Harker and the Count: Chapter IV

David Bowles
24 min readMay 6, 2023

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3 May 1893. Curtea de Argeș.

Left Munich at 8:35 P. M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning. I suppose I ought to feel more awe about crossing into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but I spent the morning going over legal documents before being further distracted by a delicious lunch and a stirring conversation with a traveling salesman from Italy.

Fortunately for my weakening willpower, the darkly handsome Italian disembarked in Budapest, leaving me with a lingering smile that I shook from my mind as I focused on the city around us. The second imperial capital seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train. After additional travelers boarded and got settled in, we set forth once more. The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, carried us deep into former territory of the Ottoman Turks, whose rule has left an indelible mark on culture and architecture.

By late afternoon we had come to Szeged, right on the border with Romania. I reflected briefly on the political situation of the region. The world has been watching how the movement toward greater use of Hungarian by the weaker half of the Dual Empire has impacted its various peoples. I have read that this Magyarization has been a failure in Transylvania, whose working-class majority desperately wants to be part of the Regat, the new Kingdom of Romania, where their language and culture are ascendent.

By nightfall we arrived at last in Romania, stopping briefly at Timișoara. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. I asked the waiter, and he said it was “pui cu boia,” the Romanian variant of “paprikás csirke,” a Hungarian dish popular throughout Eastern Europe, which I should be able to get anywhere along the Carpathians.

I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams full of howling wolves. Towards morning I slept and was wakened by the continuous knocking at my door, so I guess I must have been sleeping soundly then. I had for breakfast a sort of porridge of maize flour known as “mămăligă” and eggplant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which Romanians call “vânătă umplută.”



David Bowles

A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. VP of the Texas Institute of Letters.