Transylvania Part 1 on OCP READY FOR TRELLO
[00:00:00] Tonight on our Curious Past, I invite you to join me in Sylvania. I visited the country a few years back when I was doing some research for a book I wrote called The Frighteners, A Journey through our Cultural Fascination with the mcb. It was an explanation and a defense of why human culture seems to be drawn to the spooky, strange, and shocking and scary.
[00:00:29] I actually recorded some audio while I was out there and I thought for this bonus episode of our Curious Past, I would share some of that while giving you some insight into the country that is best known for the blood drinking Undead. Aris Torat Count Dracula, but there's a lot more to the place than you may think and so, and pizza laws.
[00:00:49] And tonight we fly together to the land beyond the forest t.
[00:00:58] I began my journey to [00:01:00] Sylvania at Luton Airport, which is in the south of England. And so we pick up the audio here.
[00:01:12] I'm actually at Luden Airport and, um, I'm waiting for my flight because I'm about to go on a little adventure. I'm heading off to Sylvania in about two hours. Um, I'm gonna be heading to a place called Sibu and um, when I get there, me and my wife are gonna be collected by, um, a mysterious couple. Well, they're not that mysterious, but it's basically, we're not going to a normal sort of hotel, as it were.
[00:01:36] But, um, we've discover. A company called Secret Sylvania, who, um, they offer sort of bespokes holidays for people who want to investigate Sylvania. And so that's what we're going to be doing over there. And so I figured, well, why not just bring along my recorder and record a few things on the way. Oh my word.
[00:01:54] Is that a vampire in the background? No, I think it's a crying baby. Let's get away from that. Um, so [00:02:00] yeah, so I'm currently at Luton Airport, just waiting for the flight to go. Um, I'm gonna be, uh, exploring. Dracula themed things when I'm out there, obviously, uh, I'm gonna be visiting Brand Castle, which is the classic.
[00:02:12] Castle that is supposed to be linked to dacula, but as we'll progress, we'll discover. Perhaps it's not linked as, uh, as majorly as people seem to think. We're gonna be looking into some of the, uh, the, the creepy things that we can see over there as well as the, the nice stuff. Um, so, uh, for now, um, I'm gonna to build us.
[00:02:32] Mm-hmm. , don't worry, that's not me. So I can go and get myself something to eat. So I'm gonna hand off to do that now. Um,
[00:02:59] Well, uh, [00:03:00] hello again. You join me on the flight to Tve. We're in the air now. My wife is asleep by my side and out of the window I can see some, um, mountainous regions of Europe. Though I'm not really sure where I am, I'm on a, a budget flight, so we don't have any GPS tracking on the screen or anything fancy like that.
[00:03:20] But in the meantime, as we fly there, I thought I'd share some thoughts with you on Brown Stoker himself, who is after all the author who popularized. Not only Sylvania, but vampires as well. For most of Stoker's life, he wasn't really known as an author, but rather the manager of the like seam theater in London.
[00:03:40] So that was his prime occupation. But he'd organized the theaters, programs and tours and the financial accounts, and he wouldn't meet. And host dignitaries and high profile guests like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain, and even Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman, Buffalo, bill, Cody, and, and many more.[00:04:00]
[00:04:00] But Stoker also got his hand dirty in the biography by Paul Murray called In the Shadow of Dracula. There's a a cool story where apparently one night a gondola was supposed to pass across the stage, but as it did, a sheet was supposed to be disguising the inner workings of. And it was dragged away by accident and the audience suddenly saw Brown Stoker in his gallant evening wear inside the gondola, propelling it with machinery.
[00:04:24] So he was passionate about the theater, but uh, his life was overshadowed by a man called Sir Henry Irving, who owned the theater and employed Stoker as his secretary. Irving was really famous back, uh, in the late 18 hundreds in England, and so he probably would have no idea that Bra stoker his s. Who would do all these menial jobs in the theater would wind up to being way more famous and well known than he was.
[00:04:57] Stoke was born in 1847 on the coast of [00:05:00] Dublin and Ireland. He was the son of Abraham Stoke, which is where you get the Bram from a shortened version of his dad's name, and it was a sickly child. Apparently he couldn't walk upright until he was seven years old, and his mother, Charlotte used to carrying him.
[00:05:14] The, um, the household at the time, but he got influenced by his parents sharing spooky Irish folk tales. And some of them had a kind of seed of vampire myth in them. Like the very true stories of, uh, Britain and Ireland where executed criminals were sometimes buried at crossroads with stakes through their heart.
[00:05:34] Or how his mom would tell him grim tales of cholera outbreaks in his town, or, or stories of starving families who would have to drink the blood of cattle to survive. It's reasonable to assume that these sorts of tales resonated with stoker. And brewed in him as he kinda thought about this, this story, but some historians even say that Count Dracula was modeled on Henry Irving himself [00:06:00] because he was such a dominant authority figure and stok his life.
[00:06:03] Apparently Stoker first met Irving after he wrote a glowing review of the actor's performance in Hamlet, and so in 1876, Irving. This and summoned stoker to his hotel one Sunday afternoon. And while they were there, they got on like a house on fire and Irving started performing poetry for Stoker and Stoker later said that he was so in awe of this man's dominance and power that he just sat there in the hotel Spellbound.
[00:06:26] Some people say he even stayed there transfixed until dawn. This incident has echoes of the novel Dracula. Young Jonathan Harker meets the dark charisma of an irresistible yet dangerous vampire Camp Dracula. And you could even say that Henry Irving was like a vampire in the center that sucked the life out of Brown Stoker, who forced him to work very long hours at the theater and many weeks away on tour.
[00:06:51] He was a relentlessly demanding boss, but despite the theater job, uh, Stoker still found the time to write, and it was in March, 1890 [00:07:00] that he started to assemble his ideas into what would become Dracula. And he spent his summer in Whitby in Yorkshire, where he discovered the name Dracula in a library book.
[00:07:10] And when, uh, Dracula was finally published in 1890. Did receive critical acclaim. Some books you read say it had a very mixed response when it came out, but actually the reviews were pretty positive. Indeed, it was seen as thrilling, well written, and a frightening novel, but it wasn't a huge commercial success, at least not in stoker's lifetime.
[00:07:29] So he certainly wouldn't see it turn into the phenomenon. It would become Stoker died on the 20th of April, 1912, in the same week as the Titanic sank and on the day he died, he was found with some of his early stories spread out on his bed. I think he was still planning even in those final moments of publishing some of his works.
[00:07:49] But it was Dracula, which really struck cultural gold, and the book is still in print 150 years later with hundreds of movie adaptions and imitate. [00:08:00] And a travel industry that I'm part of right now flying on my way to Transylvania. I wouldn't be coming here for any other reason if it wasn't for this man Brown Stoker.
[00:08:13] And as I, uh, just lean over and have a little look out the window, you can see the as regions got that sense that we're not too far now.[00:09:00]
[00:09:21] Now, I'm not sure if you can hear that, but I'm currently. Outside in the middle of the night, pretty much it's midnight and I'm here in Sylvania in a village called Sea Theor, I think it is. It's an old Saxon village. And um, it's pretty cool. I mean, I can just describe it to you now. I can look up at the top of this really big hill and there's a fortified church up.
[00:09:48] Looking all spooky. I'm living inside, I'm staying inside this, uh, Saxon house high above me. I can see the full moon and plenty of [00:10:00] stars to see around me. I can hear dogs barking. When I arrived here, by the way, um, we got off the plane and got a lift to the place was staying and I saw a local lady pushing, um, Pushing a child in a buggy and this little lady was crossing herself vigorously.
[00:10:22] I'm not quite sure why, but, and then we passed a, um, cemetery and just outside this cemetery there was this, uh, like there was a whole bunch of people like selling. This was like quite late and outside the cemetery, there was these people selling, um, all sorts of different flower arrangements and from different religions, I think, so that people who wanted to go into this giant graveyard could take in flowers.
[00:10:46] For the dead anyway. Um, it's midnight. I've had a few whiskeys, so I think it's probably time that I headed to bed. Tomorrow we're gonna be heading up to, um, the Carpathian Mountains and so [00:11:00] maybe I'll be able to check in there, depending if I'm able to bring the recorder with me or not. So it's time to say goodnight.
[00:11:06] Oh, and also when we got into our room, just one more thing, it's when we got into our, our room, I opened up my, oh, the lights have just went. Can you hear the dogs?
[00:11:23] I'm gonna whisper cuz I think one of the dogs is not far away. Um, when we got back into my room, into our room, I opened up the drawer, uh, to put some socks away and inside the draw was a crucifix glow of Golic. And an Egyptian on, so they seem to be covering all bases. Anyway, it's nighttime. I'm in Pennsylvania and it looks kind of beautiful.
[00:11:54] Speak to you soon. Bye bye.[00:12:00]
[00:12:07] Well, it's, uh, it's early in the morning and, uh, we've got up and our hosts have given us a really amazing breakfast. The food that is provided by the, uh, secret Sylvania team is really, really impressive. So we're well fed and we're gonna be heading off to the mountain soon. But, Just before I head off, I thought I'd mention, uh, you might be wondering where Sylvania is while it's in Romania in Europe.
[00:12:31] I think that is worth mentioning cuz uh, some people you meet think it's in Hungary, it used to be part of the Hungarian Kingdom, but other people think it's a fictional place, you know, like, uh, Orwell's Oceania or, or Thomas the Tank Engine Sodor. But now it's a real actual place. And it was first mentioned in a medieval Latin document in 10 75, and it was described as, uh, the, the land beyond the woods or beyond the forest.
[00:12:58] And the country's been home to many different [00:13:00] cultures and races. But one of its, uh, most famous figures, of course, is, uh, Vlad, uh, Zeus, also known as a VLA Pale. He's well known as a being a ruthless fighter for the region. Did you know he wants nailed turbines to the skulls of the Turks because they refused to take them off in his presence.
[00:13:18] He got all sarcastic about it and said, I'll help you keep your custom, and then the whacking began. Anyway, he's widely thought to be the direct inspiration for Brown Brams Dracula, but was he, well, we'll look into that later, but for now, I've got a journey to make. So join me as we. To the mountains.[00:14:00]
[00:14:01] Well, uh, this is pretty incredible. I'm standing high up in the Kathe Mountains of Sylvania. There's a very famous and often photographed roadway to get up here. It's called the Trans Fogger Russia Road. I think that's how you pronounce it. And uh, it's one of the most impressive and most winding roads I've ever seen, but I've only ever seen it in photographs cuz despite the fact that I'm up here now, it's February, and so in the winter months these mountains become covered in ice and snow.
[00:14:31] So the famous winding road. Was not only totally inaccessible this morning, but it was also pretty invisible. So the only way to get up here was by a rickety cable car, which brought us 14 kilometers of the mountain. And we're staying at this place where I'm standing now called ballet lack, and uh, it's a lake, which in the summer is fully thawed and the mountains around a lush and green.
[00:14:55] It's one of the things about Sylvania probably need two visit. Because at different [00:15:00] times of the year, you can see both sides of its beauty, but right now we are in the thick of snow. The lake is completely solid. In fact, we've been walking across it to get to a little rustic shallow where we've had a hot drink.
[00:15:14] Earlier. When we arrived, we were given the opportunity to try some winter activity, so I planned on hiring a Skidoo or a Snow mobile. To, uh, race around up here at speed, but sadly, that was called off because the conditions are so wild right now. Uh, something like a blizzard, uh, visibility keeps dropping.
[00:15:32] So the instructor said that if we did head out on a snowmobile, it's very likely that we would accidentally race right off the edge of the mountain and fall. To our deaths. So I passed on that. We did do some tubing instead. We headed up to the top of a large slope, popped on some massive inflatable donuts and just been racing down the hill.
[00:15:52] Lots of fun. Now, earlier our guy took us snow tunneling where we walked through the road tunnel that is blocked off in the winter months. It was [00:16:00] filled with these huge, creepy and weird looking icicles hanging like stoic mites and stoic tights, and we had to head through. In the pitch blackness with our tortures, with these huge frozen spikes like hanging over our head or tripping over them underneath them, of course, cuz any one of them could potentially drop from the ceiling at any minute.
[00:16:19] It was a little bit, uh, little bit nerve wracking, but we got through that and then we visited another chalet. While we were up here, which used to be the ski retreat of the former communist leaders of Romania, but for now we are going to be selling ourselves up for the night, not in a chalet. In fact, we're going to be staying in a small hotel up here, but it's a hotel with a difference.
[00:16:42] It's been crafted entirely from ice. Yes. Everything in this hotel is made of ice. The beds, the walls, the tables, the chairs, the bar. They've been able to run colored lights through the ice so it looks amazingly atmospheric and cool and strange, but beautiful, [00:17:00] strange, if you know what I mean. In each of our rooms we've got, uh, snow sculptures of the signs of the zodiac.
[00:17:07] And earlier my wife and I had a meal in this ice hotel on plates filled with sheet ice. We had to eat well wearing all of our snow gear and um, our. But in the bed, we were able to take, uh, all of that off because despite us sleeping on a block of solid ice, the bed is covered with multiple animal skins, which are amazingly warm.
[00:17:30] Now, despite this being an unusual place to sleep, I reckon we'll have a good night's rest. Because one thing I've noticed is that the sound simply does not travel through ice. It would make a great studio to keep recording podcasts in here, so these bedrooms with ice walls are absolutely silent,[00:18:00]
[00:18:02] Well, it's about two o'clock in the morning and I've woken up. I kind of need the toilet, which is not a good idea in a ice hotel cuz it doesn't have toilets. So to get to the toilet, you have to walk across the snow to the cable car. Everybody else that's avoided drinking anything too late. So they would hopefully avoid that walk.
[00:18:23] But to be honest, I wanted to walk out there by myself late. So I, I've deliberately got out of. But I don't really need to, and I'm gonna cross the ice while everybody else is asleep.[00:19:00]
[00:19:03] Wow. It's really, really spectacular. As I look up, I can see the peaks of of the mountains, which are actually very close since we're so high up on. Anyway, I saw some of the guests claiming them earlier today, but now I wish you could see this. It's set against the star packed sky. The wind is blowing the snow wall around me.
[00:19:23] I'm completely alone. As I, as I reach this cable, car hut. I, oh yeah, I've just, in the, just in a few hours, the snow has blown into a ridge against this door. I'm gonna have to dig it out to get inside. So just a sec.
[00:19:57] Right. Well, I, I've been to the toilet and now I'm gonna [00:20:00] head back to the Ice Hotel. And that isn't the only ice structure up here, by the way. There's also an ice church that was built just on the right. Apparently each year they build everything slightly differently and so they put in a, a church this time makes sense of course, that uh, they can change things around each year because the bed I'll be sleeping on tonight and the sculptures that I've been admir.
[00:20:23] Well, they're all gonna melt away in a few months, so best enjoy 'em when I can. We're heading back to the Village, uh, tomorrow, so I'll catch up with you there. But before that, I'm, I'm not gonna go back to my bed just yet. I'm gonna pull out my phone and play a little bit of music from a film I really like.
[00:20:42] John Carpent is the thing which is set in a arctic, uh, research station. I think the Enio Morone score is a fitting soundtrack to this place, so I'm just gonna, just gonna breathe it in for a bit.[00:21:00]
[00:21:06] Well, I do hope you can join me for the second and final part of this two part episode where we'll be coming down from the icy mountain and heading to a castle that has all the hallmarks, at least in terms of what it looks. Of Castle Dracula, we'll be gonna brand castle and, uh, a few other interesting historic sites.
[00:21:26] And we'll also be hearing briefly from the daughter of the village, wise woman who tells us a little bit about the, uh, the fear of the devil in these towns. But, uh, for now you've been listening to Transylvania the Land Beyond the. And Peter Laws, and this is our.[00:22:00] [00:23:00] [00:24:00]