I’ve decided to come up with a new category for my blog: storytelling. This tag is meant to showcase original, fun and interesting ways that stories are being told besides through books and films.
To first example of great storytelling I want to share with you guys is situated on Castle Hill in Budapest, capital of Hungary. Castle Hill is one of the oldest parts of Budapest and, as the name suggests, is topped with several castles. At the time of King Matthias of Hungary (15th century) , this was the cultural and royal heart of the city. The hill is undercut by a large interconnected cellar system, both natural caves and man-made passageways. In the Middle Ages, the 10-kilometre-long caverns were used as a shelter, harem, basement, hospital and prison. The last implementation is what interests me here. King Matthias used the caves as a prison and torture chamber in the 15th Century, and he was responsible for the imprisonment of its most famous inhabitant ever: Vlad Tepes, better know as Count Dracula.
Vlad was the Voivode of Wallachia (ruler of Wallachia, which is now part of Romania) in the mid 15th Century. The story goes that he was an ally of King Matthias of Hungary in his war against the Ottomans. When visiting the King, he fell in love with the King’s young cousin and they married in secret. It is said that this angered King Matthias so much so, that he turned against Vlad and had him imprisoned for over a decade in the Budapest Labyrinth. Everything Vlad knew about torture and imprisonment, he learned here, underneath Castle Hill. He was eventually released, but by that time, his beloved grief-stricken wife had committed suicide by throwing herself off a tower.
At least, that is the story that is being told in the Labyrinth which you can visit in the Budapest Caves. It costs 2,500 Hungarian Forint per person (about €8) and it takes you about an hour to get through the part of the caves which is open to public. There are several exhibitions going on at once in the Labyrinth: a recounting of an opera with costumed statues and music, architectural and historical exhibitions, a photographic exhibition of cave systems in the world, and, last but not least, the Dracula Chamber. The entrance to the labyrinth can be found on Uri street, Castle Hill (Úri utca 9, Buda, Castle Hill).
The caves are barely lit, and you are handed an old-fashioned oil lamp when entering the dark hallways. As you make your way through the dark caves, you are greeted only by the dripping sound of water and the moving lights of others walking ahead of you. As you make your way through Dracula’s prison, his story, and that of his love, is told through panels on the wall (in English and Hungarian). Walking through the caves, it’s not hard to imagine a desperate Vlad hiding out and slowly turning into the much-feared Count Dracula.
I thought this was such an original and interesting way of storytelling! You are cast out into the dark hallways all alone, with only an oil-lamp to guide you. You have to find your way through the darkness and, along the way, you discover how Dracula spent his time here. Shackles, iron cages and even the coffin in which he slept can be seen along the way, until you end up at his tombstone, guarded over by a terrifying gargoyle. The panels in the hallways tell Dracula’s story and give you a historical background to it.
Carefully walking through the black caves, swinging an oil lamp back and forth to see what’s ahead… Reading about Vlad Tepes, the love of his life, and the cruel King Matthias… Shuddering in the eerie, black labyrinth and barely finding your way out again… If any of this interests you, then I urge you to take a tour in the Budapest Labyrinth. I appreciate a good thriller and I love vampire books, so this was a great experience for me!
So, what do you think? Will you be brave enough to walk through the labyrinth? And if you know of original ways of storytelling, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Happy reading as ever,