Luke Spencer went on a quest to trace the steps of Jonathan Harker, the protagonist of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Harker went from Munich to Transylvania to purchase land for a client. While this trip sounds like a fun time, it was also a research project. Bram Stoker never went to Transylvania himself, but he did plenty of research, so Spencer wanted to see how accurate his descriptions were. The first thing he found out was that places that existed (or not) in 1897 aren’t necessarily easy to find today. For one thing, Transylvania is no longer a country, but a region of Romania. And that wasn’t the only name that changed.
My first stop on the vampire trail was meant to be the Hotel Royale, where Harker stayed the night in the old city of Klausenburg. But looking at an atlas today, there is no city by that name.
Located roughly halfway between Budapest, Hungary, and Bucharest, Romania, the city shed the name Stoker knew it by after World War I, when Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of Romania. Today it’s known as Cluj-Napoca, and it’s a bustling, bohemian university town.
The Hotel Royale doesn’t exist today, and maybe it never did. But nestled near the train station is an historic inn that claims to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker. The Hotel Transilvania, located on Ferdinand Street, is one of the oldest in the city, and has been an inn since the Middles Ages.
When the Klausenburg railway station was built in 1870, the venerable old hotel went by another name, the Queen of England—perhaps a regal sounding inspiration for a Hotel Royale.
That was only the beginning. What he found was charming, and even spooky in parts. Read about the retracing of Dracula at Atlas Obscura.
(Image credit: Luke Spencer)