Bran Castle, often referred to as Dracula’s Castle, was built in 1377 to protect against invaders and also served as a customs station.
Picture taken from a walkway within the Bran Castle.
The myth is that it was once the home of Vlad the Impaler, the famous medieval warlord, but there is no evidence that he ever lived there.
Detail of Castle Bran, in Romania. The castle is widely publicized as "Dracula's Castle", and certainly looks the part, but has, at most, a tenuous connection with the historical Dracula (Vlad the Impaler). He may have stayed there once.
The fictional character Dracula is based on Vlad and Vlad did spend two days in the Bran dungeon.
Transylvania was occupied by the Ottoman Empire at the time. Vlad the Impaler (his favorite method of punishment was to impale anyone convicted of a crime, thus his nickname) used many methods of impaling: through the anus with the stick coming out the head; skewered through the middle of the body; and, of course, there were the other ever-popular methods of torture. You could be burnt at the stake, have eyes gouged out, head and limbs chopped off, or tied to different horse and then be ripped apart. It must have been difficult for Vlad to keep coming up with new methods and ideas…but he did…
Vlad also revenged the killing of his father and brother on Easter Day by impaling the entire elderly population of Targoviste.
Three times Vlad III ruled the kingdom of Wallachia. While most of the world shudder when they hear of Vlad Tepes, Romanians remember him as a great national leader. He brought his court to an outpost which grew to be Bucharest, fought back the Ottomans and others who tried to conquer Wallachia, expanded their territory, re-established trade, helped the peasants, and restored order.
True, they admit, he was ruthless, but mostly against their enemies. Those were brutal times, but his brutality stood out above all else. Vlad III trusted few and fought most everyone. Those he conquered or invaded (men, women, and children) he had impaled-- a thick wooden stick run through their bodies and left to rot. When one of his servants complained of the stench of rotting bodies, Vlad had him impaled.
However, some of the later Saxon and Russian tales of Vlad Dracula exaggerated his deeds and the numbers (no evidence he roasted and ate the victims). Still, some estimate he may have impaled 40,000-100,000. At one time he sought alliance with Hungary, but they tricked and imprisoned him in Visegard ( photo at right, see HU Szentendre and the Danube Bend post). In 1476, he was finally killed in battle against the Ottomans. Reportedly, his body was buried near Bucharest and his head was buried in Istanbul. However, in the early 1900s when Vlad was to be exhumed for "research," they found his supposed grave empty.
A visit through Bran Castle’s rooms and towers, some rooms connected through underground passages, looked at the becautiful collection of furniture and art from the 14th-19th centuries. The castle was built on a 200-foot tall rock overlooking the Village of Bran.
This is a secret passage in the Bran Castle (aka Dracula's castle) connecting the first to the third floor. It was discovered while restoring the castle. It's very narrow and steep.
Sculpture of Bran
Bram Stoker's Dracula starts in Budapes, Dracula leaves from the port of Varna, Bulgaria, and is shipwrecked on the cliff's of Whitby, England, where Bram Stoker wrote his story in 1897.
The Romanians had ancient superstitions about strigoi, the "undead." There were a variety of kinds and ways one could become undead, such as a child who was marked by the devil because its careless mother might have gone out with her head uncovered. Those who died before they could marry were considered vulnerable to being undead, so should be wed to another unmarried dead person of the same age.
Ways of protecting you from the undead included garlic, stakes in the heart, holly, and burying them with a bottle of alcohol, so they couldn't find their way back. Some strigoi had magical powers to transform into animals or disappear and gained strength through the blood of victims. In the nineteenth century, interest increased about Eastern Europe, and legends of strigoi and stories of Vlad Tepes were circulated.
Although these had never been connected before, Bram Stoker had the genius in 1897 to turn the bloody Vlad into a blood-sucking, undead vampire.
Misty, little-known Transylvania was the perfect setting, and Dracula (dragon, devil) was the perfect name.
So why is the medieval Bran Castle in Transylvania now called Dracula's Castle?
It was a mountain fortress mentioned in 1377 in defense against the Ottomans. Vlad III besieged it in retaliation against the Saxons at one time. But it never was Vlad's castle, nor is it even mentioned by Stoker.
The Bran Castle mostly served as a customs post and then as a home to local rulers. Royalty did not live there until after WWI when Transylvania was transferred from Hungary to Romania.
Queen Marie (granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II), unhappily married at age 17 to an older duke who later became king, made Bran Castle her home. She served as a Red Cross nurse in WWI, helped negotiate the peace, and adopted Romanian ways.
Most rooms in the castle reflect the furnishings of her time. The communists confiscated the castle when they came to power, but it was returned to the royal descendants when communism fell.
Then in some unknown way, people heard of this remote medieval
castle with a secret passage that reminded them of Stoker's description, and Bran Castle started being called "Dracula's Castle." The Romanians need tourist attractions, and they welcome, with some amusement, the countless visitors that flock to the site of "Dracula's Castle." They have dedicated an upstairs room to the tales of Vlad and Dracula to appease the masses.
The castle is interesting, and the drive through Transylvania is beautiful.