Following Jonathan ~ Reloaded

Abraham “Bram” Stoker

November 8, 1847 – April 20, 1912

As Steve Balshaw of the U.K’s  Mancunian Matters and Grimm Up North reported on July 17th in his article entitled,

Bram Stoker centenary: The creation of Dracula – Part One,

This year is the centenary of the death of Bram Stoker, creator of one of horror’s most enduring characters, that bloodthirsty Transylvanian nobleman, Count Dracula. Respect is due.”

Accordingly, I thought I might re-post a piece I did some time back where I decided to follow the travels of one of Stoker’s main characters, the redoubtable Jonathan Harker.

Here then,  for the historians and the classical literature buffs, is the tale of:-


How many times, when reading a book, have you come across a place name and thought, “Hmmm…? I must look that up.” How many times have you actually gone to a library, or onto the internet, after reading a book because the description of a place intrigued you enough to find out more about it?

Have you ever put down a book and punched the name of a place into Google Earth to see what you are reading about? In all likelihood, not very often, if at all. However, on the other hand, if you are a bit of a history buff then you may well have delved into the background of the greatest vampire tale ever told, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

What I’d like to do here is not argue about the endlessly debated reasons for things, not the why’s and wherefores of other peoples opinions, no, we are simply going to travel with our good friend Jonathan Harker, so to speak,  on the journeys attributed to him by his erstwhile creator. It is a journey of interest for interests’ sake, nothing more… a little entertainment and possibly, as it was for me in researching it, a little enlightening.

From all of this information we can see that the tale of Dracula, though fictitious, was enhanced by the use and knowledge of geography and history of the time. The question of how Bram Stoker knew much of this is not so difficult to understand when it comes to England but when it comes to knowledge of the Far East of Europe the matter of his understanding becomes a little more perplexing.

Some researchers have purported to have discovered a link between Stoker and a man by the name of Arminius Vámbéry. [1]

It is believed, by many, that Vámbéry knew Bram Stoker; furthermore it is believed by some biographers that Vámbéry may well have acted as Stoker’s consultant on Transylvanian culture. The character of Professor Van Helsing in Stoker’s novel, Dracula, is said, by many, to be based on Vámbéry, though there is no real evidence in existence of this supposition. However, in the novel (chapter 23) the redoubtable professor does refer to his “friend Arminius, of Buda-Pesth University” ~ an honourable mention by the author in return for Vámbéry’s editorial assistance perhaps?

Whatever the truth of the matter it is a time-honoured theory amongst writers that injecting a good dose of the normal into a fantastic tale will always help the reader to “suspend their disbelief” for just a little while.

Where then to begin? At the offices of the law firm in Exeter owned by Mr. Peter Hawkins? No, let’s begin at the beginning that Jonathan did. The first entry in his journal, dated 3rd of May, is written in Bistritz

The question of what year the novel was set in comes up frequently and many people have compelling reasoning behind their choices, the fact remains that only Mr. Stoker knew that answer and he left no answer to it. Popular choices put forward date the events as being somewhere between 1887 and 1893, we will assume, for sake of presentation 1893 since, as one researcher deduced, going by the phases of the moon described in the novel this would be the most likely year, and proceed accordingly. It must be borne in mind that some of the place names have changed since Dracula was written. For example: Klausenburg, Bistritz and Galatz are all German place names that reflected the medieval Transylvanian Saxon settlement, and subsequent Habsburg influence in what is now Romania. Following the First World War many towns became known by the local language version of their names. Thus Klausenburg became Cluj-Napoca, Bistritz became Bistrita, and Galatz became Galati.


“the post town named by Count Dracula” (pp.10)


(Bistrita) Transylvanian Saxons settled the area in 1206AD and, due to its location on several known trade routes of the time, Bistrita became an important and trading post. The town was named after the Bistrita River. In Stoker’s novel Jonathan stays at the Golden Krone Hotel (Romanian: Coroana de Aur) in Bistritz. Although no such hotel existed when the novel was written, a hotel of the same name has since been constructed for tourists.

The Hotel Krone at Granicerilor 5, Bistrita is reported to be an elegant Hotel situated in the heart of Bistrita. It is described as, “close to the historical and cultural centre of the city, offering what are described as “tastefully decorated, comfortable rooms”.

 Today Bistrita (Bistritz) is the capital city of Bistriţa-Năsăud County, Transylvania, Romania and according to a recent census, there were more than 81,000 people living within the city of Bistriţa, making it the 30th largest city in Romania. [2]

The city itself became part of Romania after 1919, reverting briefly to Hungarian control between 1940 and 1944 before being reintegrated into Romania after the Second World War.

Today, the old town’s quaint 15th and 16th century merchants’ houses, the remains of the 13th century fortress walls and a generally unhurried pace have preserved some of Bistrita’s  medieval atmosphere.

The Borgo Pass

 Following his departure from the hotel in Bistritz, Jonathan finds himself deposited in the ominous Borgo Pass, of which he notes (pp. 11)

Being practically on the frontier – for the Borgo Pass leads from it (Bistritz) into Bukovina

The Borgo or Tihuta Pass (elev. 1201 m.) is a high mountain pass in the Romanian Bârgau Mountains (Eastern Carpathian Mountains) connecting Bistrita (Transylvania) with Vatra Dornei (Bukovina, Moldovia). The pass was made famous by Bram Stoker’s novel where, named as the “Borgo Pass“, it was the gateway to the realm of Count Dracula.

Harker notes (pp. 20) that;

After going to the far side of the pass, he suddenly turned down a narrow roadway which ran sharply to the right

It is also Jonathan’s impression that the same ground has been repeatedly traveled over a period of time. (pp. 18)

If you would like to, take a peek at the pass itself: Borgo Pass

Running sharply to the right, assuming the carriage was still heading toward Bukovina, puts Jonathan and the driver in a very rugged region somewhere to the NNE of present day Piatra Fāntānele, a most likely setting indeed.

At the Castle

Much has been written and conjectured about the site of “Dracula’s Castle” itself and several sites have been nominated, primarily based on the presence of the 14th Century Wallachian Prince Vlad Tepes whom most people consider was the model for the count himself. Let’s assume, for a moment, that we were actually going to look for “Dracula’s Castle” ~ even though it is highly implausible that we would ever find it given the fact that The Count was purely fictitious, we might look most favourably upon one place, Poenari Castle. Indeed, it does seem to fit the general descriptive offered by Jonathan’s (hence Stoker’s) observations.

Poenari Castle, also known as Poenari Citadel (Cetatea Poenari in Romanian), is a ruined castle in Romania, in Argeş County (Căpăţânenii Pământeni village of the Arefu commune) on a canyon formed on the Argeş River valley, close to the Făgăraş Mountains. It stands on a cliff, on the right side of the Transfăgărăşan road which climbs into the mountains.

The castle was built sometime around the beginning of the 13th century by the rulers of Walachia. In the 14th century, Poenari was the main citadel of the Basarab rulers and over the next few decades, the name and the residents changed a few times but eventually the castle was abandoned and left in ruins. In the 15th century, realizing the potential for a castle perched high on a steep precipice of rock, Vlad III the Impaler repaired and consolidated the structure, making it one of his main fortresses.

Although the castle was used for many years after Vlad’s death in 1476, it was eventually abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century and was in ruins by the 17th century. Due to its size and location, control of the castle was difficult to take, even by natural forces. However, in 1888, a landslide brought down a portion of the castle which crashed into the river far below. After this the castle was slightly repaired and the walls and its towers still stand today. To reach the castle, visitors need to climb 1,480 steps also, as one modern observer notes, the south wall and face of the site consists of, “a fifty foot sheer drop followed by a bone-breaking 1800 foot tumble into the River Arges”.

This observation puts us in mind of Jonathan’s most detailed descriptions of the home of The Count.

Following Jonathan’s daring escape from the Castle he became a patient in the Hospital of St. Joseph and Ste. Mary in Budapest…or Buda-Pesth as it was then known, which seems to be a fictitious establishment but came in very handy at the time.


 Following the Battle of Mohács and nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule, development of the region entered a prosperous time in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became a global city after the 1873 unification of Buda and Pesth. It also became the second capital of Austria-Hungary; in 1848 Budapest was also the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution.

As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country’s principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645. The city covers an area of 525 square kilometres (202.7 sq mi) within the city limits.


 Upon being restored to his beloved Mina, in Buda-Pesth, Jonathan and his new bride return to Exeter, in England, and they take up residence with Mr. Hawkins, the owner of the law firm for which Jonathan worked.

Early in the Industrial Revolution, Exeter’s industry developed on the basis of locally available agricultural products and, since the city’s location on a fast-flowing river gave it ready access to water power, an early industrial site developed on drained marshland to the west of the city, at Exe Island. However when steam power replaced water in the 19th century, Exeter was too far from sources of coal (or iron) to develop further. As a result the city declined in relative importance, and was spared the rapid 19th century development that changed many historic European cities and towns. Extensive redevelopment of the canal system during this period expanded Exeter’s economy, with “vessels of 15 to 16 tons burthen bringing up goods and merchandise from Topsham to the City Quay“.

In 1832, the pestilence cholera, which had been erupting all across Europe, had reached Exeter. The only known documentation of this event however was written by Dr Thomas Shapter, one of the medical doctors present during the epidemic.

The first railway to arrive in Exeter was the Bristol and Exeter Railway that opened a station at St David’s on the western edge in 1844. The South Devon Railway Company extended the line westwards to Plymouth, opening the smaller station at St Thomas, near the lower end of Fore Street. This was followed by a more central railway station, at Queen Street, was opened by the London and South Western Railway in 1860 when it opened its alternative route to London.

The modern city of Exeter is in the County of Devon, England. Currently the administrative area has the status of a non-metropolitan district, and is therefore under the administration of the County Council. The city is on the River Exe, about 37 miles (60 km) northeast of Plymouth, and 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Bristol. According to the 2001 Census, its population in that year was 111,076, while the mid-2009 estimate was 118,800.


 Our next port of call is, of course, Carfax, the site of the Mental Asylum of Dr. John Seward and the scene of The Count’s lair, Carfax Hall and Abbey.

Carfax Estate, Purfleet, as referred to on pp. 31, presents the name Carfax which is derived from the French carrefour “crossroads” or quatre-face “four-face”.

With the Centenary of publication of Bram Stokers “Dracula” in May 1997, Jonathan Catton from Thurrock Borough Council’s Thurrock Museum, based in Grays, investigated the connection between Carfax and the Stoker novel, he writes:

Carfax House:

“Many of the locals know the story of Dracula and its connection to him. In fact, a house named ‘Carfax‘ was still standing up to the late 1980’s, in High Road, close to the Thames Board Mills factory site. However, this ‘Carfax’ house was a red-bricked and tiled building built probably in December 1900, some three years after the publication in May 1897 of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. A sales catalogue for 1920 describes it as a ‘Modern house’. This hardly fits the description of Jonathan Harker, the solicitor’s clerk arranging the house sale for his client Dracula: “The house is very large and of all periods back, I should say to medieval times“. So, are there any other contenders for Dracula’s Carfax House? The only ‘large’ and ‘old’ house in the village is in fact ‘Purfleet House’, built in 1791 by Samuel Whitbread of brewing fame, who purchased a large part of Purfleet and lived here at that time. The house is set in the remains of what appears to be the nearest part to the river, of an exhausted chalk quarry, to the north and rear of the house were gardens with paths and grottoes which appear to be a feature of attractions available to the Victorian tourist in the village.”

The Chapel:

“The house was built with a detached Chapel of Ease for the Whitbread family, so Jonathan Harker’s description of the house which includes, “…is close to an old chapel or church,” fits in nicely with the description.

The Stone wall and Landscape Settings:

“It contains in all some 20 acres, quite surrounded by solid stone walls….. There are many trees on it, which makes it look gloomy, and there is a deep, dark looking lake, evidently fed by some springs, as the water is clear and flows away in a fair sized stream.”

A small section of stone wall survives near to the site of Purfleet House.

The Lunatic Asylum House:

The final part of the description remarks on other buildings nearby to ‘Carfax’, “…. There are few houses close at hand, one being a large house only recently added to and formed into a private lunatic asylum. It is not however visible from the grounds.
The private lunatic asylum, I believe, could be identified as ‘Ordnance House’, the ‘Board of Ordnances’ store keeper’s residence. This was set within the high brick security wall of the magazine system, which proved and stored the majority of gunpowder for the Army and Sea Services from 1760 onwards. The house was constructed of brown brick, with double Portland stone used for the cornices and parapets. The entrance door had eaved architraves and above was a quarter foiled fanlight, and the building was completed in 1767. As Purfleet House is set in the bottom of a chalk quarry in close proximity to the west and north of a rising cliff face, and Ordnance House is beyond and on top of the chalk hill, behind high brick security walls, they cannot be seen from each other although only some 400 yards separate them.

 High Brick Walls:

The story tells of the lunatic Renfield’s escape, trying to gain access to the Chapel of Carfax House. Dr. Seward saw, “a white figure scale the high wall which separates our grounds from those of the deserted house”. (Carfax) In following the escaped lunatic, Dr. Seaward describes how he, “…got a ladder myself, and crossing the wall, dropped down on the other side“. These could easily describe the solid 10′ high brick military boundaries around the gunpowder magazine.”

So, there seem to be a number of buildings and landscapes which could relate to the story, but why Purfleet? Did Stoker ever visit the area?” of this Catton writes:

Purfleet in Victorian times:

“Purfleet, I discover, was something of a Victorian leisure attraction. Easy access by train from Fenchurch St. Station to Purfleet station, opened in 1856, allowed Londoners to experience the countryside and riverside pleasures at one resort. Wingrove’s Hotel at Purfleet, on the Thames waterfront, offered bathing facilities and amongst a wide range of gastronomic offerings was special whitebait suppers, entertainments and accommodation for overnight stays. Nearby were scenic walks along paths cut through overgrown chalk quarries, with cliff faces and ledges leading up to Beacon Hill, with its panoramic views up and down the river. Here could be found the Admiralty Experimental Light House. Walking back down into the sleepy village a number of tea rooms offered refreshments to the tourists, some of whom had come down by train to Purfleet Station from Fenchurch St, and others on Cycle Club outings or by ferry.

It appears that while Bram Stoker was Acting Manager of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in London, he and his thespian friends would often travel out on Sundays, traditionally a black day for theatres, to visit friends and attractions outside of the capital. Stoker also extensively used published material of fact and fiction to build up the storylines. The use of train and ferry time-tables in his Dracula novel gives some authenticity to the chronology and accuracy of day-to-day events. So it is quite possible that Purfleet was visited by Stoker, and he could have obtained time-tables from the London Tilbury Southend Railway for travel between Fenchurch St. and Purfleet. It is also possible that he obtained tourist guide books of south Essex and even of Purfleet.

Having now toured Purfleet and consulted Ordnance Survey maps, local archives including a 1920s sale catalogue of the Purfleet estate, prints and photographs in Thurrock Museum’s collections and biographies on Stoker, I feel there are too many similarities between the book and the buildings, structures and landscape at Purfleet. I suggest that Stoker did visit Purfleet which allowed him to mix elements of fact with fiction.”[3]

Following the merciful dispatch of Lucy Westenra; or rather the vampiric Lucy, Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris arrived back at the Berkeley Hotel and found the following telegram awaiting them:

“Am coming up by train. Johnathan at Whitby. Important news – Mina Harker.”

( Chap. 17 pp. 222 )

Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.

Whitby is a seaside town, port and civil parish in the Scarborough borough of North Yorkshire, England. Situated on the east coast of Yorkshire at the mouth of the River Esk, Whitby has a combined maritime, mineral and tourist heritage, and is home to the ruins of Whitby Abbey where Caedmon, the earliest English poet, lived.

The earliest record of a permanent settlement in Whitby is in 656, when Streonshal, was the place where Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, founded the first abbey, under the abbess, Hilda.

In 867, the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders, and was re-founded in 1078. It was in this period that the town gained its current name, Whitby, (from “white settlement” in Old Norse). In the following centuries Whitby functioned as a fishing settlement until, in the 18th century, it developed as a port and centre for shipbuilding and whaling, trade in locally mined alum and the manufacture of Whitby jet jewellery.

Today the town suffers from the economic constraints of its remote location, poor transport infrastructure, and limitations on available land and property, so tourism and fishing remain the mainstay of its economy. It is the closest port to a proposed wind farm development in the North Sea, 47 miles (76 km) from York and 22 miles (35 km) from Middlesbrough. According to the 2001 UK census, Whitby parish had a population of 13,594. [4]

The action in the novel, eventually and irreversibly, moves to London, the capital of the United Kingdom. There is a huge amount of resource material available on Victorian London of course but to give you a brief glimpse into the times in the great city I present the following synopsis drawn from a history of the Victorian Era at

London, England.

The Victorian city of London was a city of startling contrasts. New building and affluent development went hand in hand with horribly overcrowded slums where people lived in the worst conditions imaginable. The population surged during the 19th century, from about 1 million in 1800 to over 6 million a century later. This growth far exceeded London’s ability to look after the basic needs of its citizens.”

Joseph Bazalgette. Bazalgette was responsible for the building of over 2100 km of tunnels and pipes to divert sewage outside the city. This made a drastic impact on the death rate, and outbreaks of cholera dropped dramatically after Bazlgette’s work was finished. For an encore, Bazalgette also was responsible for the design of the Embankment, and the Battersea, Hammersmith, and Albert Bridges.”

Before the engineering triumphs of Bazalgette came the architectural triumphs of George IV’s favorite designer, John Nash. Nash designed the broad avenues of Regent Street<, Piccadilly Circus, Carlton House Terrace, and Oxford Circus, as well as the ongoing creation of Buckingham transformation of Buckingham House into a palace worthy of a monarch.

In 1829 Sir Robert Peel founded the Metropolitan Police to handle law and order in areas outside the City proper. These police became known as “Bobbies” after their founder.

Just behind Buckingham Palace the Grosvenor family developed the aristocratic Belgrave Square. In 1830 land just east of the palace was cleared of the royal stables to create Trafalgar Square, and the new National Gallery sprang up there just two years later.

The early part of the 19th century was the golden age of steam. The first railway in London was built from London Bridge to Greenwich in 1836, and a great railway boom followed. Major stations were built at Euston (1837), Paddington (1838), Fenchurch Street (1841), Waterloo (1848), and King’s Cross (1850).

In 1834 the Houses of Parliament at Westminster Palace burned down. They were gradually replaced by the triumphant mock-Gothic Houses of Parliament designed by Charles Barry and A.W. Pugin.

The clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, known erroneously as Big Ben, was built in 1859. The origin of the name Big Ben is in some dispute, but there is no argument that the moniker refers to the bells of the tower, NOT to the large clock itself.

In 1848 the great Potato Famine struck Ireland. What has this to do with the history of London? Plenty. Over 100,000 impoverished Irish fled their native land and settled in London, making at one time up to 20% of the total population of the city.

Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria was largely responsible for one of the defining moments of the era that bears his wife’s name; the Great Exhibition of 1851. This was the first great world’s fair, a showcase of technology and manufacturing from countries all over the world. The Exhibition was held in Hyde Park, and the centerpiece was Joseph Paxton’s revolutionary iron and glass hall, dubbed the “Crystal Palace”.

The exhibition was an immense success, with over 200,000 attendees. After the event, the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham, in South London, where it stayed until it burned to the ground in 1936. The proceeds from the Great Exhibition went towards the founding of two new permanent displays, which became the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The year 1863 saw the completion of the very first underground railway in London, from Paddington to Farringdon Road. The project was so successful that other lines soon followed.

But the expansion of transport was not limited to dry land. As the hub of the British Empire, the Thames was clogged with ships from all over the world, and London had more shipyards than anyplace on the globe.

For all the economic expansion of the Industrial Revolution, living conditions among London’s poor were appalling. Children as young as 5 were often set to work begging or sweeping chimneys. Campaigners like Charles Dickens did much to make the plight of the poor in London known to the literate classes with his novels, notably Oliver Twist. In 1870 those efforts bore some fruit with the passage of laws providing compulsory education for children between the ages of 5 and 12.[5]

For those interested in the modern London, England, one of the most comprehensive and informative sources can be found at

So, with the inestimable aid of the redoubtable Professor Abraham Van Helsing, the chase commences. Returning to Europe the party, Van Helsing, Mina, Jonathan, Quincey and Arthur pursue the fugitive Count back to Eastern Europe and toward his castle.


 Constanta is a port on the Black Sea and is the oldest city in Romania. A number of inscriptions found in the town, and its vicinity show that Constanta stands today where a city named Tomis once stood. Tomis was a Greek colony on the Black Sea’s shore, founded around 500 BC an impressive public building, thought to have originally been a port building, has been excavated, and contains the substantial remains of one of the longest mosaic pavements in the world. In 1878, after the Romanian War of Independence, Constanta and the rest of Northern Dobruja were ceded by the Ottoman Empire to Romania. The city became Romania’s main seaport and transit point for much of Romania’s exports.

Today Constanta is one of the most important in Romania, one of four roughly equal-size cities which rank after Bucharest. The Constanța metropolitan area, founded in 2007, comprises 14 localities located at a maximum distance of 30 km (19 mi) from the city, and with 446,595 inhabitants [6] it is the second largest metropolitan area in Romania, after Bucharest. It is one of Romania’s main industrial, commercial and tourist centers. [7] During the first half of 2008, some 3,144 new companies were established in Constanța and its neighbouring localities, a number surpassed only in Bucharest and Cluj County. [8] The Port of Constanța is the largest on the Black Sea and the fourth largest in Europe. The city also boasts a comparably large shipyard. [9]

Tourism has been an increasingly important economic activity in recent years. Although Constanța has been promoted as a seaside resort since the time of Carol I, the development of naval industry had a detrimental effect on the city’s beaches. [9] Nevertheless, due to its proximity to other major tourist destinations, Constanța receives a significant number of visitors every year, who discover and visit the city’s monuments and attractions. Also, Constanța is a centre of commerce and education, both of which significantly contribute to the local economy.

Galatz (Galati)


Galatz is a port on the lower Danube which is accessible both by river boats and ocean-going ships via the Black sea.

In 1837, Galați acquires the status of free port, and after the Crimean War of 1854-1856 is, together with the Sulina, Danube European Commission headquarters. Prior to Union principalities in 1859, the city is led by chief magistrate Alexandru Ioan Cuza, born Bfrlad, especially after the ruler of Moldova and the Romanian Country. His residence is now houses a museum on the street Al.I. Cuza, near the city railway station. After Union principalities, city development has accelerated. They established new primary school and opened on 26 October 1864, École Superieure de Commerce “Alexandru Ioan I”, and in 1867 established one of the oldest secondary learning institutions in the country, High School Alecsandri.

The city has developed on the basis of an ancient Dacian settlement existing in VI-V century BC, the ford of the Danube, from the Roman period of the two wars fought against the Dacians, 101-102 and 105-106, will see the influence of civilization novels, becoming dependent, probably adjacent to the Roman camp from men, as in many other cases found in Roman Dacia province. New Daco-Roman settlement formed in the ford of the Danube, located somewhere in the third century AD to the present site south of Virgin Church, but was in time, destroyed the left bank of river crossing. The discoveries made in recent years proves the continuity of settlement from the Danube Vad VII-XI centuries: from Galați treasure consists of 12 silver coins issued between 613-685 Byzantine tomb cuman Virgin Church from Western and Byzantine coins from the time a Paflagonianul Emperor Michael IV (1034–1041). These discoveries demonstrate that Galatia dating from before the foundation of the Moldovan state. The city has been part of the Republic of Genoa Territories as “Caladda”,map of Repubblica di Genova. The first documentary mention of the city of Galați (then fair) dates from 1445 (in a document signed by Prince Stephen II).

According to the latest official estimates, from 2010, there were 290,593 people living within the city of Galați, [10] making it the seventh most populous city in Romania.

One of the largest economic centers in Romania, Galați has an economic life developed around the Naval Shipyard, Port River, Arcelor-Mittal steel plant, and Mineral Port.


Varna is a port on the Black Sea and it is among Europe’s oldest cities. In 339 BCE, the city was unsuccessfully besieged by Philip II but surrendered to Alexander the Great in 335 BC. The Roman city, Odessus, occupied 47 hectares in present-day central Varna and had prominent public baths, Thermae, erected in the late 2nd century, now the largest Roman remains in Bulgaria and fourth-largest known Roman baths in Europe.

The British and French campaigning against Russia in the Crimean War (1854-1856) used Varna as headquarters and principal naval base. In 1866, the first railroad in Bulgaria connected Varna with Rousse on the Danube, linking the Ottoman capital Istanbul with Central Europe; for a few years, the Orient Express ran through that route. The port of Varna developed as a major supplier of food—notably wheat from the adjacent breadbasket Southern Dobruja—to Istanbul and a busy hub for European imports to the capital. With the national liberation in 1878, the city was ceded to Bulgaria. [11]

Today Varna is the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and third-largest in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv, with a population of 334,870[12] inhabitants according to Census 2011. It is the administrative centre of the homonymous province and Varna Municipality. Commonly referred to as the marine (or summer) capital of Bulgaria, Varna is a major tourist destination, business and university centre, seaport, and headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine, as well as the centre of Varna Province and Bulgaria’s North-Eastern planning region, comprising also the provinces of Dobrich, Shumen, and Targovishte.

In April 2008, Varna was designated seat of the Black Sea Euro-Region by the Council of Europe. [13]

The Rivers:

Two rivers are prominently referred to in Stoker’s novel as being integral to the pursuit of The Count; they are the Sereth and Pruth.

“The Sereth River is joined, at Fundu, by the Bistritza which runs up around Borgo Pass.” (pp. 352)

(pp. 355) “that if any waterway was chosen for the Count’s escape back to his Castle, the Sereth, and then the Bistritza at its junction, would be the one. We took it that somewhere about the 47th degree, north latitude, would be the place chosen for crossing the country between the river and the Carpathians.”


Pruth or Prut is a river in Eastern Europe. It originates on the eastern slope of Mount Hoverla, in the Carpathian Mountains. It runs parallel to the Siret and flows southeast to join the Danube river near Reni, east of Galati.

The Prut (also spelled in English Pruth) is a 953 km (592 mi) long river in Eastern Europe. It was known in antiquity as the Pyretus, Porata (possibly), [14] Hierasus or Gerasius. [15] It originates on the eastern slope of Mount Hoverla, in the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine. The river flows southeast eventually joining the Danube river near Reni, east of Galaţi.

Between 1918 and 1940 it was almost entirely in Greater Romania while prior to that it also served as a border between Romania and the Russian Empire. Nowadays, for a length of 695 km it forms the border between Romania and Moldova.


The Sereth, or Siret, is a river that rises from the Carpathians in the Northern Bukovina region, and flows southward into Romania for 470 km before it joins the Danube at Galatz. The headwaters are near the Borgo Pass.

1. Arminius Vámbéry

2. “Ethno-demographic Structure of Romania”. The Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center. Retrieved January 2, 2011.)

3. Thurrock Heritage – Factfiles 19 – Fangs for the Memory: The Purfleet Dracula Connection

4. Whitby, Yorkshire, England

5. The Victorian Period. Daily Life in Victorian England.

6. “Populația stabilă la 1.01.2009” (in Romanian). INSSE. May 19, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2009.

7. “GhidTuristic.Ro: Județul Constanța (in română). Retrieved 2 decembrie2008.

8. “Cuget Liber: Constanța are 3.144 de firme noi, în primele șase luni din 2008 (in română). Retrieved 2 decembrie2008.

9. Romanian Black Sea Resorts

10. “Largest Romanian cities in 2010” (in Romanian). August 28, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2011.

11. Varna

12. (Bulgarian)National Statistical Institute – Main Towns Census 2011

13. Varna Becomes Centre of the Black Sea Euro-Region (Bulgarian). Retrieved on 2008-04-16

14. Herodotus, translated by Thomas Gaisford and edited by Peter Edmund Laurent, The Nine Books of the History of Herodotus, Henry Slatter 1846, p. 299


Further References:

Dracula. Bram Stoker, Bedrick/Blackie, New York. ISBN o-87226-189-1


NB: This piece is compilation work, all ref’s. and credits as noted. No Copyright infringement is intended and sections of other works presented here are presented under fair use for educational purposes of the relevant legislations.

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Website Spotlight ~ The Donors Haven

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Quite commonly, in the hustle and bustle of our online; and offline, worlds we tend to focus more on our own ‘special’ places, our own projects and our own necessities. The main focus of our work, at RVN, has typically been geared toward interaction with the vampiric in our culture. Recently we have begun branching out to take a look at other facets of that culture and we realized, much to our chagrin, that we had almost nothing from a most important, even vital, part of our world ~ the donors. They are the mates, spouses, companions and lovers of the vampire and without them the comfort and wellbeing of the vampiric amongst us would be sorely tested.

Accordingly we sought out one of the most important and special online places for donors Black Swan Haven. We were honoured to receive word that they would join us to give us some insight into their home. RVN is very proud to welcome, this evening, Acrophobic Pixie from Black Swan

She tells us, of herself:

I’ve been involved with the vampire community since I was in high school, although to start off, it was in a role on the sidelines. Before starting the Haven, I was a member of Coven Blackrose, the non vampiric branch of Clan Blackrose, the former Donor section moderator for the VCMB forums, started the Donor, not a döner blog at, famous for my kneesocks of doooooooom (the extra o’s are there on purpose), and have been donor to a handful of vampires over the decades. Sheesh, that word makes me feel old, but well, what can you do?”


RVN: Good evening Acrophobic Pixie, thank you very much for joining us this evening, if we may ask, firstly, could you give us the name and web address of the haven?

AP: Affectionately known as the Haven.


RVN: Could you tell us who are the owners, and/or the founders of the Black Swan Haven?

AP: Acrophobic Pixie, Giselle, Passer/Reveurnoir, and WingedWolfPsion got together, at the urging of Lady Slinky and Mike Future of the VCMB, to make a sister site/forum to and the VCMB.


RVN: Who, currently, are the Chief administrators of the Black Swan Haven?

AP: Giselle has taken another path, so it’s down to myself, Winged, and Passer.


RVN: And, could you tell us where are the members from, in the main?

AP: We’re from all over, though it seems like a majority of us are from North America, though we have been known to have members from England, other parts of Europe, and Australia. Unsure if we have any Asiatic or African members, but I wouldn’t put it past us to have some members on each continent.


RVN: Why did the concept for, and the establishment of, the group occur?

AP: Over at the VCMB, the donor section was small, and basically dominated by the top four posters, the future founders of the Haven. Lady Slinky and the other admins of the forum thought it’d be nice if we made our own forum for us to talk at, since at the VCMB the donor section could be viewed by vampires with administrator/moderator access, thus somewhat stifling our conversations. Not intentionally, of course, but well… They couldn’t just ignore our section in their duties, could they? It’d be possibly irresponsible of them. First, it started with my blog. And with that, the buzz began. We started pricing hosting services, debated over a domain name, started drawing up possible logos… It was INSANE! But so damned exciting! My mother used to design websites for a living, so I went shopping for CSS spreadsheets, tweaking them, and getting her advice for changes I was making. I asked vampires I knew what color schemes would be easier on their eyes, since we donors didn’t have such restrictions, and we wanted the website to be friendly towards them, as well. We were open for business in early November, 2007, and I, personally, celebrated with cake. I celebrate the site’s birthday every year with cake and ice cream, and little black and white birthday candles. Dorky, but I enjoy it.


RVN: And, what is the site purpose and philosophy?

AP: Our mission statement tells it all.

“To help donors meet their own needs, to look after the needs of their vampire companions, to nurture young swans and help them to grow and flourish, and to promote harmony between the vampire and donor communities.”

Our main goal is to help. No matter who it is, how they’re involved in the community, whatever. We want to help. If we can get the information out there, then we have done our job, in my mind. Unfortunately, I’ve had several family tragedies in the past year, so the website itself hasn’t been updated in quite awhile, but we’re hoping to get caught up on the backload, and get articles edited and posted on the website proper.


RVN: Regarding audience and membership of Black Swan Haven, who does the group/website cater for?

AP: We welcome all members from the community, but we are geared more towards the donors, family members, and friends of vampiric peoples. We take our name seriously, and include all definitions of black swan. Well, except the bird. But if one could figure out how to type, we’d welcome them in a heartbeat. We do have vampires as members, though. We’ve invited them from the start. We just have a couple of rules about it. They have access to all areas save for the Donors Only section, and a vampire will never become a moderator/administrator to protect the privacy of the donors on the boards.


RVN: What major events have occurred over the group lifetime, or recently?

AP: Goodness graciousness… We tried to have a joint meetup with some members of the VCMB a few years back. A number of us (myself and my main vampire included) were going to Otakon in 2008, and a Japanese rock band named VAMPs was doing a concert and a Q&A session. We thought it was hilarious, but unfortunately the crowds were insane, so it didn’t work out as well as we had hoped.


RVN: May we ask, what development work, or strategy, is planned for the growth and expansion of the site?

AP: Right now, we’re happy doing what we’re doing. When life settles down on my end, I’ll be revamping the website, updating pages, and posting articles. We’ve been batting around the idea of a book from our point of view, as a response to “Vampires In Their Own Words” for a couple of years now.


RVN: There are a number of terms for “donors” in and around the vampire community, why is the term Black Swan preferred?

AP: Because it doesn’t exclude. Before I became a donor, I was just the family member of a vampire. Then I was friends to vampires. Black Swan includes those people. The definition of a Black Swan is a friend, family member, or donor of a vampire. There’s further subsets, such as Crystal, Amber, and Crimson Swans, that classify what kind of donor a person may be, but everyone in the overall Vampire Community who isn’t a vampire falls under the Black Swan definition. It has some taint, I guess you could say, since apparently it was a TOV term to start, as well as it’s sister White Swan, but we liked it, and decided to, I don’t know, take back ownership of the term for us.


RVN: And, what else would you like to tell people about the group/website?

AP: Check us out! We don’t bite, well… Unless you ask. 😛 But we’re always taking new members, and if someone wants to submission for a question for us to answer, or an article for us to possibly post, feel free to send it in! Just come on over, hang out, and enjoy yourselves.

We do have a classifieds style section for donors and vampires to try to connect, or to find new friends/pen pals, that apparently people like. We have general goof around sections, and then sections divided up for each type of swan in existence to focus the info search, in addition to our “Ask a Swan”, “New Swan Central”, and “Donor’s Only” sections.


RVN: In closing we would like to thank Acrophobic Pixie for joining us today and giving us this wonderful insight into the Black Swan Haven.

AP: It was my pleasure.


As I mentioned in the introduction, a most important, even vital, part of our world, a part without which the vampire would be hard pressed to maintain themselves. The donors support and provide for the vampiric, that, dear reader, is a sword that should always cut in both directions. Every vampire who has a donor should, every day, be thankful that such people are out there.

© RVN & Black Swan 2012


The views and opinions presented in this article are the opinions of the author and/or contributors and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of The Owner/s of RVN, their officers, assigns or agents. RVN and its officers do not personally, individually, or jointly necessarily recommend or condone any of the activities or practices represented, and accept no liability, nor responsibility, for the use or misuse thereof. Anything that the reader takes from this article is taken at their own discretion. 

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RVN Site News

RVN Site News 07/21/12

Good evening,
You will probably notice, if you haven’t already, that the RVN Site is undergoing some changes… a little “re-vamping” if you like.

After a hiatus forced on him by RL and work matters John Reason will be rejoining us very soon now and at the moment he is re-working the site and its appearance. Many of you may recall we had, earlier this year, a catastrophic server crash, well, we’re well beyond that now and coupled with a new look we will be continuing our work to bring you quality reading material from the heart of the culture.

We have been blessed lately in making some new friends, contacts and meeting some new colleagues. One of the most important things that has happened for us, and something that makes us extremely proud and honoured, is that we have been both welcomed to, and named as a “companion” to, “Bloodlit Radio” by DJ Father CoVen.


Another thing that we are extremely honoured to announce is that the lady Ravens Rose has agreed to join our team at RVN as a Staff Member. Bringing her experience as a webmistress and group owner, and with her style and grace, she will, we are certain, make a splendid addition to our Staff. We welcome her with our highest regards and deepest respects.


Since opening our RVN Facebook group we have been joined by some old friends and some new friends, the membership is growing and we are greatly encouraged by the early success of the RVN Facebook Social Group. You can, of course, also follow RVN on Twitter. Lady M hosts both of these important social network projects on behalf of RVN.


All in all we believe we can confidently predict that things at RVN will continue in an altogether bigger and better vein… (No pun intended of course)


RVN Staff