- Location: Between Transylvania and Wallachia in Brasov, Romania
- Attraction Type: historic Castle
- Significance: Wonderful castle and museum with rich architecture, myths, and legends.
- How to Reach: Brasov is extremely well connected to all of Romania via roadways. In fact, the road is the best way to reach this city. Reach Bucharest by air, and then take the E60 Bucharest-Brasov road to reach Brasov. From Brasov, hire a taxi or use a public conveyance to reach the Bran Castle. You can also use the E60 to approach from Oradea and Budapest in Hungary.
- Time to Visit: Between 12-16 hrs on weekdays, 9 – 16 hrs. on Saturdays and Sundays, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- Nearest Airport: Otopeni Airport, Bucharest
Never mind the creeps, the narrow dungeons and the half-lit portals covered in thick walls where unspeakable monstrosities were perpetuated, facts remain facts. And the fact is that Count Dracula never lived in Dracula’s Castle. Count Vlad Tepes, or Vlad III, the impaler on whom Bram Stoker based his masterly horror novel, never lived in the Bran Castle, not more than two days by the farthest stretch of the imagination, and that too, if at all, as a prisoner to the Ottoman Turks. Bram Stoker had only the faintest idea on the Bran castle – he never visited it, and hardly had much interest in reading its history in detail. He was a master of the narrative mechanics of horror and single-handedly brought disrepute to a house that has been a long bastion of the protection of Christian faith and the favored residence of Queen Marie. The real Dracula castle hardly exists anymore, except in ruins and shambles by the Arges River, and is often referred to as the Poenari Castle.
If ‘Dracul’ means the devil, and if the devil is an enemy to Christ, then nothing can be farther from the truth. The Bran Castle was used as the last resort for the protection of Christianity against the Ottoman Turks for over centuries. Vlad III, Stoker’s archetype behind the creation of Stoker’s bloodthirsty vampire, was a crusader for the cause of his nation and his faith. That he was totalitarian is true, that he impaled his enemies as a form of capital punishment and definitive warning is equally true; however, those enemies comprised thieves, deceitful monks, Turks and Tatars whom he considered as enemies to his faith, and Saxons whom he believed were out to oust him in an act of heinous treachery. So, while visiting the Bran Castle, the legendary and to a great extent mythical Dracula’s Castle, be ready for the surprise of the greatest kind. Entering to find out the greatest villain of literary history, you can come out as an admirer. What is most interesting in this strange distortion through facts and fiction can ultimately be boiled down to a linguistic misunderstanding. Vlad signed in the family name of his father, which was ‘Dracul’ – meaning the ‘Dragon’ or the ‘House of the Dragon’ in Romanian. However, the word also means ‘devil’ in Romanian, and with the Count’s impaling tendencies, from the dragon to the devil was but a short step. However, his myth has benefited the castle in the long run. After plenty of buying and selling proposition following Romania’s transformation from a closed Communist regime, it has now become a museum devoted to the iconic literary character – making it a popular tourist destination.
History of the Bran Castle
The history of Bran Castle is intrinsically linked to the history of the Crusades in the Eastern European region. It was originally built by the Teutonic Knights in 1212 but was destroyed by the Mongol invaders within a period of thirty years. The first official mention of the castle is found documented in an act proclaimed by Louis I of Hungary on November 19, 1377. He gave a privilege to the Saxons of Kronstadt to build a stone citadel at the spot. Thereafter, it became associated directly with the development of the Bran region. By 1378, it became the main center for the crusade against the Ottoman Turks. It was probably during the Ottoman control over Transylvania that Vlad Tepes spent a couple of days in the castle.
The great legacy of the castle, apart from its historical antiquity rests largely on the large scale accumulation of treasures in the castle by Queen Marie, after the castle came under the control of the Kingdom of Romania in 1920. A large number of traditional furniture, icons, and spectacular local crafts joined the already existing great collection of weapons and medieval artifacts to make this castle a veritable storehouse of collectibles. However, in 1948, the royal house was expelled and the castle was seized by the communist regime.
From 2005, attempts on the part of the Romanian government to reclaim such historic properties as the Bran Castle started. In 2006, ownership shifted to Dominic von Habsburg, Archduke Dominic of Austria, Prince of Tuscany, the son and heir of Princess Ileana, the heiress of Queen Marie and an architect in New York State by profession. The transfer was mediated by the Romanian government. Habsburg, in turn, put it up for sale. Following various petitions regarding the legality of such an action by the Romanian court, the family finally reverted from its decision and settled on developing it as a museum dedicated to Count Dracula, the legendary figure with which the castle has been, albeit mistakenly, long associated with.
The Architecture of Dracula’s Castle
The main reason behind the association of this castle with the grim myth of Dracula is its near-perfect architectural representation of a typical Transylvanian castle. It is probably the impressive fortified outer wall, towers and grand façade of wood and stone that inspired Bram Stoker to use this castle as the choice setting for his legendary story. Architecturally, the castle went through quite a few changes over the centuries, although in a much-limited way as compared to the constant constructions and reconstructions as we see in some major European castles.
The original structure of 1378 blended the wood of the earlier Teutonic buildings with rocks brought from Magura Branului. Its architecture was dictated by the fact that it served both a commercial as well as a military purpose. Originally, the fortress combined the external wall, the dungeon, the round tower, and the gate’s tower. All these underwent changes subsequently. In 1593, the round tower was invested with a circular section, and in 1625 the circular gate’s tower was rebuilt in a rectangular shape, as the earlier gate was blocked with beams. The first and second floors always had very few chambers.
Changes went on through the 16th century. The wax-paper windows were replaced with glass. Prince Gabriel Bethlen initiated a large number of changes including the addition of another rectangular tower and two square towers. The Romanian style of architecture was clearly manifest in the observatory tower built-in 1622. One of the major changes to be brought about between 1920 and1930 was the final blocking of the fire windows – rectangular openings in the towers so typical of Romanian castle architecture – and turning them into windows. Towers with stairs were added, leading visitors to the fourth floor.
The museum of Bran Castle
The Museum of Bran Castle is extensive and contains many treasures derived from the Middle ages onwards. The exhibits can be divided into a number of categories. Some of the most popular exhibits of the Bran Castle include:
Furniture and Furnishings: The magnificent and opulent baldachin bed, manually manufactured by the early part of the middle ages is undoubtedly the most important exhibit of this category. The chest of 1692, a great example of the German Renaissance, the small table of nut tree and the neo-rococo glass case are other major exhibits of the castle.
Sculptures and Icons: The ‘Three Generations’ group from Germany representing Saint Anne, Saint Maria, and an infant Jesus, the statues ‘Maria with Jesus’, the Bas-relief of ‘Saint Lawrence’ are the greatest attractions of this section. Among the icons contained within the collection of the Bran castle, the most important ones are the icon of the Holy Virgin and the infant Jesus from Russia, the Romanian Triptych fro the 12th century and another Greek Triptych from 12th century Greece.
Ceramics and Silverware: The grand Italian amphora from the 18th century, the brilliantly colored German Meissen china statue representing a cock on a sheaf of wheat, just about to fly, adds a touch of vividness to the scenario. Equally fascinating is the 18th century China tray and the manually painted faience plate from 19th century Spain is part of the ceramics collection of the castle. Silver votive light, a bowl of sweets, cult pots and an oriental perfume recipient from the 20th century complete the silverware collection.
Weapons and Armors: This is the most extensive collection of the castle, in keeping with its ominous reputation. There are a large number of armors and cavalry swords, ottoman era scimitars, decorative penknives, the German halberd as well as a large number of rifles belonging to different periods.
Accommodation in Brasov
Brasov is the best place to take up accommodation if you want to embark on a Dracula Castle tour. There are a large number of luxury and budget hotels in Brasov. Some of the most popular hotels are Hotel Aro, Hotel Ambient, Hotel Ada Belle and Hotel Brasov. Hotel Capitol located near the old center of the city and Hotel Ned is also quite popular. Budget travelers may opt for Hotel Codreanu, Hotel Corona, Hotel Postavarul and Hotel Soul.