Transylvania… Doesn’t the very name send delicious shivers rippling up and down your spine? It conjures pictures of dark, threatening forests and ancient, ruined castles looming out of the mountain mist – the perfect setting for a good vampire story.
It’s all Bram Stoker’s fault, of course, but I’m happy to go with it. In fact, many years ago, when I was a student, a couple of other Dracula fans and I spent a summer holiday following the route of Dracula’s Jonathan Harker through Transylvania. It was fun, and the countryside more than rewardingly beautiful. We found friendly people, picturesque towns and, when we got farther into the hills, a rural life not so very unlike the one which existed in Stoker’s day: men and women in traditional peasant garb, driving horses and carts and scratching a living from the land.
This was in the days of communism, of course, and in the hill village we stayed in, there was some sort of major construction work going on to provide a bizarre contrast – JCBs and ugly mounds of concrete and earth without obvious purpose! However, we could ignore the unsightly bits in the dark when we went walking under the full moon, soaking up the atmosphere. There were plenty creatures of the night to enchant us, including whizzing insects and bats, and the not-so-distant howl of a wolf…
(Can I just say, “Listen to them, the children of the night! What music they make…”)
Or it may have been a dog. We chose to believe it was a wolf J.
And come Saturday night, we had to defend ourselves from another predator. Lots of young people came to our hotel from all the surrounding villages for the weekly dance – and when the music began, the lights in our bedroom went out... When we crept nervously downstairs in the dark to investigate, I suddenly found myself seized and bent almost double in the arms of a male predator, while my friend hung on to my hand for dear life and tried to drag me free…
It would have made a fantastic story. But the lights were nothing more sinister than electrical failings, because all the power was needed for the disco; and I confess the predator was merely our friendly waiter with a little too much to drink. Although he was remarkably persistent (I remember a conversation where we all had to assure him there would be no “tiki-tiki” that night – don’t ask), he was also funny and since he was being told off by his friends at the same time, he wasn’t exactly threatening either. In fact it was a fun night and I was sorry to leave.
One day I’m going back. Until then, I’ll keep reading, and writing!