Dracula on the rocks. And a tirade.

Trip Start Dec 22, 2011
Trip End Jul 04, 2012

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Flag of Romania  , Transylvania,
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Written by Sam, essential editing done by Jo [Sam insists that I put these necessary comments in square brackets!]

Our recent travels have taken us through Bulgaria and Romania. Both exceedingly cold - even by their own standards. In Romania, we were told that this has been their coldest winter in 45 years. Melbourne winters suddenly don't seem so bad when compared to -20 degrees (although I did learn to appreciate Melbourne after living in Canberra for one long year).

Firstly, a short diatribe on why I didn't feel the need to go to Gallipoli in Turkey - that ever-increasing hallowed soil of Australian nationhood (Jo has been there before and disagrees, to a certain extent, with the following):

- it was a failed military campaign that had little to no military impact on WWI;

- Australia was invading another country rather than defending the homeland from aggression (a la Kokoda Trail in PNG in WWII);

- in 1915, Australia didn't have its own national flag and was not even fighting for Australia per se. Our involvement was purely a result of being part of the British Empire and our troops were therefore directed overall by British commanding officers. Many Diggers proudly thought of themselves as British subjects first and Australians second.

How does any of this tie in to some nebulous concept of the birth of an independent nation? We put up a good fight (by all accounts) but plenty of Kiwi's died as did plenty more Brits. There was nothing uniquely Australian about this campaign.

I owe our current mythology with Gallipoli to a growing perceived need to find a date in which Australia was 'born' or awakened. John Howard bears much responsibility as he stoked a more aggressive nationalism for cheap domestic political gain. The more nuanced truth is that most Diggers would have barely recognised modern multi-cultural Australia let alone cared much for it.

The End.

Jo has just reminded me that I'm supposed to be writing on Bulgaria and Romania!

Veliko Tarnovo

Our only stop in Bulgaria but a charming little town, nestled in a valley and covered in snow, we slipped and slid our way through town, including a medieval fortress. [Veliko Tarnovo, or Violet Turnover as Sam could only ever remember it, is absolutely stunning. Centered on a gorge where a - for us, frozen - river winds, the town has postcard views in every direction. We stayed at a beautiful little b'n'b, Gurko Taverno which I recommend to anyone in this neck of the woods. I think that Bulgaria is becoming much more of a destination and from what we saw it really deserves to. Very, very pretty.] 


Unfortunately, not the prettiest city in the world. In fact, it was downright ugly and without character - a good example of just how non-asthetic Communist architecture can be! It didn't help that it was bitterly cold and we got stuck in the tiny lift in our apartment. Our Communist- era apartment also included a heater that we couldn't control (it was, quite appropriately, centrally controlled). [Bucharest=bleugh]


A cute town (to be fair, anything is cute compared to Bucharest) located close to Bran - and the castle that is associated with Dracula, even though he never lived there and only may have raided the surrounding area during his reign. Nonetheless, it is thought that this is the castle described by Bram Stoker in his 1897 classic. [Brasov has a really lovely medieval centre, and was itself sacked by Vlad Tepes rampaging through the area. A nice shopping strip too, which may have awoken the dragon...]


The birthplace of Dracula and plenty of tacky memorabilia to boot. We managed to pick the one day of the week when all the tourist attractions were closed. We wandered around and then trudged from one tavern to another, hoping that the purchase of a hot chocolate would justify our hours-long stay and utilising wi-fi. We caught the overnight train to Budapest, and despite traveller's tales (mostly being Cass) of being robbed by sleeping-gas-dispensing bandits, we arrived safe and sound (and awake). [Ok, misrepresented!! Sighisoara is bee-ewe-tee-full, certainly my favourite place in Romania. the town is dominated by the citadel and is seemingly blessed by a lack of Communist dreariness. Gorgeous colourful platzes, cobblestones, amazing views. Loved.]

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stephen graves on

not going to Gallipoli while you were in Turkey was just plain stupid ! While what you say is entirely correct, you have missed an opportunity that may not present itself again for many years. And whatever you say it was a significant battle-field for Australian forces in WW1 !

magellan2012 on

Well I think buying imaginary gold is stupid! It's all about prioritising what to see in a limited period of time.

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