My Bloody Romania: The real Dracula’s Castle

Dateline: Dracula’s Castle, Romania

Wake up people, Leif’s Un-Authorized, Tell-All, Myth-Busting, Ass-Kicking, Hyphenation-Extravaganza is about to begin.

I’m about to provide you with priceless information that will make you a star at your pub’s next video trivia game and possibly get you laid – or at least second base out in the alley – depending on how much beer your victorious answer earns your team.

There are three sites in Romania that are billed as ‘Dracula’s Castle’ in the interest of selling more undead-themed t-shirts and coffee mugs, but only one of them is where Vlad ‘?epe??’ Dracula actually lived, passing his time scaring the living crap out of Turkish invaders during his reign as Prince of Wallachia.

Below are three pictures: ‘Dracula castles’ located at the Tihu?a (Borga) Pass, Bran and Poienari. Can you pick out the real Dracula’s castle?

1.

2.

3.

Let’s get the no-brainer one out of the way first.

Picture Number 1, The ‘castle’ at the Tihuţa Pass, is nothing more than a tourist trap hotel, built in the early 1980s, to siphon just a few more dollars out of die-hard fans of the fictional Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, retracing the journey taken by protagonist Jonathan Harker. Never mind that the building is only 20 years old, it’s unlikely that non-fictional Vlad Ţepeş ever set foot in this region, as it’s clear on the other side of Transylvania, practically in Moldavia, hundreds of kilometers away from Wallachia where he ruled.

Picture Number 2, Bran Castle, is a more realistic option, what with the fairytale turrets, dramatic setting and the fact that it was actually standing when Vlad Ţepeş was beating a hasty retreat through the Transylvanian countryside, but this was not Dracula’s home. It was built by Braşov Saxons in 1382. Ţepeş may have spent the night here after being chased out of his real pad by really pissed off Turks in 1462. More recently, it was home to Queen Marie from 1920 on and a summer chillout out zone for King Michael before the Communists removed him in 1947. In 2006, as part of a program to return property grabbed by the Communists, ownership of the castle was returned to its rightful heir: Dominic Habsburg, the grandson of Queen Marie, now a New York-based architect who immediately decided to cash out and sell the place. After Romania failed to get the funds together for a first-option offer, Habsburg placed the castle for sale to all comers. The castle was still on the market at the time of writing.

Picture Number 3, Poienari Citadel, is obviously the real home of Vlad Ţepeş, built by miserable, soon to be skewed, Turkish prisoners in 1459. Ţepeş had barely gotten comfortable before he was driven off by Turkish reinforcements in 1462. A large part of the structure fell down the mountain in 1888. What remains is a rather small cluster of head-high ruins, somewhat disappointing on their own, but enriched by the mountaintop setting and the 1,480 spirit-sapping stairs one needs to endure to access the site, which must have been a real bitch for those Turks to climb back when it was just a dirt path while loaded down with stones, bricks and buckets of mortar.

I’d been to Poienari Citadel once before during my LP research trip, but it was March. The mountain was somewhat fogged in and covered in snow, so my pictures didn’t nearly capture the essence of the place.

%Gallery-7242%

After tutting at yet another unsightly pile of rubbish left by previous visitors at the base of the hill (via purchases made at nearby refreshments stands whose proprietors seemed perfectly content to let the garbage their dealings generated pile up to the heavens), the Little Vampire and I got started slowly plodding up the hill. Both of us being wretchedly out of shape, we rested often, while keeping our eyes on an idiotic family ahead of us that had opted to bring their dog on the trip, who was scampering around in the brush, causing dozens of mini-avalanches that bounced debris down the hill all around us.

Once at the citadel, we lingered, taking in the expansive view, snapping numerous gratuitous pictures of my butt and contemplating which hole was probably Vlad’s toilet. Though it’s awfully pretty on a clear day, there’s really not much else to do.

The walk down was no easier, quadriceps burning and nearing the failure point much of the way. Gingerly easing our spasming legs back into the car, we headed a few minutes up the road to the Lake Vidraru Dam, a worthwhile stop if you’re passing by if only to get a vertigo-inducing look over the side and, if you’re none too comfortable with heights like I am, maybe gauge how far vomit can fall before vaporizing.

Leif Pettersen, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, co-authored the current edition of Lonely Planet’s Romania and Moldova. Visit his personal blog, Killing Batteries, for more Romania trivia, hastily researched history and pictures ostensibly of tourist sites that happen to feature his tushie.

My Bloody Romania: Not your ordinary Arge

Dateline: Curtea de Arge??, Romania

Do you ever have that dream where you’re just traveling along from town to town for weeks on end, meeting people, visiting arresting sights and all of a sudden you realize that you forgot to put on pants before you left America? And when you try to run back to America, gonads only barely cupped in one hand, suddenly you’re running in slow motion and Euro-political activists are jumping in front of you and going “No really, how the f*ck did Bush get re-elected? Are you guys retarded or what?”

Totally.

Another freaky thing that occasionally happens to me on the road is that I’ll arrive in an ostensibly ho-hum city, and it really is ho-hum, but there’s something about it that tweaks my aesthetic radar and I come away with an inexplicable affection for the place. I had that reaction to Curtea de Arge??.

%Gallery-7342%

When I first visited Curtea de Argeş 18 months ago on my LP research trip, I was struck by how well organized it was (un-Romanian-like helpful signs abound), the kind, laid back people, the few, yet above average sights and, by my estimation, the best value accommodations in all of Romania. (That’s right, six commas in one sentence. You wanna make somethin’ of it?)

The Little Vampire and I rocketed into town well ahead of schedule what with us having no reason to linger on the fog-covered Făgăraş Mountains. Deftly negotiating the easy to navigate, well-signed streets (that’s the first and last time you’ll hear me use those words in connection with a Romanian destination), we pulled into one of my favorite pensions in all of Romania, Pensiunea Ruxi, unpacked and relaxed a bit before heading out for a tour.

Minutes later we were meandering in and around the atmospheric grounds of the tiny Episcopal cathedral (1526, refurbished from near-ruins in 1875) and adjoining monastery, ogling the cathedral’s interior ornamentation and the tombs of Wallachian/Romanian rulers Neagoe Basarab, Carol I and wife Elizabeth, and King Ferdinand and Queen Marie.

A short drive down the road is Curtea de Argeş’ other primary, man-made attraction: the Princely Court. The ruins of the 14th century palace are well-maintained (i.e. someone goes around from time to time and picks up the beer cans), if slightly moribund, but the church of the same era is still perfectly intact, including the extraordinary, never touched-up frescos covering every square inch of the interior.

Apart from the fairly dull County Museum and strolling the length of the town’s busy, but pleasant main street, that’s about all there is to do. You can see it all in about three hours at the laziest of paces. Like I said, ho-hum. Yet, strangely charming.

The next morning after a lovely, gut-busting breakfast in the living room at Pensiunea Ruxi, the cinematically beautiful weather inspired us to take another crack at the Transfăgărăşan Road. We theorized that maybe if we hit the mountain later in the day, the sun would have time to burn off all that moist fog and we’d have a better chance at seeing the lake and waterfall.

Leaving Curtea de Argeş at the dawdling hour of 11am, we wound through the uneventful and dreadfully paved Argeş Valley for 40km, frequently passing yet more brand new lodges and pensions as well as picnic areas peppered with years worth of trash. We hit the mountain just after noon and yet again wiggled up the twisty ascent, this time with a lot more company in the form of tourists and dump trucks that I hoped were loaded with material to patch the valley road.

As we neared the summit, still under a glorious cloudless sky, God must have realized what we were up to and, I imagine, nearly broke his neck grappling for his Blackberry to message Mother Nature. He probably fired off his instructions just as we entered the tunnel, she received them, hit a few buttons on the remote with seconds to spare and we emerged into, yes, even worse fog than the previous day.

Creeping through freakishly bad visibility, we managed to locate the edge of the lake about two feet before the wheels got wet and dutifully took a photo of the eerie nothingness before getting back in the car and inching down the mountain, demoralized. (For the record this is what the lake looks like on a clear day)

After his howling Screw Leif Orgasm, God must’ve stepped out for a smoke just as we once again passed Bâlea Cascada, because the fog suddenly cleared and there was the waterfall off in the distance, plain as day. We scrambled up alongside the cascading water for a mile or so, but time prevented us from covering the entire distance up to the bottom of the main falls. We had dinner reservations in Braşov at 7pm at a popular restaurant. Having eaten there before, we knew damn well that our table took priority over any waterfall. Waterfalls are a dime a dozen in Romania, honest-to-Buddha chips and salsa are not.

Leif Pettersen, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, co-authored the current edition of Lonely Planet’s Romania and Moldova. Visit his personal blog, Killing Batteries, for more insider info on disastrous Romanian interpretations on foreign cuisine – e.g. ‘salsa’ = ketchup, ‘orange juice’ = orange Fanta and ‘spicy’ = salty.

My Bloody Romania: The Transf

Dateline: Tooling around the Transf??g??r????an Road, Romania

Nicolae Ceau??escu, Romanian dictator for 25 years, was a clown at best and a cruel, brutal sonofabitch at worst. His homely wife Elena was just the same, with the additional failing of being dumber than goose ca-ca. When the two were executed by firing squad on Christmas day 1989, it was a mercy killing. Had I been in charge – Wow, I utter that phrase a lot! – the two, perpetually in shackles, muzzles and dunce caps, would have been forced to travel the country, yoked to giant carts from which they would personally distribute their belongings and wealth to the people of Romania, particularly to the tens of thousands victims and their families who were imprisoned, tortured and murdered over the years.

Having completed that, they’d be dispatched to clean the bathrooms in Bucharest’s Gara Nord train station (still yoked for form’s sake) for the rest of eternity and live in a glass barn, complete with gastro-intestinally prolific livestock, placed smack in Bucharest’s Pia?a Victorei so the public could view their wretchedness 24 hours a day and freely bombard the walls with rotten fruit and vegetables. Ah, sweet vengeance.

%Gallery-7191%

Ceauşescu had an affinity for megalomaniac projects that were usually expensive and always catastrophic. Stunning ramifications ranged from environmental disasters (trying to drain the Danube Delta and turn it into an agricultural region) to creating an astonishing two hundred thousand-strong stray dog epidemic in Bucharest (Palace of Parliament). What he was over-compensating for we dare not presume, but if there was any woman in modern history that would have fallen for the “No really, you have to see it in the right light – I swear it’s nine inches” shtick, it was Elena Ceauşescu.

That said, of all Nicolae Ceauşescu’s brainless, monumental, money pit projects, only one remains useful and, dare I say, admired. I speak of the Transfăgărăşan Road, Romania’s highest asphalt road, winding over the Făgăraş Mountains, connecting Transylvania to Wallachia.

Billed by my own LP guide as “an unforgettable experience behind the wheel”, the road was born not surprisingly out of one of Ceauşescu’s many paranoid episodes, wanting to secure a Carpathian crossing in case of Russian invasion (as had happened in Czechoslovakia in 1968). Ceauşescu sent in the army to tackle job, which they did in just four and a half years (38 fall-down exhausted soldiers reportedly died in mishaps during construction), opening in September 1974.

Weather restricts access to the road to roughly May to October, which is why I didn’t make this drive during my LP research trip (March), which, in retrospect, was a blessing as my Dacia’s brakes weren’t fit for door-stops.

The north (Transylvania) side, where the Little Vampire and I started early one morning, is indisputably the highlight. Scarfing a running breakfast on our way out of Sibiu before the Caucus of Organized, Devout Non-Atheists could re-take the streets for another day of closed-door cultish dealings, we turned off Highway 1 (E68) after about 40km. We meandered past a few villages and strings of brand new, EU-friendly, ambitiously priced lodges and pensions scattered throughout the countryside, before starting the crawl up a wicked series of zig-zag roads, requiring constant heel-toe action with the clutch and accelerator.

I expected that the dizzying drive would be somewhat sullied by some Romanian asshat driver riding two inches from my fender the whole way (there always is), shrieking curse words, frothing at the mouth and punching the ceiling because my interminable presence was delaying him by vital seconds to get to nowhere in particular. But the mountain was deserted. We only saw one other car during the entire ascent, possibly because everyone else had gotten a load of the morning weather report and prudently gone back to bed.

As the tree-line started to thin and we approached our first objective, Bâlea Cascada (Bâlea Waterfall), our now familiar weather misfortune burned us for the third day in a row. The mountain became enshrouded in a fog so thick and creamy you could’ve mixed it in parmesan and poured it over pasta. Apart from a few fleeting breaks in the fog, visibility was ridiculously low. So low that I didn’t see a flock of 400-500 galloping, wild-eyed sheep until an instant before they’d surrounded the car.

The Little Vampire screamed. I groped for the camera and courageously jumped out of the car for pictures when it seemed safe. The hoard continued for a minute or so, finally trailed by a few dogs and some shepherds that looked like they’d been up the mountain all summer equipped with more ţuică than soap. As they trotted by, one beseeched me for a cigarette, showing patent skepticism when I indicated that I don’t smoke, before they continued the chase down the mountain, tormenting the flock’s stragglers. I watched them disappear into the fog. Suddenly alone, I looked down and saw that I was standing on a carpet of raisin-sized sheep turds. The car floor was never the same again.

Minutes later we were at Bâlea Cascada. Barely able to discern the lodge/restaurant through the fog from the parking lot 10 meters away, it was evident we would not be viewing the falls on this visit. We retired to the bar for a surprisingly good coffee, vainly lingering in the hopes of this epic fog lifting, but it was useless. This was the kind of interminable fog foretold in the Apocalypse and believe me when I say it was Apocalypse Now.

Back in the car, we chugged up to, and right past, Lake Bâlea at the road’s peak (2,034 meters/6,671 feet). That’s how bad the fog was. We not only missed a whole lake, but the signs too. After plunging though a nearly one kilometer long tunnel we emerged onto the less striking south side of the mountain and… beauteous sunshine. One tiny tunnel separated a cotton-ball hell from Eden. Unfortunately, Eden was patently lackluster.

Leif Pettersen, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, co-authored the current edition of Lonely Planet’s Romania and Moldova. Visit his personal blog, Killing Batteries, for additional tips on creative vengeance and how a non-existent God somehow manages to biblically screw him so often.

My Bloody Romania: Sibiu, slippery when wet

Dateline: Sibiu, Romania

Sun, warmth and temperature perfection; that pretty much sums up the first 48 hours of my Vladling road trip in Transylvania. At exactly 48 hours, one minute and 15 seconds, Romania suffered a freak, only-when-it’s-me, inclement weather zap. The temperature dropped 20 degrees Fahrenheit, fog rolled in and it rained like hell. Parts of eastern Romania were under water in a matter of hours. Nothing dreadful like that happened in Sibiu, but it was still a cruel turn of events after all that driving.

Our driving day between Târgu Mure?? and Sibiu could have gone smoother. Romania’s lethargic commitment to signage, accurate or otherwise, turned a two hour drive into four, including a maddening, looping tour of Sibiu’s commercial district while trying to outwit signs and deviously placed one way streets that circled the historic center, but never actually led to where they promised.

%Gallery-7186%

Oh look! A copy of the Lonely Planet! Where did that come from? Sure I'll sign it for you. How embarrassing.The Little Vampire and I frittered away the vast majority of the 30 minutes of sunshine that Sibiu enjoyed on our only full day in town lingering over coffee and following around a German couple carry my LP guide to Romania and Moldova – the first sighting of the book in a non-controlled setting. After that brief encounter with comfort and dryness, we exclusively saw the city from the insides of cafes and restaurants, darting and shivering from patio umbrellas to covered building entrances and generally wishing our little hearts out for it to stop pouring just long enough for us to run back to the car (it never did).

Nevertheless, Sibiu was nice to look at – all polished and redecorated for their spotlight year as a European Capital of Culture. Had we the proper cold and moisture resistant clothing, the city certainly looked primed for a good stroll. A police presence stronger than I’ve ever seen in Romania was out, manning virtually every street corner and wandering the plazas in twos, waiting for someone to make their collective days. And when no one did, they actually made themselves useful, directing traffic and even helping drivers find parking spots. Seeing as how my history with Romanian police mainly consists of them staring a hole into me as I drive through town, scanning my driving/car for any excuse to pull me over and shake me down for a bribe, seeing all this goodwill was a little creepy quite frankly.

When it’s not hypothermia weather, Sibiu deserves two full days to take in its worthwhile sites and architecture, including the abundance of the city’s atmospheric ‘eyelid’ windows. The trifecta of plazas – Piaţa Mare (Large Plaza), Piaţa Mica (Small Plaza) and Piaţa Huet (The What Now? Plaza) – are newly cobblestoned and enriched with artistic flairs like modern art and creative landscaping. The southeast remnants of the lovely 16th century city wall are a time travel trip, if you can ignore the Dacias and Peugeots parked alongside it. A number of sights, including the Brukenthal Museum, “the oldest and (likely) finest art gallery in Romania”, the City History Museum and the Franz Binder Museum of World Ethnology are all excellent. We gave it a miss due to the weather and since I’ve already seen several just like it, but the Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization, 5km south of town, has a staggering 120 traditional dwellings, mills and churches painstakingly trucked in from around the country. And though I was barred entrance by God’s Securitate, it’s probably safe to assume that the tourism office is first-rate.

Oh right, possibly the main reason everyone was on their best behavior was that Sibiu had been overrun by a Caucus of Organized, Devout Non-Atheists. The Non-Atheists verily locked out the remainder of Sibiu’s tourists for the week, commandeering the tourism bureau, filling every bed in town (we were forced to book beds in a village 15 kilometers away), monopolizing all worthwhile sights and even somewhat rudely turning us Non-Non-Atheists out of the warm and dry Evangelical Church, without so much as a glimpse of the ornamentation or the 1772 organ with 6002 pipes, into the freezing pouring rain, while they slaughtered goats or whatever it was they were doing that required total privacy and air-tight security.

Lastly, a small health problem was finally addressed in Sibiu. After dining in Restaurant Leo in Târgu Mureş (LP-listed, by the way) two days previous, I’d started on an involuntary strict regimen of racing to the toilet every 90 minutes to do unspeakable things that rhyme with “doop my ducking drains out”. When it became clear that this was the kind of food poisoning that doesn’t just eventually work itself through the system, I made a stop at a pharmacy to buy an antidote (‘Furazolidon’ for those of you who find yourself in a similar situation on your next trip to Romania). And, for the record, when the pharmacist asks you how many you want, she literally means how many pills. If you say “five”, she busts open a package, whips out a scissors and cuts up the tabs. Try that at Wallgreens! I was instructed to take two pills right away, which turned my pee a delightful color of reddish-orange. ‘Delightful’, that is, if it were being served in a heaping glass of ice next to a pool on Mallorca. Rather alarming when it comes out of your doodle. Ultimately, the pills did the trick and I was never forced to take an emergency poop by the side of the road, which I’ve never had to do in 37 years and hope to avoid for another 37.

Leif Pettersen, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, co-authored the current edition of Lonely Planet’s Romania and Moldova. Visit his personal blog, Killing Batteries, for expanded coverage on his gastrointestinal peculiarities and further groanings on why, oh why, is it so f*cking difficult for Romanians to put up a sign? Just one bloody sign, for Christ’s sake? I’m not asking for the world here, just an effing sign pointing to the center of town! I mean do these asshats want tourists to visit their damn town or what? Mother of God…

My Bloody Romania: ‘Vladling’ in Transylvania

Dateline: Târgu Mure??, Romania

The first incarnation of my online blogging presence was called Every Notable Patch of Grass in Romania. The title was apt, as I had already lived and traveled in Romania for nearly a year and was about to embark on my Lonely Planet research trip to canvas the more obscure tourist sites in the country normally frequented by truckers, drunken businessmen and truant teenagers. I had to change my blog’s title to Killing Batteries when I moved out of Romania last year (it was either that or “The No Effing Way I’m Spending Another Winter Here Chronicles”). Despite my former blog’s authoritative title, I didn’t exactly see every notable patch of grass due to inclement weather, the time-space continuum and acute Vengeful God-itis, a terrible affliction that I contracted in my late teens after I was tricked into juggling at a pro-life rally for Christian teenaged girls (the dick jokes did not go over well) and have suffered from almost continuously ever since.

Since I very nearly hold the dubious honor of Best Traveled Romania Tourist Ever, I decided to pad my numbers a bit and knock off a few more destinations this week, most notably Sibiu, a 2007 European Capital of Culture.

%Gallery-7187%

Let’s just get this out of the way: I hate driving. It’s not that I’m a bad driver – indeed I can parallel park a car at an Olympic level – it’s just never been fun for me. This may have something to do with the fact that I’ve never driven anything fancier than a Honda Civic hatchback, but that’s the situation nonetheless. Furthermore, I’m filled with manifest dread at the mere thought of driving in Romania. As a whole, these drivers are bat$hit crazy. It’s a nationwide phenomenon and common knowledge among the natives (stories appear on the BBC once a month or so about some idiotic, totally avoidable multi-fatality accident like this one), but they don’t care.

I’ve already written at great length about the reality of driving in Romania and although that rant is still largely true, I have to grudgingly admit that the situation has noticeably improved. Rumors of cops cracking down on jackass driving started a year ago and I figured it was just talk to appease EU officials agonizing over last minute membership details that would fall on deaf ears anyway. But sure enough, the number of people driving like they’re 30 seconds from giving birth has dropped and conspicuous drunk driving along with it. Though $hitfaced staggering around town still seems to be all the rage, as we saw in a village less than 30 minutes after departing on our trip. Some guy decided to step out, stinking drunk on a Monday morning, shirtless and in the rain, weaving down the middle of a busy national road. Sadly, I was too slow with the camera to capture this classic Romania countryside moment.

Despite improved conditions, over the course of the seven day road-trip I was involved in three near-fender benders, saw one non-fatal van roll-over, observed a mere two people making prudent use of their rearview mirrors (both tourists from Germany) and only feared for my life once when I honked at a lunatic who nearly caused a five car pile-up, who screamed incoherently at me and tried to spit on my car as he drove off. These people honk at each other 25 times before breakfast, but honk at someone to express displeasure about their dangerously incompetent driving and you better be ready to trade blows, brother.

I was joined on this road adventure by my Co-Pilot, Photographer and Translator When It Gets Too Hard For Me Or I’m Feeling Lazy: ‘The Little Vampire’ (not her real name – she won’t tell me what it is because “you’re a pervert.”).

Since the distance from Iaşi to Sibiu is prohibitively long, even for people who love hours behind the wheel dodging livestock, horse carts, suicidal drivers and escaped winos, I chose to break up the drive and stop for a night in Târgu Mureş. Spine-tingling it ain’t, but Târgu Mureş is nevertheless a perfectly nice place to hang out for a day. Their elongated, agreeably manicured Piaţa Trandafirilor (‘Rose Plaza’, which is indeed rosey) starts slow with a ho-hum concrete cathedral (1934) at one end, then builds with a series of Habsburg-esque buildings lining both sides of the piaţa and ends strong with the side-by-side color-coded Palace of Culture and County Council Building.

The city has an even mix of ethnic Hungarians and Romanians which has historically been a sore spot. Ceauşescu, a legendary loather of Hungarians, actually closed the city to Hungarians while he was in power. Even as late as 1990, the post-Communist government, little improved on Ceauşescu’s halfwit approach to domestic policy, brought in ethnic Romanian peasants from the countryside armed with their farming tools to (successfully) engineer a bloody race riot, which was then officially blamed on local Roma (gypsies). Among other things, local Hungarian poet was attacked by a mob that tried to gouge out his eyes. Good times.

Apart from the city’s modest museums and aesthetic beauty, Târgu Mureş started blipping on backpacker radars (and the current LP) in 2006 when it became the first city in Romania serviced by a budget airline: Wizz Air. In the ensuing year, budget airlines have exploded here (I’ve posted a complete breakdown here), with flights zapping in from all over Europe on Blue Air, MyAir (Motto: “Schedule? What schedule?”), and German Wings, with flights starting soon on EasyJet (beginning October 29th) and Ryan Air (date yet to be released).

As a footnote, Romania recently threatened to ban Wizz Air from its airspace for chronic tardiness, ineptitude and horrid customer service. Hmmm, those traits sound familiar. Oh, and I see Delta Airlines flies into Bucharest! How embarrassing would it be for Delta to be banned by Romania? Ooo. I think I just had a tiny orgasm.

%Gallery-7188%

To break up the drive even further (and because we didn’t really have a choice), we made a quick stop at Bicaz Gorge, a short, but dramatically plunging crevasse that climaxes at the “Neck of Hell” where the accident-waiting-to-happen gorge wall hangs over a busy road. Though I’ve spared you the photos, the road both before and after the bottom of the ravine has 20-some souvenir stands selling identical crap for identical prices. Who says small business competition is dead?

Leif Pettersen, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, co-authored the current edition of Lonely Planet’s Romania and Moldova. Visit his personal blog, Killing Batteries, for further ponderings on why God hates him and where one can pick up a Dracula ashtray for cheap.