In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide. 2nd Edition. Steven P. Unger. New York: World Audience, Inc., 2010. 273 pages.
So…it’s a vampire book? Close, it’s a book about a vampire book. Scratch that – a book about the vampire book. Twilight can suck it. Pun intended.
More than just an extensive, and well-informed, evaluation of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, In the Footsteps of Dracula is a travel guide that literally takes you through the steps of the book. From Whitby, Longdon to the Borgo Pass nestled in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. This trail is apparently a real thing for travelers looking for an eerie, literary experience. I had no idea this existed but I’m glad that it does.
And yet, this book goes layers deeper. Author Stephen P. Unger gives readers an in depth (if not somewhat grotesque) account of Stoker’s inspiration for his famed vampire – Vlad the Impaler. Incidentally, this moniker reflects the man’s actions. I won’t ruin the detailed descriptions for you but…he impaled people with spikes. A lot of people. Prepared to be riddled with more information about a medieval sadist than you have room for in your brain: genealogy, etymology of his actual name, ideology, home life, and his eventual murder.
Interestingly enough, Vlad the Impaler is idolized through many of the Romania towns visited by Unger. He has included many photographs depicting busts and statues of Vlad.
More than just The Impaler’s story, we also get the behind-the-scenes scoop of the visionary himself – Bram Stoker. We are taken from his bed-ridden childhood in Ireland to his London transplant to work for the great Sir Henry Irving. Whitby, London, and its majestic scenery, landscapes, churches (and graveyards) inspired Stoker to take his knowledge of Transylvania, which he learned from spending time in the British Museum’s Reading Room, and of Vlad the Impaler, to create the mysterious and legendary Count Dracula.
Fun fact, “Dracula” literally means “son of the dragon.”
Another fun fact – apparently most of the Dracula Trail is littered with Goths. But according to Unger they are the friendly kind. Not the scary kind. There are lots of photographs of them as well.
To the point, In the Footsteps of Dracula is a travel guide by a man who, has literally, been there and back. Peppered in between the interesting and engrossing tales of Vlad and Bram, Unger tells readers the proper places to visit along the Trail, including big towns, small towns, hotels, restaurants, and establishments in which to buy Draculian paraphernalia. He also gives us the low-down on places, and modes of public transportation, to avoid.
The best part of the travel guide portions of the book is the London pub tour. Here he lists and describes pubs directly pertaining to (or loosely pertaining to) Dracula in theme or appearance. He lists quite a few, but not too many to intimidate readers like me. I want to visit them all.
In a nutshell, this book is a fantastic read for the vampire fiction fan, travel enthusiast or just for people who are looking to learn something new.
Chris Moore is SML’s resident Master of Movie Reviews. He has taken time off from sitting in front of the television to read for us, too – imagine that! Read more from Chris here.
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