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In my opinion, Bran Castle is one of the must see places in Romania. It is a lovely castle, well maintained, located in a simply gorgeous mountain area (no exaggerations here, you’ll see). And, apart from the impressive history, the castle also became the origin of Dracula. But how much is the truth, and how much is a „lie” in what Bran Castle is concerned? Is it truly Dracula’s Castle? Was Vlad Tepes (A Wallachian Prince, also known as Vlad The Impaler) Dracula? I’ll give you today the complete story, hoping this will shed some light on the matter and will make you visit these places even more.
How it all started for me
Well, as a Romanian, I learned about Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) in school, at the history hours. I won’t get into many details – Romania’s history is a very troubled one, along the years many powers didn’t let us be a single state and so on and so forth.
What may be interesting information for you, is the fact that Vlad The Impaler used some perhaps “cruel” ways while he ruled – impaling was the supreme punishment for those who did not obey the rules. Please keep in mind this… bloody habit (you’ll see below why).
I was not able to visit Bran Castle until later in my life. I didn’t had a car in the family and was not able to travel to Bran while growing up. I visited the castle in my twenties, with my husband.
The Bran Castle
I visited Bran Castle two times. In between my visits there were some major changes in what the owner is concerned. You’d say that this is not important, but I beg to differ. It’s important because the interior was somewhat changed: the furniture, and even some rooms.
10 years ago there was no connection to Dracula and the Teutonic Knights at the castle. Now, there are some connections – special rooms (detailed below).
History of the fortress
The history of Bran Castle starts in 1211. Back then the The Teutonic Knights received that part of the area, Țara Bârsei (“Terra Borza” or “Burzenland”) (the purpose was for them to establish in the area and to defend the Southeastern border of Transylvania from the Cumans and the Pechenegs.)
In 1377 King Louis I of Anjou orders the construction of the fortress, which enters in the possesion of Sigismunf of Luxemburg in 1395-1946. After that, a Romanian ruler, Mircea the Old manages to gain the fortress. Numerous fights with the Otomans follow, and the fortress plays a strategic role.
The connection to Vlad Tepes is not really that big.
To make the long (hi)story short, at some point Bran fortress entered the possession of the city of Brasov, and then of the Romanian state.
In 1920 the citizens of Brasov agreed to offer the castle to Queen Maria of Romania and soon the castle became one of her preferred residences (she restored and arrange it). Then it was again in the possession of the Romanian state.
Now, officially, on June 1st, 2009, the Castle fully re-entered the possession of its legal heirs, Archduke Dominic, Archduchess Maria Magdalena and Archduchess Elisabeth.
The castle can be visited, as you all know.
The complete history of the castle can be found here.
Bram Stoker, Dracula and the Bran Castle
First of all, I have to tell you that Bram Stoker never visited Romania. Or so the official site says, although along the years I heard the he was in fact in Transylvania and saw the castle.
But you know what? Many of the writers whose masterpieces we all read didn’t travel to the cities or countries they mentioned. Jules Verne wrote his books using maps. Bram Stoker imagined Dracula’s Castle in Romania, in Transylvania. So, it’s not a problem if he, in fact, didn’t visit Romania.
But, as a Romanian, I must admit I am proud that one of the loveliest castles in the country is famous worldwide. Not only that, but many people heard about Romania for the first time from this book. Yes, some looked it up after that, some didn’t, but the name was out there. And all in one of the most famous vampire books ever!
So, fiction is fiction, reality is reality. And sometimes a place can blend fiction with reality. And that’s just perfect in my opinion.
The castle definitely deserves to be visited for how it looks! Keep in mind that it is restored – from the gardens to the interior, all is in a very good shape.
Let’s see the castle.
When you get to Bran, you’ll notice the castle immediately. You’ll have to climb a little – a street, not stairs, and not difficult. Keep in mind that, at its origin, this was a fortress with a defense role.
There are several stairs at the entrance – again, not many. And then you are in 🙂
You can choose a guided tour, or wander around by yourself. Of course, I recommend a guided tour to find out more about the castle and its history.
Inside you’ll see various rooms with objects from that period – a bedroom, a library, etc.
You’ll also see a room dedicated to the Teutonic knights – some armors are exhibited.
There’s also a room – more of a hallway – dedicated to Bram Stoker, Dracula and Vlad Tepes. The fiction, the reality. There are some interesting information provided also on our local supernatural beings –similar to vampires – strigoi. Information about these beings is included on the official websites as well.
And, one of the main attractions, there is a secret and very narrow interior staircase.
The view toward the interior garden – with the fountain, balconies, a statue dedicated of Virgin Mary – is quite impressive!
As a side note, there is no belief that throwing money in this fountain will bring you luck. But it seems that following Fontana di Trevi, everywhere people see a fountain, they through some money – just in case.
The garden is also beautiful – as you’ll definitely see it!
Unfortunately it was raining the last time we were at Bran so we were unable to use the camera outside – but I do have some pictures taken with my smartphone.
What you’ll find just outside the castle – souvenirs and the Horror House
I told you that in the area the locals combined the Dracula fiction with the local true history. So, you’ll find various shops with numerous items – some traditional Romanian items, some imported. You’ll also notice a Horror House – yes, many Dracula themed items here, various souvenirs and more.
As a conclusion
It’s important to know what to expect
I wrote this long article so that you could know what to expect. I don’t want you to go to Bran Castle, expect ONLY Dracula related stuff and be disappointed. I want you to know that there is more to Bran Castle and its history. That the fortress goes back a long time, played a strategic role in the area for centuries; that the castle is lovely – recently restored.
I also want you to know that, even if there is no direct connection between Vlad The Impaler and Dracula in reality, Dracula was inspired, in a way, by the Wallachian Prince. Yes, the connection between the castle and Tepes is indeed small, but you know, except for historical books, fiction is fiction and that involves imagination! But Bran is the castle that Bram Stoker imaged as residency for Dracula, the famous vampire.
And yes, this vampire is one that made history – look at the movies or TV series that are still inspired by Dracula.
Again. History is history and fiction is fiction. The two mix perfectly at Bran.
I think that, in order to truly enjoy your experience at the Bran Castle, you have to embrace both of these elements. You have to know that it is an ancient, beautiful fortress, and that the Dracula part is fiction. You will find both sides there. Remember that.
One thing is sure though: you’ll love the castle. It truly is wonderful so take your time wondering the rooms, the balconies, admiring the view, the architectural details, all of it.
A visit to the Bran Castle is perfect – we went there in the middle of the week (less crowded). We visited during a rainy day. And it was still a wonderful visit, one that each member of my family enjoyed yes, including our three years old son!