Thursday, November 12, 2015

Romania Part I: Dracula

As I've stated before, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. And what better way to spend Halloween weekend in Europe than driving around Romania touring all of the Dracula sights?? You may or may not know that Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, got his inspiration from a real life person: Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, and later Vlad the Impaler. Dracul was a name Vlad's father took on after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. It translates to "the dragon" or "the devil."

I didn't know too much about him besides he impaled a lot of people and lived in Transylvania, but my friend Tom (who planned the trip) had read a few biographies and was quite the expert. We saw Dracula Untold together last year and even then he could tell me which parts were based on historical facts (his wife threw herself off the cliffs from their fortress in the mountains when she was incorrectly informed that he had died in battle and in his teens he was held hostage by the Turks). While the movie was never going to win any oscars, it was entertaining and also has Luke Evans and Dominic Cooper in it (both Brits that I love!) 

Way better looking than Vlad, though maybe I just hold a soft spot for him from the Hobbit movies.... Anyways, like I said before - Tom planned out our trip and it was great, we hit all of the big Dracula hot spots. We flew into Bucharest Friday morning, rented a car, and drove to the Monastery where Vlad is said to be buried. 

The street is named after the Monastery.
The Monastery is on an island and you have to cross
this very attractive metal bridge to get there. 
Walking up the gravel path.
Inside is beautiful. It's covered in frescos of different
biblical scenes.

Standing next to his "grave" though as Tom pointed out,
his actual bones are probably somewhere totally different.
From there we drove to Bran Castle which is right outside of Brasov. Many people think Bram Stoker based Dracula's castle off of Bran Castle. Apparently Vlad also stayed there at some point? We arrived too late to actually take a tour of the castle, but we did get to walk around it. The castle hosted a big Halloween party the following evening on actual Halloween which I'm sure would have been epic - though maybe not as epic as our Halloween night ended up being (deets in a later post)

We stayed in Brasov that night and the following morning made our way to Sighișoara the town where Vlad was born. The old part of the city was all up on a hill which had spectacular views. You had to park at the bottom and walk up a bunch of stairs (prep work for when we visited his fortress in the mountains and had to walk up 7 times the amount of stairs) to enter that part of the city. The house where Vlad was born is now a restaurant so of course we ate lunch there. Most of the tourists there were Americans and I even overheard one of them saying "Of course it's all of us like-minded people who are going to be visiting Dracula's home town on Halloween!" Right you are random-American-person. 

Definitely not going to miss his birth house with that bright
yellow exterior!
3 Stars! 
Definitely pandering to the tourists. 
The clock/watchtower in the town square.
Standing in front of the Vlad statue.
A mural they had on the wall in the restaurant.
Another very large bust of Vlad they had in the room (or room adjacent)
in which he was born. We had to pay 5 RON each to go inside and they had a man
dressed as Dracula in a coffin pop out to scare you. We were hoping for something
more.... historical, but I guess the tourists like to pay for their Dracula! 

"Dracula's Kiss" cocktail.
From Sighișoara we traveled through the mountains to Peonari Castle, Vlad's mountain fortress. (This is where his wife jumped to he death, and as you can see it is waaaay up there.) We arrived at dusk so waited until Sunday morning to climb the 1480 steps to the top. It had some spectacular views.

After traipsing the 1480 steps back down we headed for our last Dracula site before leaving Romania. Târgoviște is where the royal palace was. Now it's just ruins but still pretty cool. Vlad had a large tower built that you could walk to the top of and get some pretty good views. The tower has been kept up well over the years unlike the rest of the palace. We literally just did a fly by, drove there, walked around for 30 minutes, and then headed to the airport, so we didn't get to explore too much, but it was a good place to end our Halloween Dracula weekend! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

MCM London Comic-Con

Well, I have a lot to catch up on. Having a visitor for a little over a week and then just laziness in general has kept me from updating the blog. So first up - London Comic-con!! 

By the time I got around to purchasing a ticket only Sunday was left. I went ahead and got the priority ticket which allowed entry at 9:30 instead of 11am. NEED ALL THE COMIC CON TIME.

It was nice being there early - look how much space there is! Waaaaaay different from San Diego Comic-Con where you are basically at the mercy of the crowds as you make your way around the convention floor. Since I knew I wouldn't be dressing up for actual Halloween, I was pretty pumped to dress up for this. I had just finished a marathon of iZombie on Netflix (highly recommend that show) and figured it'd be a relatively easy last minute costume. 

Basically I just needed to be pale (check) and have a lab coat. I bought the lab coat on Amazon. It was huge so I had to do a little hemming with some safety pins and double sided hemming tape. 

Luckily Sainsbury's had a bunch of halloween makeup so I got some white face paint and white hairspray. I woke up at 7 to start getting ready. Painting my face white brought me back to the time I dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West and painted my body green. White is way easier to wash off. 

I even had these sweet blood splattered Espionage nail wraps that i think really completed the outfit. They don't sell this particular print anymore - it was one of the random sets I got as a kickstarter backer when the company first started making them. I love their nail wraps - they are really easy to apply and stay on for about 2 weeks, so I kept them through halloween as well! I'm not sure that iZombie has played in the UK yet, but I did have one person recognize me! And another girl told me she liked my makeup. So I'm counting it as a win. I saw so many amazing costumes there. 

And my favorite:

Cutest princess Leia ever!! I swear about 80% of the reason I want children someday is so I can dress them up in costumes. The only other con I've been to besides SDCC is AwesomeCon in DC. I really like going to these smaller cons - easier to walk around and see things and the costumes are just as amazing. There seemed to be much more Anime/Japanese culture at MCM. They even had an area with booths cooking different Japanese foods on the convention floor which was cool. I wasn't sure if I'd stay the whole day since I went by myself, but there was a ton to look at. I was good and didn't buy anything (being a poor grad student plus having just had to purge so many things moving out of my house really helped) but I enjoyed looking at all the merchandise. I sat down next to a woman in the cafeteria while I ate lunch and we had a fun conversation for about an hour and a half about all the TV shows we watch, different cons we've been to, and of course costumes. She had a great Portal costume and made her portal gun herself. I'm kicking myself now for not having taken a picture of it because it was awesome. I also sat in on a Game of Thrones panel. It was just a Q&A but the actors were all very funny and entertaining. 

All in all it was a great first experience at MCM. They have another in May so hopefully I'll be able to get tickets for the whole weekend then.