Traipsing around Transylvania

By Chris A Hale

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1 2014 1:00 p.m. MST

Another one of my lasting impressions was that of a country not too far removed from a brutal dictator state.

Wherever we traveled, we saw the remnants of dilapidated factories, communist bloc housing and communities still struggling toward post-revolution economic recovery.

In Bucharest, we saw the impossibly spacious Palace of Parliament building built during the mid-'80s by Nicolae Ceausescu. Inside is a lavishly decorated government building second only to the Pentagon in square footage. Unfortunately, the citizens of the country experienced great hardship and poverty while Ceausescu and his wife were spending uncontrollably on this monument to megalomania.

Romania has so much more to offer than we had time to see. In the far north along the Ukrainian border is the Merry Cemetery. Engaging, to say the least, the grave markers are made of wood and colorfully hand painted with irreverent epitaphs or poems to describe who is buried beneath.

In the same part of the country are quaint painted monasteries — another must-see, if you can brave the roads and difficulty in getting there.

Then there are the ruins of Poenari Castle. We planned on seeing this site, but unfortunately missed it due to time constraints. The castle would certainly be something to see, as it was the residence of Vlad the Impaler, the man widely believed to be the real-life inspiration for Bram Stoker's Count Dracula.

We expected — and even anticipated, perhaps — to experience spookiness by visiting the land of Dracula and vampires. After all, we were walking around the land fabled for its vampires. We were a little disappointed, however, because there was none of that mystique at all. In fact, there was next to zero promotion of vampires or Dracula, even for the tourists.

There were a few souvenirs of the actual man, Vlad Tepes. His likeness was painted on decorative plates or sewn into tapestries. He isn’t known for biting people’s necks and sucking their blood; instead, he is a national hero for fighting against the invading Ottomans. His cruelty and barbarism are regarded as tactics to reclaim the country from corruption.

Even though we weren't able to see everything we’d intended to, we enjoyed our last trip with Heather very much. It’s so hard seeing your kids grow up. Hopefully she will remember the times she has spent traveling with her dad — especially the time we went traipsing around Transylvania.

Chris Hale is an aviation maintenance technician for a major airline who has traveled extensively with his family. In his spare time, he writes novels inspired by places he's been. Find out more about his books at chrisahale.com

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