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Transylvania ?

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Vampire Country Transylvania ? We at SHROUDEATER do not think so.

Thanks to Bram Stoker and those thousands of writers and film-makers who have used his "Dracula" for their inspiration, we now have ended up with this rather silly myth that Transylvania is the place to go if you want to find vampires, or find people believing in vampires, or find vampire hunters, or God knows what. This, I am afraid, is definitely not the case. The only vampirical thing that you are likely to find in Transylvania are "vampire tourists" in search of Dracula.

Most of the more recent Romanian vampire cases seem to have taken place in a region South of Transylvania. There are various districts, but the general region is refered to as "Oltenia" and seems to take its name from the river Olt. The believe in vampires is still strong in the little villages of Oltenia. Even today there are people who take measures to prevent the dead from returning. This usually involves making certain changes to the corpse of the deceased person.

Obviously the authorities do not approve of such things. So it regularly happens that the local newspapers feature articles about people who have been messing around with corpses in order to prevent them from turning into Strigoii. They are being arrested and end up in court, facing jail-sentences or large fines. As far as I am concerned - without a doubt - the majority of these stories comes from Oltenia.

You don't have to take my word for it. Just check out the Romanian newspaper articles about vampire-related cases and see where they have taken place. If you want to understand more about the Oltenian ideas about death, the hereafter and vampires, there is an outstanding book written by Ioanna Andreesco and Mihaela Bacou. It is called "Mourir à l'Ombre des Carpathes" and it was published by Éditions Payot, Paris, France, in 1986.

To be honest, I used to think: what kind of people are they to do these horrible things to their dead relatives ? But after reading the above book I could see a more complex and more complete picture. Of course fear and superstition are part of it. But I also realised that these actions were genuine acts of love and care, rather than the necroclastic acts of barbarism that I originally thought them to be. If you want to understand why certain people in Oltenia still put nails or needles into their deceased loved ones, or cut out their hearts and do other unmentionable things, you really have to read this brilliant book.

Justin Blair and Matthew Vincent, who made the excellent documentary "Across the Forest" (which as we all know is the English translation of "Transylvania") appear to have gathered most of their vampire tales in Maramures rather than Transylvania. Despite their brilliant film, it is a pity that they moved North instead of South. If you are looking for vampires, Oltenia is the place to be.

Trust me, or don't. Next time your tour operator suggests that he wants to take you to Romania on a "vampire tour", tell him to go to Oltenia instead of Transylvania. A trip to Transylvania in search of vampires ? Mwaaaa, I don't think so....

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changes 04 November 2009
Photo "Fairground Skull" © 2005 by Rob Brautigam - Photo "Vlad with Garlic" © 1992 by Rob Brautigam

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