The fictional character of Count Dracula is known to everyone and is probably the most popular vampire out there. His castle is perched on top of a cliff and is as spooky as you’d imagine it. A less known-detail is that there’s actually a real castle located in Romania which is thought to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel. It’s called the Bran Castle and you can actually visit it any time you want.
The beginning – a castle used as a fortress
So how much about the castle and the character is inspired by reality and how much is fiction and myth? In order to be able to answer to this question we need to know about Dracula’s castle, the one from Transylvania.
Its story starts in 1388. That’s when the construction of the castle was completed. At that point the building served a double purpose. It was a fortress meant to stop the expansion of the Ottoman Empire towards that particular region but it also served as a custom house for the entire Transylvanian area. At first, the castle was inhabited by mercenary soldiers.
In 1723 the first renovation was completed. That’s when the Northern tower was added. Starting with the year 1836 the castle no longer served as a custom house and its function was purely administrative. In 1886 an ample restoration process focused on repairing the damage suffered during the revolution of 1848 as well as that done by floods and the passing the time.
Next step – a royal residence
Then followed a 30 year period (1888-1918) during which the prestige of the castle weakened. Inhabited by forest rangers and inspectors, it didn’t stand out too much. Things changed in 1920 when the Bran Castle became the favorite residence of Queen Mary of Romania. She requested a complete restoration and remodel which was done by architect Karel Liman. The entire process was completed in 1932 when the castle became a royal residence.
When the queen died in 1938, she left the castle to her daughter who lost it in 1956 when the communist authorities transformed it into a museum. The castle was once again restored between 1987 and 1993. In 2006 it was given back to the princess’s family and in 2009 its rightful owners gained full rights over the property. They chose to keep it open and to make it the first private museum in the country.
Why Dracula’s Castle? What’s the connection?
The history of the Bran castle doesn’t really suggest much in terms of vampires and all the other fantastic elements described in the novel…so what’s the connection and why is it known as Dracula’s castle? Well…that has a bit to do with Vlad the Impaler who ruled Transylvania for a period and was known as a very cruel person. His bad reputation was influenced by the horrible way in which he handled a conflict in 1459 when he killed hundreds and burned down entire villages.
Vlad the Impaler didn’t have a significant role in the history of the castle which back then served as a fortress. It was actually his father who’s surname was Dracul that actually inspired the name of the fictional character we’re all familiar with. The author avoids making a clear correlation between his fictional character and the Romanian ruler, a number of details point towards them being one and the same.
Dracula became the main character in Bram Stoker’s novel which was published in England in 1897. He was described as a being a count in a region called Transylvania who lived in a castle perched on top of a tall cliff in the Carpathian Mountains. Even though the author never visited Romania prior to releasing the novel and the castle described in the book looks nothing like the Bran Castle, this building is the only one that vaguely matches the description so it became the real life Dracula’s Castle.
The architecture and design of the real life Dracula’s Castle
In its initial form, the castle served as a fortress and had the shape of an irregular tetragon. Numerous modifications were made to both the structure and the design of the castle. In 1622 the Southern tower was added following plans by prince Gabriel Bethlen and later on a rectangular tower was also added to the East. After that, in the period between 1883 and 1886 the roof of the castle was covered with tiles. The most important restoration was done during 1920 and 1929 when the castle was transformed into the royal residence of Queen Mary and her family. The art and furniture collected by the queen were preserved and later displayed in the museum.
The castle of today
Today, the Bran Castle aka Dracula’s castle is a popular touristic destination and a beautiful example of medieval history. Every year visitors from all over the world come to see the castle that supposedly inspired the myth of Dracula and the great novel it’s based on. The period around Halloween is particularly popular because of the theme of this entire legend.