A Very Odd Time: Researching a Slovakian Dracula

For some reason, I love writing historical fiction. Or I must, because it keeps happening. At the moment I’m up to the elbows in research for the semi-sequel to The Vampires of Bifurquer Veine Marais, set in France in 1905. The semi-sequel, The Gourmet (or maybe The Gourmet’s Curse? Or The Orange Duck? Not sure yet.) starts that same year in Paris, as Vamps protagonist Hannibal du Noir takes an interlude to research his next job.

But it’s not du Noir who’s starring in this one. Rather, du Noir is staying with a friend, Monsieur Roland Lambert, a chemist. Lambert has heard rumours of a cursed chef. This chef, the Gourmet, is the star attraction of Orava Castle Hotel in the far north Carpathian Mountains (modern day Slovakia) and his cuisine is renowned. His curse? Well, some  may say it’s a blessing: anyone who criticises the Gourmet’s cooking is killed or maimed in a horrible way.

Intrigued, and thinking there may be something supernatural behind the deaths, Lambert urges du Noir to travel to the Carpathians to investigate. Du Noir isn’t interested; rather, he suggest Lambert go himself. If Lambert wants to solve the mystery of the cursed chef he has no choice but to agree … and confront the horrors of Orava Castle alone.

I’m chomping at the bit to get started on this story. It’s been a fortnight of Slovakian cooking, Slovakian castles, Austria-Hungary history, sensationalist horror (think Dracula) and the physics of falling. If it all sounds good to you, here are some pictures to further whet your appetite.

Paris-Place-du-Louvres-4th-June-1906

Firstly, Paris fashion. This is Place de Louvres on 4th June 1906.

Paris, 3rd June 1906.

Paris, 3rd June 1906.

Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 5th June 1906.

Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 5th June 1906.

Pre-WW1 Europe.

Pre-WW1 modern Europe. Note the huge territory included in the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Slovakia is at the north, bordering Poland.

An ethnicity map from 1910, clarifying the layout of Austria-Hungary.

An ethnicity map from 1910, clarifying the layout of Austria-Hungary. The Slovaks are in brown.

Finally something we can understand! The lovely, intimidating Carpathian Mountains.

Finally something we can understand! The lovely, intimidating Carpathian Mountains.

An artist's impression of our main setting, Orava Castle.

An artist’s impression of our main setting, Orava Castle.

1342436751_foto_web_castle_orava_P5034336C

Orava Castle today. In 1868 the castle was turned into a public museum. My alternate history turns it into a hotel instead. Ah, the corruption of greed. As a side note, much of the footage of the 1922 film ‘Nosferatu’ was filmed here. I thought it was quite fitting for another Dracula rip-off.

Bryndza pirohy, traditional Slovak cuisine. Bryndza, sheep's cheese, is one of the most important ingredients in Slovak cooking.

Bryndza pirohy, traditional Slovakian cuisine. Bryndza, sheep’s cheese, is one of the most important ingredients in Slovakian cooking.

Another sheep's cheese dish, and Slovakia's national dish, bryndzove haulsky.

Another sheep’s cheese dish, and Slovakia’s national dish, bryndzove haulsky.

This country has some seriously delicious desserts. This is buchty na pare, a steamed plum dumpling dusted in crushed poppy seeds and sugar.

This country has some seriously delicious desserts. This is buchty na pare, a steamed plum dumpling dusted in crushed poppy seeds and sugar.

And finally, here are two very odd pictures that appeared during research.

The first is this photo, taken in 1916, of a suffragette on a scooter.

The first is this photo, taken in 1916, of a suffragette on a scooter.

And then there's this much weirder news piece for the Paris Baby Raffle. I can't help but think adoption was much easier a century ago.

And then there’s this much weirder news piece for the Paris Baby Raffle. I can’t help but think adoption was much easier a century ago.

So that’s been some of my adventures in historical research. There’s a bit more to do, and then, yippee! The writing can finally begin. It’s true what they say: writing is the easy part. It’s the research and planning that takes major brain work.

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About Anneque D. Machelle

Anneque "Dangerpus" Machelle (rhymes with ranger wuss) is a rebel and a rogue from way out west. Strictly banned from interactions with other human beings, she spends her days amongst molluscs, dogs and lizards, whom she counts as her closest friends.

Posted on July 9, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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