Our quest to explore some more of Europe is well and truly underway. Having kicked things off by flying into Bucharest, Romania at the end of January, we’re now enjoying some time in the Transylvanian province of the country and we just got around to visiting the famous Bran Castle.
Although it’s definitely more than just a little chilly here at the minute, this part of the country is beautiful and Brasov is certainly making a lasting positive impression on us. Take a look at the pic below, isn’t it just so picturesque?
Anyway, the main reason why we ventured north was to check out Bran Castle, a castle that is widely referred to as none other than Dracula’s Castle. Yes, I’m talking about Count Dracula!
The place was fascinating and the dark history attached to it was so interesting. We took our snapchat followers on a behind the scenes tour of the castle, the video of which you can watch below.
So, because much of the history of this castle and the link with Dracula himself is shrouded in uncertainty, let’s talk a little more about the famous Bran Castle and the story behind the man that Bram Stoker allegedly based his character on.
The ‘Real’ Dracula
We’ve all heard of Dracula and we’re more than familiar with his signature pointed fangs, black cape and his innate thirst for blood.
While the Count Dracula that we all know from the movies and so regularly see on Halloween night is a fictitious character, his historical namesake that lived here in Romania is anything but fictional.
Vlad III, or ‘Vlad the Impaler’ as he was widely known, was a medieval prince that had a fondness for brutally punishing and killing his enemies through impalement.
A little history about Vlad Tepes (Jump to here to skip the history part if that bores you!)
Imagine spending what’s meant to be your crazy teenage years as a political prisoner whose fate hung on the activities of your father, the leader of a war-torn region in another country. Not fun, right? Well, that’s how Vlad III’s spent his youth.
It was in 1442 that Vlad and his brother, Radu, were handed over to the then-ruler of the Ottoman/Turkish Empire, Sultan Murad II.
The two young men were held hostage to safeguard that their father, Vlad Dracul, ruler of Wallachia, would remain devoted to the Ottomans during their war with Hungary.
Still with me? Good!
Well, during their imprisonment, Vlad and his brother were educated in science, philosophy and the arts. It’s said that they were also schooled in the arts of war, getting lessons in both swordsmanship and horsemanship from their Ottoman kidnappers, all of which were skills that were very useful for a descendant of a noble family and none of which would be useful for the likes of us today!
As you can just imagine, Vlad didn’t appreciate the fact that he was held against his will for all those years. He felt hatred for his captors, and it’s this feeling of hatred that was his incentive for siding with the Hungarians against the Ottomans when he finally became ruler of Wallachia in the year 1448.
Ok, so you’re probably thinking what’s all this got to do with Dracula and Bran Castle?
Well, let me explain more. When Vlad became ruler of Wallachia, he unleashed a method of execution that terrorised everyone that lived in Wallachia and its surrounding areas during that time.
It was impalement, and Vlad was quite the expert at it. It’s said that he impaled over 20,000 people in his 6 years of ruling. That’s an average of 9 people every single day. Busy man.
The Concept for the Dracula that we all Know
It’s this story, this brutal reign of terror and love to see people suffer that inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional character ‘Dracula’.
The inspiration for the name of the character came from the following – Vlad the Impaler was part of the Order of the Dragon, known as the Order of the Draculestis, and evidence of this is his signature ‘Dracula’ that was written on documents of the time.
Photo credit: Boogeyman13
Bram Stocker, an Irish writer, created the character in 1897 and now that he had a name for him, he needed to find a suitable setting that would emulate the fascinating events that would surround such a character.
Our tour guide in Brasov explained to us that this is the reason why Bram choose Transylvania as the setting. Even though Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the character, was not from Transylvania, it was the forest, the castles and the hilly landscape that made the area the obvious choice for Stoker.
Bran Castle aka Dracula’s Castle
Bran Castle is the only castle in all of Transylvania that completely fits Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula’s Castle, and because of this, it is widely known as such.
In his novel, Bram talks about the Count’s castle being situated in a deep rift where the rivers wind in deep gorges through forests, a description that could also be used to describe Bran Castle today.
Interestingly, Bram Stoker never actually visited Romania. He depicted the castle based upon a portrayal of Bran Castle that was given to him at the time.
It was from this description that Bram was able to create a castle for his novel that was blatantly similar to Bran Castle and no other in all of Romania.
How to Get to Bran Castle
You can take a day tour from Bucharest for about €60 but I wouldn’t recommend doing so unless you’re very tight on time.
Brasov is a beautiful city with an excellent walking tour, good restaurants, lively bars and great view points so try to get the train from Bucharest to Brasov and spend a night or 2 in the city if you can.
Bran Castle is situated about 30kms outside of Brasov. It can be reached by bus from the Terminal 2 bus station and the fare is about €1.50.
Buses leave every hour or so to go to Bran, with regular buses also doing the return journey.
You’ll be dropped off directly opposite the castle so you’ll get your first glimpse of it as soon as you get off the bus.
How much does it cost to enter Bran Castle?
We paid €12.50 each. This included an audio guide in English (which I recommend getting) and entrance to the torture chambers on the second floor.
Is it worth going to see Bran Castle?
In short, yes! Bran is a nice day trip away from Brasov and the castle, regardless of if it’s the real castle that Bram used for inspiration for his novel or not, is steeped in history and is quite spectacular and eerie when photographed from the right angle.
We did go on a snowy day in February so there weren’t too many tourists there but I have read that it can be super touristy in the summer months.
Irrespective of that, it’s definitely worth going to see. After all, it’s not every day that you’ll get to get to see a vampire’s castle up close, is it?!