Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In the count Dracula’s castle


Although there are perhaps a dozen of Dracula's castles in Transylvania, there’s only one that can somehow be connected with the person of Dracula, the one in Bran. It's a perfect example of the strength of the folk tales combined with images created by tourists looking for romantic (really romantic?) associations with visited places.
Bran castle (Romanian: Bran Castelul) lies at a critical point between the Bucegi Mountains and Piatra Craiului Massive, 30 km from the city of Brasov. This is one of the most important historical monuments, both because of the beauty of surrounding nature and the legend of the count Dracula. This medieval fortress for many centuries played an important role, thanks to its location. It was one of the most important trans-Carpathian passages through which important trade routes passed.

The years of the World War I marked its history with a circumstantial gesture of Brasov city authorities which on the occasion of the coronation of the Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles I as king of Hungary (under the name of Charles IV, on December 30, 1916) asked him to accept the building with the surrounding park as a gift. In the year 1920-1947 the castle was a royal residence. However, the current fame it earned thanks to... Dracula.
The character of Dracula is a mixture of historical events and legends associated with the reign of Vlad Tepeş (the Impaler), count from Transylviania, governor of Wallachia in the years 1448, 1456-1462 and 1476. Convinced that only a harsh rules could install order in the country and contribute successfully to its defense against external enemies, he imposed to his subjects honesty and diligence as primary virtues; dishonesty, theft, laziness and craftiness were severely punished by impalment. This was a very cruel penalty but perhaps more understandable in an age in which he lived, when other equally harsh punishments weren’t that rare, such as burning at the stake or hanging.
Such a conduct caused him many enemies who accused him of collaborating with the Turks. This led to the imprisonment of the count by king Matthias Corvinus. Contemporary chroniclers even competed in describing his, real or imaginary, atrocities.

Courtyard of the castle in Bran
When the Irish writer Bram Stoker was looking for the name for the hero of his novel of horror, he stumbled on folk tales and legends that grew out of those pamphlets. Count Vlad the Impaler inherited the nickname "Dracula" from his father, Vlad the Devil. The latter was originally nicknamed "Draco" or "dragon", which was later transformed by the people in the Wallachian "Dracul", meaning "Devil". It fit perfectly Bram Stoker who published his novel in 1897.
Stoker mixed the story of the cruel ruler with the stories circulating among the people about creatures whose existence hasn’t ended with the death. Such "non-dead" creatures, called vampires, suffer from the curse of immortality. According to folk beliefs, they leave their graves at night and wander among the living to feed on their blood.
From that time in popular culture Vlad has been presented not as a historical figure of flesh and blood, but rather as a caricature of a vampire. This image appeals to tourists. In addition, thanks to its location and mystery, tourists often consider the Bran castle to be his house. It was named Dracula's castle just three decades ago by the tourists who came here in search of Dracula, as known from the films inspired by the Bram Stoker’s novel. It was here where they found a castle which resembles the one described by the Irish writer.
Historical sources confirm that the count, after having been captured by king Matthias Corvinus, was imprisoned here for about two months, but they say nothing about his cruel actions in this area...

Secret staircase in the castle
How to get to Bran
The town can be reached from Brasov by train or by bus (on weekdays every half-hour, weekends – every hour).

Opening hours
(hours of the first and last entry)
May 1 - September 30
Mon 12.00-18.00, Tue-Fri 9.10-18.00
October 1 - April 30
Mon 12.00-16.00, Tue-Fri 9.00-16.00

adults: 20 lei
65+: 15 lei
students: 10 lei
pupils: 5 lei
video camera: 20 lei (photo camera included in the ticket price)
children under 6 years of age and persons with disabilities – free of charge
(In October 2011, one lei cost approx 25¢.)

The official website (in Romanian and English):

The visit was made possible thanks to my friends from the Brasov Metropolitan Agency. Thank you, Gabi :-)

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