Tag Archives: Holy Roman Empire

Geneva – Switzerland

Standard

Wappen_Genf_matt_svg

The train leaves our beautiful Berne (click HERE to see that trip)  behind and we begin the last leg of our journey across Switzerland…

europe2 711

Our final stop in this beautiful country will be Geneva ………

Geneva was a border town, fortified against the Celtic tribe Helvetii, when the Romans took it in 121 BC. It became Christian under the Late Roman Empire, and acquired its first bishop in the 5th century, having been connected to the bishopric of Vienne in the 4th.

In the Middle Ages, Geneva was ruled by a count under the Holy Roman Empire until the late 14th century, when it was granted a charter giving it a high degree of self-governance. Around this time the House of Savoy came to dominate the city. In the 15th century, an oligarchic republican government emerged with the creation of the Grand Council.  In the first half of the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation reached the city, causing religious strife during which Savoy rule was thrown off and Geneva allied itself with the Swiss Confederacy.

In 1541, with Protestantism in the ascendancy, John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, became the spiritual leader of the city. By the 18th century, however, Geneva had come under the influence of Catholic France, which cultivated the city as its own, who tended to be at odds with the ordinary townsfolk – to the point that an abortive revolution took place in 1782.

In 1798, revolutionary France under the Directory annexed Geneva. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, Geneva was admitted to the Swiss Confederation.

In 1907, the separation of Church and State was adopted. Geneva flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries, becoming the seat of many international organizations.

Situated where the Rhône exits Lake Geneva, it is the capital of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

We know we have arrived as we see the beautiful Lake Geneva over the mountain tops…

europe2 679

europe2 678europe2 680

Geneva is a global city, a financial center, and worldwide center for diplomacy due to the presence of numerous international organizations, including the headquarters of many of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross.   Geneva is the city that hosts the highest number of international organisations in the world.    It is also the place where the Geneva Conventions were signed, which chiefly concern the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war.  As such,  one immediately misses the charm and quaintness of the beautiful city of Berne.

europe2 686europe2 687europe2 695

The is beautiful art throughout the city……..

europe2 696europe2 681europe2 697

The markets are bursting forth with marvelous goodies….

europe2 689europe2 688europe2 692europe2 690

Swiss Charm still surrounds you…….

europe2 684europe2 685europe2 683

europe2 693

The hustle and bustle is so different from the feeling of the rest of this beautiful country……

The Grand Cathedral seems as if she has been caught in a spider’s web…

europe2 699

As we leave the downtown area………a charming tune catches our attention…….

…..there he is a Hurdy Gurdy Man….

HURDY

….just when we thought all was lost…..

We enjoy our final days in this beautiful country……a nice Swiss Breakfast….

europe2 698

……and then off to the train……looking out at our last views of the beautiful Alps as we cross into France…

europe2 701

I hope you have enjoyed our journey ……….

Advertisements

OLYMPIC FACTS & FUN

Standard

The 2012 Olympic Summer Games are coming to a close and the Tin Man thought it might be fun to review some interesting facts about the Olympics.

THE OLYMPIC FLAG
The five interlaced rings which are depicted on the Olympic flag are known as the “Olympic Rings”. 

The five rings are arranged in a 3-2 pattern on a white background, with the blue ring to the extreme left, followed by the yellow, black, green and red. 

They were designed by Pierre de Coubertin, in August 1912.

The five rings represent the five parts of the world that were joined together in the Olympic movement: 

Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.

The Olympic fag was first used in the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium.  The Olympic flag is paraded during the opening ceremony of each Olympic Games.

At the end of an Olympics, the mayor of the host city presents the flag to the mayor of the next host city.

The flag will remain in the own hall of the next host city until the next Olympic Games, four years later.

THE OLYMPIC FLAME

The tradition of the Olympic Flame began during the ancient Olympic Games, over 2,700 years ago in Greece.  A flame was lit for each Olympics, every four years, and it burned throughout the games.  The flame symbolized the death and rebirth of the Greek heroes.  For each Olympics, a new flame is started in the ancient Olympic stadium in Olympia, Elis, Greece, using a parabolic mirror to focus the rays of the Sun. 

This flame begins its Olympic Torch Relay by touring Greece. 

The flame is normally taken to the country where the games will be held and then carried around that country.  The last runner uses a the torch to light the Olympic flame which will burn throughout the games. 

The flame is extinguished during the closing ceremony.

THE OLYMPIC MOTTO

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Swifter, Higher, Stronger

OLYMPIC MEDALS

In ancient times the Olympic victor received his first awards immediately after the competition.

Following announcement of the winner’s name by a herald, a Hellanodikis (Greek Judge) would place a palm branch in  his hands, while spectators cheered and threw flowers at him.

Red ribbons were tired to his head and hands as a mark of victory.

The official award ceremony would take place on the last day of the Games, at the elevated vestibule of the temple of Zeus.  In a loud voice, the herald would announce the name of the Olympic winner, his father’s name and his homeland.  Then the Hellanodikis would place the sacred olive tree wreath (kotinos) on the winner’s head.

Medals were first introduced in the modern Olympic Games in 1896 at the inaugural Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The winners were give a silver medal and an olive branch, while runners-up received a laurel branch and a copper or bronze medal.

In 1900 most winners received cups or trophies instead of medals.

The custom of gold, silver and bronze dates from the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States.

The International Olympic Committee then retroactively assigned gold, silver and bronze medals the three best placed athletes in each event of the 1896 and 1900 Games. 

Medals are given to to the top three competitors; every athlete placed first to eighth receives an Olympic Diploma.

At the main host stadium, the names of all medal winners are written onto a wall.

WOMEN PARTICIPATING IN THE GAMES

Women first competed at the 1900 Paris Games.  Women were allowed to compete in lawn tennis and golf, though these were three French women competing in croquet and there was at least one woman sailor as part of mixed crews.  It is commonly believed that the first woman to win an Olympic event was England’s Charlotte Cooper, who won the tennis singles title; however, Swiss sailor Helene de Pourtales won a gold medal as part of a team in sailing earlier than this.

Helen de Pourtales

Women competed in swimming events for the first time in 1912, but none of them were from the United States, which did not allow its female athletes to compete in events without long skirts. The first women’s swimming gold medal was won by the Australian Sara “Fanny” Durack, who won the 100m freestyle in 1912.
In 1928, women competed in track and field events for the first time; however, so many collapsed at the end of the 800 meter race that the event was banned until 1960.

Women’s shooting events were first included in the Olympics in 1984.

The 2000 Olympics were the first time women were allowed to compete in weightlifting.

In 1948, Dutch athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen won four gold medals, the equivalents of the ones Jesse Owens had won twelve years earlier.  She held the world records in the high and long jumps, but did not compete in those, as rules prohibited women from competing in more than three individual events.

British Equestrian, Lorna Johnstone was 70 years and 5 days old when she rode in the 1972 Games, thus being the oldest woman ever to compete at an Olympic Games.

Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia all sent female participants to London 2012 Olympic Games – for the first time every national Olympic committee will have sent women to the Games.

IN THE BEGINNING….

The ancient Olympic Games were founded by Heracles, a son of Zeus, according to legend.

The first Olympic Games for which there are written records were held in 776 BCE.  At this Olympic Games, a naked runner, Coroebus won the sole event – the stade.

The stade was a run of approximately 192 meters (210 yards).

The ancient Olympic Games grew and continued to be played every four years for nearly 1200 years, until in 393 CE, the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, abolished the Games because of their pagan influences.

 

Approximately 1500 years later, Pierre de Coubertin began their revival.

Coubertin organized a meeting with 79 delegates who represented nine countries.  The delegates at the conference voted unanimously for the Olympic Games and had Coubertin construct an international committee to organize the games, which continues today as the IOC – International Olympic Committee.

 

THE TIMELINE

Before 776 BC

Athletic contests are held at Olympia every four years, between August 6 and September 19.

394 AD

Roman Emperor Theodosius I abolishes the Games.

1894

The International Olympic Committee is founded.

1896

Athens Games

The first modern Olympics with 14 countries represented by about 245 men, competing in 43 events.

1900

Paris Games

Incorporated into the Paris Exposition.  1,319 men from 26 countries compete in 75 events.

Eleven women were allowed to participate in lawn tennis and golf.

1904

St. Louis Games

Only 13 countries show up.  Fred Lorz rides in a car for eleven miles during the marathon, but is briefly taken as being the winner anyway.

1906

Intercalated Games

The first and last and only Intercalated Games are held in Athens.  Medals won here are considered unofficial by the IOC

1908

London Games

The 1906 eruption of Mount Vesuvius requires the Games to move from Rome to London.

This is the first time athletes march into the stadium behind their nation’s flags.

1912

Stockholm Games

American, Jim Thorpe dominates the Games, taking the gold in the pentathlon and decathlon.

1913

Jim Thorpe’s medals are taken away, when it is discovered that he was paid $25 a week for playing baseball in 1909 and 1910.  The Olympics strictly limited to amateur players.

1916

Games are cancelled due to World War I

1920

Antwerp Games

The Olympic Flag is introduced, as is the Olympic Oath.

Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey are not invited, having been on the wrong side of the Great War.

Philip Noel-Baker of Great Britain takes the silver in the 1500 meter dash, he later becomes the only Olympian ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

1924

Chamonix Winter Games

The “International Winter Sports Week” takes place and two years later, is retroactively given the status of the first Olympic Winter Games.

1924

Paris Games

Originally planned to take place in Amsterdam, the Games are moved to Paris at the urging of Baron de Coubertin.  He is about to retire and wants to see the Games in his homeland, one last time.

Germany is banned, but the other four nations banned in 1920 are back.

1925

The IOC forbid such practices as compensating athletes for time taken away from work to compete, making it hard for working-class athletes to participate.

Winter 1928

St. Moritz Winter Games

Plagued with warm weather, some events were slowed and the 10,000 meter speed skating race was cancelled.

Summer 1928

Amsterdam Games

The Olympic Flame is introduced.

Germany returns.

Women compete in track and field events for the first time.

Luigina Giavotti becomes the youngest medalist of all time.  She was 11 years and 302 days old.

1930

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) holds soccer’s first World Cup tournament in Montevideno, Uruguay, due to the Olympics’ restrictions against professional athletes.

The World Cup is held every four years from this time onward, except during World War II

Winter 1932

Lake Placid Winter Games

Summer 1932

Los Angeles Games

Paavo Nurmi is barred from the Games, on grounds that, on a trip to a German meet, he had claimed too much money in travel expenses.

Winter 1936

Garmish-Partenkirchen Winter Games

Alpine skiing events are held for the first time, but ski instructors are barred as being professionals.  This leads to an Austrian and Swiss boycott, and to the decision not to hae skiing events in the 1940 Games.

Summer 1936

Berlin Games

The first ever relay of the Olympic Torch

The first Games to be televised

Basketball is admitted as an Olympic sport for the first time.  In the final – played on a dirt court, in the rain, dribbling was impossible

1940

1944

Games cancelled due to World War II

Winter 1948

St. Moritz Winter Games

Held in this city since it was untouched by the World War II

Men and Women each have three alpine skiing events

Summer 1948

The first Games to be shown on home television

Germany and Japan are not invited

Winter 1952

Oslo Winter Games

The Olympic Torch is lit in the fireplace of skiing pioneer, Sondre Norheim and then relayed by 94 skiers to the Games

Summer 1952

Helsinki Summer Games

Russian athletes participate for the first time in 40 years, winning 71 medals

Winter 1956

Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Games

The Soviets break Canada’s gold medal monopoly in ice hockey and win more medals than any other country

Summer 1956

The Tin Man turns one year old

East and West Germany are represented by one combined team

In the Closing Ceremonies, for the first time, athletes from all nations enter the stadium in unity, rather than marching in by nation.

Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden boycott the games in protest of the Soviet invasion of Hungary.

Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq do the same as a result of the Suez crisis

Winter 1960

Squaw Valley Winter Games

The only Winter Games not to include bobsledding, as the organizing committee refuses to build an expensive bobsled fun for the mere nine nations that would use it

Walt Disney is in charge of pageantry, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies

Summer 1960

Rome Summer Games

The first Summer Games covered by television worldwide

A record 5,348 athletes from 83 countries compete

Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila, running barefoot, becomes the first black African to take home a Gold Medal

After taking amphetamines, Danish cyclist Knuth Jensen collapses during a race, fatally fracturing his skull

Winter 1964

Innsbruck Winter Games

Unfavorable weather conditions require the Austrian army to carry ice and snow from higher elevations

South Africa is barred from the Games due to its policy of apartheid and will not be invited back until 1992

Summer 1964

Tokyo Summer Games

Japan spends $3 Billion to rebuild Tokyo for the Olympics, revitalizing a city that had been devastated by earthquakes and World War II bombings

Abebe Bikila again wins the marathon, this time less than six weeks after having his appendix removed.

Winter 1968

Grenoble Winter Games

East and West Germany compete on separate teams for the first time

Sex tests and drug tests are introduced

Peggy Fleming wins America’s only gold medal, in figure skating

Summer 1968

Mexico City Summer Games

These games are held at the highest altitude ever: 7,349 feet

Swedish pentathlete Hans-Grunner Liljenwall is the first to be disqualified for drug use, having tested positive for excessive alcohol

On the winning podium, after the 200 meter race, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a Black Power salute and the two are immediately suspended from the Games and deported from the country

Winter 1972

Sapporo Winter Games

Retiring IOC president Avery Brundage threatens to disqualify 40 Alpine skiers for taking money from ski product manufacturers, ultimately making an example of just one skier, barring Austrian Karl Schranz.

The United States, Soviet Union and others have been routinely circumventing the IOC’s amateur code for decades, with no consequences.  The Soviets have been paying their athletes for jobs they never actually perform, while the Americans have handed out athletic scholarships to thousands of athletes.

Canada boycotts the Games, in protest of Easter European “state amateurs”

Summer 1972

Munich Summer Games

The Olympic Oath is taken by a referee for the first time

The Games are over shadowed when members of the Black September terrorist group kidnap eleven Israeli athletes from the Olympic Village, killing two and taking the other nine hostage.

During a failed rescue attempt by German authorities, the remaining athletes and all but three of the terrorists are killed

1974

The word “amateurism” is removed from the Olympic Charter

Winter 1976

Innsbruck Winter Games

These Games were originally planned for Denver, Colorado; however, Colorado residents voted against spending money on them.

Ice Dancing makes its debut

Summer 1976

Montreal Summer Games

The price tag for the Games is $1.5 Billion Dollars

Canada bars the Republic of China (Taiwan) team from the country, then allows them to enter if they agree not to compete as “the Republic of China”  the Taiwanese consider this unacceptable and withdraw from the Games

Dozens of other nations, mostly African, boycott the Games in protest of the inclusion of New Zealand, whose rugby team is touring racially segregated South Africa

14 year old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci scores seven perfect 10s …….nobody had ever achieved even one 10 before

Winter 1980

Lake Placid Winter Games

The first Games to use artificial snow

Summer 1980

Moscow Summer Games

The first Games to be held in a communist country

President Carter calls upon the U.S. Olympic Committee to boycott the Games, due to the Soviet invasion af Afghanistan

the U.S. stays home and many other countries follow suit

80 nations participate in the Games, down from 122 in Munich

1981

International sports federations are given the right to determine which athletes may compete.

While athletes must live up to the standards in the Olympic Charter, the door is opened for nations to admit professional athletes.

Athletes are still barred from receiving money during the Games, whether for participating or for winning

1982

Jim Thorpe, whose amateur status was revoked in 1913 is officially pardoned by the IOC, 29 years after his death.

Replicas of his 1912 medals are presented to his family at the start of 1983

1983

The IOC votes to allow the Games to be opened to corporate sponsorship

Winter 1984

Sarajevo Winter Games

The first to be held in a socialist country

49 nations attend, 12 more than the previous record for the Winter Games

Summer 1984

Los Angeles Summer Games

In retaliation for the U.S. led boycott of 1980, the Soviet Union leads a 14 country boycott

The first privately financed Olympics are a commercial success

34 official sponsors, 64 companies with supplier rights 65 licensees

These are the second Games to ever turn a profit – 215 million, the first was the 1932 Los Angeles Games

A record 140 nations participate, but without the Soviets and East Germans, the Americans win almost three times as many medals as their closest competitors

In a compromise with FIFA, professional soccer players are allowed to participate, but only if they have not been part of a World Cup event

1986

The IOC votes to change the schedule of the Olympics.

Starting in 1984, the Summer Games and Winter Games will take place two years apart form one another, rather than in the same year

Winter 1988

Calgary Winter Games

The Winter Games are spread over 16 days for the first time

Summer 1988

Seoul Summer Games

North Korea refuses to participate and Cuba and Ethiopia follow suit in solidarity, but there are not widespread boycotts for the first time since 1972

159 nations send 9,465 athletes, including 2,186 women

Canadian Ben Johnson beats Carl Lewis in the 100 meter dash with a world record time of 979.  Shortly thereafter, he tests positive for steroid use and is stripped of his medal

1989

The IOC votes to disallow unofficial demonstrations events at the Olympics, starting with the 1996 Games

Winter 1992

Albertville Winter Games

Germany has reunited and the Soviet Union has broken up.  In spite of the accompanying turmoil, the German team and Unified team of former Soviet states remain at the top of the rankings

Summer 1992

Barcelona Games

For the first time in decades, every single nation with an Olympic Committee shows up, even Cuba, North Korea and South Africa

A record 172 nations participate, represented by 10,563 athletes

Winter 1994

Lillehammer Winter Games

These are the only Winter Games to take place two years after the preceding ones

It is the Tonya and Nancy Show in figure skating : Nanacy Kerrigan gets the Silver and Tonya Harding gets the notoriety

Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul gets the Gold

Summer 1996

Atlanta Games

A pipe bomb in Centennial Olympic Parks kills one person and injures 111

Snowboarding, curling and women’s ice hockey are introduced

15 year old American figure skater Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest athlete to win a Gold Medal at the Winter Games

Summer 2000

Sydney Games

10,651 athletes (4,069 women) from 199 nations participate.

The ony nation excluded is Afghanistan

North and South Korea enter the stadium under one flag

Women are excluded from boxing and baseball

Men are excluded from synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics and softball

Winter 2002

Salt Lake City Games

These Games are controversial starting about three years before they begin, as it is revealed that several IOC members accepted inappropriately large gifts in exchange for voting to hold the Games in Salt Lake City.  At least four IOC members resign, as do top Salt Lake City committee officials.

The IOC pledges to change the way host cities are chosen

These Games are also dominated by doping scandals, one of the most interesting being Britain’s Alain Baxter who loses his Bronze slalom medal after a drug test, although the drug detected turns out to be a Vicks inhaler.  Unknown to him, it has a different formulation in America than in the UK.  A later investigation clears him of all moral guilt; however, his medal is not returned.

Russian figure skating pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze win the Gold over Canadian pair Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.  The Canadians protest the French judge admits to having been pressured to give the Russians a higher ranking, and in an unprecedented ceremony, the Canadian pair is given Gold Medals, although the Russians are allowed to retain theirs.

 2004

Athens Games

The Games return to their birthplace

2005

The IOC decides to eliminate baseball and softball from the 2012 Olympics, the first sports to be dropped since polo in 1936

 2006

Torino Winter Games

2008

Beijing Summer Games

On May 8, 2008, the Olympic torch was carried by climbers to the “roof of the world”, reaching the 29,035 foot summit of Mount Everest

During the ascent, Tibetan women were the first and last to carry the torch

2010

Vancouver Winter Games

On February, 12th, shortly before the Games began, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a training run after his sled left the track and crashed into a pole.  As a result of this tragedy, the start for the course was moved further down the track.

2012

London Summer Games

About 4,000 newts and hundreds of toads were removed by hand and relocated during construction of the Olympic Park

The London Olympic site has more than 525 birdhouses, 150 bat houses and numerous otter holts to help maintain the local wildlife as part of the Games’ focus on producing an eco-friendly event

Some great Olympic Athlete names for 2012 are:

Michael Arms  – Rowing, New Zealand

Elena Baltacha – Tennis, Great Britain

Usain Bolt – Track, Jamaica

Jason Lavigilante – Boxing, Mauritius

2014

Sochi, Russia

2016

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2018

PyeongChang, South Korea

 

I hope you enjoyed this look at the Olympics

now to close with my very, very favorite Olympic quote

“When I race my mind is full of doubts – who will finish second, who will finish third?”

Noureddine Morceli, Algerian athlete, 1996 Summer Olympics

The Origins of Count Dracula

Standard

Let’s face it, we have all fallen under the spell of Dracula at one point in our lives.

The sensual appeal of this sharp-toothed legend entering our boudairs in the night to embrace us and drain our lifeforce has set many a heart a flutter…….


……..are you ready to come with me as we turn around and follow this Vampire path to its beginnings………

………..in the real Castle of Dracula…..


……..the home of Prince Vlad III of Wallachia, a member of the House of Draculesti


Long before the likes of the “Twilight Series”

or even the birth of Ann Rice’s New Oleans Vampire family

………..or even Bram Stoker‘s Dracula……

………..there lived the real Dracula, the father of all legends…….’Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, who was a member of the House of Drăculești, a branch of the House of Basarab, also known by his patronymic name: ”’Dracula”’. He was posthumously dubbed ”’Vlad the Impaler”’, and was a three-time Prince of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462, the period of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.   His father, Vlad II Dracul, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was founded to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe.

Vlad III spent much of his rule campaigning against the Ottoman Empire and Ottoman wars in Europe.   During his lifetime, his reputation for excessive cruelty spread abroad, to 15th-century Germany and elsewhere in Europe.   The total number of his victims is estimated in the tens of thousands. The name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel ‘Dracula’ was inspired by Vlad’s patronymic.

Vlad’s  Romanian patronymic ”Dragwlya” ”Dragulea, Dragolea, Drăculea’  is a diminutive of the epithet ”Dracul” “the Dragon” carried by his father  Vlad II Dracul, who in 1431 was inducted as a member of the  Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order  founded by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Hungary in 1408.


”Dracul” is the Romanian definite form.  The noun  “dragon” itself continues Latin ”  In Modern Romanian, the word ”drac” has adopted the meaning of “devil” the term for “dragon” now being  balaur or dragon.   This has led to misinterpretations of Vlad’s epithet as characterizing him as “devilish”.

A woodcut depicting Vlad Țepeș published in Nuremberg in 1488

on the title page of the pamphlet  : Die geschicht dracole waide.

Vlad was born in Sighișoara, Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary, in the winter of 1431 to Vlad II Dracul, future voivode of Wallachia.  Vlad’s father was the son of the celebrated Voivode – Mircea the Elder.   His mother is believed to be the second wife of Vlad Dracul, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia], eldest daughter of Alexandru cel Bun and aunt to Stephen III of Moldavia- Stephen the Great of Moldavia.   He had two older half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, and a younger brother, Radu cel Frumos – Radu III the Handsome.

In the year of his birth, Vlad’s father, known under the nickname ”Dracul”, had traveled to Nuremberg where he had been vested into the Order of the Dragon.   At the age of five, young Vlad was also initiated into the Order.
Vlad and Radu spent their early formative years in Sighișoara under the care and tutelage of their mother and the wives of other exiled boyars.   During the first reign of their father, Vlad II Dracul, the Voivode brought his young sons to Târgoviște, the capital of Wallachia at that time.

The Byzantine chancellor Mikhail ensured that, at Târgoviște, the sons of boyars and ruling princes were well-educated by Romanian or Greek scholars commissioned from Constantinople.   Vlad is believed to have learned combat skills, geography, mathematics, science, languages (Old Church Slavonic, German, Latin), and the classical arts and philosophy.

In 1436, Vlad II Dracul ascended the throne of Wallachia. He was ousted in 1442 by rival factions in league with Hungary, but secured Ottoman support for his return by agreeing to pay the Jizya (tax on non-Muslims) to the Sultan.

Vlad II also sent his two legitimate sons, Vlad and Radu, to the Ottoman court, to serve as hostages of his loyalty. Vlad was imprisoned and often whipped and beaten for being defiant, while his younger brother Radu was much easier to control. Radu converted to Islam, entered the service of Sultan Murad II’s son, Mehmed II (later known as the Conqueror), and was allowed into the Topkapı Palace.   Radu was also honored by the title Bey and was given command of the Janissary contingents.

These years presumably had a great influence on Vlad’s character and led to Vlad’s well-known hatred for the Ottoman Turks, the Janissary, his brother Radu for converting to Islam and the young Turkish prince Mehmed II (even after he became sultan).   He was envious of his father’s preference for his elder brother, Mircea II and half brother, Vlad Călugărul.   He also distrusted the Hungarians and his own father for trading him to the Turks and betraying the Order of the Dragon’s oath to fight the Ottoman Empire.

Vlad was later released under probation and taken to be educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish language and works of  literature.   He would speak this language fluently in his later years.   He and his brother were also trained in warfare and riding horses.   The boys’ father, Vlad Dracul, was awarded the support of the Ottomans and returned to Wallachia and took back his throne from Basarab II and some unfaithful Boyars.

Vlad’s first wife was Jusztina Szilagyi of Moldavia, with whom he had two sons: Mihnea I “the Bad”  and Mihai.

According to local legend, she died during the siege of Poenari Castle, which was surrounded by the Ottoman army led by his brother Radu Bey and the Wallachian Janissary.   A woodland archer, having seen the shadow of Vlad’s wife behind a window, shot an arrow through the window into Vlad’s main quarters with a message warning him that Radu’s army was approaching.   McNally and Florescu explain that the archer was one of Vlad’s relatives who sent the warning out of loyalty despite having converted to Islam and served in the ranks of Radu.   Upon reading the message, Vlad’s wife threw herself from the tower into a tributary of the Argeș River flowing below the castle, saying she would rather rot and be eaten by the fish of the Argeș than be led into captivity by the Turks.   Today, the tributary is called Râul Doamnei, the “Lady’s River”, also called the Princess’s River.

Gradually winning back King Matthias’s favour, Vlad married Ilona Szilágyi of Wallachia,  a sister or cousin of the king,  and in the years before his final release in 1474, had her as a companion in his captivity.

Two of Vlad Tepes’ sons, Vlad Țepeluș and Mihnea I “the Bad”, have been claimed to be ancestors of Mary of Teck, grand-mother of Elizabeth II,  Queen of Great Britain.   In October 2011, Prince Charles publicly claimed that genealogy shows that he is a distant relative of Vlad the Impaler.   The claim accompanied his announcement of a pledge to help conserve the forested areas of Transylvania.

In December 1447, boyars in league with the Hungarian regent,  John Hunyadi,  rebelled against Vlad II Dracul and killed him in the marshes near Bălteni. Mircea, Dracul’s eldest son and heir, was blinded and buried alive at Târgoviște.

To prevent Wallachia from falling into the Hungarian fold, the Ottomans invaded Wallachia and put young Vlad III on the throne; however, this rule was short-lived as Hunyadi himself now invaded Wallachia and restored his ally Vladislav II of Wallachia, of the House of Dănești clan, to the throne.

Vlad fled to Moldavia, where he lived under the protection of his uncle, Bogdan II.   In October 1451, Bogdan was assassinated and Vlad fled to Hungary.   Impressed by Vlad’s vast knowledge of the mindset and inner workings of the Ottoman Empire as well as his hatred of the new sultan Mehmed II,  Hunyadi reconciled with his former rival and made him his advisor.

After the Fall of Constantinople to Mehmed II in 1453, Ottoman influence began to spread from this base through the Carpathians, threatening mainland Europe, and by 1481 Ottoman wars in Europe conquering the entire Balkans peninsula.  Vlad’s rule thus falls entirely within the three decades of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.

In 1456, three years after the Ottomans had conquered Constantinople, they threatened Hungary by besieging Belgrade.   Hunyadi began a concerted counter-attack in Serbia: while he himself moved into Serbia and relieved the siege (before dying of the plague), Vlad led his own contingent into Wallachia, reconquered his native land and killed Vladislav II in hand-to-hand combat.
Vlad found Wallachia in a wretched state: constant war had resulted in rampant crime, falling agricultural production, and the virtual disappearance of trade. Regarding a stable economy essential to resisting external enemies, he used severe methods to restore order and prosperity.

Vlad had three aims for Wallachia: to strengthen the country’s economy, its defense, and his own political power. He took measures to help the peasants’ well-being by building new villages and raising agricultural output.   He understood the importance of trade for the development of Wallachia.   He helped the Wallachian merchants by limiting foreign merchant trade to three market towns: Târgșor, Câmpulung and Târgoviște.

Vlad considered the boyars the chief cause of the constant strife as well as of the death of his father and brother.   To secure his rule, he had many leading nobles killed and gave positions in his council, traditionally belonging to the greatest boyars, to persons of obscure origins, who would be loyal to him alone, and some to foreigners.   For lower offices, Vlad preferred knights and free peasants to boyars.   In his aim of fixing up Wallachia, Vlad issued new laws punishing thieves.   Vlad treated the boyars with the same harshness, believing them guilty of weakening Wallachia through their personal struggles for power.

The army was also strengthened.   He had a small personal guard, mostly made of mercenaries, who were rewarded with loot and promotions.   

He also established a militia or ‘lesser army’ made up of peasants called to fight whenever war came.

Vlad Dracula built a church at Târgșor (allegedly in the memory of his father and older brother who were killed nearby), and he contributed with money to the Snagov Monastery and to the Comana Monastery fortifications.

Since the Wallachian nobility was linked to the Transylvanian Saxons, Vlad also acted against them by eliminating their trade privileges and raiding their cities.   In 1459, he had several Saxon settlers of Brașov] (Kronstadt) impaled.   In 1459, Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans, at the Council of Mantua.   In this crusade, the main role was to be played by Matthias Corvinus, son of John Hunyadi,  the King of Hungary.   To this effect, Matthias Corvinus received from the Pope 40,000 golden coins, an amount that was thought to be enough to gather an army of 12,000 men and purchase 10 Danube warships.    In this context, Vlad allied himself with Matthias Corvinus, with the hope of keeping the Ottomans out of the country.

Later that year, in 1459, Ottoman Empire Sultan Mehmed II sent envoys to Vlad to urge him to pay a delayed Jizya (tax on non-Muslims) of 10,000 ducats and 500 recruits into the Ottoman forces.   Vlad refused, because if he had paid the ‘tribute’, as the tax was called at the time, it would have meant a public acceptance of Wallachia as part of the Ottoman Empire.   Vlad, just like most of his predecessors and successors, had as a primary goal to keep Wallachia as independent as possible.   Vlad had the Turkish envoys killed on the pretext that they had refused to raise their “hats” to him, by nailing their turbans to their heads.

Meanwhile, the Sultan received intelligence reports that revealed Vlad’s domination of the Danube.   He sent the Bey of Nicopolis, Hamza Pasha, to make peace and, if necessary, eliminate Vlad III.   Pasha planned to set an ambush.   Hamza Pasha, the Bey of Nicopolis, brought with him 10,000 cavalry and when passing through a narrow pass north of Giurgiu, Vlad launched a surprise attack.   The Wallachians had the Turks surrounded and defeated.   The Turks’ plans were thwarted and almost all of them caught and impaled, with Hamza Pasha impaled on the highest stake to show his rank.

 

In the winter of 1462, Vlad crossed the Danube and devastated the entire Bulgarian land in the area between Serbia and the Black Sea.   Disguising himself as a Turkish person,  he infiltrated and destroyed Ottoman camps.   In a letter to Corvinus dated 2 February, he wrote:  “I have killed peasants men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea, up to Rahova, which is located near Chilia, from the lower Danube up to such places as Samovit and Ghighen.   We killed 23,884 Turks without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers…Thus, your highness, you must know that I have broken the peace with him Sultan Mehmed II.

In response to this, Sultan Mehmed II raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars, and in spring of 1462 headed towards Wallachia.   Commanding at best only 30,000 to 40,000 men,  Vlad was unable to stop the Ottomans from crossing the Danube at June 4, 1462 and entering Wallachia.   He constantly organized small attacks and ambushes on the Turks, such as The Night Attack when 15,000 Turks were killed.  This infuriated Mehmed II, who then crossed the Danube.   With the exception of some Turkish references all the other chronicles at the time that mention the 1462 campaign state that the Sultan was defeated.    Apparently, the Turks retreated in such a hurry that by July 11, 1462 the Sultan was already in Adrianopolis.   According to the Byzantine historian Chalcocondil,  Radu, brother of Vlad III and ingratiate of the Sultan, was left behind in Targoviste with the hope that he would be able to gather an anti-Vlad clique that would ultimately get rid of Vlad as Voivode of Wallachia and crown Radu as the new puppet ruler.

Vlad the Impaler’s attack was celebrated by the Saxon cities of Transylvania, the Italian states and the Pope.   A Venetian envoy, upon hearing about the news at the court of Corvinus on 4 March, expressed great joy and said that the whole of Christianity should celebrate Vlad Țepeș’s successful campaign.   The Genoese from Caffa also thanked Vlad, for his campaign had saved them from an attack of some 300 ships that the sultan planned to send against them.

Vlad’s younger brother, Radu cel Frumos and his Janissary battalions were given the task of leading the Ottoman Empire to victory at all expense by Sultan Mehmet II. After the Sipahis’  incursions failed to subdue Vlad, the few remaining Sipahis were killed in a night raid by Vlad III in 1462.   However, as the war raged on, Radu and his formidable Janissary battalions were well supplied with a steady flow of gunpowder and dinars; this allowed them to push deeper into the realm of Vlad III.   Radu and his well-equipped forces finally besieged Poenari Castle,  the famed lair of Vlad III.   After his difficult victory Radu was given the title ”Bey of Wallachia” by Sultan Mehmed II.

Vlad III’s defeat at Poenari was due in part to the fact that the Boyars, who had been alienated by Vlad’s policy of undermining their authority, had joined Radu under the assurance that they would regain their privileges. They may have also believed that Ottoman protection was better than Hungary.   It was said as well that Radu (through his spies or traitors) found the place where some Boyars’ families were hidden during the war (probably some forests around Snagov) and blackmailed them to come to his side.

By 8 September, Vlad had won another three victories, but continuous war had left him without any money and he could no longer pay his mercenaries. Vlad traveled to Hungary to ask for help from his former ally, Matthias Corvinus.   Instead of receiving help, he found himself arrested and thrown into the dungeon for high treason.   Corvinus, not planning to get involved in a war after having spent the Papal money meant for it on personal expenses, forged a letter from Vlad III to the Ottomans where he supposedly proposed a peace with them, to give an explanation for the Pope and a reason to abandon the war and return to his capital.

Vlad was imprisoned at Oratia, a fortress located at Podu Dâmboviței Bridge.   A period of imprisonment in Visegrád near Buda followed, where the Wallachian prince was held for 10 years.   Then he was imprisoned in Buda.

The exact length of Vlad’s period of captivity is open to some debate, though indications are that it was from 1462 until 1474.   Diplomatic correspondence from Buda seems to indicate that the period of Vlad’s effective confinement was relatively short.   Radu’s openly pro-Ottoman policy as voivode probably contributed to Vlad’s rehabilitation.   Moreover, Steven the Great, a relative of Vlad intervened on his behalf to be released from prison as the Ottoman pressure on the territories north of the Danube was increasing.

The Final Chapter……………
After Radu’s sudden death in 1475, Vlad III declared his third reign in 26 November 1476.   Vlad began preparations for the reconquest of Wallachia in 1476 with Hungarian support.   Vlad’s third reign had lasted little more than two months when he was assassinated.   The exact date of his death is unknown, presumably the end of December 1476, but it is known that he was dead by January 10, 1477.
The exact location of his death is also unknown, but it would have been somewhere along the road between Bucharest and Giurgiu.
Vlad’s head was taken to Constantinople as a trophy, and his body was buried unceremoniously by his rival, Basarab Laiota,  possibly at Comana, Giurgiu, a monastery founded by Vlad in 1461.   The Comana monastery was demolished and rebuilt from scratch in 1589.

In the  19th century, Romanian historians cited a “tradition”, apparently without any kind of support in documentary evidence, that Vlad was buried at  Snagov,  an island monastery located near Bucharest.   To support this theory, the so-called ”Cantacuzino Chronicle” was cited, which cites Vlad as the founder of this monastery.   But as early as 1855, Alexandru Odobescu had established that this is impossible as the monastery had been in existence before 1438.   Since excavations carried out by Dinu V Rosetti in June & October of 1933,  it has become clear that Snagov monastery was founded during the later 14th century, well before the time of Vlad III.   The 1933 excavation also established that there was no tomb below the supposed “unmarked tombstone” of Vlad in the monastery church.   Rosetti (1935) reported that “Under the tombstone attributed to Vlad there was no tomb.   Only many bones and jaws of horses.”   In the 1970s, speculative attribution of an anonymous tomb found elsewhere in the church to Vlad Tepes was published by Simion Saveanu, a journalist who wrote a series of articles on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Vlad’s death.  Most Romanian historians today favor the Comana, Giurgiu  monastery as the final resting place for Vlad Tepes.

 

The Legacy Lives on………….

Even during his lifetime, Vlad III Țepeș became famous as a tyrant taking  sadistic  pleasure in torturing and killing.   He is shown in cryptoportraits made during his lifetime in the role of cruel rulers or executioners such as Pontius Pilate ordering the torture and execution of Jesus Christ,

 or as Aegeas, the Roman proconsul in Patras, overseeing the crucifixion of Saint Andrew.

 Estimates of the number of his victims range from 40,000 to 100,000, comparable to the cumulative number of executions over four centuries of European witchhunts.  According to the German stories the number of victims he had killed was at least 80,000.   In addition to the 80,000 victims mentioned he also had whole villages and fortresses destroyed and burned to the ground.

Impalement was Vlad’s preferred method of torture and execution.  Several woodcuts from German pamphlets of the late 15th and early 16th centuries show Vlad feasting in a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Brașov,  while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims. It was reported that an invading Ottoman army turned back in fright when it encountered thousands of rotting corpses on the banks of the Danube.   It has also been said that in 1462 Mehmed II, conqueror of Constantinople, a man noted for his own psychological warfare tactics, returned to Constantinople after being sickened by the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses outside Vlad’s capital of Târgoviște.

Allegedly, Vlad’s reputation for cruelty was actively promoted by Matthias Corvinus,  who tarnished Vlad’s reputation and credibility for a political reason: as an explanation for why he had not helped Vlad fight the Ottomans in 1462, for which purpose he had received money from most Catholic states in Europe.   Matthias employed the charges of Southeastern Transylvania, and produced fake letters of high treason, written on 7 November 1462.

……..enter the modern day Dracula thanks to the great Bram Stoker………………..

The connection of the name “Dracula” with vampirism was made by Bram Stoker, who probably found the name of his Count Dracula character in William Wilkinson’s book, ”An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia: with various Political Observations Relating to Them”.   It is known that Stoker made notes about this book.   It is also suggested that Stoker may have heard of Vlad through his friend, Hungarian professor Ármin Vámbéry, from Budapest.   The fact that character Dr. Abraham Van Helsing states in the 1897 novel that the source of his knowledge about Count Dracula is his friend Arminius appears to support this hypothesis, although there is no evidence that Stoker and Vambéry (they met twice) ever talked about Wallachian history.


Unlike the fictional Dracula films, there have been comparatively few movies about the man who inspired the vampire.   The 1975 documentary ”In Search of Dracula” explores the legend of Vlad the Impaler.   He is played in the film by Christopher Lee,  known for his Hammer Films productions of Dracula of the fictional Dracula in films ranging from the 1950s to the 1970s.

In 1979, a Romanian film called ”Vlad Țepeș” (sometimes known, in other countries, as ”The True Story of Vlad the Impaler”) was released, based on his six-year reign and brief return to power in late 1476.   The character is portrayed in a mostly positive perspective, though the film also mentions the excesses of his regime and his practice of impalement.   The lead character is played by Ștefan Sileanu.

Perhaps my most favorite reference to this great historical place is from The Rocky Horror Picture Show….

……you remember the marvelous Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N. Furter…..the one from Transexual Transylvania..

…Let’s do the Time Warp again………….oh you forgot the steps…

………….I have to run get out my costume and put on the music…….just for a moment……..

 

………….aaahhhhemmmmm……pardon me………I did digress a bit…..back to Dracula……
I hope you have enjoyed this journey through time to explore a wonderful bit of history, pop culture and the basis for a smashing tourist success for a small town in Romania…

 

Dinner at Ardigna – Salemi, Sicily

Standard

During a recent trip to Sicily, my hosts decided to take me off to an adventure for dinner.  We drove for a couple of hours up these winding, tiny roads………….full of pot holes and parts of the road unpaved.  I was wondering what sort of culinary temple would be nestled up in this dense Sicilian forest and who in their right mind would EVER take the time, not to mention the risk of traveling to this outpost!  It was late at night, around 10 P.M…………remember the Italians love to dine late.   When the headlights shone off the edge of the road and there was nothing but darkness below,

I was reminded of my ride to the rainforest to visit my Aztec friends and wondered why I was alway being put at the edge of the abyss in my life!

After what seemed to be an all night excursion we rounded a corner and entered a parking lot FULL of vehicles!!!  There were others out there who would take this venture……..feeling more confident now!

We found ourselves at an ancient hunting lodge, in the middle of the Sicilian forest on a mountain top! 

The Ardigna was not always open to the public and for years was the private lodge for those who would hunt in these forests.

The interior was so very warm and inviting, the rustic charm so well blended with most incredible smells coming from the kitchen and the smiles of the staff……..


the meal began with a simple knotted bread, with the taste of pretzels and beautiful olive oil……

…oh a light dinner……..I thought…..

…………..and then it began……the virtual tsunami of antipasto………the first a tray of such incredible delights..quail eggs, some obscure meat on a skewer, grilled eggplant, prosciutto, delightful fresh tomatoes, fried mozzarella, olives and several items that were not of my known culinary universe……however they were delightful….

a stew of fresh lamb………..served in ancient copper pots…

………fava beans……….minus the hockey mask……..

…beautiful fresh cheese…

and we are so very, very lucky to have arrived during artichoke season and are rewarded with the most succulent, delightful artichokes……..

then……….oh might I swoon………..gnocci with saffron and pistachio……

followed by more pasta with fresh lamb………

and just when you think you cannot eat another mosel……….comes the platter full of meats that were hunted that day……
venison…….donkey……quail…….goat…..wild boar…..and more………

a most enchanting evening………oh did I mention the wine…….I consumed liters of it……most fantastic!!!

The Ruins of Selinunte – Sicily

Standard
Flag of the Sicilian Region Italiano: Bandiera...

Flag of the Sicilian Region Italiano: Bandiera della Regione Siciliana Sicilianu: Bannera dâ Riggiuni Siciliana Deutsch: Flagge der Sizilianischen Region (oder der Autonomen Region Sizilien) Français : Drapeau de la Région Sicilienne Español: Bandera de la Región Siciliana Português: Bandeira da Região Siciliana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea; along with surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the ”Regione Autonoma Siciliana”

Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean. It extends from the tip of the Apennine peninsula from which it is separated only by the narrow Strait of Messina, towards the North African coast. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, which is the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. 

The earliest archeological evidence of human dwelling on the island dates from 8000 BC. At around 750 BC, Sicily became a Greek colony and fell under the rule of the Normans, the Crown of Aragon, Crown of Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and finally the Bourbons, as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It was united with the rest of Italy in 1860, but a subsequent economic collapse led to  separatism and the emergence of the Mafia, whose criminal activities pose problems to this day. After the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946, Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region.

Selinunte was one of the most important of the ancient Greek colonies in Sicily, situated on the southwest coast of the island, at the mouth of the small river of the same name.   It was founded, according to historian Thucydides, by a colony from the Sicilian city of Megara, under the conduct of a leader named Pammilus, about 100 years after the settlement of that city, with the addition of a fresh body of colonists from the parent city of Megara in Greece.   

The date of its foundation cannot be precisely fixed, as Thucydides indicates it only by reference to that of the Sicilian Megara, which is itself not accurately known, but it may be placed about 628 BCE.   The name is supposed to have been derived from quantities of wild parsley that grew on the spot. For the same reason, they adopted the parsley leaf as the symbol on their coins.


We found the site to be most incredible, in most by the fact that we were the ONLY people visiting it! This is truly one of the most undiscovered beautiful sites on our planet. The majestic ruins were so wonderful to enjoy without the usual rabble of tour guides boasting their ignorance by providing incorrect information.

It was a most impressive, magical, mystical, inspiring and historically overwhelming visit. If you are ever in Italy, you must try to make a visit to this most wonderful place.