“I want you to believe…to believe in things that you cannot.”
― Bram Stoker, Dracula
As part of the Rescue Dog Road Trip, we travelled to Bran Transylvania where we were kindly hosted by Bran Castle for a special puppy lunch and private tour.
While Sprocket thoroughly enjoyed his lunch on Dracula’s lawn, we all equally enjoyed our tour and the true story behind the magnificent Bran Castle and their most famous fictional resident.
The inspiration for the fictional character of Count Dracula is as ghoulish and intriguing as the story that made both Bram Stoker and Bran Castle famous.
Romanian history is steeped in supernatural folklore. It was the lore and legends of Transylvania that allowed Stoker to piece together his macabre tale, bringing together a mix of myth and a number of sinister and infamous characters throughout Romanian history. Bram Stoker never actually travelled to Romania but describes many real locations and captures the essence of the Transylvanian landscape. So much so, it is easy to be swept up in the legend as you drive through the mountains, past shadowy, ancient forests, on your way to Bran Castle.
The character of the Count was not only inspired by one of the most infamous figures in Romanian history, Vlad Tepes Dracula,or Vlad the Impaler as he is best known, son of Vlad Dracul (Dracul, a nickname meaning bad blood or son of Satan) but also one of histories most prolific female serial killers, Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
Responsible for torturing and killing hundreds of young women between 1585 and 1610, the countess displayed vampiric tendencies by drinking and bathing in the blood of young virgins in the belief she could attain eternal youth. The Bathory family ruled Transylvania as an independent principality of the Kingdom of Hungary, so she never faced trial, although was later imprisoned until her death. So in essence, Dracula was just as much a She as a He.
It is said the only association these characters have with Bran Castle is when Vlad the Impaler tried to overrun the fortress, it was possible he was eventually imprisoned there. It is only through the detailed descriptions of the castle in Stokers book and it’s location does Bran Castle become the home of Dracula.
As we ascended the stairs to the castle, as if on cue, a strong, cold wind swept up from the valley, cutting through the warm sunny day. Black clouds descended upon us as if Count Dracula himself had made his presence known. It was the stuff of Hollywood movies. Despite the foreboding exterior and the dramatic change in weather, Bran Castle is actually quite homely, in a castle kind of way.
Initially built as a fortress in 1211 the castle’s position on the border of Transylvania gave it great military and commercial importance until the border of Transylvania was moved in 1836. Throughout the following years, the castle fell into decay. In 1920 it was given to Queen Maria of Romania after Transylvania became part of Greater Romania. After a nine year restoration, Bran Castle remained a favourite royal residence until communism forced the royal family from Romania.
The castle has since been returned to the royal family and is once again privately owned. While many of the items seized by the government during communist times have still not been returned, the castle has ultimately been restored as a museum dedicated to the memory of the royal family of Romania. One can’t help but feel the decor has not been just a little Dracula inspired.
Interestingly enough, due to communism, most Romanians were unaware of the interest in Bran Castle and Transylvania until long after communism fell. Supernatural enthusiasts would come to Transylvania during communist times in search of Dracula’s castle, and to explore the supernatural phenomenon supposedly associated with the region. Most left disappointed at the lack of interest given to the subject by most Romanians. More recently, though, Transylvania has embraced the popularity of Dracula and welcomes vampire hunters with open arms.
Bran Castle is temporarily hosting an exhibition of Medieval Instruments of Torture collected throughout Eastern Europe. This is an additional entry to the castle but a fascinating insight into the times when the castle was at its political peak. Let’s just say, there is nothing funny about the instrument called the Spanish Tickler. An exhibition fitting the Count perhaps.
Bran Castle is one of the most interesting castles we have visited in Europe. The landscape that leads you there, the picturesque town and the fascinating stories that surround this both foreboding and regal residence. If you ever considered visiting Romania, do it for nothing else than to visit the Transylvania region.
Bran Castle is in the Brasov County, one of the most beautiful and touristic areas of Romania. Bran Castle is open daily although opening hours may vary according to the season. See The Official Bran Castle site for opening hours.
Expect 35Lei (~8€) for standard adult entry. Discounts ae available for seniors, students etc.
You can travel from Bucharest to Brasov in 3.5 hours by train for approx 40Lei (€10). Trains depart hourly.
Buses to Bran depart Brasov’s bus terminal No. 2. Approx. 45 min See the Bran Castle site for up to date information
During peak season, mid-July to late August, you can expect big crowds at Bran Castle and possible waiting times. It would be prudent to try and arrive early during these times to beat the crowds.
Keep an eye out for special events hosted at Bran Castle, such as concerts and special movie screenings in the grounds of the castle.
We would like to thank Bran Castle for hosting us and allowing Sprocket the dog to tour the castle as part of the Rescue Dog Road Trip.
Please note that dogs are not allowed into the castle as standard. This was arranged as a special entry.