From Alnwick to Cachtice, the Tihuța Pass to Whitby, Paris to Sofia, Voyages with Vampires is where I tell you about all the vampire-related places I wish to one day visit.
Google “Dracula’s castle” and what do you get? A bunch of links about Bran Castle. Located in the commune of Bran, about twenty-five kilometres southwest of the city of Brasov, over the years it has been a medieval fortress, a royal residence, a hospital, and now a museum and tourist attraction.
What it has never been, however, is Dracula’s castle.
Beyond the fact that Dracula is a fictional character – which the official website reminds you of, by the way – its grand design matches does not match the description of Stoker’s novel, nor did he ever even visit Romania before writing his book. As for Vlad the Impaler? His connection is slightly better, as he actually existed, but is basically boils down to “well, one time he was passing through the area, but we really don’t know if he actually visited the castle”.
Which is a shame, as it’s actually quite pretty. He missed out.
So then how did Bran Castle come to be known as “Dracula’s castle”? Well, it had one hell of a PR team.
And by PR team I mean “the Romanian government”.
In the 1970s the Communist Party of Romania was developing a closer relationship with the west, and wanted to promote tourism to the country. So why not use a British novel and an unrelated castle to do just that?
Well, it worked. Tourists flock to Bran Castle, its image is used in Dracula-related graphics and book covers, there are Halloween parties, and its a regular stop on tours. It’s also an excellent place for a photoshoot – such as when you’re Ivan Ozhogin, a Russian musical theatre actor known for playing another vampire count.
Bran Castle may not have started out as a vampire-related location, but you have to admire its hustle and how it has made itself into one. It’s a beautiful structure with a lot of history making it well worth the visit anyway. Between its lavish decorations, museums, and Time Tunnel (a well-shaft turned elevator down below the castle/multimedia experience) there are plenty of reasons to visit. Add onto that Halloween tours and parties, and the coolest snow globe ever and why wouldn’t you go if you had the chance?
It may not have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker but is has been an influence for many other authors of vampire fiction, and in doing so has become a very worthwhile stop on any Voyage with Vampires.
Until I get there, the Dracula-themed Bran Castle edition of Cluedo may just have to suffice.
Further reading and related links: