Oh, stereotypes, don’t you just love them? Like the one about the Irish — all a bunch of drunks. Or the one about Canadians who still use dog sleds for transportation. We dismiss them as silly many times, or we take up the challenge and blog about it.
I’ve posted on this topic before, so I’ll share a quick story from my last visit to Romania.
While in Frankfurt, waiting to board a plane to Bucharest, our son (age four at the time) attracted the attention of a young couple. One topic led to the next — the usual ‘where are you heading’ chat — before the name Transylvania changed everything.
“Oh, Transylvania,” the young husband said, “We’d love to visit Dracula’s castle one day.”
I tried to smile while cringing inward. No mention of Romania/Transylvania escapes the Dracula stereotype.
We trace this story to Bram Stocker, the novelist who decided to find his vampire in the mountains of Transylvania, the western part of Romania. But the story might’ve died a quick death without Hollywood, who made Dracula into an international brand.
The Romanian tourism industry didn’t help either when it decided to connect the brand with a Story, disregarding authenticity in favor of profits.
So, what tourists find mesmerizing generates mainly negative feelings among Romanians, because the story has no connection with the historical truth. The novel is based on writings by Vlad’s opponents (foreign colonists who despised Vlad’s control over trade), and politicians of the time (who disliked his methods of defending Christianity against the Ottomans).
But that matters very little to tourists in search of The Story. Thousands journey to Bran Castle (Vlad’s short-lived residence) every year, only to be generally disillusioned with what they find.
While expecting remnants of the Impaler, tourists are overwhelmed by exhibits of Queen Maria’s vestiges. The place is representative of the Romanian royal family more than Vlad himself.
Romanians see Prince Vlad as a hero who fought against the invasion of the Ottoman Empire. A 15th-century brave man.
His name Vlad Tepes of Wallachia, carries the nickname “Impaler” as a result of his methods of punishment — impaling invaders, criminals, and enemies. Yes, he used unthinkable methods of punishment at a time when The Rack, a device that pulled the victim’s arms until dislocated, was used in the west.
As I gently described my knowledge of Prince Vlad’s reign to the young couple in Frankfurt, I feared that didn’t change their perception. Like many brands, this one is stronger than the historical truth.
~ Tomorrow’s post is Elegance. Hope you’ll join me again. I appreciate your visits and comments more than I can say.
Photos courtesy: Thecount68, Wikimedia Commons, CC; http://www.vladtheimpaler.info/pictures_of_vlad_the_impaler.html; exloringcastles.com