Page 12 November 4, 2021 EL SEGUNDO HERALD
Travel from page 3
Poenari, Romania: Dracula really did sleep here in the remote Transylvanian mountains. Honest!
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Dolapite, Bulgaria: Why is he out there on the platform, taking my picture? Can’t he hear the whistle?
The mystery of the Orient—the Golden Horn from Galata.
Budapest-Keleti Station in the daytime. So much more reassuring.
lot, and we generally drew a good-natured
laugh by discreetly pointing at another diner’s
meal and signaling for the same. Some of
the best, most exotic seafood in the world.
Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient
Express in Suite 411 of the Pera Palace
Hotel, across the fabled Golden Horn and up
a steep funicular from downtown Istanbul.
Naturally, we wanted her room, but it was
booked months in advance. So was Kemal
Ataturk’s suite, so the staff offered us Greta
Garbo’s former digs on the top floor. We
were supposed to stay three nights, but a
week raced by before we managed to tear
To the airport, thank goodness!
A note on Railroads: Never board a train
anywhere in the world without googling
and thoroughly consulting The Man in Seat
Sixty-One. The Man, Mark Smith, is a rail
A note on Times: Railroads all over the
world run on 24-hour clocks (they even used
to call it Railroad and Telegraph Time). So,
if you show up precisely twelve hours late,
like we did in Bucharest, expect an embarrassing
discussion and an overnight extension
in the exotic locale of your non-choice.
Ever since, we’ve set all of our digital
clocks and watches to 24-hour time. Just
And while we’re on the subject of Vlad
the Impaler: Anyone familiar with the
George-Washington-Slept-Here trope from
Revolutionary America will recognize its
parallel in 15th century Romania. The countryside
is full of forts and castles that claim
Vlad Dracula, the Volvode of Wallachia, as a
former occupant. As classy as many of them
are, the drab, melancholy Poenari Castle, in
the remote Arges pass in the Transylvanian
mountains, seemed to have best suited the
moody, paranoid Count.
And as to Vlad’s nickname and his adoption
by Bram Stoker: The key to understanding
much of European history lies in the constant,
centuries-old threat of Ottoman invasion. So
how do you convince a thoroughly brutal
and aggressive empire to take its foreign
religion and insatiable tax collectors and
invade elsewhere? Vlad’s solution in 1462
was to line the road from Constantinople with
18,000 impaled Turkish allies. By the time
the dumbfounded Sultan Mehmet II and his
troops left Targoviste, they’d lost all interest
in acquiring any more Wallachian subjects.
Vlad’s reputation never recovered, naturally,
and set the stage for Bram Stoker to
merge him with the Hungarian serial killer
Elizabeth Báthory into everyone’s favorite
Next up: In Defense of Spontaneity—A
Winter Ramble Around Northern Italy.
Ben & Glinda Shipley, published writers
and photographers, share their expertise and
experience of their many world travels. If
you have any questions or interest in a particular
subject, please email them at web@
Gara de Nord, Bucharest: Joe Stalin wants to know, just how
impressed are you?