Long before vampires were associated with near-celebrity status and deemed one of the more alluring 'monsters,' Dracula ruled the night and sent shivers down the spine of anyone daring to think about his wicked ways. While Bram Stoker's novel detailed the gruesome reality behind what Dracula actually was, his inspiration came from a place that was very real and is still standing today: Bran Castle.
While the author never actually visited the gothic structure in Transylvania, he knew of it from the descriptions of others who have seen the Romanian countryside. The description of the dark and striking castle is uncanny to that of the real thing, making it even more believable that a real-life vampire once walked its candelabra-lit hallways. Furthermore, despite the fact that the fictional character of Dracula is also presumed to have been inspired by Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Vlad Dracul, but this was not the case.
Bran Castle only became known as 'Dracula's Castle' due to the extraordinarily similar description of the castle by Stoker, not because it had any actual connection to a real-life bloodsucker. This high-towering castle has a lengthy and bold history prior to its fictional inhabitants, though, all of which visitors can learn as they tour the walls that have been standing since the year 1211.
The Original Inhabitants And History Of The Castle
Though the Bran or 'fortress' was established in 1211, the castle itself wasn't completed until 1388. The positioning of the castle was chosen to further protect it as well as give a clear line of sight, and it was built between two hills. Its original purpose was for two things: Protecting Transylvania from the Ottoman Empire expansion and as a holding place for about 3% of the country's imported goods.
The castle wasn't only inhabited by royalty; it served as a home to the lord of the castle - elected by the King - as well as soldiers and mercenaries, and even the storyteller of the time, Ioan de Târnava. As time went on, Transylvania became the subject of invasion, with Vlad the Impaler eventually becoming an ally with Bran in 1448. However, this all changed during his second reign, during which he marched through Bran in an attempt to fight for victory over Brasov, thus burning the city in the process.
As time went on and various armies marched through Transylvania, as well as many hands operating its gates, the 1900s brought on even more changes. Post-1918, the castle belonged to Greater Romania. By 1920, it was a confirmed home for royalty, as it was offered to Queen Maria, a beloved queen to the country. With her inheritance of the castle, it quickly became a favorite family home for the royals. For several decades after, the castle was passed down in the Royal family and converted into a summer home, until 1956, when communist authorities decided to seize the castle to turn it into a museum.
The Castle In Modern Times
While the castle was turned into a museum with a total of three departments, it was in severe disarray for some time. Visitors were able to see each department, however, with one devoted to the history of the Royal family, another devoted to Medieval customs, and the third, devoted to Ethnography, which was the houses built in traditional Romania style near the castle. Although the museum was open in 1956, it wasn't until more than three decades later that the castle would be restored to its former glory, or anything close to it.
By 1987, all restoration efforts were complete. The original museum had been transformed and the entire building had been reopened to the public for tours, which marked the official opening of Bran Castle to the tourism industry. By 1993, it was a full-fledged tourist destination for those in the area. Although it was open to the public, the owners of the castle continued to change throughout the years. After its full restoration, the possession of the castle was turned back over to the legal heirs of Princess Ileana of Romania and the Archduke Anton of Austria. While the heirs were the legal owners of the castle, it was the Romania government that kept administrative control of the property.
Now, visitors are free to purchase admission to tour the castle and can also tour it virtually through Bran Castle's website. The castle is also home to a restaurant that can be found on the grounds nearby with a traditional Romanian menu, as well as historic events that take place throughout the seasons.