“The whole Dracula’s castle thing is total bullshit, you know.”
This is Silviu, the head honcho at Martin Adventures, a Romanian company specialising in exhilarating off-the-beaten-path experiences in the wilds of Transylvania. Famous for being the home of Count Dracula, nowadays Transylvania is the country’s outdoor adventure playground, filled with high alpine trail-running paths, spectacular road cycling routes and, of course, some truly stellar, as-yet-unknown MTB runs.
We are driving past the fortress at Bran, famed as the castle featured in the original Gothic vampire story, on our way into the mountains.
“Bram Stoker never even came to Romania. He just imagined a castle and described it, then a bunch of Dracula fans came here looking for something that didn’t exist. They decided Bran Castle was the closest thing to what Stoker described. And now thousands of people come here every year. All this vampire stuff, it doesn’t even have an origin in Romanian folklore.”
So there’s nothing to be scared of in Transylvania after all?
“Oh definitely. There’s bears here. And wolves. We have a greater concentration of large predators here than anywhere in Europe.”
He pauses. Perhaps feeling he should moderate his comments,
“Generally the bears are afraid of humans so it’s really unlikely you’ll meet one. The worst thing are the Carpathian shepherd dogs. They’re these huge dogs that were bred here, really huge, and they will corner you and won’t let you move until their owner says you’re cool. They can weigh 80 kilos. If we see one, don’t try to outrun it.”