Transylvania in Romania is a fantastic area to visit. Set amidst the Carpathian mountains with beautiful scenery it is often associated with vampires thanks to Bram Stoker setting the start of his novel Dracula there. Stoker never visited Transylvania.
Just south of the city of Brasov is the town of Bran. You can tell when you are approaching the area – billboards advertising all sorts of Dracula/vampire experiences line the roads as you draw closer to the town itself. Bran is famous for being the location of ‘Dracula’s Castle’.
The Dracula link is completely tenuous – the castle was originally a fortress built in the 13th Century by the Teutonic Knights. In 1377 the Hungarian King of the time granted the people of Brasov the right to build a castle. It was completed around eleven years later. The castle’s connection to Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III Dracula), who ruled Wallachia from 1448 to 1476 (on and off), provides the vampire link. Vlad was renowned for his brutality, and spent much of his reign defending his lands from both Ottoman and Hungarian armies. It is thought that he passed through Bran in 1459 and it has been postulated that he may have stayed there but most historians agree that he probably didn’t.
We visited during the middle of winter on a relatively quiet day. There are a myriad of Dracula/vampire souvenirs stands outside before you enter the castle itself. You can imagine it getting very busy and pretty crowded at the height of the tourist season.
Bran Castle is undeniably dramatic from the outside. It’s set atop a crag spanning a mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia and is clearly a strategic location.
Inside it is less exciting but interesting nevertheless. It largely comprises exhibitions and museum artefacts that belonged to Queen Marie, the popular last queen of Romania, who spent much of her time there in the later years of her life. The castle was given to her by the citizens of Brasov in 1920. You can wander around the castle on your own or take a guided tour. Alongside the exhibition spaces there are lots of staircases and nooks and crannies to explore.
As this is a blog for travelling and foodies, what is worth noting is that, while there is no real evidence of any connection to Bram Stoker or Dracula, the castle doesn’t seem to have a kitchen…