Last week, I made the one hour journey via bus form Brasov to Bran. It was an interesting bus trip. My driver smoked the entire time and of course several of the passengers smoked too. When I arrived at Bran, I smelled like an ashtray. Most people around me didn’t notice my smell because they themselves were smokers; so I was the only one who noticed. I guess that is a good thing. I think… Anyway, I was starving when I arrived so I scouted out a few spots to eat and selected the one with the most people. I had a delicious meal, drank a cold beer, and began my tour of Bran Castle.
Most people know the castle in Bran, Romania as Dracula’s Castle. This belief is incorrect. Bran Castle is not Dracula’s Castle. It’s an important castle in Romania’s history, but it’s not really associated with Dracula, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III). In fact, Stoker probably had no clue about the history of Bran Castle. Now that we got that important historical fact out of the way, let’s press on to what Bran Castle is really about.
Once you arrive, you will be confronted with dozens of souvenir shops at the entrance of the castle. It felt like Disney Land. The amount of shops, bars, restaurants, and peddlers gives an experienced traveler a sense that Bran is a bit of a tourist trap. OK, a huge tourist trap. However, the castle still has a history that should be understood and shared. For the record, I didn’t buy anything but I did take a few pictures so you could see what it looked like.
Once you make it through the gauntlet of souvenir shops, you will approach the ticket office of the castle. The cost for one adult is 45 Lei ($15.00), which is a bit steep in my opinion. A week before I arrived, the current owner of Bran had put up the castle for sale and it made international news. Regardless, I paid the fee and walked into the castle gardens, which are beautiful.
One of the earliest known facts about the castle is that in the year 1377, the Saxons from Brasov began to build a stone structure on the current location of Bran Castle. The fortification provided the Saxons with extra security and an outpost to protect Brasov. During the early to mid fifteenth century, the castle served as a fortification against the Ottoman Army. Through the centuries Bran Castle eventually became the possession of the Hungarian Kings. However, due to a debt that was never paid, the Saxons from Brasov retook procession of the castle in 1533.*
Unlike many other castles in Europe, Bran has the funds for upkeep and refurbishment. Some might call the inside plastic or fake, but I simply saw funding and an attempt to demonstrate history. I rather enjoyed my time wandering around the poorly guided tour. The signs inside are confusing and there is hardly anyone inside to answer questions or point you in the right direction. Therefore, you’re on your own when you pay the $15.00 to enter.
Due to lack of guidance and appropriate signs, I wandered around the inside of the castle for about 45 minutes. Eventually, I found myself overlooking the courtyard of the castle. I was pleased with the view and began snapping away.
I made my way back down to the first level where of course, I found the gift shop filled with Dracula and other items for sale. I looked around out of pure curiosity and decided not to buy the Dracula mug and T-Shirt. I made my way back to the courtyard and I sat down near the water well and thought about the castle and its history. Through the eyes of a traveler, I know that this is not Dracula’s Castle. Everyone should understand that. However, everyone should also understand that this castle is part of Romania’s rich history and it should be marketed that way. This castle and the surrounding area was a strategic location that was fought over for centuries. It is exactly this history that I came to learn more about and I strongly feel that I was able to accomplish that mission.
Over the past 100 years, the castle has exchanged hands between the former Royal Family of Romania and the Romanian Government. During the communist years, the castle belonged to the state. In 1995, the castle was returned back to the heirs of the former Royal Family. Currently, the house is for sale and it is reported that the current owner wants to sell it back to the Romanian government for 80 millions dollars. To learn more about the sale of Bran Castle, click here. Bran Castle For Sale.
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