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    MWR offers unique opportunities to service members abroad

    MWR offers unique opportunities to service members abroad

    Photo By Capt. Sarah Burns | Approximately 80 service members from the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy currently...... read more read more



    Story by 1st Lt. Sarah Burns 

    U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe and Africa     

    MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU, Romania – “I am sorry to disappoint you, but Vllad III, or Dracula as he is commonly referred to as today, maybe passed through this castle once in his life,” explain Tina, the tour guide for the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base Morale, Welfare and Recreation weekend trip, Feb. 21 and 22.

    The 80 service members from the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy currently deployed as the Black Sea Rotational Force, and U.S. Army soldiers with the Black Sea Area Support Team, who signed up for the overnight trip hardly expressed any disappointment in the news.

    Thanks to the MWR, the service members were able to spend the weekend learning about the history and culture of Romania while visiting Peleș Castle and Bran Castle.

    “I'm very glad we were able to capitalize on this opportunity and see different parts of Romania,” said Cpl. Ryan Gilmore, a U.S. Marine with Black Sea Rotational Force. “This trip really opened my eyes to the history and culture of this country.”

    The first historical stop on the trip was the Romanian royal family’s summer home, Peleș Castle. Nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, the castle is a work of art. Completed in 1914, the Neo-Renaissance home was built fully equipped with electricity, an elevator and even a vacuum cleaner. King Michael I, the 93-year-old Romanian monarch, still frequents this castle in the summer months.

    The service members on the tour were amazed at the sight of the castle. “The beauty and engineering of Peles castle is definitely a Romanian marvel,” said Sgt. Bruce Roberts, a U.S. Marine with Black Sea Rotational Force. “I'm glad we were able to tour the castle and see a bit of the surrounding area and Carpathian Mountains.”

    The following day, the service members visited Bran Castle. Dubbed ‘Dracula’s Castle’ due to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the castle originally served as a fortress and a customs check-point for anyone wishing to cross the border between Transylvania in the North and Wallachia in the South, from 1211 to 1918. In the 20th century, the castle served as the royal residence to Queen Maria and later Princess Illena until the late 1930s.

    However, the historical ties between Bran Castle and the Dracula aura leave a bit to the imagination.

    “It was surprising to learn the infamous word Dracula actually originated from the rough Romanian translation of the word dragon or ‘dracul’,” Roberts said.

    The first Dracula, Vllad II, served as the prince of Wallachia and was inducted into the Order of the Dragon, as a political move by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund to encourage Vllad II to defend the Christians in east Europe and the territory of the Holy Roman Empire against the Ottoman Empire. He was the father to Vllad III or ‘Vllad the Impaler’ who is known throughout Romania as a hero for protecting the Romanians and defeating the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Mehemd II in his advance to conquer the region. Vllad III was prince of Wallachia from 1448, 1456 through 1462 and in 1476.

    The MWR tour guide, Tina, then explained to the service members a version about the downfall of Vllad III and his possible tie to Bran Castle.

    The Medici family of Florence gave Vllad money to organize another crusade largely due to his success against Sultan Mehemd II in 1462. The large amount of funds drew more attention and room for betrayal against Vllad III. One of Vllad III’s close friends, Michael, forged a treasonous letter from Vllad III to Sultan Mecmed II apologizing for his actions and pledging allegiance to the Ottoman Empire. Due to this letter, Vllad was arrested. It was during this time Vllad III traveled under detention and may have stayed at Bran Castle.

    Following the guided tour of the castle, the service members were able to shop at a nearby outdoor bazaar and taste the local vendors’ cultural food.

    “This trip really opened my eyes to the heritage of Romania. It is one thing to be deployed here, it is another to actually see the country and splendor it has to offer,” 1st Lt. Aaron Hilberg, a U.S. Marine with Black Sea Rotational Force, said.

    The opportunities the MWR makes available to the service members allows for an unparalleled experience into the host-nation’s history and culture. Many similar trips are offered throughout the year from the MWR at Mihail Kogalniceanu, and to other historical and cultural locations near military bases around the world.



    Date Taken: 02.22.2015
    Date Posted: 02.27.2015 07:14
    Story ID: 155530

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