Just a few kilometres away from Hotel Castel Dracula in the Borgo Pass, the Associatia Tăşuleasa Social engages in social projects with youngsters and offers them opportunities to help restore the ecological balance of their region. Their work is supported by many volunteer students, especially from Germany, who take a break from university to live on the association's premises and participate in these undertakings. The newest project of Tăşuleasa Social caught our attention because it coinceded with one of our own goals: to establish a safe hiking path between the Borgo Pass and the true location of the (fictitious) Castle Dracula on top of Mount Izvorul Călimanului. Since Spring 2014, Tăşuleasa Social, with the help of 150 volunteers, has cleaned up the track of the historical Via Maria Theresia and put up new signs. The completion of this Herculean task was celebrated by a marathon, mountain biking and hiking event on Saturday 16 August 2014, with approximately 400 participants. After emailing with Tăşuleasa spokeswoman Ana Szekely, Hans decided to take part in this re-opening. Together with Daniela Diaconescu, co-founder of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, and Petre Tutunea, he walked along the restored pathway and interviewed Tăşuleasa staff and volunteers.
According to Ana Szekely, the illegal felling of timber is a major environmental and economical problem in Romania. Every year, 5,000 Million Euros worth of timber are stolen from the forests. For this reason, the lumbering exceeds the authorised quota and in the Borgo and Călimani Mountains, the inhabitants have seen their forests grow thinner over the past decades. One of the Tăşuleasa's initiatives was to plant new trees with the help of volunteers. With the restoration of the Via Maria Theresia, the organization hopes to attract more "green tourists" to the forests and win public attention for the timber theft issue, thus scaring the thieves away, who prefer to operate unnoticed in the deserted woods.
For our readers, this has the agreeable side effect that following Harker's true route to Castle Dracula has become much easier, because at least a part of his journey must have lead along this road; still during the 19th century it was used to transport food and ammunition to the Habsburg frontier watch posts. For the whole region, we think that this kind of projects makes much more sense than creating a Dracula roller coaster park or other cheap thrills, which have nothing to do with Bram Stoker's novel, the history of the county or its recent ecological problems.
www.via-maria-theresia.ro Here is also a project description in English.
Facebook-page of Tăşuleasa Social See our photo gallery on the VMT event.