Jonathan Harker is writing about his journey in his journal (which, the editor informs us, was kept in shorthand).
History Snack! "Shorthand" is a system of symbols that allows people to take notes rapidly by hand. If you're good at it, you can write as fast as a person can speak. In the days before typewriters or recording devices, this was a handy way of recording, almost word-for-word, what people said. Usually only secretaries, clerks, and journalists used shorthand—having been trained as a law clerk, Jonathan Harker has learned it.
He's traveling through Buda-Pesth (a.k.a. Budapest, the capital of modern-day Hungary) on his way to Transylvania (modern-day Romania).
He did some research about the country before leaving England. He's going to do business with a nobleman from Transylvania, so he figures knowing something about the country will be useful.
The place where he's going, Castle Dracula, didn't appear on any maps he could get his hands on in England, but he figures that's because other countries aren't as good at modern map-making as England.
All he knows is that Castle Dracula is close to the eastern border of the country in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains.
The population of Transylvania is composed of a mixture of many different ethnic groups, and Harker lists them.
He doesn't sleep well in Budapest—he hears a dog howling and he has strange dreams.
He travels by train from Budapest to Bistritz, the nearest town to Castle Dracula.
When he arrives, he heads to the hotel Count Dracula told him to stay at, and he finds that he has a reservation and a letter waiting for him from Dracula.
The letter instructs him to take the "diligence" (it's like a 19th-century Greyhound bus) as far as the Borgo Pass on the border. A driver and carriage would be waiting for him there to take him on to Castle Dracula.
Jonathan Harker's Journal, May 4
Jonathan Harker asks the hotel owner about Count Dracula, but the hotel owner and his wife just cross themselves and refuse to answer.
As Harker is leaving, the innkeeper's wife cries over him and begs him to take a crucifix with him to ward away evil.
Allow us a quick break for a historical context lesson: A crucifix is a Christian symbol—an image of a cross with Jesus being crucified on it. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians use crucifixes, while Protestants generally use plain, empty crosses.
Jonathan Harker is Anglican (a member of the Church of England, and therefore a Protestant), so he's at first a little weirded out by the crucifix—he's "been taught" to think of crucifixes and other Catholic images as "idolatrous." The innkeeper's wife is very insistent, though, so he takes it anyway.
She tells him that it's the "eve of St. George's Day," and that at midnight all evil things will have power.
Harker starts to feel a little anxious, but he assumes it's just the innkeeper's wife's superstitious anxiety rubbing off on him.
He leaves Bistritz on the coach as planned.
Jonathan Harker's Journal, May 5
Harker is now at Castle Dracula and is writing in his journal about his journey to the castle. We'll jump into the past to describe what happened.
The other passengers on the coach keep talking about Harker, and although he can't understand what they're saying, he looks up a few of the words that keep getting repeated (he has a pocket dictionary—very handy!).
The words that are being repeated aren't very comforting: words like "devil" and "hell" and "vampire."
Harker makes a note in his journal to ask the Count about all those superstitions.
As they leave town, a crowd of villagers appear around the coach and cross themselves and make signs with their hands to ward off the evil eye.
They travel through the countryside and into the Carpathian Mountains—Harker describes the landscape and the different kinds of people they passed with great detail.
As it begins to get dark, the other passengers urge the driver to hurry up.
Finally they reach the Borgo Pass, where Harker is supposed to meet a private coach and driver to take him the rest of the way to Castle Dracula.
The driver of the public coach, though, tells him that he'd better not wait—the coach from Castle Dracula is late.
Just then, the private coach shows up. Harker thinks that the driver's eyes look red in the lamplight.
He climbs into the private coach while the driver quickly transfers his heavy baggage out of the public coach.
At this point, it is almost midnight—the time that the innkeeper's wife had warned him about.
Harker hears wolves howling, and the horses pulling the coach start to get nervous.
The driver calms them down and they keep going.
It begins to snow, and Harker huddles under a blanket in the open coach.
Off to the side of the road, Harker notices a "flickering blue flame." The driver sees it, too, and hops out of the coach to go toward it and make a pile of rocks to mark the place.
The wolves continue to howl.
To Harker it looks as though he can see the blue flame through the body of the driver—but that would be impossible!
They keep going along the road, with the driver stopping periodically to mark places where the blue flames appear.
At one point, the wolves close in around the coach, but the driver miraculously seems able to drive them off.