Tonya, and I, are travelers who’ve seen a strange thing or two.
We’ve trekked through the harsh outback of Australia, traversing the arid ‘red center’ to the tropical lands of the north. We’ve braved the scorching sands of the Sudan and rode camels in Egypt. For ten years now, we’ve traveled the world in a non-stop quest for adventure.
For the last year we’ve been thinking about writing a book on our travels. We’re hesitant however. The problem is we’ve seen some supernatural things that, if we talked about them, might lead the reader to think we’re a couple of loonies. I’m for documenting those encounters with the unknown, but Tonya is worried people won’t take the book seriously if I do. Her argument is that the book would end up in the fiction section, instead of the non-fiction travel section.
She’s agreed to let me tell you about one strange encounter to see what your reaction is. Go ahead, and get comfortable, while I tell you about the werewolf community we met in the Western Carpathians. I believe we were in Slovakia – it could have been Hungary – when we came upon a tiny village in the middle of nowhere.
It was in the spring and we were trekking on foot. Wildflowers paved the hills as we walked along, sometimes spotting a deer, or squirrel, as we enjoyed the sunny day. As we came to a crest of one hill we saw a small village that could have been something out of a guide to 17th century living for peasants. The crude thatched huts sat on both sides of a muddy street. At one end there was a communal well.
A dozen men were working in the nearby fields planting next year’s crop of wheat. Sitting in the front of the only stone building were two old man with long clay pipes watching us with curiosity as we approached.
Tonya, who knows 16 languages, called out to the men. When she picked the right language a lively conversation followed. Their names were Arpad and Nandor. Arpad was the village’s mayor. I was amused watching Arpad talk with Tonya because he had a habit of pulling on his knee-length beard when he got excited. Every now and then Nandor would pipe in for a moment before giving way to Arpad again.
They welcomed us warmly and we ate a meal at the mayor’s house. When we finished Arpad sat down in front of the fireplace and beckoned us to sit near him on a wooden bench. His wife brought us all a small glass of Palinka made from plums.
“We’d be honored if you’d spend the night here. There is no tavern. Tonight is a not a good night to camp out. It’s a full moon,” Arpad told us.
Tonya, whose bolder than I, asked what he meant by suggesting a full moon was somehow sinister?
Arpad looked over at his wife who was quietly knitting. I could tell he was wrestling with something, but he couldn’t quite get it out. Finally, after a long awkward pause, he said there was a pack of wolves nearby that hunted during full moons. I thought it was an odd excuse but moved on when the conversation shifted. It was almost midnight when we went to the bedroom they provided us with.
“Please. Lock your door. Dobrú noc,” Arpads wife said.
Tonya and I both felt uneasy as we got into the bed. Shortly thereafter, we heard a wolf howl. Then another. And another. We sprang from the bed and went to the window in time to see a group of naked men transforming into animals. Wolves to be exact. The process looked agonizing as their limbs twisted and reformed.
The largest of the pack stood up on his hind legs and howled at the moon. Soon they were all standing and howling with great enthusiasm. We noticed a wooden cage near the pack of werewolves. One of them, the biggest and probably the leader, opened the cage and pulled a terrified man out!
The leader then pointed towards a tree line and growled “Go!”
The man broke out into a loping run towards the forest. He was almost there when the leader encouraged the others to go after him. Their animalistic shouts of joy froze Tonya and I’s blood.
We knew there was no where to go, so we resigned ourselves to being in the locked room. Neither of us could sleep as we waited for the sun to rise. At first light we grabbed our backpacks and left the room. Arpad and his wife were already up and sitting at a table drinking dark coffee.
He got up and pulled over two chairs.
“Come eat with us before you go!” Arpad offered.
It was a traditional meal of Slovakian bread with butter, ham, cheese, boiled eggs, salami, vegetables, sausages and honey to round it out. I was surprised how hungry I was and dug in eagerly. The sausage was excellent, the ham tasty, the cheese zesty, the eggs just right, and the bread was fresh and hot.
Tonya wasn’t as hungry and just picked at her food. Afterwards our host wished us good travels and asked a question; “Did you like the sausage? Our hunters were successful last night.”
Somehow, Tonya and I kept from retching. We didn’t want to offend Arpad and end up being served for breakfast ourselves! After our farewells we set out at a quick pace. We weren’t exactly running…but I think it was a record for miles walked in a day for us.
I remember we got within eyesight of Castle Bran (also called Dracula’s castle). It was built on a steep cliff between Magura and Dealul Cetatii. The imposing castle looked down into the Moeciu Valley where we were trekking along.
Tales of Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes) filled out thoughts as we looked for a place to camp for the night. Oh wait! I was just supposed to tell one story.
We had other strange encounters during our travels, and I expect we’ll have more in the future. So, I’ll leave it up to you. Should we document these stories or just talk about good places to eat?
As It Stands, happy travels, my friend!