Do you remember that wonderful film? A vampire spoof with Count Dracula moving to New York after being driven out of his Transylvanian castle by the Communist government and a mob of angry villages. What a fantastic movie with some unforgettable one liners! I saw it in my very early teens and it has stayed with me ever since. That particular Dracula (George Hamilton) swept me off my young feet and had he come knocking on my window late one night I would have let him in and bared my neck without a moment’s hesitation
Although not ‘love at first sight’ it was definitely curiosity and high hopes when I first set eyes on Sighişoara, birthplace of Vlad Dracula, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. We curled our way down the wooded hillside to this UNESCO World Heritage Site on the banks of the river Târnava Mare, one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Made up of two parts, the medieval stronghold sits atop a hill on the river bend with the lower town lying at its feet. From its original founding in the 12th century Sighişoara became one of the most important cities in Transylvania and its economic growth in the 14th and 15th centuries enabled the construction of a strong walled defence system with each of the 14 towers being built, maintained and defended by a craft guild, the most striking being the 14th century Clock Tower which controlled the main gate. Vlad Dracula, posthumously dubbed Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler) due to his preferred method of torture and execution, was ruler of the province of Wallachia during the mid 15th century and was born in the shadow of this tower. His father, Vlad II was a member of the chivalric ‘Order of the Dragon’, set up to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. His bravery in fighting earned him the title Dracul, draco being Latin for dragon and Dracula, the title of Vlad Tepes, translates as Son of Dracul. As I made my way up to the Citadel I found myself going back in time and whilst walking the medieval mix of winding cobbled alleys, steep stairways, secluded squares, towers and turrets of this unique and beautiful town my heart slipped away unnoticed.
(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)