The book deals with tourism development and tourists’ interest in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. The book is an edited volume and thus represents a rather eclectic mix of essays, each following an independent thought trajectory from the basic, albeit broad theme set out by the editors.
The dilemma in the book’s title deals with whether Romania should embrace a globally known literature character for tourism marketing, whilst this character is usually perceived in Romania as an affront to history with an impact on Romania’s image as a modern nation. The purpose of the book is not to solve the dilemma but to provide a cultural and historical insight of the Dracula tourism phenomenon. Moreover, the book succeeds in the both the political and historical contextualization of Dracula tourism as it has been operated from its inception in the 1960s till today.
The book is divided in 8 chapters, each of them acting as a stepping stone to a better understanding of the circumstances of Dracula tourism development in its home country, Romania. The analysis is well documented, although the author stated there was a shortage of primary documentary sources, so that he had to use a combination of secondary documentary sources and interviews with the key stakeholders involved in Dracula tourism.
The first chapter presents a conceptual research framework about the relationship between tourism and nation’s identity on the one hand and tourism and literature and film on the other hand. In this context the author places Dracula tourism within the concept of “screen tourism” instead of “film tourism”.
Chapter two presents the fiction of Dracula by describing the character of Bram Stoker’s novel and the place unarguably connected with him, namely Transylvania viewed from a dual perspective: in the Western culture and in Romania.
Chapter three delves deeper into the foundational myths upon which Stoker’s fictional character builds. The so-called “historical Dracula” Vlad the Impaler, the ruler of the Principality of Wallachia and a significant figure in the Romanian Middle Age history, presumably is the origin of the name of Bram Stoker’s vampire.
Chapter four enters into the Romanian realities of the socialist period, providing a good tourism policy analysis and what Dracula tourism meant for the communist authorities of Romania in the second half of the 20th century.
Chapter five focuses on three places that are competing to become Dracula’s castle, although this castle only existed in Bram Stoker’s imagination: Bran Castle, Poienari Citadel and Tihuta Hotel in Bargau (Borgo) Pass.
The following chapter deals with the Dracula tourism in the new political context of Romania, called “post-socialist”, the period from the 1990’s close to the current days. A different political context occurred with a shift from state to private sector involvement in Dracula tourism.
A special analysis for this period is separately presented in chapter seven. It deals with what was meant to be “Dracula Park”, considered by the author to be “one significant attempt by the Romanian state to exploit the commercial possibilities of Dracula” (p. 136). The rise and fall of this state project is critically examined in the chapter.
The book ends with the author’s conclusions on what the future might include concerning Romania’s “unwanted” Dracula problem. Romania could continue to ignore it or take advantage of Dracula tourism for its own benefit, finding a strategy that would meet the demand for such form of tourism but make a clear distinction between the fictional character and the historical character.
Overall, the book provides a thorough assessment of Dracula tourism in Romania and covers mainly the period from the mid 1960’s up to the present days. Actually, one can notice that the period is associated with the great development of tourism not only in Romania but also worldwide. Therefore, the study of Dracula in Romania before mid-1960 is rather scarce. There are only a few facts presented along with some assumptions of the author. I would argue that the author could have delivered more information about Romania’s tourism policy and development during the interwar period also, although one can hardly find any evidence of Dracula tourism in that period. Not to forget that Dracula was also famous back then in the Western world, although to a lesser extent, and this might have played some role in the “scene setting”, so to speak, of later years.
Another practical critique refers to chapter five, “Fiction, History and Myth at Dracula’s castles” which is placed between the analysis of Dracula tourism in the socialist period and the analysis in the post-socialist period. This can somehow make a break in the analysis of Dracula tourism in Romania. Instead, I view this chapter to be better placed after chapter six as it is a particular issue in the analysis. Moreover, identifying Dracula places in chapter five would have required an approach not limited to the socialist period. This is justified by the fact that the last part of the sixth chapter (p. 128-134) also discusses each of the locations which compete for “Dracula’s castle” in the post-socialist period. Maybe this last part of the sixth chapter should have been an extension of chapter five in order to ensure continuity in analysis.
The author is familiar with Romania’s realities and this is evident throughout the book. The reader will have the chance to discover in a gradual manner what Dracula is about and how Romania has been coping with this legend both in the past and in the present. This book can serve as a guide in approaching Dracula tourism as a distinct type of cultural tourism, so anyone interested in this subject can benefit from the author’s research. As a methodical analysis of Romania’s dilemma regarding the capitalization of Dracula for tourism without compromising the history and the image of the country, this book succeeds in enhancing the debate and I do recommend this book.
It can be debated to what extent the book actually serves as a guide book as it does not offer the reader so much of an advice of where to go, what to see and when to do it. Rather the book offers an insight into what Rome is about. In line with this the book is light on text but rich in pictures, all of which show the city and its people from various angles. The visitor looking for information on where to eat, for example, given his or her preferred price range, would therefore probably be better off picking up a Lonely Planet guide. It is of course impossible in any single book to show Rome in its entirety. Indeed to expect such an achievement from any book is quite unfair.
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the most interesting thing about Hundra procent Roma is in a way not what it tells you about Rome but rather the insight it offers into how the city appears to the visitor. A visitor from Scandinavia, to be more precise. Visiting Rome is ‘a dream for many people’. The Rome that appears in this book is sweet and relaxed. Roaming the crowded streets you can almost feel how the half-frozen northerner relaxes little by little and is transformed into a curious ‘flaneur’. Both the pictures and the text reflect very strongly the northern ideal about the relaxed south. Thus Rome is a city ‘filled with intensity, romance and feeling’ and the book invites the reader to ‘see, hear, smell, taste and feel the true Rome’.
So what then is Rome like in the eye of the visitor?
Rome is a sunny place with nice weather. Judging from the pictures in the book, it never rains in Rome and the weather in general seems to be very pleasant. None of the people are wearing warm clothes but neither do they seem to be uncomfortable due to the heat. Rome has almost no houses built since the end of the 19th century and most seem to be much older even. Those who want to explore modern Rome might find some houses dating from Mussolini’s time in the 1930’s or a few constructed for the 1960 Olympics.
In Rome you will either find streets and places which are crowded with people or which have no people or at least very few. The people in Rome seem to be either tourists, who are eagerly visiting the city’s many historical sites, or local people, who are either waiting for something or not in a hurry to get anywhere. Traffic does not seem to be a problem, though parking a car is a potential challenge and it is therefore advisable to drive either a very small car or a scooter.
In general, life in Rome is lived outside of houses. If people go inside it is only for a short time to air their bed sheets from an open window. Then they will have a meal in a restaurant and stroll about to look at things located inside historical buildings. People in Rome who are not tourists (i.e. are not standing and gazing at monuments or historical buildings) seem to be rather old and one is unlikely to meet many children.
This description might spell the true Rome to a visiting Scandinavian. At the same time it is probably a far cry from the true Rome of those who live there. The conclusion however is not that the former is in any way incorrect. Rather the two (and many others) co-exist. To suggest that a book is one hundred per cent Rome is obviously a step too far, but then who would buy a book with the title ‘half per cent Rome’?