I only got a couple of hours of sleep and woke up at an ungodly hour, again. I went out to get breakfast around 6 AM and had another one of those “God, I love this town,” moments as I stepped out into the already vivid streets on this chilly morning. Within 15 minutes, I was back at my desktop, Turkish style morning coffee in hand, reading through my personalized Google news and Google reader. As the sun came up over the city that truly never sleeps, I ran into this blog post about an early 20th century blood sucking boogie man in Belgrade. Or rather, a vampire.
Curious as I am and with nothing better to do this early in the morning, I go on a little Google powered vampire hunt. Turns out Count Vlad himself may have left a few decendants in this region. First I need to explain that Serbs are quite a superstitious nation. Really superstitious. People here have spent centuries concocting ideas that could raise the dreadlocks on a Jamaican voodoo priest’s head. This is the only place on Earth where you can actually be killed by a draft if you sit too close to an open window in mid July. And you wouldn’t take hours or days to develop some illness and then croak. No, you’ll drop dead right then and there, any Serbian woman over 60 will tell you that. So I’m wondering why I haven’t heard of all the vampires that seem to be occupying the region. Not only that, but why am i only now finding out that linguists have accepted that the very word “vampire” comes from the old Serbian “бампир” or “лампир” even though there are some three other possible etymological explanations?
In Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia & Heryegovina and other countries in the region, the definition of what a vampire was seemed to differ from the generally accepted one throughout the world. Sometime at the beginning of the 20th century, Harry de Windt included an entire section in his book “Through Savage Europe” and extensive explanations as to the superstitions and strange beliefs of people in this region. He writes:
“In Herzegovina a vampire is said to be the soul of a dead man, which leaves his grave at night-time to suck the blood of its living victim. I was told quite seriously that when one of these monsters was exhumed near Belgrade it showed every sign of life, and was sleeping and breathing as peacefully as the man had done before his death, a century before ! This occurred thirty years ago, and according to custom the corpse was decapitated, and a stake driven through the body, which was then burnt – the grave being purified with water and vinegar.”
People here believed that these were lost souls who came back after death. They also believed that this breed of blood sucking walking dead needed to return to the grave every now and then to rest and avoided sunlight because of their appearance. However, if more than 30 years passed and they were not disposed of in the manner described by de Windt, they no longer needed to return to the grave and took on an appearance identical to other living human beings, able to walk in open daylight and often marrying the living and producing offspring.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of vampires. I love a good vampire as much as I love the other blood sucking, living dead humanoids that walk this not so green Earth. I’m just saying that the superfluous superstitions of this region may have gone a little too far a long while ago. Then again, the existence of a particular breed of undead indigenous to this region would explain all the pale faces and the action going on in Belgrade every night. And, no – we don’t sparkle in the sunlight. We glow in the dark.