Photo Friday: Dracula’s Hometown and that Time I Interviewed a Monkey

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*Guest post alert! Compliments of SVV.

Sometime back in 2005, Kristin and I took a come-hell-or-high-water road trip across the lower spline of Eastern Europe and deep into the Carpathian Mountains. We spent two  days in the bullet-ridden but quite charming Budapest before finding a local car rental and striking out towards the Black Sea. Despite my worst driving we made it about halfway. The roads were typically one lane and while the maps showed say, a distance of 100 miles, the reality on the ground proved vexingly different. I don’t think we minded much -seeing as my face was plastered to the landscape, searching for a wolf pack headed by a black-caped fiend and Kristin, well, she’s just happy to be traveling.


The country is awash in fortifications and churches. I heart crumbling beauty, ruined civilization and our manifest devotion to higher powers and cannot stop wishing I could travel the world taking photos before they melt into the earth like some poor kids chocolate sundae. The monasteries are quite simply gorgeous.


Once you get past the cheesy vampire stuff and sad-eyed strays the place has a starkness to it – at least in winter – that I find particularly attractive. Don’t you just want to shoot an arrow or at the very least, storm the joint like a berzerker? Oh wait that’s right, you really want to sip hot palinka and munch on cinnamon rolls when there’s snow on the ground. Save the marauding for Spring.


These streets were walked by Vlad Dracul, Dracula’ s father, and by the main man himself, Vlad the Impaler when he was but a wee little fang.  Sighişoara was an interesting town. Dracula’s birth house is a two star hotel – why not four? And an old cemetary lies at the top of town.


The fence was locked – presumably to keep the zombies in – so we walked around the freestanding gate and felt like trespassers in your mom’s house. So many photo opportunities there but needed a better camera than my pocket Olympus.


And how does one segue to monkeys?           Easy..         MONKEYS !         See?


Many people know about Gibraltar but not about the Barbary Apes living all over it. Apparently those swash buckling rogues of yore – ya know, back in the day – liked monkeys just as much as we do now. Hungry little fellows, the good Brits have rationally made it illegal to feed them. Since I read signs like this as permission to, a) let an ape bite my hand, or b) snack on my crackers, I chose the latter.


They have the best view in Spain. Well, technically this is England but who’s really counting?


And the backside of the ROCK..


Also, since I was there to interview the local population, I thought I’d ask for comment on the recent influx of seagulls into the neighborhood. Mr Monkey patiently waited for more peanuts instead of answering my questions.


I’d brought beer for the long walk down but Mr Monkey demanded a sample of the goods.


At first I thought he’d spilled it because well, his brain is the size of my fist. But on closer examination, I realized I was in his church. The guidebook didn’t mention this.


I’d brought more than one sacrificial beer, decided to relent, and joined the horde.. **



** I am so NOT posing like a high-school douche-Q-back. My hat kept falling off. I was simply holding it on. <sniff>  But I LOVE monkey bars. Don’t you?

  • March 20, 2009

    awesome guest post! Oh and awesome douche pose! 😉

  • March 20, 2009

    The Barbary Apes were quite a surprise when I went to Gibraltar! “What the what? How the frick did a swarm of monkeys get here?” For some members of my travel party, the apes proved to be too much which resulted in oh, a panic attack, hyperventilation and demands to be taken straight back down the rock because, surely, the monkeys wanted to eat her alive. Ah…memories!

  • March 20, 2009

    Man, Hungary and Spain are about at the top of my list for our next trip across the ditch. I dig the snow in the pictures. Too bad Kelly hates the cold, because I think a trip through the Carpathians in winter would be tight as hell. Minus the vampires, of course.

  • March 20, 2009

    Anyone named Vlad is a-ok in my book. I had NO idea there were monkeys in Gibraltar…who liked beer…

  • March 21, 2009

    SVV, you look so young there. What a difference 3+ years has made…I remember meeting you earlier in 2005 and demanding to see your ID, not believing you were 31 (at the time). That’s before you got old, of course. Thirty-five this year–need I remind you?!? 😉

  • March 21, 2009
    Walter & Kit's Dad

    Good job SVV.

  • March 21, 2009

    It’s now officially clear to me why you two are perfectly happy together- silly sensibilities and animal instincts! Thanks for keeping us reading in the meantime 🙂

  • March 21, 2009

    hahahaha “hat kept falling off” is the age-old excuse

  • March 21, 2009

    When do I get to submit a post?!?

  • March 23, 2009

    Ooooohhhh, Romania in the winter is GORGEOUS. Now I’m thinking about changing my name to Vlad. It really has a certain ring to it.

  • March 23, 2009

    Ouch! Oh emm gee, 35 ? Say it ain’t so Miss Kristin. Thanks everybody ELSE for the love, ahem. And what monkey DOESN’T love beer? 🙂

  • March 23, 2009

    Nice guest post! I wish I could have a monkey as a pet.

  • October 28, 2012

    I think you wanted to say Bucharest and not Budapest. Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and Bucharest is teh capital of Romania. If you went to the Black Sea from a bullet-ridden city, I guess you went there from the capital of Romania, Bucharest.
    Most tourists mix them up as they don’t spend too much time in Romania to really understand where they are.

    • October 29, 2012

      No, actually, we started our trip from Budapest. I still haven’t been to Bucharest, alas. We flew into Buda, rented a car and then drove through western Hungary into Timisoara, down to Brasov and back up via Sighisoara. Such a gorgeous drive and country. We spent about 10 days in Romania (in the dead of winter) and really would like to come back for longer (but in summer next time!).

      (And we didn’t go to the Black Sea–that was my husband being poetic. He said we were driving in the direction of the Black Sea, which we were! Initially, we had planned to make it all the way to Bucharest, but due to the roads in the snowy winter, we just didn’t have the time.)

  • February 3, 2014

    Such beautiful pics… and holy mackerel, what a ROCK! That looks like the result of an earthquake! The whole story of Dracula is interesting. For the longest time I thought it had no historical basis at all. How do the people of Romania feel about their country being known for Dracula (maybe not the first thing people think of, but probably in the top ten)?

  • April 21, 2014

    Beautiful photographs and great info. There are many other wonderful sights and destinations in Romania…although everything does look better in the spring…at least for me.

  • May 27, 2015

    When you’re planning your next visit to Romania maybe you will visit our website also :

  • September 30, 2015

    If you enjoyed your visit in “Dracula’s Land” back then, you should see how the country changed in 10 years! The Castle is more beautiful than ever. Not to mention that there are many other wonderful places that you could visit: fortified churches, the medieval town of Sighisoara, charming villages and more.

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