THE UNDISCOVERED CASTLES OF ROMANIA (IV)

In this part of our journey among the legendary castles of Romania we will visit the famous Dracula’s castle, a place which has been the source of inspiration for many writers and movie directors. Ironically, this place has only been visited once by Vlad the Impaler, the famous historical figure who is as the base of the fictional character – the blood-thirsty vampire.

But let us see what this is all about!

Bran Castle, the place where Dracula actually never lived! In 1211, the Teutonic Knights belonging to a Catholic order founded by German crusaders in Palestine in the late twelfth century receive a gift from King Andrew II of Hungary for defending the southeastern border of Transylvania against the attacks of nomad invaders coming from the far-east; that lace was the beautiful and picturesque Barsa district. Teutons raises a fortress at Bran but in the year 1226 they are driven out of there by the locals. This is the first official mention of Bran castle, which will rise after the document issued by King Louis I of Hungary (in 1377) that gives the Saxons seated in the surroundings of Brasov the right to build a new stone castle on their own money and expense.

Over the following years, the castle was used as a strategic base by Sigismund of Luxemburg, who gave it to the Romanian prince Mircea cel Batran in 1407. About two decades years later, the castle became the property of the Crowned King of Hungary, who had to fortify it, expand it and, in 1498, rent it to the leaders of Brasov. Also in the 15th century – more precisely in the year 1459 -, Iancu of Hunyad has commissioned Vlad Tepes to defend the pass to Transylvania by guarding the entrance to this city – which is why the myths about “Count Dracula” have occurred; however, it seems that Vlad Tepes never actually lived at Bran Castle.

On the 1st of December 1920, the castle was donated to Queen Mary as a symbol of gratitude for the contribution to the Great Union of 1918. The Queen of the castle had declared it as one of her favorite places, and under her personal care, Bran has lived one of its most glorious eras since its construction. In 1938, Princess Ileana receiver the castle on testamentary rights, but shortly after, the royal family is to be banished from the country and the castle became the property of the communist state. Continuously degrading, Bran was closed to the public during 1987 – 1993. It was then returned to the touristic circuit and currently it belongs to Dominic von Habsburg, the heir of Princess Ileana. After the handover, the castle was stripped of the most important pieces becoming quite austere. The furniture was moved by the Ministry of Culture and the rooms were decorated with pieces belonging to the owners, but its charm is not diminished, as the amazing architecture and the inner yard and the lovely fountain in the center of it preserve the timeless beauty of this place so heavily charged with history and myths.

You can visit it any time and you can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings, which gets a different hue depending of the season: from bright green during the warm season, to rusty-yellowish shades, during fall and if you necessarily want to feel that horror movie shiver down your spine, you can visit it in winter time, when the leafless trees cast a gloomy and somber appearance over the landscape.

Note that on each Halloween, there are theme parties where you are supposed to have a vampire suit, or at least a set of fake teeth, so enjoy your time at a glad of delicious boiled Romanian wine!

Photo source:

Picture 1: 4x4-tours.com; Picture 2: timpul.md; Picture 3: hotelalpin.ro; Picture 4: infotravelromania.ro; Picture 5: camitravel.com; Picture 6: transylvaniantouring.co.uk.