It is fall, and the colorful leaves are falling off the trees as Lu and Cosmo reach the small Romanian town of Bran. They have long wanted to visit Romania. The country with its capital city of Bucharest is located between Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldavia, and Hungary.
Lu and Cosmo excitedly look in the direction of the castle situated above Bran. Count Dracula is rumored to have lived there once – the most famous vampire in the world, they read in a book.
Suddenly, a small boy cycles past them on a bike and stands in front of Lu and Cosmo, looking at them with curiosity. “So, you two. You’re here to follow in the footsteps of Dracula, yes?” Both nod cautiously. “Heehee,” giggles the boy, “you’re not the first vampire hunters to come to Bran!”
Cosmo turns away quickly, reaches into his bag, puts something in his mouth, and then turns back to face the young boy.
“JAAA OF COURVSE!” mumbles Cosmo comically, “we’re not scareth of anything. And definitely noth of vampireth!”
“Yes, quite,” says Lu. “We’ve seen what bats look like. And vampires look almost exactly the same, but maybe a bit bigger. Who are YOU, anyway?”
The boy laughs and answers: “I’m Barbu! I live here in Bran and know it really well. But tell me, little crane, why have you put some vampire teeth made from plastic in your beak?”
“Well, er ... so you’d think that I look justh like a vampireth!” responds Cosmo.
“Oh Cosmo,” interrupts Lu in a calming manner, “Barbu isn’t a vampire just because he lives in Bran ...! And if he was, he’d be flying, not using a bike to get around!”
Barbu is still laughing: “You’re funny birds, you two. Do you know what? I’ll show you the castle!”
On the way up to the castle, Cosmo’s first questions come pouring out now he’s removed the vampire teeth from his mouth: “Hey, Barbu, what are the huge mountains here and is Transylvania really called Transylvania?”
Barbu stays standing on the steep steps to the castle, looks into the distance and around him. “The huge mountains around us are the Carpathians. And here at the edge of the southern Carpathian arc is Bran. Bran is part of the Transylvanian region and we definitely call it Transylvania.” “Ooh, Transylvania ... how spooky ...!” whispers Cosmo. Barbu hears him anyway and asks: “Why spooky? I love it here. I play all day with my friends, we ride bikes, go fishing ... it’s great here!”
“Yeah, that sounds quite good actually,” agrees Lu. “And there’s sooo much nature! Further east in the Danube delta, it’s said that a lot of birds live there. Like us, Cosmo, and loootts of others!”
“Yes, the Danube delta is even a World Heritage site. Even here, nature is largely untouched and it is the biggest forested region in Europe.
Transylvania can be translated as ‘beyond the forests’ and this is why otherwise rare animals feel so happy here, such as wolves, bears, and lynxes.”
“Wow!” exclaims Cosmo in excitement, “Wolves? Werewolves, too?” “Rubbish,” laughs Barbu. “That’s just a funny myth. The same with the vampires. No one has been able to prove anything. But there are lots of myths about them nonetheless.”
“And why do these myths exist?” asks Cosmo. “Because everyone loves exciting stories. You and me included. Even though everyone knows that Dracula is actually a pure invention by Bram Stoker. The Irish writer wrote the horror novel “Dracula” well over 100 years ago.
So, we’re here. Let’s go in.” The door makes a loud squealing noise, and the three enter Bran Castle. There are lots of rooms inside, narrow staircases, thick walls, tiny windows, long corridors, lots of pointed towers ... and then the three explorers suddenly find themselves standing right in front of the legendary Count Dracula! To be more precise, in front of an oil painting of a man with long, dark hair, a huge mustache, and glittering headgear.
“So, Lu and Cosmo,” says Barbu in a friendly but mysterious voice, “there he is: D-r-a-c-u-l-a.” Cosmo reaches into his bag again and quickly throws a necklace of garlic cloves around his neck. He read in a book that vampires find garlic particularly disgusting.
Barbu can barely do anything because he’s doubled over from laughing. “Oh Cosmo, you’ve read everything there is to read about vampires haven’t you? You can take the necklace off. It’s just a painting.”
“Oh yes, so it is,” says Cosmo, a little disappointed, taking his garlic necklace off. Lu notes “Man, adults have incredible imaginations sometimes.” “Don’t they just!” responds Barbu. “But it’s fun to read exciting stories. I’ve packed lots of books because I’m off on a fall vacation with my parents tomorrow. To the Romanian coast – by the Black Sea. Maybe I’ll meet some pirates or a sea monster there!”
The three look at each other with widened eyes and then they all laugh out loud. How much fun it is to follow in the footsteps of Dracula ...!