How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Visit Transylvania at Halloween - DID IT

 I didn't plan it that way, but our trip through Romania landed us in Transylvania on October 31st at the legendary castle of Dracula. That is an unbeatable combination, one I couldn't even have envisioned for my list. I suspect, if I had tried to plan such a trip, it wouldn't have happened, it's just too improbable.  

Of course, Dracula is a figment of Hollywood's imagination.  No one in Romania knew anything about vampires or Dracula, in fact, although the castle is a museum, it was closed to visitors that day, no reason, it just was. Our guide pleaded with the caretaker, even offered him a bribe, but it was no use - the museum wasn't open.

Today you can book Vampire Tours, but in '94, no one had thought of it yet.  The castle was where a real-life ruler of Transylvania, Vlad Drakul, was temporarily imprisoned. Vlad didn't think too highly of the Ottomans and worked to stop their expansion into his homeland in the 1400's. After his death, he was renamed Vlad Tepes, which translates to Vlad the Impaler because of a rather nasty habit he had of skewering his enemies on long poles and displaying them along the route into town to discourage future invaders.  Seems pretty effective to me!

We visited Romania in 1994, less than five years after their dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, was overthrown and executed on live TV.  It seems this part of the world has a long and bloody history of deposing and disposing of their leaders.

Transylvania is located in the Carpathian Mountains and is a really beautiful part of the world.  Although it has moved quickly into the modern era, when we were there, there were more animal powered vehicles on the roads than gas engines.  Life in rural Transylvania was something out of an earlier century.  Farming was all done by hand, grandmothers led the cows down the road to the pastures in the early mornings, and indoor plumbing was practically unheard of.  Occasionally I could envision the peasants chasing Frankenstein through the forest with torches and pitchforks.

At the foot of the castle, local women were selling handmade sweaters and needlework-embellished linens. The yarn in the sweater was hand spun from local sheep and very rustic - it still had bits of moss in it.  The sweater was beautiful, but I couldn't wear it without sneezing and itching.  However, I still use the tablecloths I bought for less than $2 each. I was obliged to buy something from each of the 5 or 6 women selling in the square that day, just to be fair. Our guide said that my purchases would feed their families for a week.

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