I’ve been visiting ‘Dracula’s Castle’ for years now, presenting it with pride to each guest I had at the time.
The main thought that everyone leaves with?
” I wasn’t tempted by the rubber masks or Dracula-head mugs, but I did however buy some delicious smoked cheese (a Transylvanian specialty which comes wrapped in tree bark), smoked sausages and some traditional drink, called ‘Tuica’.”
Surrounded by a beautiful mountain region covered in forests and high hills, cultivated with cereals, grapevine and sugar beet, rich in rivers and picturesque landscapes, Transylvania extends to the heart of Romania. Here, resides one of the most popular tourist attractions of Romania: so called Dracula’s Castle, on its real name – Bran Castle.
Bran Castle – one of the most beautiful medieval castles of Romania is now a museum dedicated to displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Maria (the most famous beauty, heroine and Royal celebrity of her time). The Castle became a favorite residence of Her Majesty, who restored and arranged it to be used as a residence of the royal family till these days.
History states that the original purpose of the castle was to shelter a Teutonic Knights garrison that had the duty to oversee the Rucar – Bran passage flanked on either side by the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului mountains and the nearby customs point. Bran’s first structure was made of wood in 1212. The building is a 60-meter-high cliff and a mountain-bound viaduct, allowing the entire valley to be visually controlled. The purpose of this gift given by the King Andrew II of Hungary was to establish the Teutons in the area and to defend the Southeastern border of Transylvania from other conquerors.
Later on the Castle was given in return for loyalty by Sigismund of Luxembourg to his ally, Prince Mircea, the Elder of Wallachia, where he could escape to in case of an attack by the Turks.
1459 –Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes) was allied with Bran and Brasov during his first reign. However during his second reign, his army passed through Bran to attack Brasov, in order to settle a conflict between the Wallachia Voivode and the Saxons, who requested higher customs taxes and supported his opponent for the throne. Vlad the Impaler burned the city’s suburbs and murdered hundreds of Saxons from Transylvania, provoking the community to seek revenge by later mentioning in reports that the Voivode were ruthless tyrants.
Some historical sources say that Vlad III was captured by the Hungarian king Matei Corvin in 1462, and transferred to the fortress, where he spent two months languishing in its dungeons – a little sojourn that must have done little for his fiery temper. In fact this is the only connection that Vlad the Impaler had with Bran Castle.
After 1918, Transylvania became part of Greater Romania. On December 1st 1920, the citizens of Brasov, offered the castle to Queen Maria of Romania, who was described in the deed as “the great queen who spreads her blessing everywhere she walked, thus wining, with an irresistible momentum, the hearts of the entire country’s population”.
The Castle became a favorite residence of Queen Maria, who restored and arranged it to be used as a residence of the royal family.
When Queen Marie died, on July 18, Bran Castle was bequeathed to the Princess Ileana, Queen Marie daughter who continued the planning for the castle’s future.
The modern-day owners of Bran Castle benefit from association with Dracula and actively market the property as the ‘home of Dracula’. Visitors to Bran Castle should make the distinction between the historic reality of Bran and the character of the Count in Bram Stoker’s novel. Dracula exists in the imagination only.
Who goes there? A lot of people, actually – the castle receives half a million visitors every year which brings a huge financial help to the Bran community.
Some visitors might expect more than others from the area (as I read on different blogs), some might look for westernized restaurants, food or drinks, however I must say that Transylvania Is a traditional area and none of the above belongs to this land. Tradition is luxury these days and a place full of history, which travels you in time, can’t be more then perfect if you wish to enjoy some rustic good time. One can’t aim for pizza, hot chocolate or sea-food when the area deliberately promotes a huge range of cheese, smoked meat delicatessen or propolis extract. In fact Romania promotes bio-lifestyle most of the times.