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Today, the old town's quaint 15th and 16th century merchants' houses, the remains of the 13th century fortress walls and a generally unhurried pace have preserved some of Bistrita's medieval atmosphere. Located near the small township of Tihuta, the pass peaks at 3, feet. The Bargau Valley encompasses some of the most beautiful unspoiled mountain scenery in the Carpathians with picturesque traditional villages located in valleys and on hillsides, ideal bases for hiking, riding or discovering their vivid tapestry of old customs, handicrafts and folklore.

Here, you will step into a realm that the fictional Mina Harker described in her diary as "a lovely county; full of beauties of all imaginable kinds, and the people are brave, and strong, and simple, and seem full of nice qualities. Vlad Tepes was born in in the fortress city of Sighisoara.


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His father, Vlad Dacul, was the military governor of Transylvania and had become a member of the Order of the Dragon a year before. The Order, similar to the Order of the Teutonic Knights, was a semi-military and religious organization established in in Rome in order to promote Catholic interests and crusades. For his deeds, the Order of the Dragon was bestowed upon him, hence the title Dracul the Latin word for dragon is draco. While in medieval lure dragons served as symbols of independence, leadership, strength and wisdom, the biblical association of the devil with the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve gave the snake-like dragon connotations of evil.

Thus, the Romanian word Dracul stands in English for both dragon and devil. Moreover, the ceremonial uniform of the Order — black cloak over red accouterment — was Bram Stocker' source of inspiration for Count Dracula's look. But how did Bram Stoker's story turn into a myth? A partial explanation is provided by the circumstances under which the book was written and received. A genuine epidemic of "vampirism" had hit Eastern Europe at the end of the 17th century and continued throughout the 18th century.

The number of reported cases soared dramatically, especially in the Balkans.

Travelers returning from the East would tell stories about the undead, which helped keep the interest in vampires alive. Western philosophers and artists tackled the issue ever more often. Bram Stoker's novel came as the pinnacle of a long series of works based on tales coming from the East. Back then, most readers were certain that the novel had been inspired by real facts and that its story was perhaps just a bit romanticized.

Dracula is more than years old and still alive!

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Of course, almost everybody has heard about this Nosferatu: through movies featuring Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman; in several books, including the recent Vampire Chronicles of Anne Rice, or even in bedtime stories told to us in our childhood. We all have an idea of who or what the Count is. However, on the other hand, Vlad Tepes Dracula , the historical figure who inspired Bram Stoker's novel, is definitely less well-known. Vlad Tepes was born in December in the fortress of Sighisoara, Romania.

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Vlad's father, governor of Transylvania, had been inducted into the Order of the Dragon about one year before. The order — which could be compared to the Knights of the Hospital of St. John or even to the Teutonic Order of Knights — was a semi-military and religious society, originally created in by the Holy Roman Emperor and his second wife, Barbara Cilli. The main goal of such a secret fraternal order of knights was to protect the interests of Christianity and to crusade against the Turks.

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The boyars of Romania associated the dragon with the Devil and decided to call Vlad's father "Dracul," which in the Romanian language means "Devil;" "Dracula" is a diminutive, meaning "the son of the Devil. Vlad followed his father and lived six years at the princely court. Vlad was held there until This Turkish captivity surely played an important role in Dracula's upbringing; it must be at this period that he adopted a very pessimistic view of life and learned the Turkish method of impalement on stakes. The Turks set Vlad free after informing him of his father's assassination in He also learned about his older brother's death and how he had been tortured and buried alive by the boyars of Targoviste.

When he was 17 years old, Vlad Tepes Dracula , supported by a force of Turkish cavalry and a contingent of troops lent to him by Pasha Mustafa Hassan, made his first major move toward seizing the Walachian throne. Vlad became the ruler of Walachia in July of During his six-year reign, he committed many cruelties, hence establishing his controversial reputation.

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His first major act of revenge was aimed at the boyars of Targoviste for not being loyal to his father. On Easter Sunday of what we believe to be , he arrested all the boyar families who had participated at the princely feast. He impaled the older ones on stakes while forcing the others to march from the capital to the town of Poenari. This fifty-mile trek was quite grueling and no one was permitted to rest until they reached their destination.

Dracula then ordered the boyars to build him a fortress on the ruins of an older outpost overlooking the Arges River. Many died in the process. Dracula, therefore, succeeded in creating a new nobility and obtaining a fortress for future emergencies. What is left of the building today is identified as Poenari Fortress Cetatea Poenari. Vlad Tepes adopted the method of impaling criminals and enemies and raising them aloft in the town square for all to see.

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Almost any crime, from lying and stealing to killing, could be punished by impalement. Definitely take the bus trip, it was a great way to start and finish. The meal was hearty and delicious. A wonderful experience to get an understanding of the culture. Everything was in period and interactive. A great learning experience.


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  5. We loved the hangi Well worth the money and we would take any overseas visitors to this evening. Everyone was friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Food was much better than expected and plentiful. Tutorials and demonstrations were fun and informative. Highly recommend. K down to Rotorua and had heard good things from other family that had visited. Blew us out of the water! I learnt a lot, had a lot of fun and a great feed.

    Brian applies his skills to the athletic fields, and in this, the first of a series, a new legend is born. Read more Read less.

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