We were haring across the countryside, to swipe a phrase from Renata Adler’s novel Pitch Dark, traveling cross-country along back roads threaded through rows of sentinel beech trees, past dromedary hillsides and fields whose freshly furrowed soil was so deliciously black and loamy you were tempted to leap out of the car and scoop up a bowl. Some friends and I were headed into Transylvania, a little-visited swath of continental Europe in the shadow of the Carpathian Mountains, terra incognita except, of course, as a fantasy place familiar to the legions of readers and moviegoers who make the obvious instant association with the invincible Prince of Darkness and box-office ka-ching!: Dracula.
Talk about the undead! Not garlic or holy water or well-aimed stake can stop this revenant’s franchises—Twilight, True Blood, the eroto-gothic Vampire Lestat. But forget Dracula. The residents of Transylvania certainly have. Except at his alleged birthplace and an unimpressive castle where the Muntenian prince who provided a historical armature for Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel occasionally sojourned, hardly anyone there spares much thought for the midnight creeper. It’s no cinch even finding the kitsch souvenir mugs depicting him with blood dripping from his ceramic fangs. I tried.