THE LIFE AND DEEDS OF PRINCE VLAD THE IMPALER-DRACULA
(1431 - 1476)
"I used Count Dracula
to promote the prince Vlad the Impaler-Dracula
" , said Prof.Radu Florescu, co-author of "In Search of Dracula"
, at the first World Dracula Congress
, in May 1995. He did and overdid it. It took the scholars a long time to disentangle the supernatural vampire-count
from the historical prince. During this process, aside from the looming figure of the vampire-count, another silhouette came forth - straight and unflinching, carrying a message of clear justice, ethics and morality, a knight's dream.
Vlad's life was written by his enemies. Unveiling the truth behind the many gory tales took research that shaped this society tour - in the footsteps of a rare, exceptional Human. The tour selected 6 episodes in Vlad's life: the formative years as a child, in Sighisoara, Transylvania; the teenage years by the side of his cousin, Stephen the Great of Moldova (fortress Suceava); fighting for his throne (Brasov, Transylvania)
; Vlad - the king (Valahia); Vlad on the run (fortress Poienari - Valahia); the mystery of Vlad's tomb. Throughout the tour, documented events, mysterious gaps and educated suppositions try to reveal the Man behind the mask
DAY 1: Reminder
This is not a tour about the vampire-count Dracula
. We shall discover how Bram Stoker
came across this name, but it is the historic man, not the supernatural entity, that this tour is about.
- Welcome back in the 15 century !
- Arrival in Romania
- Transfer to the royal mountain resort of Sinaia
- Overnight in Sinaia (hotel "Caraiman", 3-star, or hotel "Palace", 4-star).
DAY 2: Born in Transylvania
Cross the Carpathians into Transylvania
- Europe in the 15 century. The world in the 15 century.
- Vlad's princely father joins the Order of the Dragon (1431)
- Vlad is born in Sighisoara, in the middle of Transylvania (1431). The secrets of the house of his birth.
- The first 5 years in Vlad's life, in Transylvania
- The first witch-trials (re-enactment show)
- A day in the life of the child Vlad, in Sighisoara (sightseeing of the walled-town)
Overnight in Sighisoara.
DAY 3: Passing visit to Count Dracula's castle
On your way to the next episode in Vlad's life, to Suceava - capital of mediaeval Moldova
, take a day off and look at the fabrics of a great myth: the vampire called Count Dracula.
- The genesis of Bram Stoker's "Dracula"
- Where did Stoker find the name "Dracula" for his Count?
- How much did Stoker know about the man whose name he appropriated?
- What is a vampire? (introduction into the folkloric supernatural).
Stoker changed the location of Count Dracula's castle from Styria (Austria) to Transylvania (Romania)
. We need to cross that area, so why not stop and bid the Count "Hello" at his castle in the Borgo Pass
, the centre of the draculistic world. Who's afraid of the bad, bad Count?
- Depart Sighisoara for mediaeval Bistrita (mentioned on page 1 of Bram Stoker's "Dracula")
- Enjoy the "Jonathan Harker's meal" at the same "Golden Krone" inn , mentioned in the novel.
- Look at Bistrita through Harker's eyes
- Continue to the heights of the Borgo Pass and the castle - one of the most beautiful places on earth.
- Overnight at Castle Dracula
- Optional: reception ceremony into the Transylvanian Society of Dracula
DAY 4: The teenage princes and cousins: Vlad Dracula and Stephen the Great
For a couple of years (1450 - 1451), Vlad lived a secure life at the court of his cousin, Stephen, whose father (Bogdan) ruled Moldova at the time.
Cross the Carpathians between Transylvania and Bucovina, the northern tip of Moldova - into an area known as "Heaven on Earth", amid painted villages and frescoed monasteries.
- Visit Voronet monastery, built by Stephen the Great in 1488 and frescoed by his son, Petru Rares, 50 years later.
- Visit the mighty fortress of Suceava, playground of the two teenage princes. In 1457 Vlad will help his cousin take the throne of Moldova. In 1476, Stephen will help Vlad regain his Valahian throne.
- A day in the life of Vlad and Stephen, in Suceava. The many legends about Stephen the Great.
- Wine-tasting of the famous "Cotnari" - the wine preferred by Stephen and, no doubt, by his cousin.
- Overnight in Suceava.
DAYS 5-6: Commander of the southern frontier of Transylvania
Between 1454-56, prince Vlad Dracula was appointed commander of the southern defences of Transylvania: castles and fortresses, walled towns and fortified churches.
Cross from Moldova back into Transylvania and arrive in Brasov, wealthy and populous mediaeval city (4,000 inhabitants in the 15 century; 400,000 today). On route, visit the most spectacular gorges in Romania - Bicaz, and the Red Lake.
Overnight in Brasov or Poiana Brasov
The next day you will inspect, like Vlad did, castle Bran, fortress Rasnov
and the walled-city of Brasov itself. The archives of Brasov are rich in letters exchanged with Vlad. The city provided Vlad with weapons, but tried to remove him from the throne - after 1459 - when Vlad raised custom taxes and the Brasovians lost profit. Vlad did punish the city for its disobedience - with the Brasovians' own method of punishment: impalement.
The afternoon is free - unless you wish to take advantage of this society tour and add a nobility title to your name, joining The Order of Transylvanian Knights
(optional). This title is not for sale, it is based on personal merit. Should you be able to pass 6 chivalry tests (archery; strength of arm; walking on a beam; jumping through a fire; answering a riddle; dancing a minuet)
, then investiture ceremonies will be activated: oath, sword-on-shoulder, knighthooding diploma, medallion.
Overnight in Brasov or Poiana Brasov.
DAY 7: King of Valahia
There were no legends about Vlad Dracula
, good or bad, before he took the throne of Valahia, in 1456.
Vlad inherited an awful state of affairs in Valahia: powerful landlords (boyars) heeded no central authority, making their own rules. Corruption ruled supreme. Outlaws and robbers attacked caravans and property, nobody was safe. Justice was a joke, abuses everywhere. Valahia paid a "tribute for peace" to the Ottoman Empire, as if the looting raids of the Ottoman garrisons , from across the Danube, were not enough.
In only 6 years of rule, Vlad managed to have a model country - rully, with justice reinstated, with personal safety, also safety for commerce, secure borders and no more tribute to anyone. How did Vlad do it? Why was Ivan the IV-th advised to follow Vlad's example if he wanted a rully Russia? Or the Medicis? Why do the Romanians invoke Vlad, to this day, whenever their country crosses a crisis - corruption, low morale, weakness, crime?
The contrast between the gory tales on Vlad (purported by his enemies) and the collective memory of the folks - of a "justice king", could only be solved by research.
This is the day you'll find the truth - in Targoviste, Valahia's capital in the 15 century.
- Visit the ruins of the royal palace, site of most legends about Vlad.
- Overnight in Targoviste.
DAY 8: The Poienari Nebula
How can it be that a man who succeeded to drive Sultan Mehmet's
army away, in the summer of 1462, lost his throne? Strange correspondences were signaled 500 years apart, in the same area.
Behold the fortress of Poienari
, enlarged by Vlad in 1457. Few ruins stir under so many legends as Poienari. They are remembered by the Arefeans, in a shepherds' village across the hill. And for good reason: Vlad gave them 14 mountains as pastureland, in return for a great, great service.
Be the guests of the Arefeans tonight and listen to what they remember, around a bon-fire. Some historic documents confirm their recollections. Judge for yourself.
- Dinner on local specialties, overnight in farm houses (bathroom, TV, telephone) - in Aref village, across the hill from Poienari.
DAY 9: Mysteries in the life of Vlad the Impaler-Dracula
Starting with the location of Vlad's tomb (there are 3 locations under debate) and ending with the whereabouts of his last battle (December 1476), or the motivation for his nickname - Impaler, prince Vlad's life has many blank pages. The concerted effort of Romanian and foreign scholars did solve some mysteries and did reach beyond the sordid mediaeval labels stuck on Vlad's forehead by his many enemies. But the research continues - and some educated guesses may soon be confirmed by new findings.
Welcome in Bucharest - firt mentioned in writing in a document signed "Vlad Dracula" on September 20, 1459. This was were Vlad ruled from, returning to the throne of Valahia in 1476. Visit the ruins of the princely palace.
Your farewell dinner, tonight, will be joined by a historian, a scholar on the 15 century - to answer your many questions.
Overnight in Bucharest.
DAY 10: An invitation
The Transylvanian Society of Dracula offers to keep you informed on new discoveries regarding the life of Vlad , by placing your name on the regular mailing list of the TSD newsletter (free - for those who followed this tour. Please apply).
NEW: View 2013 land prices list in PDF. Click here!
- Departure to the airport
- Departure from Romania, maybe as TSD members, or even nobles, certainly as friends.
The Company of Mysterious Journeys will penalize the tourists who renounce their bookings as follows (subtracting bank-transfer charges):
1) for cancellation of 30 and more days before the tour start: full refunding (minus banking charges)
2) for 29-21 days cancellation: 30% penalty
3) for 20-14 days cancellation: 50% penalty
4) for 13-7 days or less cancellation: 100% penalty in favour of the CMJ.