen Victoria) had married the King of Romania was very fond of the castle and ordered extensive renovation by Karel Liman a famous Czech architect .....which is why it’s in such good condition nowadays.
I was lucky enough to be invited to visit a lady living up in a small village called Magura (had to go by taxi as my bike would not get up the unsaved and very steep roads). This lady is an author of books containing Tales of Folklore - and it wasn’t hard to see how all consuming living up within the nature of the Carpathian Mountains could be.
I returned home via Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia - through the Karawanke Tunnel (a five miles long tunnel cut through the Karawanks Mountains), to a Harley Davidson Bike Festival for ten of thousands in Austria, on to Nurbergring and back through Dunkirk to pay my respects to the soldiers and personnel involved in the Wars – that made my trip possible.
I guess I always had in my head that Brexit might get in the way of movement around the EU next year ...... so it was my perfect time to go!
I met so many lovely people – it definitely has sealed my faith in people again. I saw SO many beautiful places – having been cabin crew for 25 years – I thought I had seen it all! I have conquered my fear of being alone ...but we are all children of the Universe and you are never alone!
I conquered my fear of heights (at 6,600ft the Transfargarasen Road I thought would be my nemesis – but no! ). I did what I set out to do and now a trip to Whitby is on the cards to soak up more of those story vibes.
Who knows where I will be going next ?
The Dracula Walk was pure inspiration.