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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 01:50 GMT 02:50 UK
Coming soon - Dracula Land
Castelul Bran
Will Dracula Land manage to do a good spooky castle?
Romanian Minister for Tourism Matei Dan has announced that a Dracula Land theme park will be built near the medieval Transylvanian city of Sighisoara.

Dracula's myth exists - we want to package it nicely and sell it to tourists

Matei Dan
Romanian Tourism Minister
The privately-financed tourist attraction will celebrate the 15th century ruler Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, the model for Bram Stoker's fictional anti-hero, Count Dracula.

Vlad Tepes was born in Sighisoara in 1431, and gained his bloodthirsty reputation from his habit of impaling Turkish prisoners alive on wooden stakes.

Vlad Tepes
Vlad Tepes: Model for Bram Stoker's Dracula
It is hoped that when the park is finished in 2003, it will attract one million visitors a year.

As well as being the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, Sighisoara's good transport links were a key factor in the choice of location for Dracula Land.

The northern Romanian city of Bistrita, which appears in Stoker's novel, had also been in the running.

German backing

Mr Dan said he expected German tourists to form the majority of foreign visitors to the park, which is expected to cost $32m.

It is hoped that it will create 3,000 jobs.

Two German firms, Westernstadt Pullman City and Siemens are expected to build and provide the park's infrastructure, with contracts due to be signed shortly.

Westernstadt Pullman City runs an American cowboy theme park in Bavaria.

Sighisoara has strong Germanic traditions, dating back to the 12th century, when German artisans settled in the area.

"Dracula's myth exists. We want to package it nicely and sell it to tourists," said Mr Dan.

He said there are also plans for a Dracula Institute, consisting of several conference rooms and a library.

Life or legend?

Vlad Tepes
Nasty habits: Vlad Tepes had ghastly dinner companions
The myth of Dracula was launched by the 1897 novel of Irish author Bram Stoker.

But Dracula has very little factual connection with Vlad Tepes.

Although Vlad showed extreme cruelty towards his victims, he did not suck blood.

"The connection between the two is very minimal," said Canadian Dracula scholar Elizabeth Miller.

"Will it be ... a tacky theme park with Mickey Mouse ears replaced with Count Dracula fangs? Perish the thought!

Sighisoara has a long German tradition
"I think it can be done and done well. But will it?" she said.

Mr Dan is confident that he has the balance right. "There are some voices in Romania who accuse me of selling a false legend," the tourism minister said.

"But I am a pragmatic man and these critics do not put me off.

"This is a fantastic project," said Mr Dan.

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See also:

21 Mar 01 | Scotland
Tourist board stakes Dracula claim
31 Jul 00 | UK
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Count of the silver screen
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