Bran Castle in Transylvania is famous for spawning the original vampire legend of Count Dracula. Long before sparkly vampires à la Twilight, the original bloodsucking creature of the night was said to roam the shadowy halls of this Transylvania ‘Dracula’ castle.
Today you can tread in the footsteps of the night stalker himself. Perched precariously on a rock high above a valley near Brașov in Romania, Bran Castle is open for business, cashing in on its nefarious reputation as Dracula’s former abode.
Bran Castle Transylvania fun facts
1. The author of Dracula never actually visited the Transylvania Castle
Irish author Bram Stoker invented Dracula as we know him today. The count-turned-villain was the main character of Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel, set in a vast (and creepy) castle perched high above a valley. Beneath the stone fortress, a river flowed past. Whether fact or fiction, its resemblance to Bran Castle is uncanny, notwithstanding the fact that Stoker never actually visited the castle. In fact, he never even set foot in Romania!
2. Vlad the Impaler, aka Count Dracula
Stoker did look to history for some inspiration, however. Although Dracula is said to be entirely fictional, Stoker modelled the predator after a real-life villain, Vlad III Dracula, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula. And this blood-thirsty ruler of Wallachia did actually stay at Bran Castle, albeit only for a few months as a prisoner of the Hungarian army in the 15th century.
3. The locals believed in vampires
Romanian locals believed that strigoi roamed the area after dark. These spirits rose from the dead and fed on their victims’ blood. Sound familiar? As the story goes, the strigoi were actually ‘normal’ people during the day. Come nightfall, however, their souls left their sleeping bodies to torment their neighbours.
4. Real-life inhabitants of Bran Castle
Who or what roams the castle after dark is anyone’s guess. And in this case, the truth really is stranger than fiction.
In 1920, the country’s beloved Queen Marie of Romania received the castle as a gift. Queen Marie was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Romania’s last queen consort. From 1920 to 1934, she lovingly restored and transformed the property into the royal family’s summer residence.
After Queen Marie’s death, her daughter Princess Ileana inherited the castle. Queen Marie’s final wish was that her heart be taken to Balchik Castle near the Black Sea and interred.
But, her heart wandered for some time. Wars ensued and the territory changed hands. At first, Queen Marie’s heart was moved to Bran Castle. When communism swept the country, custodians moved her heart once again. At last, her heart found its resting place at Pelisor Castle in Romania’s Sinaia region.
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5. A hospital for the sick and wounded
During World War II, Princess Ileana put the extensive property to good use. The Princess was a qualified nurse and used the castle as a hospital to treat wounded soldiers.
6. There is a secret passage
Surely it’s not a castle unless it has a secret passage? And Bran Castle certainly doesn’t disappoint with a secret passage connecting the first and third floors.
Initially, no one knew the passage even existed. When Queen Marie decided the castle’s 57 rooms needed a refurb, so renovators moved an old fireplace. And hey presto, they unearthed a secret passage!
7. Bran Castle Transylvania is a modern-day Romanian landmark
The castle’s most famous resident may be a figment of the imagination (we hope), but the Dracula legend certainly has done wonders for Romania’s tourism.
Not only is Bran Castle a treasured national monument, but it was also the country’s first private museum, displaying art, artefacts, weapons and costumes from its long history.
Feed your imagination with a visit to Bran Castle in Transylvania. Shrouded in dark myths, its thick fortress walls have seen dark days and the love of a queen. Walking through its cobblestone courtyards is a walk through centuries of history, from its founding by the Teutonic knights in the 13th century to its 20th-century introduction as a tourism hotspot.
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Have you visited Bran Castle in Transylvania? Would you like to share the secrets you discovered? We’d love to hear your experience (spooky or not) in the comments below…