BUCHAREST, Romania -- Literally speaking, Romania's capital might
not be Dracula country, but restaurateur and tour operator Mircea
Poenaru has transformed an elegant early 20th century home into
Count Dracula's Club.
What's more, the Count has his own resting place, complete with
native soil, in the cellar lounge, from which he rises several
times a week to mingle with his guests.
As diners sip such concoctions as Transformation, Elixir Dracula
and Transylvania Night or sample continental and traditional
Romanian dishes, including game specialties such as quail, pheasant
and wild boar, the lights dim and the air seems to chill.
Guests in the know grab cameras and head down the narrow
stairway, through a secret door (a moveable wine rack), and into
the cellar chapel.
If they're quick, they might catch the Count pushing past the
cobwebs covering his coffin's lid to check what's for dinner.
First, he pauses at the English pub, perhaps to reminisce over
pictures of the boat that brought him to England, where he met his
true love, Mina.
Before mounting the stairs, he glances in the adjoining library.
As Bram Stoker, creator of the fictional Count, has told us, books
are Dracula's friends.
But entertaining guests is more important at the moment, so
candelabra in hand, he continues toward the three dining
Reaching the Medieval room, complete with armor, halberds, an
iron chandelier and heavy silver-plated serving plates, Dracula
greets his sometimes startled guests but declines a seat.
"I've dined already," he tells them (a la Stoker).
Moving about the room, he studies a portrait of his real-life
namesake, Vlad Tepes, and speaks of this fearful but courageous
15th century prince whose father had been awarded the Order of the
Dragon and thus, the name, Vlad Dracul.
Always the thoughtful host, the Count next visits guests in the
Here, the decor, from the hand-carved wooden chairs to the
ceramic plates, masks and witches that line the walls, pleases him
mightily, for every detail is faithful to his home province of
Dracula recounts tales of his native land and his castle high in
the Carpathian Mountains' Borgo Pass. At the door of the Hunting
Salon, he hesitates, a wistful expression on his face.
As he listens to the howling of wolves and stares at the bear,
wild boar, wolf and mountain cat pelts on the walls, the Count
recalls hunting parties near his mountain home.
"Listen to the children of the night. What music they make!" he
exclaims, quoting, as always, his 19th century creator.
But the tinkling of a diner's silverware disturbs his reverie.
Resuming his role as host, he inquires of his guests, "Do you
prefer to hunt or be hunted?"
As sentimental music wafts from an ancient gramophone, Dracula
becomes distraught, for it reminds him that Mina plans to marry
With a swirl of black cloak and long white scarf, the Count
takes his leave, in hopes that the dark streets of Bucharest will
provide solace for an aching heart.
Transylvanian ambience lives on in capital
BUCHAREST, Romania -- Count Dracula Club's 1997 opening became a
Bucharest event. Radio announcers tracked the advance of Dracula's
horse-drawn coach as it advanced across Transylvania toward the
As the gypsy driver (true to the novel) brought the coach to a
stop before the restaurant's torchlit entry, waiters removed boxes
filled with Transylvanian earth and carried them into the
Soon the Count, in the person of a well-known Romanian actor,
rose to join his first guests.
When owner Mircea Poenaru is on the premises, he willingly
explains the significance of each object to interested guests.
Clients also might ask him to recount the adventures and mishaps
leading to opening night.
For example, he first found a coach belonging to a film studio,
but it fell apart when the horses ran with it. Visits to area farms
turned up plenty of wagons, but these were hardly proper vehicles
Refusing to give up, Poenaru remembered the old funeral coaches,
once a familiar sight.
Following leads from the city's cemetery administration, he
unearthed a coach originally designed for carrying priests who led
funeral processions. Thus, three days before opening night, the
Count had wheels.
Clients without a coach can reach Count Dracula Club, situated
at 8A Splaiul Independentei St. on the banks of the Dambovita
River, by taxi. It also is an easy walk from many Bucharest
When making reservations, check if Count Dracula will be awake
that evening. For English-speaking groups, he will relate his tales
A three-course dinner ranges from $12 to $25.
E-mail the Count Dracula Club at [email protected].