What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Romania? Yeah, duh—Vampires in Transylvania, right? How could we not check out the sites where Dracula are well known for in Romania.
Plus, that’s where Dracula was born—Vlad Dracu to be specific. Although, Vlad Dracu has been dead, but his name is immortal and so are the vampires. It’s not them that are immortal, but their stories and themes are immortal for centuries and more to come. People are still creating them, that’s the point.
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Bram Stoker is the author of Nosferatu (Dracula), and he was born in Dublin, Ireland.
Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, or — as he is better known — Vlad the Impaler who had a taste for blood was the inspiration for his story of the Dracula. However, other than having the same name, the two Draculas didn’t really have much in common, according to historians who had studied the link between Stoker’s Dracula and Vlad III.
Thanks to TravelMaker in Bucharest for the complimentary Two Castles in One Day tour to Brasov to check out the Peles Castle and Bran Castle.
Besides, the tour was supposed to return to Bucharest after visiting both castles, but they were generously flexible and agreed to drop me off in Brasov after the tour. It was kind of hitting two birds with one stone for because because I was already planing to go to Brasov after Bucharest and I reckoned that it’d be a waste of my time and money to return to Bucharest and then take a bus back to Brasov. I’d be sure that you’d agree. Other that than, the tour went smooth for me.
After I was in Brasov, I was sponsored with a car rental for a road trip on the Transfagarasan where I got to see Vlad III’s actual castle, Cetatea Poienari, along the way, and his birthplace in Sighisoara.
Okay, like I mentioned earlier that my tour started in Bucharest and it was about two hours before I actually arrived in Brasov to see Peles Castle first and then Bran Castle. The Transfagarasan road trip where I stopped by to visit Cetatea Poienari and then Casa Vlad Dracu occurred on the next morning.
To me, this castle was more of a palace rather than a castle and it was quite bizarre to see it as a castle, but once I got inside, I could see how it’s a castle.
Before I elaborate, I’d like to clarify that this castle had no connection to Vlad III or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but it belonged to King Carol I, the guy who was in charge when Romania gained its independence in 1877.
It had been located at the end of beautiful forest path, and set atop a hill surrounded by the mountains. From that point, you could see the city of Brasov. I couldn’t explain.
Peles Castle’s construction began in 1873 and took 39 years to complete. Not only that, the king rejected the first three designs as lacking originality because they were submitted as copies from other castles in Western Europe, and being too costly. Johannes Schultz won the design as it included a grand palatial alpine villa combining different features of classic European styles, mostly following Italian elegance and German aesthetics along Renaissance lines.
With more than 160 ornate woodwork filled rooms, using 14 different kinds of wood, it’s easy to see why it took so long.
Inside, I was blown away by one-hundred and sixty rooms inside, everything from bedrooms to theaters, concert halls, weapons rooms, libraries, offices, card rooms, shisha lounges, apartments, bathrooms, rooms to hang out in after you take a bath, painting rooms, tea rooms, children’s play rooms, meeting rooms, breakfast rooms and formal dining rooms.
For me, it was like I’d be surprised every time I walk through a doorway or turn a corner. I had no idea what I’d encounter. It’s an architecture and design fantasy-land. Each one of the rooms in the castle were were decorated in a completely different style or theme, drawing from influences such as Turkish, Venetian, Florentine, French, and Moorish, among others.
Without a doubt this was one of the most unique castle I’ve seen anywhere during my travels. And I found it to be well worth the 2-hours I spent inside, but some way I was bored out because there were a lot of talking.
Fortunately, the admission for people with disability would be waived from paying the entrance fee of 70 LEI (~$18 US Dollars), but you would still have to pay extra 40 LEI (~$10 US Dollar). But one look at the exterior and you can get the idea that this is not a normal castle.
Address: Aleea Peleșului 2, Sinaia 106100, Romania
Now, this castle would be the castle where Bram Stoker’s Dracula lies, but that was a myth because the story had it that he came to Romania in search for his inspiration and he discovered Bran Castle.
However, the choice of location might appear unwarranted because there hadn’t been an evidence that Stoker had heard of Bran Castle himself and his fictional lair was imagined many miles north of this site. Only thing I would know for sure is that the description of the castle matched the exterior and interior of the castle.
From the outside, the castle did appear small to me and I couldn’t see how it, but once I was inside the castle, it became easy to see just how well Bran Castle lends itself to the mythology. Dark, wood paneled rooms open into arched white corridors, while numerous balconies and walkways offer spectacular views over the forested mountains of Transylvania. I’d say it was like a maze inside the castle and that would be the reason why the interior appeared bigger than the exteriors.
Plus, interesting Dracula facts and vampire information had been strategically placed throughout, along with relics from the royal family who had lived there.
The hair on my back actually stood up when I was inside because I could feel spooked by sense of horror and vampire-like castle. I could see how it fitted the image of vampire or Dracula’s castle even though I hadn’t read the book, but I would agree according to the movies I’ve seen in the past.
Bran Castle featured less a gift shop, more a gift town filled with vampire-themed souvenirs, which would be a clever marketing of theirs.
On other side, I’d admittedly not encourage you to check it out because I wasn’t speculated by the castle, unless you had been big on Dracula or any other vampire-related legends. It had enough history and intrigue of its own, to justify its choice as a demonstration of how a Romanian vampire’s castle might look.
Address: Strada General Traian Moșoiu 24, Bran 507025, Romania
While I was on my Transfagarasan road trip, I stopped by the home to the ruins of the real Dracula Castle, Poienari, (real in the sense that Vlad Dracul actually lived here for a time. Bran Castle – often marketed as Dracula’s Lair, was never Vlad’s home).
I took a climb of more than 1,400 steps leads to the ruins of the castle to check it out, where visitors could follow in the footsteps of Dracula while surveying the land he once ruled.
The story of this castle documented that Vlad III Dracula took great pleasure from impaling his Turkish war enemies on long wooden spikes. It was reported that he had hired master surgeons to help guide the thick shafts – from insertion at the anus, up through the intestines and forming an exit point on the upper back – in order to prevent damage to the vital organs. Provided victims didn’t die of shock or blood loss, it was possible to keep them alive for up to several days. Oh, I cannot imagine the pain those people had gone through.
That was up to 1476 when his assassination occurred.
I didn’t stay here for long because there wasn’t much to see as the castle had been in ruins. Nonetheless, the view atop would be plainly breathtaking.
Address: DN7C, Romania
Casa Vlad Dracu
After finishing up the Transfagarasan road trip, I headed north to Sighisoara where you will find the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler.
Situated on the Council tower square, this yellow building is where the nobleman father of Vlad III who became Prince Vlad II of Wallachia resided in. His son, the Impaler, was born in 1431 and lived in this house for his earliest four years or so, eventually succeeded him, becoming Vlad III. As the history stated, it would be one the oldest in the area enclosed by the citadel, as it survived the 1676 fire.
This building had been converted into a combination of restaurant and museum, also known as Casa Vlad Dracu. The interior of the restaurant was very royal, I’d say. Kind of like how you would imagine the vampire Dracula’s home to be like. There were pictures of Vlad the Impaler. Well, you can’t miss mural of the Vlad Dracu in a turban on the first floor.
I decided to eat there and when I looked into the menu, it was surely filled with romanian traditional cuisine food, such as “Prince Dracula Food.” I’d say the beef stew I ordered blew my taste buds away; however, it was reasonably expensive.
The town, Sighisoara, had been a UNESCO World Heritage site. Also, it had a handful of really good museums dedicated to its history, which include the museum in the Clock Tower, and a torture museum right next door.
I was mostly fascinated with its historical aura kept deep between the medieval walls. The towers and walls surrounding the old town are from the 14th and 15th centuries. You could walk around the old town in less than an hour, although there were some interesting museums and churches to visit also.
Overall, I enjoyed exploring the restaurant and the old narrow lanes and towers. This town had the perfect look for a “Dracula” movie.
Address: Strada Cositorarilor 5, Sighișoara 545400, Romania
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