Vampire Vacations in Europe : Count Dracula in Italy
Vampire Holidays in Europe : Count Dracula in Italy
As an alternative to the cheerful beach hotel and campsite holidays around Europe holidaymakers can sample the darker side of the tourist business all across the Continent.
Of course top of the list may be an excursion to deepest Transylvania then perhaps Poland or Russia.
The ancient castles and cathedrals may entice you with their macabre charm or you may simply fancy a trip to Whitby in England for the bi-annual Goth-Fest.
How about visiting Dublin's fair city where you can see the house where Bram Stoker lived.
But what about the bi-directional trade? Where do vampires go on holiday? Certainly not sun-seeking tourists by any means but you'd be surprised. I had an encounter with the man himself, the Dark Prince Count Dracula when I was working over in Northern Italy.
A curious dude he is and a controversial figure who nevertheless has his many admirers. I first met him at a campsite on Lake Garda where he had booked a week's holiday.
We had a truck delivery one day driven from France by a Romanian, a most confusing arrival. Although my colleagues working over on the Adriatic coast fared no better as they got a Polish driver who turned up at 8am. Humping camping equipment and furniture out the back of a lorry is not a good start to the day if you've missed your porridge.
As for us I swear the more stuff we shifted out the back of that Romanian lorry the further back the faraway wall moved, it seemed like a never ending nightmare of Edgar Allan Poe in reverse. Then we came across, of all things, an old coffin marked with a sign 'Do not open till midnight'.
So we left it to one side and came back at the witching hour. But the coffin had gone. He had already checked in to his mobile home. I'm glad he did as it would have been heavy enough to lift that box without him and his Transylvanian dirt piled up inside. But after that the trouble started.
I'd seen many bats flying around the trees earlier on in the week. So I thought maybe he'd sent them ahead on a reconnaissance mission to check the place out for virgins.
He shouldn't have bothered. But the man was indefatigable so it was time to zip up your tents, hold on to your bedsheets and lock up your daughters.
I wore a scarf tightly around my neck at night but that was because of the cold, or so I said anyway.
Before you know it he was having all night parties with his ever increasing coterie of rowdy friends, most of them young and female. They'd be drinking claret all night and wandering through the trees trying all the doors and the windows on the caravans.
A customer enquiry
'Knock Knock!' goes my office door, which is actually a tent, so it's more like "Thmpff, Thmpff"
"Who's there?" I ask,
"Eet ees ze Count from number 47"
"You can say that again"
"Vot do yoo mean?" he replies in that corny Romanian accent,
"I mean I've heard about you, making that racket to all hours in the morning"
"Hey! I got to haff some fun yoo know, eet ees my holiday" he says by way of explanation,
""Never mind that! You're upsetting the other campers, two even disappeared last night"
"Oh! in ze name of Beelzebub, yoo are zuch a square, yung man"
"I'm a square? Hark at you swanning about in bloody evening dress all the time. It's sweltering tonight and you look like a badly dressed stage magician"
A complete shower of hooligans, and they'd spend all day sleeping it off before raising hell necking it back big style the next night. You'd recognise them by their pale, tired complexions that never get a touch of the sun. We can't have that carry on around here. I know the bloke deserves a good vacation like anyone else but if that's his caper then he should try Club 18-30.
"Listen!" he continues unabashed, "I haff a small problem"
"What is it?" I sigh
"Zer ees a leettle mess een my bedroom"
"What kind of mess?"
"Vell! You see, eet ees my new girlfriend, she vas bleeding over ze bedsheets yoo know"
"No! I really don't want to know" I say, "But rest assured you can rely on us for discretion in these personal matters"
"I don't vant yoor stinkin discretion" he snaps, "I vant yoo to clean it up"
"Now! There's no need for that attitude, sir" I replied, "Cleaning is actually your responsibility for the duration of your stay"
"Listen mister, my a name iz Count Dracula and I don't do no cleaning"
"OK! OK! anything for a quiet life" I concede, "We'll send you round some new linen"
"And vot about ze walls?"
"What about the friggin walls?"
"OHH HO!! Who got ze attitude now?"
"No wonder!! Just what the hell were you up to in there?"
"Nozzing yoo could handle Sunny Jeem, beleef yoo me"
A showdown ensues
By then I've had enough of him and angrily reached down into a box thrusting a bottle of washing up liquid and two yellow rubber gloves into his hands:
"I ain't cleaning that, you do it yourself" I say,
"Vot iz all zis shit?" he complains,
"Fairy Liquid and a pair of marigolds" I explain, "Just the job to take the mess right off"
"Fairy Liquid??" he shouts, "Fairy Liquid??, Hey!, I am ze Prince of fakkin Darkness!!"
"I don't care if you're the Pope, the Queen or the King of Siam, you made the mess, you clean it"
"Oh Yeah? Vell how come today yoo iz cleaning ze caravan next to mine then, smart ass?" he protests
"Because I'm preparing it for a new couple moving in tomorrow, they're travelling over from Amsterdam"
"Hey!, zey are from ze Nezzerlands, zey must like to party, yes?"
"No!" I say, "They're a very quiet, respectable family with two teenage daughters"
"Hey-hey! Yoo don't say?" as his eyes light up,
"What does that mean?"
"Well, leave them in peace will you, I don't want them bothered, the Van Helsings are very nice people"
He flew the coop after that. Maybe it was the sight of us erecting a tent with mallets in hand hammering pegs into the ground or the overpowering smell from the cook tent when we put too much garlic through the beef mince. Whatever the reason he wasn't missed.
The Struggle for Verona
He was sighted again the following week in Verona during a high-powered and angry meeting which has passed into legend in the area. Throughout the centuries Verona, like many Italian cities was under the control of different rulers and families. None more so than the famous Scaligeri family.
A powerful and brutal dynasty they nevertheless patronised the arts. Their names were prefixed with "can" and this means "dog" with one of them, Mastinoe della Scala having a name which means 'mastiff' in English. Another one called 'Cangrande' protected Dante who in return dedicated the 3rd section of the Divine Comedy to him.
My personal favourite though, was called 'Canrabbiaso' which means the 'Mad Dog', he sounds like a real bampot. I bet he was into Horror films like 'Halloween' and 'Friday the 13th' full of gallons of blood and gore, murder most foul and with plenty of teenage nymphettes at his disposal. Maybe even a poster of Cissy Spacek covered in ketchup hanging on his castle wall.
All in all the Scaligeri were a really crazy family, possibly the forerunners in the dynastic, dysfunctional stakes to those present at the meeting, The Sopranos, The Corleone's, The Osbournes and the Simpsons . It made for an interesting family feud for the power base of modern Verona and it's environs;
The meeting of the families
"Listen ya pair a losers, we're taking over this town an' no mistake" says Tony Soprano,
"Mmmmm?", ponders Don Corleone, "You got no respect" ,
"Dat's right Chunky Cheeks" sneers Soprano, "I ain't got no respect, I got no respect for you an' your whole cockamamey family"
"Mmmmm, No!" replies Corleone, "And you don't call me Godfather either?"
"Yoo gorrit pal, your a goddam motherf..!!" "Listen yow!" interrupts Ozzy, "We've got somethin' to say abowt dis caper yow know"
"Yoo shut ya mouth, ya long-haired freak ya!!" screams Soprano
"Mmmmm, no respect" says Corleone,
"Don't yow call me a freak" yells Ozzy, "We is 'avin the west soide of the river"
"Yeah? You an' whose army"
Enter stage left, Lady MacBeth
"Don't screw with us" says Mrs Osbourne, "You think your so tough? My Dad would have ate the likes of you for breakfast and flushed you out by lunch"
"Hey!! tough-talking lady" laughs Soprano,
"You better believe it mister" she replies, "We're having the west side, Amphitheatre and all"
"Whatcha want dat old ruin for?" asks Soprano, "It ain't worth a nickel"
"It might be no use to a fat-arsed tub of lard like you" says Sharon, "But it'll be a goldmine when I start arranging the gigs"
"Nobody is gonna arrange anything until we sit down and talk this out" says Don Corleone,
"Shuttup old man" snaps Sharon,
"Mmmmm, the lady got no respect"
"Listen!" says Sharon, "Unless you want a street war, we're going to have to negotiate and carve up this city between us"
"That's roight" says Ozzy, "Everybody gets a sloice of the pizza"
Sharon adds "We want the west side up to the end of Piazza Bra and stretching back to the Cathedral, covering the Juliet Museum, the Borsari Gate, the Scavi, the massage parlours and the Scaligeri tombs"
She continues, "You two can sort out the east side between you as far as the old city walls"
"What about the south-west side between the Piazza and the train station" asks Corleone
Enter stage right, a portly, yellow-faced bald man
"That's all mine" says Homer,
"Jeez!!" gasps Soprano, "Dat's even worse than dat fuggin junk-shit Colliseum dump dis bitch is after".
"I don't think so" replies Homer,
"I hate to agree with this man, cos he got no respect" says Corleone, "But what would you want with the south-west?"
"It's got a McDonalds" Homer explains,
"Have you seen the price of a Big Mac over here?"
"Well you won't get much change out of a five-spot"
"Screw dis, I ain't givin' nuttin to nobody" roars Soprano, "We is taking dis town an' if ya wanna war, yoo gorra war"
"Don't mess with me" shouts Ozzy losing his temper, "Oi'm the Prince of fookin Darkness!!"
"No!!!! I am da Prinze of Darkness!!"
An uninvited guest
"Who the hell said that" says a startled Ozzy,
"Uppa da here" says a voice and they all look up to see a small bat flying above their heads
"I am da Prinze of Darkness!!" it repeats,
"Oi'm the Prince of Darkness!!"
"No!!, I am da Prinze of Darkness!!"
"Yow say that again and Oi'll bite yow're bleedin' head off"
The bat descends and transmogrifies into a middle-aged gentlemen in smart evening dress and bow-tie with slicked-back hair and oversized canines.
"Who is dis?" says an incredulous Soprano,
"Allow me to introdoose myself" says the man, "I am'a Count Dracula and here iz my card" He bows as he hands it to Don Corleone,
"I like this guy" says Corleone, accepting the card, "He gotta lotta respect"
"Yoo kiddin!!" scorns Soprano, "Dis fruit looks like he should be serving cocktails down the Cha-Cha Club"
"How dare yoo" the Count rounds on Soprano, "I am of noble Roomanian ancestry, going back centuries and I 'a demand an apologee"
"OK!, I'm sorry I ever met ya"
"Apologise!!" demands the Count,
"Get outa here ya old fairy!!"
"Right!, dat doz it!!"
The noble Count steps back and pulls out a yellow rubber glove from his pocket. Lunging at Soprano he smacks the notorious gangster full across the face.
Soprano is stunned, he's never been assaulted by an item of kitchen-wear before.
"E'es slapped 'im across the face with a marigowld" says Ozzy,
"I challenge you to a duel" says Dracula, "I demand satisfaction"
"Yoo gorrit mister!" screams an enraged Soprano,
"Wow!!" Ozzy shouts, "It's pistols at dawn, so it is"
"Yeah!! choose your seconds" screams an excited Sharon,
"Wooo Hooo!!, I'll have a quarterpounder with cheese" yelps Homer,
"I vill see yoo at midnight" concludes Dracula, "Ver yoo vill meet yoor undoubted fate"
"Midnoight?" asks Ozzy, "Naow mate, its gorra be at dawn! That's the tradeetion yow know!"
"No! No! No!, I ain't zo good in ze morning" insists the Count, "It haz to be at a night"
"But whoiyy?? asks Ozzy,
"Because I am da Prinze of Darkness!!"
"Naow yow ain't, Oi'm the Prince of Darkness!!
"I am da Prinze of Darkness!!"
"Oi'm the Prince of Darkness!!"
"No, I am da Prinze of Darkness!!"
"Listen mate!!!, Oi'm the Prince of fookin Darkness and so's my wife!!"
"I AM THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS!!!!!" booms a deep, sulphurous voice from below as smoke and flame erupt all around our querrulous little group striking terror into their black hearts. In the light of the flame a giant, silhouetted figure of an almost human-like creature appears with mighty horns towering upon it's head. "I AM THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS!!!!!" the voice growls again with an evil malevolence that had even Tony Soprano watering his ankles. "WHO DARES TO TRY AND USURP MY POWER AND THE UNHOLY NAME OF THE DARK ANGEL?",
"Bloody Hell" says Ozzy,
"Well put" says Sharon,
"Yeeeeooooowwwwwwwww!!!" screams Homer heading for the door.
"BEGONE YE EARTHLY MORTALS BEFORE I STRIKE FIRE UPON YOUR WRETCHED BODIES AND CONSIGN YE ALL TO DUST AND CINDERS......." the creature bellowed with a ferocious roar, accompanied by a burst of searing heat and acrid black smoke, "......FOR I COMMAND THIS FAIR CITY OF VERONA AND ALL IT'S WORTHLESS CREATURES THEREIN!!!!!!!"
"That's an offer I can't refuse" says Don Corleone,
"Damn right!!" quivers Tony, "I'm followin dat yella fella" he shouts as he runs out the room,
"HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!" laughs the Mighty Satan with an obvious devilish glee,
"Bloody Hell" repeats Ozzy, "What d'yow do for an encore Man?"
"Yeah!, Are you free next month?, says Sharon her eyes lighting up, "We've got Ozzfest!!"
The centuries old struggle for the city seemingly continues, although the Devil has it firmly in his hands apparently. It will take a strong and ruthless family who would dare to wrench it from his scaly grasp. I can think of a few in the housing schemes of Glasgow.
Flying Home to a midnight meet
As for the noble Count the last I heard he was living in my home country of Scotland. I know he travelled there because I met him in the terminal at Prestwick Airport the night I returned. He was posing as a waiter in the restaurant for a laugh before they threw him out. It turned out he was just killing time until I showed up.
"Aw no! You gotta be kidding, what are you doing here!!" I asked
"Hey! Vot is ze matter with yoo?" he replied
"I thought you'd cleared off in Verona"
"Yoo betcha meester, I know venn I'm beat"
"Well aren't you going back to Transylvania then?"
"Hell no, I a' like it heer in Scotland yoo know"
"Have you been following me?"
"No, I got heer a couple off days ago, I been waiting for yoo"
"Wait a minute I was planning to travel to Germany first, how did you know I would come straight home"
"Coz yoo ain't got no passport"
"How the hell would you know........wait a minute.......you rotten swine, you nicked my passport didn't you?"
"Yeah! I gotta admeet, I deed it"
"Well I like a' you and I need a buddee over heer"
"But why Scotland of all places"
"I just thought I shood 'Go Vest' as ze say" he explained
"You could have went to Germany"
"Nah, dem women is too big"
"Too tall, I gotta stand on a box"
"Nah! Zey keep zer knickers on"
"France then" I persevered
"Too much garlic"
"I give up"
"No yung man, I like it heer in yoor Bonnee Scotland, lots of dem creepy castles and dem dark mistee mountains"
"You can get all that stuff anywhere" I reasoned
"Maybee!, but it's vot yoo ain't got is vot I like"
"What's that?" I asked
"Yoo ain't got no sunshine"
"Well! I guess I can't argue with that" I sighed in resignation,
"No! Yoo got lots an' lots of lovely clouds all day long"
"Yep" I agreed
"I can even go for a long valk in ze affternoon yoo know"
"Sure" I said with my shoulders sagging,
"I haff no need to lie about all ze day"
"Nope! You've got me there"
"Dat's right! An' yoo know vot Steefie yung man?"
"What?" I asked
"I zink zis could bee ze start off a bootiful friendsheep"
"You ARE the Prince of Darkness"
"Zank yoo ferry much, zat is very nice thing to say"
"Aw! Bite me!!!"
The last I heard he had bought an old secluded castle within flying distance of all the major towns of the Highlands. The Estate Agent warned that it could take an eternity to renovate the building but the Count reassured him he had plenty of time.
So now he's a Highland Laird and after a couple of incidents with local lassies and a warning from the Police he's settled down into the quiet life. A prime factor was his willingness to compromise and settle for haggis and black pudding instead of virgin flesh.
He decided a daily intake of sheep's intestines and dried pig-blood wasn't so bad a diet to live on. Especially since garlic is not a mainstay of the traditional Scottish food. Seemingly the frugal life has its advantages.