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Bram Stoker Never Visited Dracula's Castle

The author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, describes a castle located high above a valley and set on a rock. There is also a flowing river below, just like with Bran castle. We could almost imagine all the tiny bits and secret rooms of the castle where Dracula spent his days and where he imprisons Jonathan Harker.

However, the author never set foot in Transylvania in his entire life. Then how could he have described it so well if he hadn't visited the famous castle? Well, he was a writer after all, wasn't he? And he had a description of the castle available to him. It is believed he used Charles  Boner's book Transylvania: Its Products and Its People. 

It Wasn't Really Dracula's Castle

Bran castle is advertised as Dracula's castle and as such, it has attracted a great number of tourists eager to see the place where the evil count who inspired a novel once lived. There are even Halloween tours aimed at providing you the spooky experience you seek. But guess what, the castle wasn't actually Dracula's home. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that shows that Vlad the Impaler ever lived in the fort. Pretty disappointing, right?

Queen Mary's Heart

When Queen Mary got the castle, she was so in love with it that she spent many summer months there. Upon her death, her heart was taken from her body and put in a box to be transferred to Balcik so that a piece of her could rest by the sea. However, when Romania lost Balcik among other territories, her heart was taken to Bran castle. But there was no resting there either. When the communists took over the castle, her heart was once again moved. In 2015, her heart finally found a place to rest as it was brought to Pelisor castle, the Queen's official summer royal residence.

The Castle Fell Into Decay

While it represents one of Romania's most important landmarks and a popular tourist destination today, Bran Castle wasn't always in this condition. Initially built in the thirteenth century as a fortress, the castle had an important commercial and military role until 1836. When the border of Transylvania moved, the castle fell into decay. When it was given to Queen Mary in 1920, the castle was then restored. Restorations were conducted by the Czech architect Karel Zdeněk Líman and they took 9 years to complete. The queen furnished the castle with selected pieces of furniture and art.

The Foundations Were Built By Teutonic Knights

It's a lesser known fact that the basis of Bran castle was built by the Teutonic Knights back in the early thirteenth century (around 1212). They built a wooden structure to protect the access to Western Europe. However, the castle was not finished and the structure was later destroyed by the Mongols. In 1377, the German Saxons near Brasov asked permission to build the castle on their own expense. When King Ludovic of Hungary gave them the permission, Bran castle was built.

The Association With Vampires

In villages surrounding Bran, there was a belief that a certain type of people existed called "strigoi" who led ambiguous lives. These people behaved normally during the day but at night, during sleep, their souls would leave their bodies and haunt people from midnight until dawn. They would haunt the village and torment people in their sleep. Does this ring a bell? Bram Stoker certainly did his research before he wrote Dracula. This inspired the creation of the vampire character in the book, and this believed lasted until a half a century ago.

The Old Entrance

The castle entrance is not the same as it used to be in the past. While today, a steep staircase will lead you to beautiful old doors, it was quite different in the past. In order for a fort to be impenetrable, it must feature thick walls and a hard-to-get-to entrance. That is why the old entrance to the castle was comprised of a small door high above the ground with a drawbridge. This wasn't easy to do as the castle sits on a cliff making the stone castle a major project at the time.

Who Inhabited It

By 1388, the castle was and it was certainly a sight to behold. Standing at the Eastern border of Transylvania, located high above the valley and perched on a rock, the castle was inhabited by professional soldiers and mercenaries. There was also a lord of the castle which was selected by the King. The role of the lord was very important in the history of this region, and eventually (by the end of the fifteenth century), this person also held the title of Vice-Voivode of Transylvania.

It Was Used Against Ottoman Empire

Bran fort was used in defense against the Ottoman Empire to attempt to stop its expansion. The Ottoman Empire, founded at the end of the thirteenth century, controlled much of the Southeast of Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. The Turks did attack Transylvania but they were defeated by John Hunyadi, a Hungarian military, and political figure. He managed to prevent the Turks from expanding and this brought him many honors and titles including voivode of Transylvania.

It Was Vlad The Impaler's Home

Although there is no evidence Vlad ever lived in Bran castle, he did in fact spent two months at the fort but involuntarily. Vlad was never in a friendly relationship with Bran lords. In 1462, the army of the Hungarian king Matei Corvin captured Vlad the Impaler and reportedly locked him in the castle where he spent two months. So not only Bran castle wasn't his home, if anything, it was the place where he was imprisoned.

The Right To Use The Castle

Another interesting detail from Bran castle's extraordinary history is the fact that on January 1, 1498, the Saxons of Brasov purchased the right to use the castle. They allegedly paid 1000 florins to King Vladislav II Jagiello in exchange for using the fort for the next ten years. This may not sound as much nowadays but King's treasury was emptied due to all the war expenses so this was a way to help restore their financial power.

It Belonged To Prince Mircea For A While

It is believed that Bran castle belonged to Prince Mircea for a period of time. Reportedly, in 1407, Sigismund of Luxembourg gave the castle to his ally Prince Mircea, the Elder of Wallachia, in return for his loyalty. He would use it to escape there in case of an attack by the Turks. After of the Prince, the castle was taken back by Sigismund. He then entrusted it to the Princes of Transylvania.

Explosion And Renovation

Over time, Bran castle was damaged many times and at one point, it was in a pretty bad condition. Renovations were necessary especially after the explosion on the powder mill in 1539 and severe storms many years later which damaged the roofs of the fort. In 1723, the northern tower of the castle was reportedly renovated. But this wasn't the first time the fort was being renovated. Apparently, it was also reconstructed during the reign of Gabriel Bethlen in the seventeenth century.

The Real Dracula's Castle

Bran castle is not the only Romanian castle linked to the bloody Dracula or Vlad the Impaler. In fact, if we are to believe that he lived somewhere, it should be Poneari castle and not Bran. Poenari Castle, also known as Poeanri Citadel, is a now ruined castle in Romania located on the plateau of Mount Cetatea. It is believed Vlad the Impaler repaired the structure in the fifteenth century and made it one of his most important fortresses. The castle was destroyed in 1915.

It Was Sold To George II Rackoczi

Throughout time, the castle was associated with many people, owned by different individuals, damaged, and reconstructed several times. At one point during its long and turbulent history, Bran castle was sold to George II Rackoczi. Before that, Brasov leased the castle several times to the Princes of Transylvania. Things didn't change even when Transylvania became part of the Habsburg Empire since 1687.

It Was A Customs Point

Because passage to Wallachia was through Bran, Bran castle also served as a customs point. It is believed that the customs point was established during the period when the castle was held by Mircea the Elder. There, at Bran castle, taxes were collected from merchants entering Transylvania. The fort was used for this purpose for quite a long time. By 1836, the castle lost its commercial and military importance when the border between Wallachia and Transylvania was moved. It also seized to be a customs point but remained to be an administrative seat.

The Woodsmen

After the castle lost its military and commercial importance, it was renovated and damages made during the Revolution and other wars were repaired at the insistence of the people of Brasov. However, the castle then fell into 30 years of decay after it was transferred to the region's forestry. Until 1918 and just before it was given to Queen Mary as a gift in 1920, the castle was inhabited by woodsmen and forest inspectors who came from Brasov.

It Was First mentioned In 1377

Even though the structure dates from the early thirteenth century when a wooden castle was built as a fortified position at the entrance to a mountain pass, the castle wasn't mentioned until 1377. The act issued by King Louis I of Hungary on November 19, 1377, is the first documented mentioning of the famous fortress. This is when he allowed the Saxons of Kronstadt to build the castle at their own expense. They also used their own labor force to build the stone castle and soon, a development near Bran started to develop in the vicinity of the castle.

It Belonged To Hungarian Kings

Bran castle belonged to the Hungarian kings until 1533. However, due to the inability of King Vladislas II to repay loans, the castle fell into the hands of the city of Brasov. Vladislaus II (or Vladislav II) was the King of Bohemia from 1471-1516 and King of Hungary and Croatia from 1490 to 1516, and he was also expected to inherit Poland and Lithuania too. His failure cost him a castle. However, the fortress continued to play an important military role until the mid-18th century.

The Well Seen Outside Is Not A Well

The medieval stronghold has many stairs to be climbed if you want to visit this famous castle. So they found a solution and it has to do with the well you see in the photo. Did you know that the well that can be seen outside is actually a copy? But a well does exist, except that it is hidden inside. The well is actually some sort of an elevator that was built when the queen got older and couldn't climb the long stairs of her castle. The well was extended with a vertical tunnel and it was used to lead the queen to her royal gardens. Pretty clever, don't you think?

The Regime

In 1848, Princess Ileana and her children were forced to leave Bran castle and she moved to the United States. The castle was then transformed by the communist regime into a museum which contained three departments: the castle featuring the royal heritage, the medieval customs, and Ethnography featuring traditional houses near the fort. Princess Ileana visited the castle in 1990 and saw damaged or ruined buildings. The castle was then renovated again and reopened as a museum in 1993 attracting many tourists.

The Castle Served as a Hospital

The castle has an interesting and exciting history. Here's another lesser known detail about it: Dracula's castle used to be a hospital! That's right, in 1920, the castle became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania after Hungary ceded Transylvania. When Queen Mary died, the castle was inherited by her daughter Ileana who turned the castle into a hospital during World War II and served as a nurse herself. It served as a hospital until the communist regime took over in 1948.

There Is A Secret Passage

What is a fortress without a secret hidden passage? One that is used for plotting schemes or escaping the castle without anyone noticing you left. Bran castle has one of those, of course, and it connects the first floor of the castle to the third floor. The secret passage was used as an escape tunnel in cases of emergency. The hidden passage was completely forgotten until Queen Mary decided to renovate the castle. It is believed the passage was discovered when they moved an old fireplace to rearrange the room.

It Was Returned To Its Owners

The castle was taken from the royal family and seized by the communist regime in 1948. It wasn't until 2005 that the castle was returned to its proper owners. That year, the Romanian government passed a law allowing restitution claims on properties that were illegally expropriated such as Bran castle. A year later, the fortress was given to the son and heir of Princess Ileana, Dominic von Habsburg. There have been attempts by the Romanian Parliament to prove that this was illegal, but they were rejected.

It Became A Museum

When the true owners, Archduke Dominik and his sisters, Baroness Maria Magdalena of Holzhausen and Elisabeth Sandhofer, claimed the castle, they knew exactly what to do with it. In 2009, all the administration was transferred to them from the government and they decided to open the doors of the castle as the first private museum in the country. To this day, the castle remains to be a very attractive tourist destination and Dracula tours are frequently organized.

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