Yes, I have visited Bran Castle in Transylvania and I will talk about it in this post but I also want to discuss the legend of Dracula, Romanians and why they dislike the Count. This way it will be more of an intellectual discussion, rather than “Hey, I’ve been to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania!”
First let me make this clear, Romanians do not understand our fascination with Count Dracula! I had come to this understanding over a decade ago when my friend who grew up in Romania told me that they had no idea who Dracula was until after communism fell in 1989, or until Romanians left their country. I had told countless people who could not wrap this idea around their head and who even tried to bring in the history of Vlad the Impaler as the original Dracula. To me it was interesting to see how people in their own minds will connect historical people, legends and storybook characters into their own creations.
Bram Stoker’s Novel
As most of us know, the novel Dracula was written by Irish novelist, Bram Stoker, and published in 1897. Stoker had never been to Romania, but drew his inspiration on the town of Whitby in England, Transylvanian folklore and history. I have traveled to Whitby, England for the Gothic Festival which is held once a year and it was a quite a place! I definitely saw how Bram Stoker drew inspiration for his novel from this seaport town. While on holiday, the name Dracula was discovered by Stoker in a book inside the Whitby Library. He chose the name because he thought it meant “devil” in Romanian, when the actual word for devil is “diavol”.
There are many scholars and ordinary people who have suggested that Dracula was or was inspired by historical figures like Vlad the Impaler or the countess Elizbeth Bathory. There has always been much disagreement of these theories, as Stoker’s notes had never mentioned either figure.
Romanian’s and the Story of Dracula
Without going too much into Romania’s history of the 20th century, the Romanian Communist Party was found in 1921 and dissolved in 1989. During this time of communism within Romania and Eastern Europe, there was full control against Western ideals. This meant any form of media, news, books, etc that was not part of the communist party was forbidden. I have travelled through all of Eastern Europe that was once part of the Soviet Block as well as former Yugoslavia, and they all tell the same stories.
With that said, there would have been no way that the horror story of Dracula would of made it to Romania, due to the controlled environment of the communist party. Also, the novel with it’s horrendous vampire character would have been a negative impact on Romania.
When I learned this a decade ago, I too had to wrap my own head around it and this changed my way of looking at things. We have been so engrossed in the belief that there was a character Dracula from Romania, whether true or legend that we confidently believed that even the Romanians knew about it. This all made me wonder what other stories we have been telling ourselves over the centuries, including religion and politics, that have influenced how we see other cultures in the world. Something to think about!
Truth be told, Bran Castle in Transylvania is nothing extraordinary in the sense that it has no relation to Dracula, as I had mentioned above. From what I have been told, it was a fortress that was chosen for tourism. It is a remarkable fortress in architecture and had a small tie with Vlad the Impaler, as he was imprisoned here for a bit of time. Although, I have also read in other sources that Vlad, had never been to the fortress but still was allied with Bran and Brasov. There are also no real ties to Dracula or vampires only that it is in Transylvania and written in Bram Stoker’s novel.
Bran Castle, is located in Bran which is a village in Transylvania. It was built between 1377 and 1388, overlooking a major mountain pass between Wallachia and Transylvania. It was a very strategic location to be built on and was the region where Vlad the Impaler ruled during the 15th century.
Today, Bran Castle is owned by the family of Queen Marie, who it was gifted to in 1920. This was her royal residence from 1920 to 1948. The castle is now a popular tourist attraction and museum that is dedicated to Queen Marie. Although, there are many Dracula inspired events that happen here including a Halloween event. It does seem that the locals have adopted our stories for the tourists! Do remember though that this is a castle dedicated to the former Romanian Queen Marie.
Walking through the rooms of Bran Castle was wonderful to see, as I do enjoy architecture and design. The interior rooms of the castle were tastefully decorated in period dark wood furnishings, iron pieces and artwork. All that were once owned by Queen Marie.
When I had visited, there was a toy collection exhibit that I loved. I have a fondness of old toys and dolls, so it was great to see this exhibition. I also felt that this is where the horror story of Dracula would die out in the castle, after seeing these sweet toys of a childhood past.
At the start of Bran Castle, there were many souvenir stands selling common trinkets as well as Dracula items. I remember sharing photos with my Romanian friends and they all felt it was a sell out to tourism. With that noted, I passed on the Dracula souvenirs and was happy with my photos instead.
I did say that I passed on the Transylvania tees and Dracula trinkets, but I did not pass up on a food vendor. I spotted local sausages being grilled, which intrigued me more than souvenirs. They asked if I wanted a double, so of course I said “YES!”. It is up to you, but I say pass on the Dracula souvenirs and go for the double sausage sandwich instead.
You can read all the folklore, stories and facts regarding the area of Transylvania but also remember the people of the area. That is with anything that you are fed through the media, books, news, etc. Listening to the stories of the people in any country is just as important to add to your travel experiences. Not all stories are told or listened to!
For visiting information, please visit – Bran Castle Official Website
A lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is putting on its shoes…– Mark Twain
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