Club DracAs the black-cloaked doorman ushers guests past a flickering gas lamp into Bucharest's Count Dracula Club, he pronounces the ominous greeting that met Jonathan Harker in the novel "Dracula": "Enter freely and of your own will." Within, the only wolves, no longer howling, hang on the wall of the Hunting Salon (along with a Carpathian bear), and cobwebs are limited to the basement, reached through a sliding wine rack and housing black coffins-cum-cocktail tables filled with genuine Transylvanian soil. Vlad the Impaler, the 15th century prince who served as model for Bram Stoker's anti-hero, glares at diners in the Medieval Salon, while masks (protection against the devil), pottery and witch dolls, all authentic Transylvanian crafts, cover the walls of the Transylvania Salon. Owner Mircea Poenaru personally chose each item, from service plates to hand-carved furniture and halberds (the latter leased from the Military Museum). Every detail relates to the novel. This 40-seat restaurant features Transylvanian specialities tasty enough to make the count change his diet. As for drinks, clients can sip Dracula's elixir, a vampire's coffin or a transformation. Need we mention that Poenaru is a member of the Transylvania Society of Dracula?

The end of history

Three of the better comments and questions asked of Civil War reenactors, as told to Insider in Manassas, Va., by the Libby Prison Minstrels, a singing group that performs at reenactments:

  • At Gettysburg: "Why aren't there bullet holes in the monuments?"
  • At one Civil War-era fort, there's an airport runway close by. Tourist 1 asked, "Why was the airport built so close to the fort?" Tourist 2: "So they could fly the troops in."
  • At yet another site, a tourist remarked, "Isn't it funny that so many battles were fought in national parks."
  • Night call in Belgium

    The Belgian news agency Belga reported that in the wee hours of Oct. 22, near Louviere, south of Brussels, robbers broke into a bank by driving a bulldozer through its facade. They were unable, however, to pry the bank's safe from its moorings, so they fled empty-handed, leaving the bulldozer behind. No alleged perpetrators were apprehended, but authorities were able to determine that the bulldozer -- and the truck it rode in on -- had originated in France. Now, Insider will admit to being perplexed by the laws of cabotage, but might this not be a violation thereof? If a French-flagged bulldozer calls at a foreign "port," isn't it then required to return to a home port? Or would it be a violation only if the robbers, frustrated at Louviere, had turned the bulldozer around and then paid a call at a bank in, say, Bruges? Either way, we figure people who are willing to jimmy a bank's lock with a bulldozer probably don't worry overmuch about the laws of cabotage.


    Never was a tale of more woe
    Than this of humuhumunukunukuapaua'a,
    Faded Romeo

    fishy-fishy Apologies to the Bard, but the fate of the humuhumunukunukuapaua'a at the hands of the Hawaii Legislature has been nothing short of Shakespearean. The handsome, almost gaudily colored, reef-dwelling triggerfish was voted State Fish by a plebiscite of Hawaiian schoolchildren in 1989, but its term was limited to five years, and when the matter came up again in 1995, the Legislature, facing budget shortfalls, refused to fund another referendum, and the humuhumunukunukuapaua'a's chances for incumbency sank (or, perhaps, floated to the surface). There has been debate ever since, during which opponents of status renewal pointed out that although humuhumunukunukuapaua'a has an appropriately Hawaiian name and is indigenous to the islands, it is not peculiar to Hawaii; it is to be found elsewhere in the South Seas. So this contingent proposed as an alternative State Fish the o'opu, a species of goby that is peculiar to Hawaii, but another faction opposed the o'opu, calling it a "boring brown bottom dweller." (Shades of Al Gore?) Lawmakers were criticized for spending so much time on the fish question, and the bills died, but the Legislature did find time to approve a state designation before this year's session was out. Without controversy, it passed Act 174, which designates surfing Hawaii's State Sport.

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