CEDAR CITY — Do you enjoy fear? Are you fascinated with things that go bump in the night?
Southern Utah University has you covered as Community on the Go takes flight to Transylvania, Romania and Hungary in October. SUU is inviting community members to travel with experts and explore Eastern Europe through the novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker in a fun, affordable excursion.
“This trip is based on folklore and fear and takes place during Halloween season for added effect,” said trip leader Kyle Bishop, an English professor at SUU and expert in horror literature. “Many of the places that we will visit are undiscovered gems, so we are inviting the community to tour them with us before they become popular.”
From the banks of the immortal Danube River, to the lush farm valleys and mesmerizing mountain peaks of western Romania, to the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, this voyage is sure to excite those who love history and science fiction. In Romania, Bran Castle, more commonly known as Dracula’s castle due to similarities of the setting in Stoker’s famous novel, is a favorite stop for tourists.
The name “Dracula” conjures images of vampires today, but the name was inspired by Vlad Dracul III, who was also known to sign his letters as Dragulya or Drakulya in the late 1470s. Originally meaning “Vlad the Dragon,” in modern Romanian dracul is also known to mean “the devil.” Dracul III, also known as Vlad the Impaler in history texts, ruled Wallachia during three separate reigns from 1448-76. He was known for ruling by fear and would often have those he plundered impaled.
“There is an atmosphere of fear for the trip, but we will also bridge the gap with the history of the real people while visiting buildings and cathedrals that have been around since Vlad’s time,” Bishop said. “The St. Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary, was constructed in the late 13th century.”
The community trip will not be all fear-based, said Patrick Clarke, dean of the School of Integrative and Engaged Learning at SUU. Travelers will also take an off-the-beaten-path tour of the regions surrounding the Carpathian Mountains, also known as the Transylvanian Alps, visiting alpine meadows covered in scores of wildflowers and glacial lakes, or view any of the more than 400 species of animal life exclusive to the area. The Carpathian Mountains are home to one of the largest undisturbed forests in Europe.
“There is a lot about this region that is unique to Europe,” Clarke said. “In the small-town villages and hamlets in between the major cities, there are real people leading real lives, so travelers will also see the rural, unrefined parts of these countries. The historic thermo bathhouses in Budapest are a must for anyone going to Hungary.”
Grant Corser, associate professor of psychology at SUU, will also be leading the trip and provide travelers with information about why we love fear and the things that make our skin crawl.
“We invite those traveling with us to read ‘Dracula’ before the trip,” Corser said. “Then I will provide information about why certain locations in the book make them feel fear and what is happening in their brain when they do.”
Community on the Go trips pair community members with SUU experts for affordable, educational travel to domestic and international destinations around the world. Other trips happening in 2018 include, “Art and Broadway” in New York City in November and “Christmas in the Alps” of Germany and Austria in December. Those who register for Transylvania before May 1 receive a discount.
For more information about Community on the Go trips offered by SUU, visit suu.edu/onthego, call 435-865-8031 or stop by the Office of Community and Academic Enrichment at 136 W. University Boulevard, Suite 003, Cedar City.