2nd WORLD DRACULA CONGRESS
Poiana Brasov, Transylvania, Romania, 25-28 May 2000
The Congress venue was at an entertainment complex, Favorit, about 10 minutes walk downhill from the hotel. The papers were given in a rather charmingly faded theatre restaurant. The last time I had been in one with that layout was in Minneapolis and they were doing West Side Story. This was a little disconcerting at first but it was rather good to have a whole table to rest your note-pad, camera and so forth. In the foyer outside there was a table set up with glasses for wine or the local plum brandy (no wonder Dracula, in his guise as the caleche driver, offered it to Harker to warm him up, some of it could light fires), plus little pastries. Opposite was the bar and beyond was an area where someone was selling assorted wines and tiles with likenesses of Vlad the Impaler and other things on them. The Romanian TSD had a glass case with T-shirts with the Congress logo on it, key-chains, wallets and credit card holders of leather with the TSD logo, pendants and watches also with the logo. Next door to the Favorit was a restaurant which had a strip show on the upper floor but we were reliably informed that it was a family show as it seemed to be the place you took your girlfriend for a big night out!
There were about 30-40 people at the Congress as far as I could tell. They came from North America, Britain (including Ingrid Pitt and her husband, Tony), Yugoslavia, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Romania. I was the only one from Australia. The papers were presented mainly by North American academics, followed numerically by Romanians, a brace of French professors and some English non-academics, one Yugoslavian, one Israeli, one Spaniard, one Italian and one German. The language of the Congress was English, though some papers were given in French or Romanian with a Romanian TSD member interpreting (they would have been better advised to make more use of the native English speakers there, especially with some of the more technical pieces). Like any such gathering, fannish or academic, papers were moved around and there were some late starts but nothing out of the ordinary.
We also had the media. There was someone from Associated Press who did some spot interviews (including Jane Mitchell, my Canadian room-mate, who was on her back from the loo - this got to be a joke because every time she went out to the little girls' room she got button-holed). Also present was the BBC, in the form of softly-spoken Eleanor, the Guardian in the form of Kate, the Mail on Sunday in the form of another Jane, and a Scottish vampire magazines, Bite Me in the form of Aileen. Korean TV had sent a very enthusiastic team who filmed everything and everyone - got a bit annoying during the actual conference as they shone the lights and poked the camera right in your face. And Discovery Channel sent a phantom team we hardly saw except later once or twice on the tour.
25 May ,after an welcome from conference organiser and president of the TSD, Nicolae Padararu. Elizabeth Miller, of Memorial University, presented the first paper, Dracula, Sense and Nonsense. Like the Germans, the Romanians give all of everyone's academic titles, even bestowing some where none exist, so we had lots of "Professor Doctor"s. To simplify things, I'm being very Australian and dropping the lot.
Miller's paper was based on her recent book of the same title in which she attempts to correct the amazing number of errors, misinformation, and downright distortions that have accrued around the novel Dracula since the 1970s. The perpetrators range from scholars (many of whom should know better) to journalists. She was motivated by the belief that Dracula is a novel worthy of as much serious study as better known works of the literary canon. Her targets are not literary interpretation, except when based on false assumptions or distortions of verifiable facts to fit a pet theory. And there are facts, the text of the novel itself and Stoker's notes. She spares no one in her hunt for the truth, not even herself. She expects a lot of controversy but hopes it doesn't cost her friendships.
Victoria Amador, Western New Mexico University, in The Two Draculas briefly examined the pervasiveness and popularity of the vampires legends in Spanish-speaking countries before going on to compare the Tod Browning Dracula with the Spanish-language version shot concurrently with it. She showed how Paul Kohner, miffed he didn't get the Lugosi film, tried (and succeeded) in upstaging it by producing a more fluid and erotically charged film. Technology (or lack of it) prevented her from showing video clips of the four scenes she wanted to compare so she had to describe them verbally. The four scenes were: the vampire brides attacking Renfield; the scene where Lucy/Lucia is bitten by Dracula; the scene where Mina/Eva has been bitten by the count and recounts the experience; the scene where she starts to change and tried to bite Harker. In the Browning version, the women are stiff, glacial but in the Spanish version they are vivacious, sexy with low cut dresses and there is no cutting away from the vampire's bite.
Gordon Melton's paper, Diabolic Presences in America: the Case of the Satanic Panic was read by Dr Massimo Introvigne. In it, Melton showed that "Satanism" was a construct of mediaeval orthodox Christian thinkers, not based on anything in reality then went on to trace the history of "Satanism" in America, culminating in the repressed memory syndrome "epidemic" of the 1980s. This, with its "recovered" memories of children abused by satanic cults played into the dogma of Satanism as being a wide-spread conspiracy of a network of separate groups. He then described the wane of the phenomenon in the 1990s but not before it had spread to other countries like Australia.
Katie Harse, University of Indiana, in Hunters of Wild Beasts: Dracula and Hunting and Imperialism examined the language and metaphors drawn from the hunt (Dracula as hunted animal) and also how hunting was used, in the 19th century as an adjunct to imperialism. It was seen as a duty of officials to protect the natives (tiger hunts), using technology not available to the latter, a battle between good and evil, a training ground for manly virtues, a preparation for war. The ambivalent attitude toward tigers, both admiration and fear, is seen in the happy band's attitude to Dracula, who is likened to a tiger, panther or lion at various points. She also showed that the hunters in the novel don't always measure up to the ideal hunter - their iron nerve fails, as do their attempts at chivalry (the exclusion of Mina).
Carol Senf, LCC Georgia Institute of Technology, in Bram Stoker and His Mythic Eastern Europe compares the depiction of Eastern Europe in Dracula and The Lady of the Shroud and asked why Stoker chose to set these novels in so remote a place he had no direct experience of (unlike his other novels) and why the change in attitude towards Eastern Europe from the gothic Dracula to the politically utopian Lady. In Dracula Eastern Europe's difference from England, its backwardness, and mystery is emphasised. It's a place where vampires dwell. Lady starts out with a gothic atmosphere but once the vampire is revealed to be a ruse of the heroine's the emphasis is on Eastern Europe being transformed by the wonders of technology into a progressive federation. The difference between the two novels is brought about by Stoker's political vision. There is a resemblance between Ireland of Stoker's time and Eastern Europe: both dominated by expansive empires, both suffered much violence from powerful neighbours. Dracula's invasion of England could reflect the British fear of an Irish uprising. In The Snake's Pass Stoker suggested technology could correct the brutal invasions of the pass. In Lady invasions are a thing of the past.
Sharon Russell, Indiana State University, in Yarbro's Representation of Dracula discussed Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's trilogy of novels, Sisters of the Night which look at the history of each of the 'brides' in Castle Dracula. She showed how Yarbro faces and deals with the problems of depicting Dracula in the face of reader expectations: the historical Vlad, readings of the novel, screen adaptions and sequels, other vampire novels. In the first novel he appears in the dreams of the heroine, Kelene, as a dark angel, not identified by name but Yarbro gradually builds up the character until by the time he is revealed by name and in the flesh the reader accepts this interpretation. What Kelene then goes through in the rest of the novel serves to strip away the glamour accruing in some recent views of Dracula. Dracula is not so dominant in the second novel, which is more of a swashbuckler. Its heroine is already used to blood-shed and is independent so he does not need to treat her so harshly. In the third novel (not yet published, all Russell's reference were to the manuscript versions of all novels because of the alterations made in them by the publisher) Dracula is in the background but is seen as the protector of the gypsies in his castle. It is to him the heroine appeals when she is cast out by the gypsies. In this novel Yarbro prepares the reader for the events and situation of Stoker's novel. The brides cannot be allowed to continue as individual, spirited young women living comfortably at the castle and Yarbro shows the how and why of the change to pallid characterless quasi ghosts inhabiting a deserted ruined castle.
In the evening Elizabeth Miller launched her new book from Desert Island Press, Dracula: Sense and Nonsense. I bought a copy and had her sign it. Also that evening we met English artist Roman Vasseur whose current artistic project is to send a crate of earth from Dracula's castle (the hotel in the Borgo Pass) to England. All the documentation such as customs forms, and people's reactions to it - folks like us at the conference, and the press - would also be part of the "performance art". The crate, a big square wooden box stood in the corner of the foyer and various people such as Ingrid Pitt, Elizabeth Miller and Brian Alexander had their pictures taken sitting on it or beside it. Later we saw it being moved out into a van for its next destination - Oh, look Dracula packs his earth in bin liners!.
May 26: The moderator was Dr Sorin Comorosan, Fellow of the Romanian Academy, a rather garrulous old intellectual to whom the Romanians, at least deferred to in a way that is not done much here with "elder statesmen" type academics. He had some interesting things to say but did have the annoying habit of cutting off some questions while letting others ramble on and seemed to play favourites, praising up one speaker's paper as academic while ignoring another equally academic paper, something that moderators, at least in this country, are not supposed to do. They should be neutral. Their role is to encourage debate not to give verbal assessments of the academic merits of the papers.
Paul K Wiffen, writer and director, Digital Media Ltd, spoke about his project under the rubric, DVD: The (Female) Vampire Assimilates the Next Generation of Technology. This is a direct to DVD musical based on Carmilla, or rather the three Hammer films derived from the LeFanu work. While in Bulgaria five years ago he became fascinated by Bulgarian female choirs (think Xena) and wanted to use that sound, coupled with his love of Carmilla sparked by viewing The Vampire Lovers. He used a piece recorded by Led Zeppelin fused with the Bulgarian women's voices for one of the songs (when he played it a Yugoslavian professor got a bit tetchy and wouldn't listen when he tried to explain he was just using the sound and would over-dub the words, which were of a fertility ritual). He has cast some of the roles, including Carmilla.
Flora Zbar, University of South Florida, in Daughters of Darkness: Dracula's Diabolical Descendants traced the female vampire from Carmilla to Pandora. Carmilla is selfish but warm-hearted and appears to be under the control of a mysterious man in black; Dracula's 'brides' are totally dependant on him for food, always hungry and female vampires continued to be dependent "kept Barbie dolls" into the 20th century. The 'terrible metamorphosis' began in 1976 with Rice's child vampire, Claudia, the heartless hunter, who had never known her own humanity and culminates with Pandora, inhuman, merciless, cold after 2000 almost like a statue. While by the end of the century her male counterparts have developed feelings, she is changeless, nihilistic.
Massimo Introvigne, Torino, Italy, in Vampire Studies as a New Academic Discipline and the Origins of the Vampire Myth looked at the scholarly works which appeared following the vampire scares of the 17th and 18th centuries. These early scholars were sceptical about the existence of vampires and came up with explanations such as premature burial or the result of hallucinations caused by infected beef. Others took a theological approach and claimed vampires were actually demons inhabiting the bodies of the wicked or an esoteric one claiming that it was the astral soul which was seen as a vampire. Calmet never believed in vampires, despite popular opinion. The papacy discounted their existence, the defenders of purgatory didn't like the astral body explanation. Church and state conspired to kill off the vampire and folk beliefs in vampires died out in the 18th century.
Zoja Karanovic, University of Philosophy Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, in Role of the Devil in the Novel "Siege of the Holy Saviour Church" written by Goran Petrovic" described the plot of this 1997 novel which was based on folklore about a 13th century church laid siege by the devil. In the novel the corruption of the people and church is seen as part of the cause. It is a conflict of good and evil and a quest for the feathered cloak of power. It reflected contemporary legends wherein the west was demonised.
This was followed by a rather odd presentation by Xenia Novi, University of Jerusalem, The Positive Aspect of Psychic Vampirism in which she seemed to be advocating the training of people with certain personality disorders to be psychic vampires (an English psychiatrist in the audience nearly had an apoplexy). It was accompanied by a rather tedious video of young Israelis (mostly) who indulged in the 'vampire life-style' chiefly in Hebrew which she didn't deign to translate much. Only one speaker in it spoke English and provided the only entertainment. Requests that she turn it off as she was over time were met with a blank stare and refusal. Finally someone came up to Paul, who was sitting with us, asking whether he could "pull the plug" as she'd been so difficult. He had just risen to do so when the video finally finished.
Bryan Alexander, Centenary College of Louisiana, in Dracula the Gothic and War examined the images and language of war used in the novel and the day concluded with Silvia Chitimia, Institute of Ethnography and Folklore, Bucharest and The Evil in Contemporary Visual Rhetoric.
After the session closed at around 6pm there was a wine tasting of various Transylvanian vintages and brandies. I found Romanian reds rather fruity and light, pleasant drinking, even the cabernet sauvignons tended to seem more like pinot noirs. No big hairy reds here, so we preferred to order the driest or drier wines if we didn't want anything sweet.
27 May: Mark Benecke, in Overview of the New York City Vampire Youth Subculture, showed us the results of his case study of the vampire sub-culture in New York. Sub-cultures comes and go but a few linger on, the vampire being one of them. They have their own code of dress, language, hierarchy (arranged in clans or covens ruled over by a Master and you progress from Awakening to Fledgling and so on), signs by which you may know another 'vampire' and their own meeting places (the best known club, Mother, is also a gay spot if I recall correctly). The rules are strictly enforced. They have their own magazines and directories. They grew out of the Goth movement but have distanced themselves from that, though there is overlap with it and also the S&M scene. They are very wary of the media. (Not too different from fandom in many ways, I thought). This was accompanied by slides.
Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici, Romanian Academy, in Genesis of Evil in the Religious Tradition, discussed the paradox of the existence of evil (why create evil?) and how various religions have tried to explain it such as without evil there would be no morals, no possibility of choosing between good and evil, or the Gnostic concept that the world was not created by God but a demiurge who was not as perfect as God and allowed evil, or the Kabbala. In Christianity, there are three faces of the Trinity and Jung asked who is the fourth? The fourth is the devil.
Julio Angel Olivares Merino, University of Jaen, in Children of the Noir: The Music They Still Make, Neo-Romantic Vampirism and Bloodletting Existentialism in Elitist Agathodaimon's Cerements considered the lyrics of the songs of the Goth group Agathodaimon. These are highly literary being based on Romanian poems by the Romanian singer and reflect an inner search for meaning and hope.
Ion Prahoveanu, Museum of Bran, Romania in The Case of Castle Bran related a legend of Vlad the Impaler which tied in with a newly opened restaurant in a cave near Bran. According to this story Vlad went to Brasov in 1462 to receive money from the Pope for his crusade from Matthias, which turned into a three day party during which Vlad boasted of the property he had in Sighisoara which Matthias took to mean he had ambitions of taking over Transylvania. So he accused him of treason and seized him when he was on his way to the fortress of Ordea (?) He was imprisoned and planned to escape but had no resources. One of his gaolers, grateful to him for saving his life, got him special coffee from a magician in a valley to keep up his spirits (his dispiritedness was preventing him from using his own magic to get out). and a special juice in the wine of the guards, designed to weaken them. Unfortunately, he was spotted returning to the fortress in the moonlight. Vlad was transferred to Budapest and later escaped using his own magic.
Alan Murdie, Chairman of the Ghost Club, London, in Satanic Murders in Colombia, 1998-1999 traced this particular panic from the discovery of the bodies of 42 murdered children in nine shallow graves which shocked a country which has 20,000 murders annually. Claims of witchcraft, satanic rituals and drug wars followed. Satanists claimed they would wreck Christian churches and some were desecrated (doubly horrifying in a strongly Catholic country) building to a fear of massacres at Easter. The desecrations were found to be the work of fundamentalist Christian groups in black robes. Then it died down except for a UFO abduction scare when a Gnostic sect went away for a retreat. Murders were probably the result of drug wars. None of this was reported in the international press. People blame the consumers of cocaine in the USA and Europe who cause the chaos which allows children to be killed.
Stephanie Moss, University of South Florida, in Dracula and the Blair Witch Project, the Problem with Scientific Empiricism examined the way truth and subjectivity can be blurred in both the Stoker novel and the recent film.
Margaret L. Carter, in Revamping Dracula in Contemporary Fiction (read by Stephanie Moss) traced the changes in the fictional vampire from one who may inspire pity but who must be killed nonetheless to the sympathetic vampire so familiar in late 20th century literature. The things that appalled late 19th century readers in the vampire are often the things that appeal to late 20th century readers: the voluptuous qualities of the women vampires, Dracula's snarling defiance of religion and nature, his ruthless exercising of power. Admirable vampires began with Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows but 'misreading' of the Stoker novel to make Dracula sympathetic began in the 1920s with the evening dress and good looks. He was still a villain until the 1970s. Raymond Rudorff in Dracula Archives produced a morally neutral vampire. Saberhagen had him as a misunderstood, persecuted nobleman. The civil rights movement led to vampires being seen as just another different minority. More recently there has been a backlash (AIDS) where vampires are seen as the source of disease, or ruthless predators In the Kalogridis trilogy Dracula is evil but vampires can resist that evil. Anno Dracula vampires are not inherently evil, Dracula is, but others are not.
Ingrid Pitt, in Researching and Bringing Countess Bathori to the Silver Screen began with a little about her life, an amusing anecdote about Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood and herself leading into her moving account of her escape, with her mother, from a concentration camp and how she has always treasured the sound of Big Ben as she heard its chimes on a radio announcement of the end of the war and how this memory influenced her decision to remain in England and not go to Hollywood after Where Eagles Dare. She then regaled us with how she buffaloed Jimmy Carreras into giving her the lead in The Vampire Lovers (stunning entrance in maxi coat, mini dress, boots and big hat carelessly tossed on to the couch in his office and the words, "Private Pitt reporting for duty, Colonel Carreras) and how, later, she overheard, at a film festival Hammer was making a film on "the super-bitch" as she dubbed Bathory, shot out of her seat and got the first train back to London to persuade him to use her. However, it was Peter Sasdy she had to persuade. The film itself was a bit of a nightmare. She'd done some research on the countess and wanted to show her standing beneath the spiked cage in which young girls bled and so on but the British censor would never allow it. So, to her disgust, all you see is a girl in a bath with wrists slit and the countess standing near her with a dry, not bloody, sponge. Not a bit of horror. She then mentioned Tony Thorne who had examined all the papers relating to Bathory's trial and it seems it was her cousin who wanted her lands who was mainly behind it. She was not walled up in her castle but shut in her room and the food passed to her. She starved herself to death. As a postscript, CBS asked her to spend a night in a room at Bran Castle supposedly haunted by the countess. "And, of course, the bloody woman had never lived in Bran" but she went along as the money was good to this incredibly dusty mouldy room, One look at the bed made her glad she'd brought her oldest and most used up track-suit. The press withdrew and she could see them in the courtyard around a fire having wine. She got into bed but couldn't get to sleep so yelled, "She's here" was duly 'rescued' and treated like a heroine when all she wanted was a hot bath.
This was followed by a book-signing by Ingrid (she'd brought copies of three of her books, The Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers, The Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters and Life's a Scream, her autobiography.Then there was a screening of Countess Dracula, a decidedly weird experience, watching such a Hammer film actually in Transylvania and with la contessa but a few feet away. After all, it's a far cry from the old Capitol in Sydney's Haymarket.
The moderator for the day was Dr Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici, a Fellow of the Romanian Academy and descendant of Vlad the Impaler (Nicky Padararu kept bouncing around saying touching this distinguished-looking gentleman was as close to the real Dracula as you'd get. Funnily enough no one seemed to want to take him up on that). He had to leave early as he was president of the Romanian Liberal Party (but we don't hold that against him as I'm sure they have nothing to do with Little Johnny's mob) and there was an election on. That meant good ol' motor-mouth from the day before stepped in.
28 May Jeanne Youngson's The Vampire in Contemporary Society via a Worldwide Census (read by Elizabeth Miller) was the results of a survey conducted during 1998 and 1999 selected from groups in her Count Dracula Fan Club. These groups were people who considered themselves vampires and people interested in vampires but not the vampire lifestyle and came from 23 countries (63% from the USA, 19% the UK and 18% other). The survey asked such things as whether they were blood drinkers, what names they used, did they think they would live longer, what were their favourite films.
Robert Lima, Penn State University, in Francisco Nieva's Play "Nosferatu" described this recent Spanish play. Contrary to Amador's paper, he said that there was no vampire tradition in Spain and not a lot of interest. This play was written in 1962 but premiered in 1993. Nosferatu is seen exclusively during the day, accompanied by an Igor type. He harks back to the mindless putrefying Eastern European vampire. He seeks happiness through humans trading blood for unknown ecstasy. He operates openly, is known by all and is accepted at court. The play inverts vampiric tropes, their activities are commonplace, there is no need for stakes or garlic and no limits to their access to blood. The play is a metaphor and satire on European decadence.
Elizabeth Pasquie, journalist, France in Traps of the Devil (delivered in French) looked at technology, especially the internet as being seductive, creating artificial communication. Information is not knowledge and there is the breakdown of real social interaction. On the other hand it can remind us that binaries are at the heart of matter, it can lead to illusion but also to connect us to something beyond ourselves. If technology is devilish it is our fault. We should take control of what it is and what comes out of it and how it affects information (this is an issue close to the heart of most librarians in this country).
Sabina Ispas, Institute of Ethnography and Folklore, Bucharest, in Could We Reshape the Image of Evil in the Post-industrial Society? asks what does the dichotomy devil and/or man mean today? In the Middle Ages the divisions were clear cut between the love of God and the love of flesh. In modern society man is more concerned with carnal love than esoteric love. She went on to note there were no bloodsuckers in Romanian tradition. To drink blood is forbidden.
Carmen Maria Andras, Institute of Socio-Human Studies, Targu-Mures, Romania in Exiting the Labyrinth: Alan Brownjohn and the Reappraisal of Romanian Images looked at English author Brownjohn's novel Long Shadows which is set in Thatcher's England and Ceausescu's Romania. He depicts the complexity of Romanian society and leaves the prejudices of the British observer behind to enter into Romanian mysticism. His protagonist reinvents himself to deal with the different levels of that society in contrast to Jonathan Harker.
Jean Marigny, University of Grenoble, in Satan Super-Star looked at the devil in modern fiction and films. 1772 marked the earliest appearance of the devil in French literature; 1786 saw Vathek; 1796 The Monk; 1820 Melmoth the Wanderer and so on. Throughout the 19th century the devil was superseded by the ghost, vampire and werewolf. By the 20th century there seemed no future for the devil until the rise of Satanism which sparked a revival of interest. Dennis Wheately wrote a series of novels but the most spectacular revival was in the USA with Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, The Exorcist. Two of these dealt with the Anti-Christ and one with demonic possession. These set the fashion for Satan in popular literature and film. All these stories are set in the urban 20th century, not the Middle Ages. The protagonists are ordinary people who generally do not believe in the devil. Often the devil is depicted as an old man or professor living in a city like Manhattan who could be anyone. In this he can be compared with vampires like Lestat or Timmy Valentine. Success of TV series like X-Files and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer reflect the desire to escape from the drab reality of the modern world where the main interest is money. Sometime there is the feeling the sci-tech world is on the point of collapse like the Roman Empire, a loss of confidence and fear for the future caused by the preponderance of the dark side of that society, drugs and violence.
Then came the closing speech from Nicky in which a conference on Vlad the Impaler was announced for next May and a seminar on fear was proposed.
It had been a packed conference but at least we had civilised long lunches, from 1pm-3pm. Most of the papers were very interesting though it was curious to note that the Europeans tended to write on the diabolic in the modern world (the congress's original theme) while the North Americans tended to write on the novel Dracula and literary vampires. There were exceptions, of course. Stephanie Moss observed that the European papers were often couched in a very literary style, full of allusion while the North American papers were more straight down the line. "Our loss," she concluded. One theme which emerged very strongly was the desire to "unpick" Count Dracula from Vlad the Impaler. All they have in common is the name as Stoker knew nothing about the historical figure beyond that. The conflation of the two in factual articles (fiction is another matter) is annoying to the Romanians and not a few of the rest of us.
Poiana Brasov is really was a very pretty place with lovely clear mountain air and you could see the ski runs where the pines had been cleared. One looked a lot like Stampede at Blue Cow. Thanks to the long lunch breaks, we had plenty of time to try out different restaurants around the resort. Some of them served lovely fresh salads with tomatoes that tasted and looked like tomatoes and did great tasty omelettes, just the thing for a light lunch. Coke and Pepsi were universal but even more readily available were the mineral waters (Dorna, mostly) so plentiful in that country. They are naturally fizzy which didn't sit to well with some people who wanted still ones. Within a few days we could work out what many menu words meant which helped though the waiters were very helpful.
In the evening we tried some of the bigger restaurants. On our way down to find a place called Coliba Haiducilor (in English the Outlaws' Hut), we found a complex of peasant-style huts around a statue of a hunter, called Sura Dacilor (Dacians' Grange). This was a restaurant with a steep roof from which hung with animal skins, embroidered cloths and corn cobs. There was an orchestra of pan-pipes, violin and accordion and the waitresses wore modified national costume. It had a great atmosphere and we had a really nice meal there. Near it was a booth which featured a Vlad the Impaler doll but sporting fangs and blood. "Elizabeth will be so pleased," I said to Jane. She was - she collects Vlad kitsch and demanded to know where it was. So I took her, Stephanie, Katie and Carol back there the next day. There we found entire market with open air stalls selling hand-embroidered table cloths, hand-knitted jumpers, pan-flutes and wooden plates or busts with un-fanged wooden Impalers on them.
Another night we went to Brasov, persuaded by Alan to go to a place called La Cetate, set in an mediaeval fortress (we intended to go to the Outlaws Hut). We descended on the place in several taxis and found ourselves in a large cobbled square cum bus interchange, holding up traffic while the drivers tried to find out where it was we wanted to go (no one knew the Romanian name and kept banging on about "The Citadel"), finally we all pulled into the forecourt of the rather spectacular, art deco Aro Palace hotel while matters were sorted out. Then we were on our way, across town and up another hill lined with private houses until we reached a fortress. Into the courtyard we went to find that the restaurant proper was booked out for a party. However, there was another restaurant on the actual walls which was available so we had dinner under the stars surrounded by cannon and views of the white-washed towers and inner buildings. It was a great night out - good food and good company.
The second last night we went with Elizabeth and co. to the Outlaws Hut - at last. This was higher up on a mountainside and was similar in décor to Sura Dacilor with skins and embroidered cloth, etc. on the walls. The band here consisted of a hammer dulcimer, violin and accordion. The speciality here was flaming chicken, several of them spitted on a sword and carried in ablaze while the lights would be dimmed.
In the evening of the final day of the Congress we had a farewell dinner at a 400 year old guildhall in the old walled part of Brasov which gave us a chance to look closer at this city - very French or German (it is one of the "Seven Cities" that made up Saxon Transylvania, its German name is Kronstadt). With its open cobbled squares and coloured houses it was very reminiscent of a lot of European cities I'd seen when we used to go camping in Europe in the 1960s. We entered through the Schei Gate and went down some narrow streets, then got out of the bus to look at the famous Black Church, built between 1383 and 1477, the largest Gothic church between Vienna and Istanbul. The story goes, according to Nicky P., that merchants travelling to the East would want to bring something back to offer to the church in return for a safe trip, and saw all these rugs in the markets. Thinking them very attractive, they would buy them and donate them which is how come a Christian church is adorned with Moslem prayer mats.
The evening began well with wine sampling in the cellars. These have to be seen to be believed - great long corridors with huge vats on either side ending in a small dining area where a band with a brilliant if hyper-active pan-piper played. It was here that we first had what was to become a staple of musical entertainments - My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean! We had six different wines to try accompanied by some tasty hors-d'oevres. They were all very good though there were four I preferred.
Then we all went upstairs to the main restaurant in a long narrow hall with long tables. It was as if we entered another reality for the white wine was like vinegar and the food very ordinary - boiled veg and three meats (chicken, lamb? and - oh, dear, pork) cooked without any flavouring or sauce. This is supposed to be Brasov's most famous restaurant but they must have been having an off day. However, I did enjoy the folk dances and singing that followed, even if they were a bit too fond of the radio mike and all that echo. Each dance was from a different region and the dancers changed their costumes accordingly. At the end there was a 'kissing dance' where the dancers plucked out members of the audience to dance with them.
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