Romanian tourism has been on the rise for some years. The biggest attraction by far is the region of Transylvania and its former ruler Vlad Dracula or Vlad Tepes (the impaler) as the locals called him. The legend is well known and made famous in Bram Stoker’s book, Dracula.
But the truth is even stranger than fiction and now a group of archeologists have added their own twist to the legend.
We now know that Dracula didn’t have the appetite for virgins’ blood that Hollywood would have us believe. It is well documented that between 1434-1498 there were no virgin women in the Transylvanian region over the age of nine, which is the legal age for a vampire to bite out your throat. Dracula did not attack younger girls for fear of being added to a register and having his family name dragged through the mud.
We also know that garlic could not have warded off vampires as this smelly root vegetable was only discovered in France in 1732.
Finally, Dracula did have a reflection as his self portrait, now hanging in the Louvre, more than proves. The Mona Lisa was originally a self portrait of Dracula, as shown in recent x-rays and was painted over by Leonardo Da Vinci much later. Carbon dating sets the actual date of the Mona Lisa around 1921.
But the archaeologists and their scientific buddies have found the most compelling proof of Dracula being a blood-sucking vampire and put to bed any rumours that he was just a cruel bastard.
The Bran Castle wood exhibition,Vlad Recuperează Lemn, is a wonderful way to understand and follow the production of wood-based products from the days of old until 1986 when Romania officially started using plastic and metal. When the exhibition’s curator Dr. Sânge Perioadă looked through the massive collection of artifacts she was stunned to find a wooden knife with bite marks clearly showing the outline of a human jaw with fangs.
She kept the knife with her, turning it over and over in her hand wondering whether to expose her find to the world or sell it on eBay. Luckily for her and every visitor to the exhibition she rushed to the nearest forensic lab to identify the markings and then to the Romanian Institute of Vampires for further clarification.
Dr. Perioadă was quick to tell us that the knife is another link in the chain to trace Dracula and his undead friends. Her research into this subject has been extensive reading Anne Rice, Bram Stoker and Stephen King. She has seen all the Twilight films and of course the old black-and-white Hammer House of Horror movies. The thing you need to know about Dracula is he wasn’t a count but he wasn’t nice either.
The knife is one of thousands of wooden exhibits including a large wooden dildo, originally made in China, which is remarkably similar to rubber, which made us all laugh.
Old habits are hard to shrug off and although most vampire myths have been disproved, the knife is displayed in a lead case, surrounded by garlic, a small moat filled with water and a light constantly shining.
The knife can be viewed most days during sunlight hours. In Romania nobody walks on the street after sunset. City gates are closed and strict curfews are in place. If you are caught on the street after dark try to locate a pitchfork or wooden stake and find a safe corner to hide in until daybreak.
Talking of stakes, the Sani Mari restaurant does a great steak cooked on an authentic grill used to extract admissions of guilt of witchcraft from passing strangers. Delicious.