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10/27/2004 Archived Entry: "Welcome to Transylvania!"

An interesting article in High Times: HELP, I'M STONED, WHO SHOULD I VOTE FOR? You need a hint? The article states, “Bush Jr. spent the first half of the 80's getting wasted (perhaps on some of his father's Contra coke), and the second half letting Daddy's rich friends bail him out of failed businesses, and make him managing general partner of the Texas Rangers. Now he's our President. Last year, 700,000 people were arrested for pot in the United States, and Bush's Justice Department continued to raid state-sanctioned medical marijuana gardens at gunpoint.”

Just to let you know what’s happening…

As you read this, Brad and I are either on a plane to Bucharest -- an overnight flight via Budapest on Malev Airlines --
or we’ve already arrived in Romania, so thoroughly exhausted by travel that we’re sacked out at our hotel. Not for long, though! I can hardly wait to start walking the streets of Bucharest, tasting the food, smelling the air, watching the foot traffic through the window of a small cafe. A friend will be posting a series of prepared blog entries that will give you a day-by-day account of where we are in our travels through Romania and, then, onto Budapest, Hungary.

Why Romania? We love Hallowe'en. Correction. Brad really enjoys Hallowe'en. I love it! and Brad has given into my passion -- not in a dutiful-husband kicking-and-screaming way but with real zest. I still remember the Hallowe’en we spent at a quiet country graveyard with a thermos of hot Irish coffee, respectfully sitting to one side of the cemetery, waiting for the stroke of midnight to arrive. The oddest thing happened. Close to midnight, light fell on a white marble cross that marked a grave about 20 feet away from us and the cross gleamed pure white as though it was shining from within. No other markers seemed to catch the light. The illumination must have come from someone in a farmhouse turning on a light -- perhaps to get a late-night snack in the kitchen -- or from some automatic lights used by farmers switching on and shining at just the right angle. (I attach no supernatural significance to the sudden and continuing glow of the cross.) But it had a calming effect. Both Brad and I agreed: there was nothing frightening in the cemetery. There were good people who had lived honest lives and, then, died. We toasted them, thanked them for tolerating us, and left.

Each Hallowe’en we try to do something different. We had talked about driving to New England this year and participating in the Salem witch trials that are re-enacted every October but neither of us fancies travelling to the States right now.

So once again, why Romania? Well, that’s where they keep Transylvania -- a region now incorporated into Romania proper which constitutes about a third of the country's land mass. This year we will be retracing the route Jonathan Harker took to Dracula's castle in Bram Stoker's novel of the same name, "Dracula." Perhaps you've heard of it? Starting a Bucharest, we will join a small tour group of fellow-Canadians and Americans (organized by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula) -- complete with the company of a history professor/guide who will lecture us on the country’s culture, past and superstitions as we journey. As the Canadian chapter of The Transylvanian Society of Dracula states, the purpose is “following the fall of Communism, to promote contacts between scholars in Romania and the West and to encourage Dracula tourism based on educational objectives.”

With several stops at fascinating venues -- e.g. the best preserved 15th century walled town in Europe -- Brad and I will make our way toward the Carpathian mountains to spend Hallowe'en night in an ancient, restored castle that is as close as possible (in proximity) to the one Stoker described. We will enter “freely, and of our own will.” There will be a party in the castle on October 31st, with actors who pretend to be vampires circulating among the unsuspecting guests, after which Brad and I will retire to spend the night in one of the castle’s ancient bedrooms.

(Oh, and just for the record, of course no such creature as a vampire exists. But the Star Ship Enterprise doesn’t exist either and yet, in the right mood, I really enjoy watching old Star Treks.)

I will be keeping a Transylvania journal and posting my entries from it on McBlog when I return. But, as mentioned above, a friend will be posting pre-written entries about where we are on a day-to-day basis during our absence. I invite you to prepare for Hallowe’en by vicariously travelling to Transylvania with us.

Let the adventure begin in Bucharest. “From the 1870s until the late 1920s the city began its most beautiful metamorphosis from a giant village with muddy streets to Eastern Europe's most attractive destination, and the world renowned reputation of being 'The Little Paris'.”


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