Where Have Vampires Been Seen?
Roll on Romania: Tripping in Transylvania Andrew Regan
Transylvania, a region situated in central and western Romania is most famous for its mysterious and spooky fictional resident: Dracula.
Though Dracula is a work of fiction, written by the Irishman Bram Stoker, its lead character was based in part on a real life figure: the Transylvanian-born Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia. Vlad ruled parts of Romania during the 1400s and remains a heroic historical character for Romanians due to his defense of the common people against foreign aggressors.
However, amongst the English speaking nations of the world, Vlad is most famed for his exceedingly cruel methods of punishment that he administered during his reign. Often referred to as ‘Vlad The Impaler’, as the name suggests, his preferred method of execution was impalement; victims would be forced on to oiled spikes or have stakes driven into them slowly, to cause an excruciating, prolonged death which could take several days.
Dracula has caused much interest in Romania and in Transylvania in particular, and it is possible to take part in a Dracula tour; but there is much more to this region than vampires. Transylvania is also now attracting tourists who are interested in visiting remote Transylvanian villages in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. The area is characterized by medieval villages that have remained the same for hundreds of years, and have avoided the blight of new development seen in other parts of Eastern Europe.
Winters are long in Transylvania, lasting from October till the beginning of April, and are known for being the most beautiful season to visit the region. Sports-minded visitors can ski at the Poiana Brasov resort, situated at 1900m, with 13 trails ranging in difficulty and served by 3 cable cars and 8 drag lifts. It also has an ice rink for slightly more sedate winter pursuits.
Animal lovers can indulge in tracking activities where a local wildlife guide will take you out and teach you how to identify various animal species from their tracks in the snow. The is also the option to go for a horse drawn sleigh ride, or if you’d prefer to do the walking, then there are plenty of snow shoeing trails that will allow you to the explore the enchanted forests of the area.
The entire Transylvania region is very picturesque, and often likened to a land of fairly tales, on account of the many turreted castles, and châteaus that dot the landscape. Plus of course the area will also satisfy history and culture enthusiasts, especially those interested in the medieval period. Accommodation varies from rustic holiday rentals to small hotels and guest houses and tends to be inexpensive.
Horror, Gothic and Vampire fans are likely to continue to be drawn to Transylvania as the blood thirst for Dracula shows little sign of slowing. However, the beautiful, largely untouched nature of the region is also attracting a growing legion of visitors, so if you want to see Vlad’s birth land before the crowds arrive, now is the time to take a trip to Transylvania.
About the Author:
Transylvania, Dracula, vlad the impaler, holiday rentals, chateauas
A Journey through Belén Cemetery by: Jean Felan
There’s something about the Pantéon de Belén cemetery in Guadalajara, Mexico that simply takes your breath away. This old graveyard turned museum is a unique attraction and comes with a few old legends and folk tales that have drawn in curious residents and tourists to see if they could actually be true.
The Belén cemetery was built in 1848 by brilliant architect Manual Gomez Ibarra who also undertook the rebuilding of the Guadalajara Cathedral towers after the originals were destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1985. The Pantéon de Belén served as the cemetery for the Old Civil Hospital which to this day still remains (reconstructed of course) and sits right next to the Pantéon de Belén.
Even well after the cemetery closed in 1896, this beautiful landmark is a sight to behold and is truly a magnificent work of art. Upon entering, you’ll be amazed to find a long mausoleum wall on either side of the main entrance. The 100 mausoleum arches which decorate the corridors are painted in a bright and cheerful orange color. They are a welcoming contrast to the somber surroundings and only add to the beauty of the grey and weathered tombs that adorn the cemetery grounds.
The original layout of the cemetery consisted of 2 sections known as “patios”, a section for the rich which still remains today and a section for the poor. Unfortunately, the second section for the poor was demolished in 1967, supposedly due to unrecognizable grave markers. The Specialty Tower for the Old Civil Hospital now stands where the second patio used to be.
While walking through the peaceful grounds, the tour guide will recant the rich history of the Pantéon de Belén. They will tell you of the great legends that have made Belén cemetery quite famous throughout the state of Jalisco and all of Mexico for that matter. (Tours in English are available for larger groups if scheduled ahead of time.)
The legends included are those like the Legend of the Vampire or El Vampiro, who stalked the citizens of Guadalajara and lies entombed under a giant tree in the cemetery. The legend says that if a branch is broken instead of sap you will see blood trickling down, the blood of all the innocent victims. In the past, a large number of visitors tried to break the branches to see if the legend was true. The tree was on the verge of dying from all the damage so a fence had to be built around it for protection. According to the legend, if the tree dies the vampire will be released!
There is also the legend of a young and terminal cancer patient who was treated at the Old Civil Hospital and sadly took his own life in the Pantéon de Belén in a gruesome way.
These are just a few among many others this popular attraction provides, and to add to your experience they offer night tours as well. You will be carefully guided through the cemetery in pitch black night with only your flashlight to guide you. I have heard the night tours are especially fun and come highly recommended. To really enjoy the experience you might want to visit during the day first to see everything and then take the tour at night. Let us see if you can catch a glimpse of any spirits!
Make the Belen cemetery (Pantéon de Belén) one of the first “top things to do” on your list when you are in Guadalajara, Mexico.
About The Author: Jean Felan is a frequent traveler to Guadalajara, Mexico and writes about exploring the city at http://www.explore-guadalajara.com. For more information on the Panteon de Belen visit http://www.explore-guadalajara.com/panteondebelen.html