Romania to build Dracula themepark
BUCHAREST, Romania -- The medieval Transylvanian city of Sighisoara has won the right to host a multimillion dollar Dracula Land theme park.
Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, who inspired the mythical bloodsucking count, defeated other Romanian cities to win the project, government spokesman Claudiu Lucaciu said on Sunday.
Sighisoara, 300 kilometers (180 miles) northwest of Bucharest, won the $34.7 million project because of its proximity to an airport, an international train line and a highway, authorities said.
Some of the money will be used to restore the city's 15th century fortress and ramparts.
"We are trying to rebuild this historic city and furthermore revive the tourist industry," Lucaciu told the Associated Press.
"Many people are very interested in knowing about Dracula."
Vlad, a 15th century prince, earned his nickname because of his penchant for impaling captured Turks and other enemies on stakes.
His birthplace in the city is now a restaurant.
Sighisoara, also known as Schaessburg, is strongly influenced by German traditions dating back to the 12th century when ethnic Germans settled there.
Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon said the theme park will create about 3,000 jobs and the project is expected to be completed in 2003.
The city of Bistrita, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Bucharest and which features in Bram Stoker's 1897 Dracula novel, was one of the contenders.
Authorities there said they were bitterly disappointed to lose the bid that could have created badly-needed jobs.
A Dracula theme park would have been impossible a little more than a decade ago under communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, himself nicknamed "Vampirescu" by Romanians for economic policies that sucked the country dry during 25 years of rule.
But these days, Dracula tourists visiting the country buy T-shirts, postcards, paintings and ceramic figures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
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