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Letter from Castle Dracula

The newsbullettin of The Transylvanian Society of Dracula

February 2003

The Dracula Park:
from Sighisoara, in Transylvania - to Bucharest, in Valahia

We did try to turn a serious eye on the latest developments regarding the Dracula-park in Romania. But there is something so immature about it, that we even questioned the worth of reporting on it at all! (If the standing above betrays a feeling of superiority on our part, given by the knowledge gathered at our society’s many scholarly events, then we humbly accept it).

This Dracula-park, so dear to the Ministry of Tourism, can be compared to a sophisticated toy given to a baby who tears off a wheel and plays with it alone.

True, the Ministry of Tourism is not the Ministry of Culture (although tourism should mean culture), and that’s why its only preoccupation seems to be commercial profitability – the wheel in the example above. It’s history at stake, it’s the ineffable supernatural of folkloric and literary venues, it’s religion (the devil taking over the tasks of the vampire), it’s a big, complicated machinery out of which a wheel was detached and played with.

The minister of Tourism must have seen, once, this magnificent toy at work in its entirety and was fascinated by it. What has the minister seen? The first World Dracula Congress (1995) – the 124 journalists, the 28 television crews, the best of the world’s scholars in Dracula studies: fellows of academies, university professors, researchers, writers of great repute. Then we know that the minister gave it another test: at an exhibition in Berlin, he piled some “Count Dracula Treasures” in the Romanian booth, and watched: the visitors read “Romania” and marched on (as expected); but with the corner of their eyes they glimpsed the Treasures, so they returned, looked, picked the “Dracula” folder near-by, a map, also some literature on the Black Sea holidays, the frescoed monasteries of Bucovina, the Danube Delta…

The elections of 1996 brought the opposition to power, but Mr. Matei Agathon Dan’s party returned to govern in 2000 and re-installed him as minister of Tourism.

The four years of ministerial inactivity bore fruit; Mr. Matei Agathon Dan announced, among the priorities in tourism development, the construction of a Dracula-park. Then the details followed, and the consternation of the society, then of others: the wheel of the toy has been detached.

Why “consternation”? Because the TSD expected to see the minister harnessing the name “Dracula” in the tip of his promotional spear, to catch attention, then show the many unique and original tourist assets of Romania (Dracula included). The whole country is, in a sense, a Dracula-park. To reach the remote castle of the vampire-count, in the Borgo Pass, N-E Transylvania, one visits sites associated with the historical Dracula (Targoviste, Poienari, Brasov, Sighisoara), then plunges into folklore, literature, metaphysics, religion in the area of Bistrita and the Borgo Pass, returning via the region of the five frescoed monasteries, or of the Magic Mountain, in a full tour of beautiful and cultural Romania.

Yes, the Ministry of Tourism sounded the opinion of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula as well. The TSD advised the Ministry to place the park where it belongs, where Bram Stoker wrote it to be – in the Borgo Pass. To see Sherlock Holmes one does not go to Manchester, but seeks the Baker Street in London. Romeo and Juliet are to be found in Verona, not in Milan. In placing the park where it belongs – one would continue to see all the Dracula sites on the way.

The TSD also warned the ministry that any other emplacement will split the Dracula scene into bits and pieces. Indeed, almost all the major Dracula sites (historical or supernatural) announced plans of mini-Dracula parks of their own – as soon as Sighisoara was pronounced The Place. Things will worsen with the removal of the park near Bucuresti. The assurance given by the ministry that the visitors of the park will then embark on a regular Dracula tour may or may not materialize; how many will have time and money left to do that?

As for the park itself: it will be placed on 200 hectars on the banks of lake Snagov, (some 40 km. North of Bucuresti), close to a small island which shelters a monastery; and that it will be ready by the end of 2004. The speculation that the historical Prince Vlad Dracula, the Impaler, was buried there in 1476 has been dismissed since 1933 by Constantin C. Giurescu, Romania’s foremost historian, and by important historians today.

But what we fear most is the confusion which will most likely be fostered by the park between a historical category and a supernatural one. Or the slandering and over-demonization of the historical Vlad Tepes – to make the park worthwhile. None wins, visitor included. The Count might even take offence in being confused with a mortal, - him, who comes from the dawn of humanity. We hope the ministry is wise enough to consult the experts in history and folklore – as it did with the experts in feasibility (Pricewaterhouse Cooper). We hope, but gloomily we doubt it will happen.

The initiation tours of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula will certainly continue. It is too early to say if they will contain the Dracula park, make it optional or discourage our tourists to be culturally insulted.

You are welcome, dear reader, to also share your opinion on the above.

Till then,
Keep in dracularian touch.



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