The Romanian government is planing to pump new blood into its stricken tourism industry by promoting its infamous son, Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the mythical Count Dracula.
Dracula draws new blood for Romania
Count Dracula has fascinated people around the world ever since Bram Stoker wrote his book on the bloodthirsty character in the 19th century.
The chilling tale of the legendary vampire has made people aware of the region of Transylvania in Romania. But while the local populace there has had to live with the area's rather dark reputation, they've hardly benefited from it.
But that might be about to change.
The Romanian government now hopes that the country's infamous son might be the key to reviving the dwindling tourism industry.
The medieval town of Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, who inspired the mythical bloodthirsty Count Dracula has won a project to host a Dracula Land theme park.
The ambitious plan involves pumping about 10 million euro into the ailing tourism industry. The theme park is due to open in the year 2004.
Vlad the Impaler: inspiration for Dracula
Dracula is known all over the world. But while most people associate him with the bloodsucking vampire in Brad Stoker's books, few people know that there was actually a real-life prince in the 15th century who was known for his cruelty and savagery - Vlad the Impaler.
Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania which was the temporary home to Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian 16th-century prince who inspired Bram Stoker's fictional Dracula, is seen, Friday, May 26, 2000. Dracula buffs from the United States, Britain, Canada and other countries are currently taking part in an academic congress in Poiana Brasov, Romania, devoted to the vampire legend. (AP Photo/Eugeniu Salabasev)
Historians believe that the brutal prince was not actually a vampire. He earned his nickname because of his penchant for impaling captured Turks and other enemies on stakes.
Vlad's birthplace Sighisoara 300 kilometres north of Bucharest, also known as Schaessburg, is strongly influenced by German traditions dating back to the 12th century when ethnic Germans settled there.
Dracula Land to boost economy
Romania's Tourism Minister Matei Dan is optimistic about the project and believes that the theme park will create about 3,000 badly-needed jobs for one of the poorest countries of Europe.
And he doesn't really need to worry about attracting enough visitors. Dracula has international appeal with several dozen films and plays made on the menacing figure. There are over 4,000 Dracula fan clubs world-wide.
Though designers still haven't finalised the plans for the sprawling Dracula Land theme park, the park will definitely include all the ingredients for a Gothic horror setting - a castle, labyrinths, catacombs.
But the theme park is not just blood and bats and gore.
Much will depend on the imagination of the visitor with several interactive elements forming part of the fun.
Accomodation for visitors and of course the usual Dracula memorabilia - postcards, T-shirts, masks, capes, postcards and the like will be available.
Even a vampirelogy centre for international conferences is in the offing!
Critics fear damage to environment
Though the Romanian government is touting the project as a "tribute to the image of a great Romanian hero", not everyone is enthused about it.
Critics fear that the theme park would lead to wide-scale destruction of the mountainous region around Transylvania and the population of Sighisoara fear a crush of tourists ruining the quaint charm of their medieval town.