Obsessed with Romanian vampires and Dracula legends? You may find what you are looking for in this phantomatic isolated 777 years old village of Sapartoc near Sighisoara in Transylvania.
Romanians were never too comfortable with the foreigners coming to Transylvania to hunt vampires, but a Transylvanian gets quite upset if you move your ass to Oltenia to chase the vampire’s brother from a different mother, the strigoi.
We naturally don’t know how to profit from our haunting and scary legends and film locations, otherwise a goldmine from business perspective or if you are obsessed about making thrillers, horror movies, tv shows, and 3D locations designs for gaming industry. We love to chase people away, it’s more like a reflex, so you don’t have to take it personally.
However, this does not stop courageous American producers and travellers to keep coming for the Dracula legend and other creatures who populate the darkness side of the Romanian unseen. So, as long as they keep coming, people like me with a clear identity, but an unclear life pathway, can make a good buck from this bloody business.
As you can see, I am an expert in hunting vampires and strigoi when it comes to tv productions (I also have some knowledge about gypsy witchcraft and serial criminals born and raised in strigoi culture). I don’t have an out of proportion portfolio of productions in these areas (only 4 or 5), but they are enough to make a name on this market, not the kind I had in mind for myself, though.
If you did not know by now, vampires are creatures in love with human experience (they look like humans, right?), while the strigoi is a very angry spirit with only one purpose: to get revenge, to torture you and to make you lose your mind.
Now, that we clarified the difference between vampires and strigoi, I must tell you that my hunting vampires story began in 2011 with a SyFy tv adventure show called “Destination Truth” hosted by Josh Gates.
It was during that production when we discovered the Sapartoc "haunted" village hidden in the heart of Transylvania, somewhere between the hills and with no road for ordinary cars or map to guide yourself, an abandoned, phantom and isolated rural establishment that you can reach only by horses cart, a SUV or 4x4.
Foreigners always ask “Is it legal to drive horse carts on public main roads?” and I always answer “It doesn’t matter, this is not our dilemma around these places.” We all laugh and mind our business, me with operations and logistics, they with taking millions of photos to the millions of horse carts they see on our public streets.
Şapartoc is a tiny 777 years old village in the north of the region known as Colinele Transilvaniei 12 km away from one of Dracula’s home cities Sighisoara, otherwise known as being a piece of land that could be the most unpolluted man-made soil in Europe (according to an article I found on the website Synthesis - Magazine of Culture and Strategic Thinking).
Surrounded by a gorgeous agricultural landscape, Şapartoc is a lost settlement, almost literally, among the hills. No practical route links the locality to the rest of the world. By carriage, the 4 × 4 car, by bicycle or by foot, this very small village can be reached from Sighişoara or from Albeşti commune, on which it depends administratively.
Until the St. Dimitrie Monastery in Aurel Vlaicu, a neighbour village, there are asphalt and two daily minibuses. After the monastery, vaya con Dios! Everyone is on their own: who with the cart, who on foot, who by car off the field. With a small car, the farther can be reached by a forest road that only locals can find out for the uninitiated.
The well-maintained road passes through a splendid hornbeam and beech forest. The rumble of the cart’s wheels scares a pair of knockers on the road. After a few curves, to the right, you can see two goats running in zig zag. In a few seconds, they are lost in the green deserts. At the exit of the forest, on the left is the last house in Sighisoara. Above it is the "Vulcan Cross", the intersection of the road between Vulcan and Sighişoara and the road to Şapartoc.
A trot, of which no one remembers who built it and when, sits at this crossroads, where they seem to be bifurcating two roads to nowhere. Who would find such paths that seems to be explored by animals only?
If it is dry, the road from the Vulcan Cross to Şapartoc can be done in about 30-40 minutes by a lazy town John Doe. Theoretically, it's a communal road, DC 55, but in reality, in some places, it disappears altogether, swallowed by grass. In other places, you can see only the paths dug by hipo or 4x4 vehicles that have made their way here.
First, the road follows a hillside, then cuts a thin forest, and at the end it descends rather steeply.
The first houses of Şapartoc are seen from above, near the forest. On the opposite side, another hill stands above the village, a hilly headdress, to the right two more hills, more quiet, and a forest is glimpsed on the left. Among them, God hid the houses of Sapartoc in a quail. The grass around is greasy and powdery. A concrete fountain, with an improvised wheel in a car rim, gives a rough appearance to the village.
According to the most recent known data issued by the city hall of Albesti, there are only 34 souls living in Sapartoc, but the locals say you cannot find more than 20.
According to a monograph from 2014, made by Cristina Moldovan as a bachelor thesis in the Geography of Tourism at Bucharest University, the demographic decline of the village began during the communist Romania's industrialization. Thus, if in 1966 there were 314 inhabitants, in 1977 they were less than half. In 1992, only 52 people were recalled. The decline continued even after the ’89 Revolution.
From an ethnic point of view, the village was different from the surrounding Saxon settlements, being inhabited by Hungarians, mostly mixed with the Romanians. The name with a funny sound in Romanian derives from the Hungarian name - Sárpatak (Muddy Valley or The Muddy Stream).
Testimonies of ethnic diversity are the three churches in the village. In fact, two-and-a-half, and soon just two, because the reformed church is abandoned and slowly, but surely, transformed into a ruin. Instead, the other two, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, are still kept alive by the occasional services that are here, especially on holidays.
For our production Sapartoc was everything we were looking for to better highlight and recreate our vampires story. It offered us great scenes and sets at all moments of the day and night. The place that mute me was the interior of the old Orthodox Church, something I have never seen in our city churches.
Logistics & Accommodation in Sapartoc village near Sighisoara
At the time we were there, staying overnight in Sapartoc was optionless, so we checked-in in Sighisoara, being also a shooting place for us, as there were many places related with our Dracula narrative.
Today, though, filmmakers and tourists have the option to stay in a rustic settlement (with bathroom outside) at a guy named Radu Moldovan, a 29-year-old agronomist engineer from Sighisoara, who bought four houses in the village.
In 2012, when he bought the first house, he only wanted to plant a household where he could cultivate his own vegetables and fruits. Then, in 2014, he found himself in the back of the house with a group of foreign tourists in a wagon looking for accommodation after crossing the long and wide surrounding area. He had no place to accommodate them, but the idea of "green tourism" spurred in the back of his mind. The first house is already restored, it can offer a modest but authentic accommodation for 4-6 people. Radu cared for the smallest detail that the furnishings, decoration items and all the elements of construction to respect the spirit of the place. For the same purpose, the extra paid TV is masked by a painting.
If you want to shoot here, you have to be well equipped with everything needed, from backup batteries for your cameras and stuff to food, water etc. If you shoot with a very small team, you might solve the accommodation problem, but if your project involves a longer time for shooting, big teams and more complex operations, you have to consider tents and a lot of other things needed to cover your needs in that wild place.
Overall, it is not a comfortable place to shoot in from logistics perspective, but this is what makes it such a beautifully challenging shooting experience.
Business Opportunities in Sapartoc, the wild pittoresque village near Sighisoara
Due to its proximity to Sighisoara, an internationally well-known tourist hotspot and to the variety of sport and other vacational activities that can be done in the area, but mostly to the unique quality of land, eco tourism is the first business that pops up.
Sapartoc is an ideal place for sustainable tourism and organic farming. You won’t easily cleaner soil than here, because it has never been touched by insecticides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The locals are proud that, often, the only unnatural noise that is heard in Sapartoc is the airplane reactors that fly over thousands of feet above. Even the only tractor in the village seems to share this opinion.
The natural frame urges for meditation and reverie, but also for long, step-by-step or bicycle walks. Forests and hills surrounding the village offer the possibility of walking outdoors, air and sunbathing, easy excursions. In the woods there are trails that can be used for walking and hiking, cycling, horse and cart, and for adrenaline addicts, off-road vehicles, ATVs, field motorcycles.
All of the above have in their center the value of the agricultural landscape of the village, preserved intact by geographic isolation and gradual depopulation.
The lack of atmospheric pollution adds to this soil cleaning matrix. Thus, Sapartoc is surrounded by all the sides of the hills, with only one narrow opening to Albeşti, in the valley of the Sapartoc Stream, being obstructed by a forest. In addition, it is located at an altitude of 550 meters, that is higher than all the surrounding areas. It is almost enclosed by forests and hills, and poor industrial pollution from Sighisoara is driven by winds elsewhere.
The abandoned or ruined houses I imagine that are very cheap to buy.
In the spirit of preserving the wild beauty area these type of small businesses are the most inspiring to do there, otherwise there are more things one can do in such a place where only imagination is the limit.
You can read about more such locations at the intersection of film, tourism and new business on Property Fanatic blog, and if you know a great location or own a very special or unique one, you can go to Owner's Area page to upload photos, videos and whatever information you might have.
Partial info & photos source:
"Sinteza – Revistă de Cultură și Gândire Strategică"