This post was originally written for my old travel blog Dream Explore Wander on 31 October 2016.
The day I decided to visit Bran Castle was all grey and cold with a chance of snow. Great. I took a peek at the sky and for a second I wanted to snooze for five more minutes. If only I was just visiting another castle. But no, I was going to Bran Castle, THE Dracula Castle. Any fans of Stoker would be stoked (pun intended) to see this place, and I too was excited about it. Besides, the gloomy weather gave some sort of dramatic effect.
My friends and I walked from our hostel to the said bus station that was supposed to take us to Stadionul Municipal. We had some trouble finding the right bus, but after asking a local with our very limited Romanian, we finally managed to find the bus. After getting inside the bus, we didn’t exactly know where to get off. Here was inside the bus, three very foreign looking tourists trying to find the right bus stop. We were lucky that the locals on the bus happily helped us.
The bus station was sad. It looked abandoned. I wondered if it would look more “cheerful” during the warmer months. No one was really there, and I was getting anxious that we were in the wrong place. A few people came, but I was still unsure. Maybe this was just the wrong time to see the castle, there didn’t seem to be many tourists like us, wait…is that wrong or perfect timing? I couldn’t decide. More people would justify that this was in fact the correct place to get to Bran, but more people would mean a crowded castle. As my mind was arguing with itself, a bus came. At the front of the bus was a sign “BRAN”. Oh yeah. Dracula Castle here I come.
It wasn’t long for me to see that more than a few people on that bus were also heading for Bran. When we finally arrived, I could see more people, they probably got up way earlier than me. As I was famished, we decided to eat before going into the castle. There was a building just in front of the bus station and we soon discovered it was like a food court. I ordered quesadilla, yes yes Mexican food, in Romania of all places, but no regrets, it was so good. Besides, by that time I had already lived in Romania for five months and had eaten my fair share of Romanian food.
With my stomach fueled by the delicious quesadillas, my friends and I crossed the road and walked towards a market-like place. There were so many people there, many were looking at the many Dracula related souvenirs.
I thought to myself, “The entrance of the castle must be here somewhere.”
Indeed it was. I quickly spotted a simple ticket counter with its roof topped with snow. After purchasing my ticket, I walked up the rather steep hill towards the castle. I could see snow and trees that looked like naked Christmas trees (sans decorations, I mean) surrounding me. It was magical.
I then saw a glimpse of the castle and a moment later, there, perched on a rocky hill: Bran Castle. To be honest, I was quite surprised that it was rather simple. After all, this is that famous Dracula Castle. Isn’t it supposed to be all gothic, dark and eerie all at the same time?
Before I go on, let me set things straight. Bran Castle actually has nothing to do with Dracula whatsoever.
I apologize to have disappointed you, please don’t be mad at me.
This castle has seen so much of the Romanian history from the invasion of Ottomans to being a royal home to Queen Maria of Romania. So where does the connection to the famous Dracula comes from?
Bram Stoker, an Irish writer, wrote a Gothic novel titled Dracula in 1897. The book mentioned Transylvania, the Carpathian Mountains and a castle that very much resemble the description of Bran Castle. Weirdly enough, Stoker has never even visited Romania! Anyway, through this book, Bran Castle was suddenly known as “Dracula Castle”. This was all then supported by the fact the Transylvania area was once known to be very mystical.
Many people also believe that Dracula is actually Vlad Tepes, son of Vlad II Dracul. He was Prince of Wallachia and was known for his act of impaling his enemies. However, Romanians actually have a lot of respect for Vlad Tepes since he did the country good by eliminating the bad guys and protected his nation.
If you are really looking for Vlad Tepes’ actual castle, it’s located in Poenari, now in ruins.
I think it’s very important for people to know that Bran Castle has more to it than just its resemblance with a castle in a horror story. There are important history within the castle that is part of Romania today.
Inside the castle, I could see many things. There were armours, neat bedrooms and even a secret passage. This secret passage was built inside the wall and was used for people to escape in case of emergency. Outside, in the middle of the castle, was a small courtyard with a well. This water well is actually more than just a well. There is a secret hideout room inside it. It is said that when Queen Marie occupied this castle, she added an elevator that would take her to the hideout room.
As I made my way to the back of the castle, I could see a breathtaking view of bare trees and snow everywhere. It was a beautiful sight, and with the grey clouds above, it gave off an almost spooky feelings. I was shivering cold, but I was very happy to be here. I came to see the famous Dracula Castle, only to find more than that.
The sky was turning darker by the minute. It was time for me to take off and go back to Brașov. Dracula doesn’t exist after all, but Bran Castle exists. That castle sitting on a hill, overlooking the Carpathian Mountains, holds stories not less interesting that the story of Dracula. That castle is real.
FULL DISCLOSURE: The book title “Dracula” is an affiliated link to Book Depository. I recommend Book Depository since I am a satisfied customer myself and should you purchase through the link I will get a very small percentage (at NO EXTRA COST TO YOU).