Travel writer, Nicole Basaraba writes about….Dracula’s Castle

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Dracula’s Castle the true story – Visit Romania
Posted on August 22, 2011 by Nicole Basaraba

Ever think about visiting Dracula’s Castle? Well you might be interested to know the true story about Bran Castle in addition to what you know of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I have to admit that I don’t recall having read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I remember watching a really old movie which based on the book, but I don’t think I’ve actually read the book. Not to worry! I already have the book waiting in my to-be-read pile.

Before I went on my trip to Romania this year, I already knew that Dracula’s Castle wasn’t actually “Dracula’s” Castle. The real name of the Castle is Bran Castle and it was home to Romanian royalty: Queen Marie of Edinburg, wife of Ferdinand I of Romania. Having lived in the Castle in the early 1900′s, it makes the Castle a pretty modern one. The interior still has pieces of furniture the Queen filled the rooms with to make it more homely. (Actually if you have time to read up on her history, Queen Marie was an amazing and powerful lady. I know I was impressed by her lifetime achievements).

Queen Marie’s room

But as you know, Bran Castle is known by many as Dracula’s Castle (not Queen Marie’s residence) and this was because of the major success of Irish author, Bram Stoker’s book: Dracula. Inside Bran Castle you can read on the top floors, about Bram Stoker and his book. It is said that Bram Stoker hadn’t even visited Bran Castle, but was transfixed with Transylvania. From what I do know about the book, I think Stocker makes Transylvania seem like this creepy and scary place, but it is actually strikingly beautiful and the people are very friendly.

Vlad III – Prince of Wallacia (1431-1476)

It is said that Bram Stoker was in contact with a historian or academic who gave him information about Bran Castle and also about the 13 century Prince of Wallacia: Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), who killed criminals by impaling them on spikes. A portrait on this ruthless ruler of Romania (who actually resided in northern Romania) looks like a vampire, with his sunken cheeks, black eyes and sharp features. Its interesting to note that his father’s name was Vlad Dracul (Dracul in Romanian meaning the Devil) and you can see the family tree inside Bran Castle. Stoker is thought to have used information about Vlad the Impaler as a basis for his Dracula.

The castle itself was very unique. It looked completely different than the stone-walled castles I’ve seen in Western Europe. This castle had white washed walls and it was warm inside! Each room in the castle was small and had a different shape unlike the square rooms of other castle’s I’ve seen. These rooms actually felt homely and a lot of that had to do with Queen Marie sprucing up the place with beautiful furniture.

Some of the original furniture is still in the castle and you can see it all in its dark wooden glory. I love the dark wood on white. It looks so rich and inviting. The castle also had a lot of “secret” staircases. I don’t know if they were actually secret, but ddoesn’t it look like someone’s home rather than a castle?

There seemed to be multiple ways/paths that lead to the same room, although some of them were closed off, probably to keep people from getting lost.

Bran Castle Courtyard view

What I really liked about the castle (like many other tourist attractions in Romania) is that they actually kept the original furniture and even put on display Queen Marie’s wedding gown and King Ferdinand’s attire. It was quite an experience to stand so close to something that was real. I also liked that the castle wasn’t so full of tourists that you had to shuffle from one room to the next or to wait in line for the stairs. There were lots of people, but you still have room to see everything and to take your time reading all the plaques with historical information.

View from Bran Castle

The castle was excellent and I would definitely recommend it for a visit. The only thing that was a little disappointing was the gift/souvenir shop. I was hoping that it would have the complete history of Queen Marie because the snippets I read in the castle were fascinating. I don’t even recall copies of Bram Stoker’s Dracula being available for purchase.

In front of the castle there are many huts full of souvenirs: some things are handmade like the traditional shirts, bowls, other artwork and some things are the tacky images of Vlad III, which will just look silly when you take them home. This is why I didn’t get any souvenirs from Bran Castle, but from the other cities I visited (more posts are coming soon).