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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Poenari - Dracula's torture from beyond the grave

The historical figure most associated with Dracula, the Wallachian prince Vlad Tepes, had this castle, called Poenari, near Curtea de Arges, and the way to get to it is to climb a 1400 steps stair. Apparently, the Step-Master is also a Romanian invention.

But to start from the beginning: my wife was terribly upset by the 40+ Celsius temperatures in Bucharest. That after telling me so many times that she likes it when it's warm. Now 40C... that's warm for you. But no, she really would have liked to exit the city (for the first time in our new Mitsubishi Colt car) and go to the seaside. The sea being that wet big thing where dirty sweaty people go to dive in while other sweaty dirty people are either stealing their money from the wallets on the beach or stealing their money by selling overpriced bottom of the barrel products and services. Oh, and there is sand there.

So I've convinced her to go to the mountains. Me, in my typical optimism, thinking "the mountains" would be a nice little cool resort like Busteni or Sinaia or Predeal, where climbing the mountain is synonymous with walking the mountain. But no, she wanted Poenari, Dracula's bloody castle.

So we've spent 4 hours getting there, the Colt performed admirably and the air conditioning system made my day. Then I was informed that seeing the castle involved the inhuman endeavour of walking The Stairs to Hell. Well, I ride a bike, 1400 steps is like... 100 floors in a bloc of flats. How hard can that be?

After 15 minutes of pure agony while my body was producing my own private sea water version and trying to reach the top by filling the mountain valley and floating me up, we reached the castle. Which is a damn ruin of a castle, with no people getting you water or food or anything. There was one guy, though, who was kind enough to charge us for the privilege to see the castle and had his own private stash of aspirin to counteract the thermal shock of going from a 19C air conditioned car to a 35C stair climb.

Vlad Tepes Dracula has had his revenge and keeps on having it. Somewhere in his grave, the body of this usually negative person must be grinning.

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