Bran Castle. AKA the home of Dracula (or is it?), the origin of every Vampire movie, novel, book and a national monument and landmark in Romania. When Mr Kiwi and I were scouring the internet for unique holiday destinations, we jokingly mentioned going to Romania to visit Dracula’s Castle – but it turns out that both of us were quite interested, and within an evening we had shaped a holiday around it.
We spent the first couple of days based in Bucharest – we stayed in the lovely and very central Bucharest Grand Hotel, we explored the city centre of the Romanian capital and on the way north to stay for 48 hours in Brasov, we stopped in the beautiful Peles Castle before we reached our intended destination – the home of Dracula.
Honestly, we didn’t know very much about the country, other than getting stuck in a lift with several of the national football team players in our hotel in Vienna, that it contains Dracula’s Castle so I’d always wanted to visit Transylvania, that Prince Charles has a winter home there, and that their fresh tomatoes are incredible (a fact that a Romanian cab driver told me as his eyes got misty for his home before we planned upcoming his trip to New Zealand).
When we visited, the weather was as changeable as a B-list actor’s Dracula accent – the heavens ranged from slate grey to bright blue – but we only had eyes for the terracotta-roofed fortress perched at the top of the hill, overlooking the small town of Bran.
Fancy a little history lesson? The castle is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, in 1211 the Teutonic Knights – “Ordo domus Mariae Sanctae Theutonicorum Hierosolimitanorum” – a Catholic religious order formed in Palestine during the late twelfth century by German crusaders, received Țara Bârsei (“Terra Borza” or “Burzenland” – a country named after the Cuman tribe of Burci) from King Andrew II of Hungary. The purpose of this gift was to establish the Teutons in the area and to defend the Southeastern border of Transylvania from the Cumans and the Pechenegs. The Teutons erected a fortress in Bran (a Turkish name meaning “gate”), before they were driven away from the area in 1226.
Granted permission to build a castle, the Saxons of Transylvania (“Sachsen” – a population of German origin that came to Transylvania in the twelfth century) completed construction in 1388. The Castle was built on a steep cliff between Măgura and Dealul Cetăţii (“fortified town’s hill”), with an exceptional view of the nearby hills, Moeciu Valley and Valea Bârsei.
Now, the castle is a destination for tourists who have a penchant for the darker side of life – even though it only has tenuous links to Vlad the Impaler (who was actually a bit of a hero for the Romanian people rather than the dark character he has become associated with.)
We learned that although Bran Castle is commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” (it’s one among several locations linked to the Dracula legend, including Poenari Castle and Hunyadi Castle), there is, however, no evidence that Stoker knew anything about this castle, which has only tangential associations with Vlad the Impaler, voivode of Wallachia, the inspiration for Dracula.
But, it is a beautiful – if small – castle and the rooms are decorated in the traditional style that Queen Maria “the great queen who (…) spreads her blessing everywhere she walked, thus winning, with an irresistible momentum, the hearts of the entire country’s population” loved.
We wandered through the castle rooms, quite intrigued to unveil the mysteries within these walls.
Peles Castle, which we’d visited earlier in the day set the bar incredibly high for Romania castle visits – but we’re glad that we explored Bram Castle as well.
Sometimes you just have to tick things off the bucket list – and pose in the castle gardens as proof of your visit!
After our visit we wandered through the small roads of Bran village, dodging the rest of the eager tourists, to grab some lunch (a traditional Hungarian Lángos – a ridiculously moreish fried bread dough, often served with sour cream, garlic and cheese) in the shadow of the Southern Carpathians, also known as the Transylvanian Alps.
Have you ever considered exploring Romania?
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