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Bran Castle Beyond Fiction

By Monserrat Gutierrez |

Discover the sanguinary legend of Dracula and the truth behind the most beautiful and eerie medieval castle in Romania: Bran Castle.

FROM TRANSYLVANIA TO BRAM STOKER’S MIND

“Welcome to my house! Enter freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring.” These are some of the first words Count Dracula utters in the famous novel by Bram Stoker. Bran Castle is better known as Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania; however, it was also home to Romanian royalty, and particularly, it was home to Queen Mary, one of the most beloved rulers the country has had. Dare to discover the history and the legend behind the most beautiful and eerie medieval castle in Romania. DINKtravelers offers you a guide to tell apart fact from fiction on your next visit to Bran Castle.

THE MEDIEVAL CASTLE

In its early history, between the 13th and 14th centuries, Bran Castle was founded as a fortress. This type of construction was very common and popular during the Middle Ages because it served as protection for rulers and for the townspeople. The beautiful castle was built on a cliff, and the architects who designed it used a combination of wood and stone in order to make it resistant and grand. The castle was inhabited, first, by mercenaries and soldiers who fought against the Ottoman Empire to prevent it from occupying the territory. Years later the fortress was used again but this time against the Turks.

BETWEEN FICTION AND HISTORY

Dracula is one of the most famous vampires in history, but even if Bram Stoker described in great detail the concept of a vampire, other narrations depicting these creatures already existed. In order to create Dracula, Stoker drew inspiration from a real character that lived for some time in Bran Castle: Vlad III Tepes.

In 1459, after having lost his father’s reign, Vlad III, born Vlad Draculea (which means dragon), undertook the mission of gaining back the throne that had been taken from him. During this period he committed all kinds of cruel crimes and atrocities for which he became famous. The methods he employed in killing his enemies included impaling them on pegs so they’d suffer long and agonizing deaths. That’s why he was nicknamed Vlad The Impaler. Intrigued by this prince, Bram Stoker took him as inspiration to give life to the protagonist of his famous romance and terror novel.

In some sense, truth and fiction find their way to Bran Castle. That’s where the character who inspired the creation of Dracula lived, while the description the author made in his novel regarding the castle fits perfectly with the actual image of the castle of Transylvania: “…on the very edge of a terrific precipice… with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm [with] silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.” Is this the exact description of Bran Castle? In your next trip, imagine climbing up the tall stairs at the edge of the cliff and entering the castle… maybe you’ll hear Dracula’s voice asking you to leave something of the happiness you bring.

BRAN CASTLE AS ROYAL RESIDENCE

After Transylvania was annexed to Romania in 1918, the royal family returned to the castle. Queen Mary of the Great Romania lived there from 1920 to 1947. She was described as “the queen who spread blessings wherever she walked; she possessed the heart of all the nation’s population”. No, the image of the heart doesn’t mean that the queen continued with the sanguinary practices Vlad had established; it refers to the fact that she was truly loved by the people of Romania.

During the years she spent at Bran she remodeled the castle and turned it into a country house for the royal family. It was during that time that they added a hydroelectric plant as well as the sewage system. After the queen abandoned Bran Castle, it reopened as a museum in 1956.

BRAN CASTLE TEA HOUSE AND MUSEUM

Before queen Mary’s passing, she said she wanted to have a place where she could enjoy her evening tea everyday at 16:00hrs. Therefore, she ordered the construction of a small house, at the foot of the castle, where she could have her tea. After the castle was left uninhabited, the Tea House closed and it slowly began to deteriorate. Now, when you visit Bran Castle, make sure you go to the newly remodeled Tea House, where you’ll get the chance go try a gourmet menu in a very cozy setting with a chimney and vintage furniture. It will be a great experience you can’t miss.

On the other hand, Bran Castle Museum spans over four floors that house gothic works by medieval artists. When you see them, you’ll feel as if you were trapped in a horror story, a very ad hoc feeling considering the literary work that place inspired. Also at the museum, you’ll find some works that used to belong to the royal family, particularly Queen Mary and Princess Ileana.

BRAN CASTLE OPENING HOURS

  • High season: Monday 12:00-18:00hrs; Tuesdays to Sundays 9:00 – 18:00hrs
  • Los season: Mondays 12:00-16:00; Tuesdays to Sundays 9.:00 – 16:00hrs
  • Adult tickets: 7.8 euros with photography ticket

SOUVENIRS FROM BRAN CASTLE

Bran Castle visitors’ preferred souvenir is a bottle of Dracula Blood Wine, a Merlot that costs around 10 euros and that you can buy at the foot of Bran Castle. Also, you can buy a bottle of Dracula Son of The Dragon plum brandy. However, we recommend more literary souvenirs such as a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula or the book Vlad the Impaler: in Search of the Real Dracula, written by the historian and novelist M.J. Trow.

Enjoy your visit to Bran Castle and don’t miss the bus back to your hotel. If for any reason you have to spend the night in the castle, arm yourself with a stake, just in case…