Interesting facts about Bran Castle in Romania

Since its publication in 1897, Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel, Dracula, has gained worldwide fame. The story revolves around Jonathan Harker, a solicitor who embarks on a business trip to the castle of Count Dracula, a Transylvanian nobleman. Upon discovering that Dracula is a vampire, Harker returns to England. Later, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, a doctor, professor, lawyer, philosopher, scientist, and metaphysicist, defeats and kills Dracula. Although the novel concludes here, the vampire theme and the character of Count Dracula have been retold countless times in popular culture.

This influential novel has sparked a fascination with visiting Transylvania, the homeland of Dracula, and specifically Bran Castle, which is mentioned in the book as Dracula’s castle. For decades, numerous travelers have flocked to Bran Castle and Transylvania in Romania, boosting tourism statistics in the region. This popularity has even led to specialized tours focusing solely on this phenomenon.

However, despite the association with Bran Castle and the novel’s storyline, there are surprising facts about both the castle and this modern-day legend that will astound you.

You need to know these interesting facts about Bran Castle in Transylvania if you are planning a visit to Romania, but first let’s check the facts about Bran Castle and the Dracula phenomenon.

The facts about Bran Castle and the Dracula phenomenon;

  • 1. Count Dracula, the iconic character from Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula, is widely recognized as being inspired by Vlad the Impaler, a 15th-century Wallachian prince. However, within the novel itself, Count Dracula is portrayed as a Székely, claiming descent from Attila the Hun. He resides in his castle nestled in the Carpathian Mountains near the Borgo Pass.
Count Dracula's real castle
Vlad’s real castle in Carpathian Mountains near the Borgo Pass in Romania.

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  • In contrast to the traditional portrayal of vampires in European folklore as repulsive and bloodthirsty creatures, Count Dracula stands out as a captivating and charming figure in most rewritten versions.
Interesting facts about Bran Castle in Romania
  • On the other hand, Vlad the Impaler, who served as the inspiration for the character of Dracula, was a significant figure in 15th-century Wallachia, holding the position of Voivode three times and regarded as a Romanian national hero. Historical records indicate that Vlad adamantly refused to pay personal homage to Mehmed II, the Ottoman Sultan, and instead impaled tens of thousands of Turks and Muslim Bulgarians.

Fatih Sultan Mehmet and Vlad Dracula

Severel rumors and myths were told after Vlad’s dead such as;

  • a. During the Battle of Valea Albă, Vlad’s own soldiers turned against him and killed him. This betrayal stemmed from the fact that Vlad had spent a portion of his youth in the Ottoman palace and occasionally wore Ottoman janissary attire on the battlefield. As a result, his soldiers mistakenly perceived him as an Ottoman and attacked him.
  • b. According to the Austrian chronicler Jacob Unrest, it is reported that Vlad was assassinated in his camp by a Turkish assailant who had disguised themselves.
  • c. Leonardo Botta, the Milanese ambassador to Buda, reported that the Ottomans dismembered Vlad’s corpse during the Battle of Valea Alba.
  • d. According to Bonfini, Vlad’s head was sent to Mehmed II and eventually impaled on a high stake in Constantinople. Allegedly, his decapitated head was displayed and buried in Voivode Street, presently known as Bankalar Caddesi, in Karaköy. There is a rumor that Voyvoda Han, situated at No. 19 Bankalar Caddesi, served as the final resting place for Vlad the Impaler’s skull.
  • e. Local peasant traditions suggest that the remaining parts of Vlad’s body were later discovered in the marshes of Snagov by monks from a nearby monastery.

Voyvoda Inn in Karakoy
Voyvoda Inn in Karakoy Istanbul

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  • While there is no concrete evidence linking Vlad to being the direct inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel, it is known that Stoker chose the name “Dracula” because it translates to “devil” in Romanian. Stoker came across this name during his holiday in Whitby, where he discovered it in the public library.
  • The novel itself is an epistolary work, which signifies that it is composed in the form of letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles.
  • Dracula was primarily written during the 1890s, with Bram Stoker meticulously crafting over a hundred pages of notes for the novel. He delved deeply into Transylvanian folklore and history as sources of inspiration for his work.
Dracula-Bram Stoker-the firs edition of Dracula and Bram Stoker's notes
  • In the novel Dracula, Professor Abraham Van Helsing emerges as a prominent character. He is an elderly Dutch polymath, serving as a doctor, professor, lawyer, philosopher, scientist, and metaphysicist. Van Helsing possesses the knowledge and expertise required to combat and ultimately defeat Dracula. Often portrayed as a vampire slayer and monster hunter, he becomes the primary adversary of Count Dracula innumerous popular adaptations.
  • Throughout his writing career, Bram Stoker authored thirteen novels, three collections of short stories, twelve uncollected stories, and four non-fiction works. Among his extensive body of work, it is undoubtedly his novel Dracula that has gained him the greatest fame and recognition.

Bram Stoker
  • During Vlad’s ill-fated attempt to capture the sultan at Târgoviște on the night of June 16-17, 1462, his popularity waned, and an increasing number of Wallachians shifted their allegiance to his younger brother, Radu, who gained support with the aid of the Ottomans. As a result, in late 1462, Vlad was imprisoned at the behest of the King of Hungary.

The facts about Bran Castle In Transylvania;

  •  Timeline of Bran Castle’s History:

i. 13th century: The Knights of the Teutonic Order construct Bran Castle as a fortification.

ii. 14th century: King Louis of Hungary permits the construction of a fortress in the 14th century to defend against Ottoman encroachment.

iii. 1388: Construction of Bran Castle is completed, and it becomes Transylvania’s customs house.

iv. 15th century: Prince Mircea the Old of Wallachia receives the fortress from King Sigismund of Hungary. In 1441, Transylvania’s governor, János Hunyadi, engages in a battle against an Ottoman force at the castle.

v. 1690: The castle is transferred from the Brașov Transylvanian Saxons to the Habsburgs.

vi. Subsequent years: The castle is largely neglected and falls into disrepair for an extended period.

vii. 1920: Queen Marie of Romania inherits Bran Castle, and the fortress is reimagined as a castle. Queen Marie, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, serves as the last queen consort of Romania. Over the course of 14 years, she passionately restores the building, converting it into a royal summer residence.

viii. Princess Ileana, Queen Marie’s daughter, inherits the castle following her mother’s ownership.

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Screet staircases of Bran Castle
  • Tucked away within Bran Castle lies a staircase that was once a well-kept secret. Initially designed as an emergency escape route for castle officers, this staircase discreetly connected the first floor to the third floor. Ingeniously concealed behind a false fireplace, its existence remained forgotten for generations. It was not until Queen Marie initiated renovations in 1920 that this hidden staircase was rediscovered, revealing its cleverly hidden purpose.
  • Princess Ileana inherited Bran Castle and transformed it into a hospital during World War II. She name it “The Hospital of the Queen’s Heart,” and dedicated it to providing medical care for wounded soldiers from Brasov after the Red Cross hospital was bombed by American aircraft. Even after the war, the hospital continued to serve the region, treating the injured. Princess Ileana actively participated in patient care, serving as a nurse herself. Today functioning as a museum, Bran Castle pays homage to the remarkable life and achievements of Queen Marie of Romania.
Princess Ileana of Romania
Countess Elizabeth Bathory
  • While Bram Stoker may have brought Count Dracula to life, the concept of vampires predates his work. Some argue that Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a female serial killer from Romanian mythology, served as a genuine inspiration for Stoker. Legends depict her as exhibiting vampiric tendencies, such as bathing in the blood of virgins to maintain her youth. These tales describe her insatiable lust for blood.

Plus in the neighboring villages, an old tradition recounts the existence of the “strigoi.” By day, these individuals lead ordinary lives, but during the night, they separate from their bodies and torment humans from midnight until dawn. The presence of strigoi haunts these villages, inflicting torment upon residents as they sleep.


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Vlad’s painting
  • Contrary to popular belief, Bran Castle was never actually Dracula’s Castle. However, according to many historians, there is evidence suggesting that Vlad the Impaler was indeed held against his will at Bran Castle for a period of two months. In 1462, following his capture by the army of Hungarian King Matei Corvin, Vlad was imprisoned within the castle’s walls for the duration of his captivity. While it has been marketed as such, there is no historical evidence linking Vlad the Impaler to this castle, which inspired Bram Stoker’s stories. The name “Dracula’s Castle” was assigned by Romania as a means to attract tourists and boost tourism in the region.
Bram Stoker, Irish author

  • Bram Stoker’s depiction of Dracula’s castle, with its hilltop location and a river flowing below, bears a striking resemblance to Bran Castle. Surprisingly, Bram Stoker never actually visited Bran Castle himself. It is believed that his description of the castle was influenced by books about Transylvania and illustrations of Bran Castle.
Queen Marie, the last queen consort of Romania
  • In 1920, Bran Castle was bestowed as a palace to Queen Marie, the last queen consort of Romania, who developed a deep affection for it and spent numerous summers within its walls. In her final wishes, she requested to have her heart buried near the castle, resulting in the construction of a sarcophagus for this purpose. Today, you can discover an urn containing Queen Marie’s heart on the southwest side of the castle, near a serene creek nestled close to the forest.
  • Today Bran castle is one of the most visited attractions in Romania and with the impact of social media and popular vampire series of course 800.000 traveles visit the castle and the number is rising annually.
  • Since 2006, Bran Castle has been under the ownership of Archduke Dominic von Habsburg of Austria-Tuscany, along with his two sisters, Archduchess Elisabeth and Archduchess Maria Magdalena. As descendants of Princess Ileana, they continue to uphold the castle’s historical legacy.

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