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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrAt the core of the Carpathian Mountains, in the Bran-Rucăr pass, lies one of the most imposing historical monuments in Romania: the Bran Castle. Built on a small cliff, some 30 kilometers away from Braşov, the castle is now a museum, and although Vlad the Impaler 's (Dracula) ties with the castle are far more loose than common belief, tourists are attracted to the castle mainly because of its surrounding legend.
HistoryThe first mention of Bran Castle is in a document dating from 1377, by the king of Hungary, Louis of Anjou, which empowered the Braşov community to build a castle in Bran. After being owned by Mircea the Elder, ruler of Wallachia until 1418, it became the property of King Sigismund of Hungary - Mircea's ally against the Turks, between 1419 and 1424.
At the end of the fifteenth century, the fortification had been passed under the authority of the Szekely Committee, during the reign of Iancu de Hunedoara, who, after losing the throne, had tasked Vlad the Impaler with the defense of the pass.
After being betrayed by his lords, Vlad was the prisoner of Matthias Corvinus, the ruler of Transylvania, and was held captive for two months inside the Bran Castle.
After World War I, the castle was donated to Queen Maria, as a gift for her contribution to Romania's unification. Bran became one of her favorite retreats, and this was also the best period for castle, which underwent a thorough restoration.
Although inherited by Princess Ileana, the daughter of Queen Maria, the communist regime exiled the royal family from Romania, and turned the castle into a history museum. The precarious state in which it came to be in 1987 led to its closing, only to be reopened in 1993, after a complete restoration. Today, the Bran Castle was given back to Dominic of Habsburg, the descendant of Princess Ileana.
ArchitectureThe castle is built in the Transylvanian-Gothic style, from a combination of wood and stone. Fortifications included two rows of walls, out of which only a few portions can be seen today, a station building and the city itself. The dungeon is in the northern part, and is taller than the rest of the castle. It consists of two chambers and a narrow staircase for roof access. The round tower was built in 1593, as the old one was destroyed by lightning. The gate was initially built with a blocked grid of beams, controlled using pulleys. Access could only be achieved with mobile stairs that descended to the base.
At the floor level, there is an inner courtyard, a fountain, and Prince Mircea's chapel. On the first floor there are six rooms: the main vestibule - the bigger hall - adorned with frescoes, a vaulted room, which was Queen Maria's dormitory, a kitchen and smaller vestibule. The room under the tower's stairs serves as a dungeon. The second floor contains the royal dormitories, a vestibule, a former kitchen, a small room in the tower room, corresponding to the gate, and a new room with Saxon beams. The last two floors host the guest and music salons, a terrace, and tower access.
VisitingThe legend of Dracula is no doubt the main attraction of the castle, which stems Bram Stoker's Gothic novel "Dracula", and it is strongly emphasized by the castle officials, even though Vlad the Impaler never really dwelt permanently in it. The castle looks truly imposing on the outside, as if taken right out of a horror movie.
During high season (April - September), the opening hours are 12 PM to 6 PM on Mondays and 9 AM to 6 PM on the rest of the days, and in low season (October - March), from 12 PM to 4 PM on Mondays and from 9 AM to 4 PM on the other days of the week. The price of a ticket is €6 ($6.90) for adults, €2 ($2.76) for students, €4 ($4.03) for seniors (65+), €1 ($1.38) for pupils, and the filming fee is €5 ($5.52). Admission is free for disabled and institutionalized persons.
How to Get ThereFrom Braşov, head northwest to Râşnov on DN73/E574, and continue until you enter the Bran commune, from where you will see the castle. If you come from Bucharest, head north on DN1/E60, continue past Ploieşti, and after you pass Azuga, turn left on DN73A; at Râşnov turn left onto DN73/E574, drive for more 10 kilometers and you will reach Bran.
Other AttractionsThe real castle of Vlad the Impaler is located at Poenari, 125 kilometers away from Bran. This was actually used as a seat fortress, and it was built by his own boyars-turned-slaves. The Bran Castle is located at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains, on top of which there is the Babele plateau, famous for the natural sphinx rock formation resembling a human head.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Sep 11, 2014