The Dracula Castle in Transylvania is the most overrated tourist attraction I’ve ever visited in Romania. There I said it. I’m going to be as brutally honest about it as I can on this article. Maybe I can save you the horror, not from seeing a vampire, but from wasting your time in Bran Castle.
What I’m going to say here will likely fall on deaf ears because you’ll likely visit Bran Castle anyways. But bear with me and hear me out for a minute; I’ll be your guide and advisor for this article and will provide pictures and facts so that I may just save you from wasting your time in Bran. I believe there are so much more intriguing castles and citadels in Romania that you should be visiting instead of Bran.
Bran, a Transylvania Castle, is universally known as the Dracula castle. Bram Stoker, who’s never even heard of Bran, popularized it with his novel Dracula. The place Bram Stoker essentially had in mind for the cast is Mount Izvorul Călimanului, in the Transylvanian Călimani Alps close to the previous border with Moldavia.
There’s no castle on this mountain at all. It’s still a mystery as to why Bran Castle owns the label as the Dracula Castle. Tourist stalls and tents selling Dracula knick-knacks and vampire paraphernalia line the street leading to the castle. They’re making a killing selling fake plastic vampire fangs.
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There are several theories competing for the Dracula castle and Poenari Castle is probably the more legit because Vlad spent more time there than any other competing castles. Another castle often mistaken as the Dracula castle is Corvin Castle. But unlike Bran, Corvin is actually creepy with its dungeons full of medieval torture machines and can hold a candle to the vampire myth.
Bram Stoker’s titular character is often confused with Vlad Tepes (aka, The Impaler). For some reason, some historians depict this guy as a bloodthirsty despot who drank the blood of his victims. The truth of the matter is, Vlad is a national hero in Romania. The dude kept the Turks, the enemy, at bay and protected his kingdom with religious zest.
Sure he impaled people but they were mostly conquering Turks and criminals that deserved punishment. He did it to scare off his enemies and to keep law and order for his subjects. It’s been rumored that thieves wouldn’t even touch a pouch of gold left on the streets because they were too afraid of being impaled.
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The fact is, people in the middle ages were all fucked up. They did all sorts of weird shit like boiling people alive and encasing them in a coffin full of sharp nails. Impaling was probably a normal everyday thing back then.
Bran Castle was not where Vlad lived. In fact, it may have served as his prison for just a few days. The Hungarian king at the time ignored Vlad’s transgressions because his kingdom was in Wallachia (the area where Bucharest is today) and it served as a buffer zone between the Hungarians and Turks.
Vlad got too overzealous with his impaling addiction and started impaling German merchants in Brasov for not paying taxes and not abiding by his commands. The merchants started complaining to the Hungarian king and hence Vlad got into a scuffle with the much more powerful kingdom of the Hungarians.
Vlad the Impaler spent a couple of months or maybe even just a couple of nights in Bran Castle from being captured and imprisoned there. That’s it. It doesn’t give credibility to Bran as the true Dracula Castle. The Wallachians, whom Vlad ruled, built the Poenari Citadel nearby and Vlad did spend more time there. This makes it likely that Poenari is the true Dracula Castle.
Vampires don’t exist in Romanian mythology. Bram Stoker might have based it on Romanian “Strigoi” which are people who live normal lives during the day but then turn into evil creatures during the night.
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They seem more like the glow in daytime fairies from the Twilight series than the ones in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What about the legend of Vampires being scared of garlic? Just about every Romanian dish has garlic. Vampires are screwed when they’re sucking on a Romanian’s blood because is coursing with garlic.
All this wouldn’t have been bad if Bran Castle was the only castle in Transylvania or the whole of Romania, but that’s not the case. Transylvania is home to many castles and citadels dwarfing Bran in both history and grandness. There’s Peles castle, Corvin Castle, Rupea Citadel, and the Rasnov Citadel just a few kilometers from Bran Castle.
Bran is bland inside and bland outside, it’s like eating All-Bran cereal with water instead of milk. Although Bran Castle can’t compare to any of Romania’s other great castles and fortresses, it somehow made its way to the top as the most visited tourist attraction in Romania.
The Dracula Castle sucks. No not with long fangs to suck the blood out of your neck. Despite how boring it is, it brings busloads of tourists that you’ll be bumping shoulders to shoulders with on its cramped and narrow stairways. I went to Bran during the off-season and it has insane crowds. I can only imagine how crazy it will be during the high season. Whoever came up with this castle as the Dracula castle is a marketing genius, thousands if not millions of tourist flock to this castle every year.
You’re probably going to ask, well why did you go then genius? Well, nobody wrote this anti-Bran piece but me (I googled it). Bran Castle’s legend fooled me. Don’t let it fool you.
If I could take back the money spent and the 2 hours of my life back, I’d gladly do it. If you still don’t agree, then go ahead, find out for yourself, bite me (pun intended) and drive a stake through my chest (not literally because I’ll rise from the grave and haunt you forever). Romania has so much more to offer; full of verdant hills, amazing countrysides and beautiful mountains that will make you swoon and forget about vampires.
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What makes the whole thing frustrating is that it’s not responsible tourism. Not even one bit. It’s literally shitting on the culture and history of Romania to proliferate this sort thing. There’s actually really cool and interesting history around Bran as long as it’s separated from Bram Stoker’s novel. The whole vampire and Dracula myth have nothing to do with Vlad or Romania. It’s sending out the wrong and incorrect message and tourists are just buying into the whole thing likely thinking it’s fact.
THE LEGEND OF DRACULA IS ALLURING BUT HERE ARE A FEW CONTENDERS
- The number 1 contender for the Dracula Castle title is Corvin Castle. In fact, Vlad the Impaler spent time as a prisoner on its creepy dungeons.
- The Poenari Castle deserves the Dracula Castle title because Vlad used it as a residence. The Wallachians also built it.
- Peles Castle, which is really a palace, deserves more attention than Bran. It’s more interesting and visually more pleasing.
- The fact is, no one really knows where the “real” Dracula castle is. The Dracula Castle sits somewhere in an empty mountain in Transylvania, based on handwritten notes by Bram Stoker. So use your imagination!
A DAY IN BREAKDOWN:
- Bus from Brasov to Bran and back – $4
- Entrance Fee – $8.5 (not worth it)
- Breakfast at hostel – free (included)
- Hostel in Brasov – $14
- Lunch at a touristy restaurant in Bran – $7
- Cooked dinner in Brasov – $1.5
- TOTAL: $35