”We Transylvanian nobles love not to think that our bones may be amongst the common dead. I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine and sparkling waters which please the young and gay. I am no longer young; and my heart, through wearing years of mourning over the dead, is not attuned to mirth. Moreover, the walls of my castle are broken; the shadows are many, and the wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements. I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may.”
One of the most sought-after tourist attractions in Romania, Bran Castle is situated 30 km away from Brasov, on the road connecting Braşov to Campulung Muscel, the place where the Piatra Craiului and Bucegi Mountains meet.
The castle’s placement in the enchanting passage of Rucar-Bran and the numerous legends related to its history make this destination irresistible. Foreigners interested in the story of Count Dracula described by author Bram Stoker in his novel entitled “Dracula”, will be captivated not only by the mystery of the story but also by the rich historical background and the picturesque village of Bran. Here, tourists can visit an open-air Ethnographic Museum which consists of old local-style village houses along with furniture, household gadgets, and costumes.
Bram Stoker never visited Romania. He depicted the imaginary Dracula’s castle based upon a description of Bran Castle that was available to him in turn-of-the-century Britain. Indeed, the imaginary depiction of Dracula’s Castle from the etching in the first edition of “Dracula” is strikingly similar to Bran Castle and no other in all of Romania. Stoker is widely purported to have used the illustration of Bran Castle in Charles Boner’s book, "Transylvania: Its Product and Its People", (London: Longmans, 1865) to describe his imaginary Dracula's Castle. As Bran Castle is the only one in Transylvania that corresponds to Bram Stoker's description, the castle is worldwide recognized as Dracula's Castle.
Dracula, the character of the novel with the same name written by the Irishman Bram Stoker at the end of the nineteenth century, is a centuries-old vampire, sorcerer, and Transylvanian nobleman, who claims to be a Székely descended from Attila the Hun. He lives in the ruins of a castle located somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains. In his conversations with the character Jonathan Harker, Dracula reveals himself as intensely proud of his boyar culture with a yearning for memories of his past. Count Dracula appears to have studied the black arts at the Academy of Scholomance in the Carpathian Mountains, near the town of Sibiu (then known as Hermannstadt).
Dracula – as he is perceived today – is a fictitious character whose name derives from the appellation given to Vlad Țepeș, the ruler of Wallachia from 1456-1462 and 1476, and who, for largely political reasons, was depicted by some historians of that time as a blood-thirsty despot. Count Dracula is often confused with Vlad Tepes, ruler of Walachia.
Originally, the name “Dracula”' was far from being a frightening term. It derives from the name given to an order of the Crusaders, the Order of the Dragon, with which both Vlad Ţepeş and his father Vlad Dracul, a member of this order, had been associated. The rest of the Dracula myth is due to the influence of the legends and popular beliefs in ghosts and vampires prevalent throughout Transylvania.
Stoker has carefully avoided creating a real historical connection between his character Count Dracula and Vlad the Impaler's historical personality. Although Stoker’s character Van Helsing reflects on the possibility that the Dracula Count is one and the same with Dracula the ruler of Walachia, the Count of Transylvania, is certainly not Prince Vlad Ţepeş of Wallachia. Stoker was not inclined at all to make his character a real person of historic significance.
As regards the popular beliefs, in the nearby villages of Bran, there is a belief in the existence of evil spirits, called ghosts or ”steregoi”, a variant of the word "strigoi". Until half a century ago, it was believed that there existed certain living people – “strigoi” – who were leading a normal life during the day but at night, during their sleep, their souls left their bodies and haunted the village tormenting people in their sleep. These evil spirits haunt their prey from midnight until the first cockcrow, when their power to harm people faded. “The undead [i.e., ghosts, vampires] suffer from the curse of immortality,” writes Stoker, “they pass from one period to another, multiplying their victims, augmenting the evil in the world…” The Dracula character derives from these local myths.
Concerning the historical character Vlad the Impaler, the ruler of the Wallachians, he does have a connection with the Bran Castle. He led several campaigns of punishment for the German merchants in Braşov, who failed to abide by his commands as regards their trade in his Walachian markets. The route to Wallachia passed through Bran, the closest passage to Brasov, which in turn assures the connection with Targoviste, Vlad Tepes' fortress. The original customs houses at which taxes were collected from merchants entering Transylvania are still at the base of Bran Castle. The relations between Vlad the Impaler and the nobility of Brasov were therefore not just cordial. It is not known whether Vlad Ţepeş captured Bran Castle or not. Written documents do not describe this. Archives related to Bran Castle are generally administrative and relate to the revenues and expenses of Bran Castle with little mention of political and military events.
However, in the autumn of 1462, nearby the fortress of Podul Dâmboviței, near Rucar, Vlad the Impaler was taken prisoner by the King of Hungary, Matei Corvinul, and closed for two months in Bran Castle. This is affirmed in the recent volume Vlad The Impaler – Dracula, published by the Mirador Printing House, Arad, 2002, authored by Gheorghe Lazea Postelnicu. From here, Vlad was taken and imprisoned in the Vișegrad Fortress.
A fascinating aspect which visitors discover at Bran Castle is created by the idea of distinguishing between the historical reality and the Bram Stoker's mystique novel, oscillating whether to accept or not that Count Dracula was and remains an imaginary character.