Make a Date with Dracula

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Flag of Romania  , Transylvania,
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Transylvania has been synonymous with Dracula ever since Bram Stoker wrote his epic novel. While visiting this historic and kind of scary part of the planet, be sure to visit Rasnov Fortress, Bran's Castle and Poenari – the real Dracula’s Castle.

Rasnov Fortress

Rasnov Fortress is nestled in the Carpathian Mountains 200 meters above the town of Rasnov.  Threatened in the Middle Ages by numerous invasions, the citizens of Rasnov would take refuge in the fortress during long sieges.  The fortress, which contained about 30 houses, a school and chapel, included 9 towers, 2 bastions relied on a drawbridge for defense.  In the center was a huge 143 meter deep well that, according to legend, was built by two Turkish prisoners in response to a concern about the availability of fresh water. Apparently it took 17 years to dig and they were promised their freedom upon completion but all they ended up receiving were two one way tickets to the afterlife.  Which, in as sense, is the ultimate freedom.

Bran’s Castle

Built in 1377 by the Saxons of Kronstadt, Bran’s Castle was first used in defense against the Ottoman Empire and then later became a custom’s post on the pass between Transylvania and Wallachia. 

 In 1920 it became a royal residence for the Kingdom of Romania and the principle home of Queen Kestine Marie. It was later inherited by her daughter Princess Ileana before being seized by the communist regime after they expelled the royal family from Romania in 1948.

In 2006, in accordance with the new 2005 law allowing restitution claims on properties seized by the communist government, Prince Dominic of Tuscany, the son and heir of Princess Ileana was awarded ownership of Bran Castle.  The Prince promptly put the castle up for sale for a whopping $78 million claiming he would only sell it to a buyer "who will treat the property and its history with the appropriate respect." 

The Romanian Parliament then tried to reclaim the castle saying the transfer of ownership to the Prince was illegal but failed in their attempt.  Fortunately the Prince had a change of heart and decided not to sell this precious piece of Romanian history. Instead he turned it into a museum dedicated to the history of the surrounding area and the memory of Queen Mary whose collection of art and furniture are displayed in the castle.

                Vlad Tepes also used the castle as a headquarters for his raids into Transylvania hence the reason it is marketed as the home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a favorite site for tourists – particularly on Halloween when the castle hosts a big bash.  There is, however, no evidence that Bram Stoker visited or was even aware of the castle.

Poenari Castle

                Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad III the Impaler, used this castle in the 15th century as one of his main fortresses choosing it due to its strategic location high on the mountain which made it difficult to overtake. 

                Vlad Tepes was the son of Vlad the Dragon aka Vlad II Dracul and was called Draculea which means son of Dracul.  Dracul in Romanian means the devil but in Vlad’s day it meant dragon.  His father was a member of the Order of the Dragons, an organization created by Emperor Sigismund. He later became known by the name Tepes which means impaler as this was his preferred method of executing his political opponents.

It is said that he killed between 20,000 and 40,000 European civilians and up to 100,000 invading Turkish Muslims mostly by means of impaling them on a sharp pole.

                When Vlad was in power he arrested all the nobles, impaling the older ones and forcing the younger ones and their families to march to the ruined Poienari Castle and rebuild it for his stronghold and refuge.  The nobles were forced to labor until their clothes fell off then they continued to work naked; very few of them survived the building of the castle.

                There is no firm evidence that the character of Dracula was actually based on Vlad the Impaler other than that Bram Stoker came across the name Dracula while reading a book on Romanian history.  It is more likely that the villain in the 1897 novel Dracula was actually based on the whacked out Countess of Hungary, Elizabeth Bathory who killed hundreds of young women in order to drink and bath in their blood believing this would preserve her youth.

Check out my Bran's Castle Video

Check out the Real Dracula's Castle

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