Situated between the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains, 30 km far from Brasov, Bran Castle, is the main touristic point that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists because of a legend: Count Dracula’s Legend, although the historical sources state that Vlad the Impaler came here only once, in his route to Brasov.

 

Bran Castle is situated on the old border between Transylvania and Wallachia. Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” (although it is one among several locations linked to the Dracula legend, including Poenari Fortress and Hunyad Castle), it is marketed as the home of the titular character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There is, however, no evidence that Stoker knew anything about this castle, which has only tangential associations with Vlad III, voivode of Wallachia, the inspiration for Dracula. The location Bram Stoker actually had in mind for Dracula’s Castle while writing his novel was not far from the Borgo Pass near the former border of Transylvania with Moldavia.

 

The castle is now a museum open to tourists, displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Mary. At the bottom of the hill where the Bran Castle is located, is a small open air museum exhibiting traditional Romanian peasant structures (cottages, barns, etc.) from across the country.

 

Initially, the Bran Castle (in Slavic „brana” means „gate”) was a stronghold known as The Stone of Dietrich, built by the Teutonic Knights in 1212, as a fortified position in the Burzenland at the entrance to a mountain valley through which traders had travelled for more than a millennium, but in 1242 it was destroyed by the tartars and the stronghold was conquered by the Saxons living in Transylvania towards the end of the 13th century. The first documentary attestation dates from November 19, 1377, when Ludovic I D’Anjou king of Hungary, gave the inhabitants of Brasov the privilege to build a castle in the place of the old stronghold. Then, between 1419 and 1424, the castle was in Sigismund’s (king of Hungary) possession. In 1438-1442, the castle was used in defense against the Ottoman Empire, and later became a customs post on the mountain pass at the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. It is believed the castle was briefly held by Mircea the Elder of Wallachia during whose period the customs point was established. The Wallachian ruler Vlad Ţepeş (Vlad the Impaler) 1448-1476 does not seem to have had a significant role in the history of the fortress, although he passed several times through the Bran Gorge. For a period the Bran Castle belonged to the Magyar Kings but due to King Vladislav II’s failure to repay loans, the city of Brasov gained possession of the fortress in 1533. At the end of the 15th century, it was subordinated to the authority of the Szeklers Committee, and since the reign of Iancu of Hunedoara, it passed under the rule of the Voivode of Transylvania.

 

In 1920, the castle became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania. It became the favorite home and retreat of Queen Marie. The castle was inherited by her daughter Princess Ileana and was later seized by the communist regime with the expulsion of the royal family in 1948. In 2005, the Romanian government passed a special law allowing restitution claims on properties illegally expropriated, such as the Bran Castle, and thus a year later the castle was awarded ownership to Dominic von Habsburg, the son and heir of Princess Ileana.

 

On May 18, 2009, the Bran Castle administration was transferred from the government to the administration of Archduke Dominic and his sisters Maria-Magdalena Holzhausen and Elisabet Sandhofer. On June 1, the Habsburgs opened the refurbished castle to the public as the first private museum of the country and disclosed with Bran Village a joint strategic concept to maintain their domination in the Romanian tourist circuit and to safeguard the economic base in the region.

 

After the Minister of Culture has withdrawn most of the items from Bran Castle, these have been eventually replaced by furniture pieces that used to belong to the Habsburg family. The most valuable ones are The Crown, The Scepter and a golden dagger and they all belonged to King Ferdinand. We might mention also a portrait of Princess Ileana with her signature upon it, a bed cover, several furniture items and a guest book that belonged to Queen Mary. The certain book was offered to her in 1920 by the community from Brasov and contains the impressions of all personalities from the country and abroad that had passed the threshold of the castle during nearly three decades.

 

There is one chamber in the castle dedicated to Bram Stoker, where the legend of Vlad the Impaler and the myth of Dracula are presented. In the court of the Castle there is a village museum presenting the life of the peasants in the area, the work and customs from the Rucar – Bran area. The Bran Castle is the destination preferred by American and British tourists for Halloween. The American magazine “Forbes” has placed Bran Castle on the 2nd position among the most expensive estates in the world, being estimated at 140 million dollars.

 

The Irish writer Bram Stoker, who published in 1897 the novel “Dracula, the vampire from Carpati” created the fame of the Castle associated with Dracula. Literary critics consider the book as being mediocre, but it had a great impact upon the readers, as six editions were printed before 1903. In fact, the legend of the bloody count called Dracula was not associated with Vlad the Impaler until the 19th – 20th century. This superposition of images is due to the fact that the Romanian ruler was known as pitiless with those who did not obey him or who broke the laws, and the most frequent punishment was the impalement. Another explanation of the name, Dracula, could be represented by the fact that in 1431 Sigismund of Luxembourg invested Vlad II, Tepes’ father, with the Order of the Dragon, a secret order dedicated to the wars against the Turks, and whose emblem was a dragon, commonly associated with the symbol of devil. It seems that this is the reason why Vlad Tepes was called Vlad Dracula.