When it comes to crowded tourist attractions, both Liam and I are normally on the same page: they suck. We hate the noise, the rushing around like cattle and the ticket prices are just stupid. But when we visited Bran Castle, something weird happened. For once, we disagreed.
Liam thought it was a tourist trap whereas I absolutely loved Dracula’s Castle.
Yes, it attracts busloads of tourists from nearby Brasov and yes, the town is full of lame souvenir shops. Fair enough. Still, if you count to 10 and relax, you’ll realize that it’s actually a charming castle with a mystical atmosphere.
What’s So Mystical About Bran Castle?
Bran Castle is believed to be the place that inspired Bram Stoker to write his famous novel about Count Dracula, hence the nickname Dracula’s Castle. The chance of running into any bloodthirsty gentlemen is quite low, but who wouldn’t want to set their imagination free here?
And just for the record: no, I don’t believe in vampires and I don’t carry self-defence garlic in my backpack. I just think it’s really fun to dive into the tales and legends of the places we visit.
Gloomy Stares And Swooshing Capes
Deep in the mythical land of Transylvania, you find a fairytale castle with a dark history. During the day, it makes for a lovely postcard as it sits on top of a hill overlooking a charming village surrounded by a lush green forest. But when the sun goes down, the villagers hurry home and lock their doors, for strange creatures will soon roam the streets, craving the blood of the living… Da-da-da-dam.
The moment you step foot in the little park surrounding the castle, you see why Bran Castle is the perfect setting for a vampire tale. In front of you rises a steep hill, barely big enough to hold the small castle on its top. A myriad of tall towers in different shapes and sizes shoot up, dramatically reaching for the sky above. You get the feeling that up there, peeking through one of the many dark windows, a set of eyes could be watching you.
If you like fancy castles have a read about the time we stayed in Ait Ben Haddou
Inside the castle, it’s hard not to get lost in the maze of secret shortcuts and winding staircases. A fake bookshelf suddenly swings open and reveals a flight of stairs leading to the floor below. Perfect for picking up something you forgot downstairs… Or making swift disappearances. The cheerful noises from the town below are silenced and all you hear is the howling wind. As you stand there, admiring the view, you suddenly freeze: was that the distant swoosh of a cape?
The Guy That Liked Putting Poles Up Peoples’ Bums
Although Bram Stoker created the modern vampire we know today, the myth of bloodthirsty creatures has been present in Balkan folklore for centuries. Whereas Count Dracula was a pale-faced nobleman with good manners, the Balkan guys were believed to be repulsive zombie-like beasts. Stoker himself never actually visited Transylvania, but he drew inspiration for his book from these myths.
Well, from that and from a guy with a pretty particular hobby.
That guy was Vlad Draculea, or as his friends called him, Vlad the Impaler. He was a 15th-century prince who lived in the Wallachia region of Romania. During his reign, Vlad became fond of giving his enemies a special treatment called impalement. For those of you who are not too versed in medieval torture methods, impalement is the act of penetrating the human body with a pole through the bum. Yeah, Vlad wasn’t the nicest guy in town.
Years later, Bram Stoker named his vampire character Dracula in honour of Vlad’s remarkable evilness.
Bran Castle’s Real History Doesn’t Lag Behind
Still not sure if Bran Castle is worth a visit? Alright, let’s bring out some cool real-life details from the dusty history books.
If you like history, come and explore an abandoned Soviet Prison with us
Built in the 13th century, Bran Castle has survived 800 years of wars, love stories and changing kings. It was destroyed by Mongols, it has belonged to the royal families of both Hungary and Romania, it was seized by Romania’s communist regime and was even turned into a hospital during WWII. Pretty fascinating, right?
Fancy A Sleepover At Dracula’s?
As if all of this wasn’t awesome enough, get this: you can actually spend the night at Bran Castle!
I should probably mention that you’ll need a special invitation from Bram Stoker’s grandnephew himself. For Halloween 2016, Airbnb and Dacre Stoker launched a competition in which the two winners would spend the night of the 31st of October alone at the castle. Sleeping in red-velvet coffins, possibly wearing long black capes and definitely freaking out a little.
How To Get To Bran Castle
Bran Castle is an easy half-day trip from Brasov. Buses leave from the bus station every 30 minutes and the trip takes 45 minutes one way. Tickets are 7 Romanian lei per person.
Why not keep that trip going and spend a weekend in Krakow?
The normal entrance fee is 35 lei. If you have a valid student ID, you only pay 20 lei. Seeing the entire castle shouldn’t take more than 2 hours.
What do you think of Bran Castle – is it a tourist trap or not? Did I miss anything in the post? Or do you just want to say hola? Drop us a line – we love making new friends!