The most famous figure of Romanian history is undoubtedly Dracula, the vicious vampire who sleeps in a coffin, comes out late at night to suck out your blood and who can only be kept away by hanging garlic in front of your house. Sounds realistic, doesn’t it?
Of course, this urban legend has not a single word of truth to it other than that people in Brasov still hang garlic in front of their door occasionally, just to be sure 😉
In fact, Dracula is also known as Vlad The Impaler or Vlad Tepes, Ruler of Wallachia. As a child, he was taken to Istanbul together with his brother Radu and brought up at the court of the Sultan. This was not because Vlad’s parents and the sultan were good friends, but rather they were held hostage in order for Vlad’s father to pay tribute to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. While residing in Istanbul, Vlad learnt the art of impaling. When he returned to Wallachia, he became ruler and decided to stop paying the tribute.
When the Sultan sent an army to “negotiate” with him, he impaled them all (over 2000 soldiers!) and placed their impaled bodies along the road to Bucharest, scaring off the Sultan. It would take a few more years before the Sultan had the courage to attack Wallachia and eventually conquer it.
Now, where the connection with Bran Castle, which is after all in Transylvania and not in Wallachia? In fact, it’s purely fictional. There has never been historical evidence that Vlad had his headquarters in Bran and it’s even been proven that, after his reign, he spent two nights in prison there.
The tourism industry knows all too well how they can exploit Stoker’s novel. The village is filled with little stalls selling everything-Dracula, cheese and sausages. There’s a haunted house and an ATM with possibly the worst exchange rate in the country. The entrance to the castle is 20 lei for students and 35 lei for adults (somewhere in between 7 and 8 euros) and in my opinion, not really worth it.
From the outside, the castle is pure splendour. On a cliff of the mountain, surrounded with snowy awesomeness and enough fog to make it a tad eerie, it is the perfect set-up for a horror story. The castle was in use until the 18th century and therefore relatively well-kept, without severe damaging. It’s definitely worth walking around and admiring from below.
The inside of the castle I found rather disappointing. Rooms were stuffed with almost randomised furniture from different eras and with portraits of past inhabitants. There was very little interesting information, no explanations regarding the furniture inside (how are people supposed to know that one stove in that particular corner is a typical Austrian model, which can reveal a lot about what was in style, who influenced whom and about its inhabitants?) and almost nothing of its late-medieval past was displayed. A true pity, but sadly very typical for tourist magnets.
If you’re in the area, take a few hours to go to Rasnov, a village 15 minutes drive from Bran Castle, on the way to Brasov. You won’t be disappointed! With a massive fairytale-like citadel on top of the hill with the snowy peaks of the Carpathians in the background, it makes for a delightful view.
Although we didn’t have the time to go all the way up, we have been told it’s amazing!
Avoid driving there in the night time, the road is in a bad condition with a lot of holes and cracks. Not exactly the place where you’d want a flat tire 😉
Make sure to follow for more, as I have a few posts still lined up 😉 I will soon also add a link to my TripAdvisor account where you can check out my reviews for restaurants, hostels and agencies! Cheers 😉