Extracts from Chapter 1 and 2 of Bram Stoker's Dracula:
Chap 1. Jonathan Harker's Journal.
"3 May. Bistritz.--Left Munich at 8.35pm, on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning..BudaPesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible. The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule. We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night.....Having had some time at my disposal in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search amontst the books and maps in the library regarding Transyvania; it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a nobleman of that country......I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. There was a dog howling all night which may have had something to do with it. ...."

Well Jonathan was indeed correct – Budapest is a beautiful place. We rented a little apartment there in the Jewish quarter and former Jewish ghetto (an area some locals still call "the ghettto"). We really loved being (relatively) settled. Luca just loved having a nightly bath, having toys to spread out as he chose and even a little bookshelf for his books. We had almost come to considerl of the place as home in a way. Amazing how quickly that happens when all you care for are about you. We had a “regular” coffee shop where we had our 11's and from there set off on our sightseeing by foot, public transport or by bike. The Gellert Baths in Budpaest are famous but slightly less well known are the Szecheny Baths recommended to us by locals and we just LOVED it. The sight of men playing chess poolside was one we will never forget in particular. We also learnt a lot about Budapest's sad history in the House of Terror, the building which was used as the headquarters of the Pro Nazi Arrow Party and, later, during Hungary's darkest years, of the communist "terror" organisations. Actually that building, located on the very beautuiful Andrassy Utca boulevard which leads to Heroes Square, represents what I feel is a very "Budapest" phenomenon - beauty mingled with sadness.

Chap 2. Jonathan Harker's Journal Continued:
5 May ......."What sort of place had I come to, and among what sort of people. What sort of grim adventure was it on which I had embarked? Was this a cumstomary incident in the life of a London solicitor sent out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner? I began to rub my eyes and pinch myself to see if I were awake. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare to me, and I expected that I should fully awake, and find myself at home, with the dawn strugging in through the windows as I had now and again felt in the morning after a day of overwork. But my flesh answered the pinching test, and my eyes were not to be deceived. I was indeed amongst the Carathians. All I could do now was be patient, and to wait the coming of morning...."

Being so close to Romania we decided to rent a car and travel to Transylvania for Halloween. It was truly a hair raising adventure in every way from driving on roads that disappeared, dodging chickens, pigs and wild dogs to having sleepless nights as wolves howled outside (seriously). The restaurant in Brasov we ate in on Halloween night was plunged into darkness mid way through our meal, as a result of a power cut and no-one batted an eyelid.The Romanians don't go in for much by the way of decorations for Halloween but, you see, Translvania  is spooky all by itself -  no embellishments needed. Romania is like nowhere else we have ever been - horse and cart seems to be the primary means of transport still and people very much live by the land which they tend by hand. It was hard to take photographs as we were a bit shell shocked while driving but we witnessed a simple way of life - groups of women in black at graveyards, old men and women sitting outside their homes chatting away or walking along the road with scythes, wild dogs (and lots of them) and children sitting atop a pile of sticks on horse drawn carts are just a few images I remember. I would love to return there to explore further - and to check our Count Kalnocky's estate in particular some day if possible....check it out if you are ever thinking of going and book in advance as it was booked out when we tried to stay there.


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