If you were to ask me my top three favorite places I visited during my travels Romania is in there. Anytime I talk about my trip I usually start with Romania. If you read my blog you can tell how much I loved that country. So, when my father handed me a fresh delivery of bank notes to list you can only imagine how excited I was to see a new fun note from Transylvania! I’m so excited to be writing this blog, because during my week in Romania I got to travel all through the Transylvania region and learn so much about Vlad Tepes, which I now get to share with you.
Of course the Transylvania fun notes features darling Vlad, I mean he is (for me) the face (and what a lovely face at that) of Romania. Some of you may know fun loving Vlad better by his nickname, Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula. If none of that rings a bell, Vlad is said to be the “inspiration” behind Bran Stoker’s novel Dracula. However, for those who may not know much about Vlad let’s push aside those images of him belching after a beaker of blood – let’s talk about the Vlad that I experienced and learnt about in Romania.
My darling Vlad was born around the early 1430’s in Sighisoara (See picture above from my visit) below is a map one of my tour guides showed me to help me picture the divided regions of Romania.
Whilst being showed this map I was told that even though Wallachia was its own territory it was constantly fighting the Ottoman Empire to the south and the Austrian Empire to the North.
Vlad III was the second son of Vlad II also known as Vlad Dracul. Dracul means dragon, and by adding “ula” means “son of” therefore Vlad III being called Dracula was being known as Son of the Dragon. The reason his father was given the name Vlad the Dragon was due to him being anointed to a secret order of knights called the Order of the Dragon. These members were meant to uphold Christianity and defend against the Ottoman Turks.
However despite being a member of the Order of the Dragon the Turks where relentless against Wallachia and eventually defeated the Hungarian armies (confused here, where does the Hungarian army come in?) causing Vlad II to switch alliance and pay tribute to the Turkish sultan. The sultan allowed Vlad II to reign over Wallachia, but kept his two sons Vlad III and Radu in Turkey. I’ve read a few different descriptions of Vlad living with the ottomans. I was told by the Romanian people (which probably is more pass down stories) that the Sultan took the sons hostage to keep Vlad II in line. I’ve also read the Vlad II willingly sent them to show good faith.
Regardless, Vlad II spent most of his teenage years in the Ottoman Empire. I was told that little Vlad had a good life there, and was treated well learning the ways of the Turks. One lesson Vlad learned very well was the Ottoman’s torture and execution tactic of impaling. For those who don’t know the art form of impaling, you can look up the many colorful ways on how this is done. For the purpose of the blog and to keep my lunch down let’s just simply say to impale someone was to put them through a spike. In Romania I had lots of vivid explanations on “how to impale” I will let you research that on your own time if you are so inclined!
All this long winded formality to explain why little Vlad grew up to favor the impaling method.
At seventeen Vlad III was sent from his Turkish foster family to take the throne of Wallachia after his father and oldest brother had been murdered. So with a pat on the back and a packed lunch Vlad made his way back to his home. The sultan felt that Vlad’s time under the Ottoman Empire would secure his allegiance to the Turks.
Now there is a lot happening with the Hungarian’s at this time, and Vlad actually took and then lost the throne, only to retake the crown a few years later. I want to keep this informative but also light hearted, however if you are really interested in Vlad then it is worth looking deeper into these events (he actually ruled 3 different times after taking and losing the throne then reclaiming it).
For the sake of this blog Vlad is now ruler of Wallachia. He remembers his time spent with the Ottoman’s, but where as they were hoping he’d remember them fondly Vlad was not about to make a scrapbook reminiscing his time there. In fact, Vlad hated them. Therefore using the lessons he learned from them, he turned against the Ottomans.
In his first year Vlad not only impaled the Turkish envoy’s ending any hope the Sultan had of a good relationship, but he impaled his own people too. Vlad turned against the nobles who had assisted in the death of his father and brother and who gained money and power through unethical means. Vlad held up a high moral code and insisted on honesty and hard work from his people.
Throughout his rule he is noted for impaling between 40,000-100,000 people.
Vlad was known across Europe as a terrifying torture driven tyrant. However, when I got to Romania I was greeted by a different Vlad – a loved Vlad.
The Romanian people I got to talk to see Vlad as a ruler who protected his territory, removing dishonest greedy nobles. He is seen as a ruler who promoted a just system. I read a story about a merchant who was traveling through Wallachia and had heard that Vlad was a stickler for honesty. Therefore he left his cart unlocked for the night. In the morning he was shocked to find 160 golden ducats missing. He went straight to Vlad, who was angered by the theft and immediately ordered the thief be found. Vlad then went into his own treasury and replaced the merchants golden ducats, but gave him one extra. In a test Vlad asked the merchant to count and make sure everything was right. The merchant noted the extra one, and in passing the test told Vlad that there was one more and thus leaving and escaping the spike. When the thief was found he did not escape and was impaled for his crime.
As tales and stories spread Vlad earned his reputation and nickname. It is said that Vlad would sometimes feast in the fields after a particularly successful impaling with the bodies surrounding him. These images probably helped Bran create the idea for his novel.
As I mentioned there is so much more to Vlad Dracula, which would be too much to go into for this short story. I do think he is worth looking into and learning more about. It does make me very excited to see him as the focus on this new fun note and hopefully will spark some interest in who he was.
As I’ve tried to state what I’ve written is based on stories I was told while in Romania and small amounts of research. I want to share this information to explain my excitement for the new Transylvania banknote and perhaps serve as a topic of conversation. It amazes me how loved Vlad is in Romania, what do you think? Vlad, was he a good or bad lad?