Now, let’s face it. One of the main reasons travelers come to Romania is to visit Bran Castle, known as Dracula’s castle. Without knowing, Bram Stocker probably created the best promotion campaign for Romania when he wrote Count Dracula's novel. He did something that most of our leaders did not, and for this, the Romanian people will be forever grateful.
Being such a popular destination in Romania, you will find plenty of information about it. But we prefer to tell you the story behind the scene: 5 lesser-known facts about Bran castle from Romania.
1.Bran castle is the place where Bram Stocker never traveled to
In fact, Bram Stoker never visited Romania before or after he wrote his best-seller novel. This is interesting because, in the book, he describes pretty faithfully the wild and natural scenery of the Carpathian Mountains, the superstitious Romanians, the land of Transylvania, and also the castle where Count Dracula supposedly lived.
2. Is Bran really Dracula’s castle?
Well, we get this question quite often from our tourists. The answer is Yes and No…
When Stocker published his novel, Transylvania was a faraway region, and little was known about these Eastern European parts. It was a place surrounded by mystery, and the local popular beliefs in ghosts (similar to vampires) were strictly respected. Also, in Transylvania was born the cruel Wallachian ruler, Vlad the Impaler, who was supposed to turn into a vampire after being beheaded on the battlefield. His nickname, “Dracula,” also gave the name to the writer’s fearful vampire.
So, Bram Stocker considered all these things quite good reasons to place the action of his novel in Transylvania.
Later on, tourists worldwide started to come to Romania, searching for Dracula’s castle. Unfortunately, they caught us unprepared as Bram Stocker, never visiting Romania, wrongly imagined the action in Bistrita, North of Transylvania, and not in Bran, South of Transylvania, where the medieval castle was. In Bistrita, there was no castle, so tourists turned their attention to another castle. That’s right: Bran castle.
In the meantime, a castle-hotel was built in Bistrita, at Borgo Pass, so now tourists can enjoy seeing both of them.
Bran castle was built by the Saxon colonists in the 14th century as a stronghold at the border between Wallachia in the South and Transylvania in the North. During the medieval age, it is believed that Vlad the Impaler stayed at the castle once, only as a prisoner.
After WWI, the castle was offered as a gift to Queen Marie of Romania, who renovated it and turned it into one of her most beloved dwellings.
So now, you have the yes and no answers to your question.
3. Bran castle, home of a royal heart
As mentioned above, Bran castle became, after WWI, the summer residence of the romantic Queen Marie of Romania. She was so in love with her new castle and renovated it with care and passion. She spent only a couple of months per year during the warm summer season, as it was too difficult to keep the place warm during winter. This was when the castle was provided with electricity and other facilities.
When the queen died in July 1938, her heart was taken from her body and put in a silver box, and this box in a golden box, then placed in Stella Maris chapel, from Balchik, nowadays Bulgarian territory.
In Balchik, the queen built another small dwelling known as the “Silent Nest.” She spent her childhood with her family in Malta due to her father’s job, and all her memories were strongly related to the sea. As she spent some of the happiest years of her life, she always wanted to recreate those times, and she succeeded by building a new residence at the Black seaside, at today’s Balchik resort from Bulgaria.
According to the Royal protocol, all the members of the Romanian royal family were buried at Curtea de Arges Monastery. That is why she stated in her will that her heart is placed after her death in Balchik so that a piece of her could always rest next to the sea.
The problem occurred after WWII when Romania lost some territories, including Balchik. The Romanian Royal heart could not rest anymore on foreign lands, and that is why Ileana, one of the queen’s daughters, took it from there and brought it at Bran castle.
Unfortunately, the communists confiscated the castle, and rumors have it that they threw the box with the royal heart in the dungeons of the nowadays National History Museum in Bucharest. After the communist regime fell, the box with the heart was displayed in the museum, in the National Treasury Exhibition.
In 2015 the heart was brought to Pelisor castle, in Sinaia mountain resort. Pelisor castle was the official summer royal residence of Queen Mary and King Ferdinand and the place where the queen died. The box with the royal heart can now be seen in the Golden room, one of the queen’s favorite rooms from Pelisor castle, where it can finally rest in peace.
4. The elevator…well
Those who already visited Bran castle could agree with us when saying that a visit to the castle can be a good exercise. There are many stairs to climb, narrow halls, small rooms typical for a medieval stronghold. Because the castle is built on the top of a cliff, the effort of visiting it can increase for those not that active.
That is why, as the queen got old, it became more difficult for her to get to her own castle. Thus, an elevator was built for her in the medieval well of the castle.
In the interior courtyard, you will see a well. You need to know that this is a copy. The original one is hidden behind some black doors. It was extended with a vertical tunnel and turned into an elevator that led to the royal gardens.
This way, the queen did not have to take all the steps to reach her apartments in the castle. Clever, isn’t it?
5. Bran castle’s Secret Passage
This is by far the castle's main attraction, so we can easily say that the secret passage is not that secret anymore.
This passage connects the first floor to the third floor, and the officers used it to escape in case of emergency.
People do not know that this passage was quite secret for many centuries, until 1920, when, during the renovation process, a piece of tile from the old fireplace was removed to rearrange the room, and thus the passage was discovered. Now, the visit to the castle includes this secret passage, and it represents one of the highlights of the experience.
Halloween at Bran Castle, Transylvania
We can not end this article without mentioning Halloween, maybe the best time to visit Bran castle.
Each year, on Saturday (the closest to Halloween date), a great party is organized at the Bran castle. Enthusiasts worldwide put on their scary makeup and costumes and head to perhaps the most inspiring place to spend Halloween. Even though Romanians did not create Halloween, they can at least brag about having the most beautiful and fitting castle to celebrate this holiday.
You can read here more info about the events organized at Bran castle.
The booking platform Airbnb had an awesome idea in 2016. They offered a great accommodation for Halloween, for 2 people, winners of their competition, nowhere else than at Bran castle.
What was the competition about? In a maximum of 550 characters, fans had to write what they would say to Count Dracula if they were to meet him in his castle. Simple as that.
Even more, Airbnb partnered with Dacre Stoker (the great grand-nephew of “Dracula” author Bram Stoker), who agreed to provide a guided tour of Bran castle to the winners of the competition.
The highlights of this experience were:
- a horse-drawn carriage ride to the castle
- a guided tour of the castle with Dacre Stoker
- a special supper with what Dracula’s guests taste in the original novel: a blood-enriching meal of robber beef steak and paprika and chicken.
a good night sleep in the cozy, velvet-trimmed coffins in the castle’s crypt
Here, you can read more about this inspiring campaign.
If you are a Halloween enthusiast or a Dracula legend fan, we would like to meet you. Book our small group “Dracula tour” and follow the history and the legends about Dracula, the infamous character of Bram Stoker. It’s a perfect tour for those who are interested in history, culture, legends but who, at the same time, still know how to enjoy life.
So, here you have them: 5 lesser-known facts about Bran castle from Romania. You are free to send us your comments, and why not share with us other unknown things about Bran castle.