Bran Castle, situated near Bran and in the immediate vicinity of Brasov, is a national monument and landmark in Romania.
The fortress is situated along the border of the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia.
Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle“, it is the home of the titular character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Bram Stoker’s character, Dracula, is a Transylvanian Count with a castle located high above a valley perched on a rock with a flowing river below in the Principality of Transylvania.
Vlad Ţepeş, a Wallachian ruler famous for his use of impalement against his enemies, was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The castle is marketed as “Dracula’s Castle,” but in reality, Vlad Ţepeş only spent two months in holding at the castle. However, he did use the Bran Gorge when traversing the mountains.
The first documented mentioning of Bran Castle is the act issued by Louis I of Hungary on 19 November 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt (Brașov) the privilege to build the stone castle on their own expense and labor force.
Bran Castle was completed by 1382, in record time, and was built for the purpose of defending Transylvania’s border and included a customs station.
In 1438–1442, the castle was used in defense against the Ottoman Empire, and later became a customs post on the mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia.
Queen Marie, the last queen consort of Romania, was quite fond of Bran Castle as a residence, and was given the castle in 1920 by the town of Brasov, and later her daughter Princess Ileana inherited it, however in 1948, it was taken by the communists and eventually made into a museum.
Bran Castle is situated on a cliff at an elevation of 762 meters (2500 feet), and is surrounded by valleys and hills and is major tourist destination in Romania.
Narrow winding stairways lead through some 60 timbered rooms, many connected by underground passages, which house collections of furniture, weapons and armor dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries.
Much of the furniture and the artwork that hangs from the castle’s walls today belonged to the Queen Marie.
In order to make the castle feel more like home, Queen Marie decorated it with one-of-a-kind photos and paintings of Romanian royalty and a collection of armor and weaponry from the 14th through 19th centuries.
Queen Marie’s apartment was composed of a bedroom, bathroom, dining area, a hall, a dressing room and two salons [pic. of salon is below] . She amassed many sets of china, statues, icons and books.
King Ferdinand’s room displays ornate furniture and beautiful views of the commune below. His apartment also features a dining room, working area and royal treasures.
Connected to the King’s bedroom, the living and dining area centers around a hand painted hearth. Romanian pottery and painting is highly valued as a part of its cultural identity.
Throughout the spacious castle, hand carved and intricate fixtures adorn the walls and ceilings. Large, metal door knobs clang and the old, dark wood floors creak, while being bathed in the light of Romanian lanterns and candelabras.
Costumes from King Ferdinand and Queen Marie are on display, along with suits of armor, ancient weapons and heraldic banners from the nearby cities and communes.
Secret passage on picture below connects the first and third floors of the fortification and was first “discovered” in 1927 during renovations. Another secret tunnel links the fountain in the interior garden to the castle.
A luscious courtyard graces the center of the castle, a common feature of edifications of the time. The twisted, open passageways snake around the central patio.
On the southern side of the castle wall is a small chapel built in 1940 in memory of the queen. A memorial tomb where the queen’s heart lies has been carved in the mountain, on the north side of the wall.
Set among a palatial garden at the foot of Bran Castle is the tea house. A black building with a moss-covered peaked roof, Queen Marie enjoyed her daily tea in this location, nestled among the many trees and shrubs she had planted.
In 2005, the Romanian government passed a special law allowing restitution claims on properties illegally expropriated, such as Bran, and thus a year later the castle was awarded ownership to Dominic von Habsburg, the son and heir of Princess Ileana.
From a fortress to a castle to a royal residence and a communist holding, Bran Castle has remained a towering example of Romanian fortitude and heritage, bringing in 500,000 visitors a year. A combination of medieval strategy, local construction and creative ingenuity has blended to create an icon of Romanian culture: strong, resilient and proud. Toss in a vampire legend, and the rest is history.