For better or for worse (certainly for better), vampires don't exist. Their stories and fables come from Dracula - a novel written by Bram Stoker and published in 1897. In his book, Stoker drew extensively from Transylvanian folklore and history in what is today Romania (then Hungary). It is believed that Stoker was inspired by the cruel stories of the historical prince Vlad the Impaler and the countess Elizabeth Báthory.

Today millions of tourists from all over the world, folk to the mythical haunts of Transylvania's Carpathian Mountains to see the infamous Count Dracula castle - like that of the famous and stunning Bran Castle. But these touristic castles likely had no real association with the historic characters - while Poienari Castle really was the home of the infamous Vlad the Impaler.


The History And Importance of the Poienari Castle

Today the Poienari Citadel or Castle lies in ruins. But in its day, it was a powerful fortress that guarded entry to the strategic pass that linked the historic Kingdom of Wallachia with Transylvania (both are today part of Romania). The location and the size of the castle make it difficult for enemies to conquer.

  • Status: Ruined

The first tower to guard the pass was built in the 13th century. Later it was enlarged and used both as a fortress and a prison but eventually, it was abandoned and left in ruins.

After it was abandoned, it was rebuilt and went on to be the home of the infamous Vlad the Impaler (also called Vlad III). It was a foreboding castle sitting atop a mountain and only accessed by 1,480 stairs.

He realized the potential for a castle perched high on the precipice and took to building his castle there. He repaired and consolidated the castle using enslaved enemies from the nobility of the Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. He transformed it into one of his main fortresses.

  • Damaged: By Successive Earthquakes

Sometime after Vlad's death in 1476, the castle was abandoned again and was in ruins once again by the 17th century. It was further damaged by an earthquake in 1913, and more earthquakes in 1940 and 1977.

Related: Why You Should Visit Cluj-Napoca, The Capital Of Transylvania

What To Know Of Vlad The Impaler

Vlad the Impaler was the Voivode of Wallachia three times between 1448 and this death in 1476 or 1477. Despite the stories of cruelty around him, he is often considered one of the most important rulers of Wallachia and is a national hero in Romania today. He is known for impaling the people he captured in the wars he fought.

  • Title: Voivode of Wallachia
  • National Hero: He Is Remembered As A National Hero In Romania

During this time, the Ottoman Empire was very powerful, and they demanded Vlad pay homage to the Ottoman Sultan personally. But Vlad had other ideas and impaled the Sultan's envoys. He then attacked Ottoman territory and massacred many Turks and Bulgarians. As the Ottomans counter-attacked, he went to Hungary for help but was imprisoned for 12 years.

  • Ottoman Envoys: He Impaled The Ottoman Envoys
  • Imprisoned: He Was Imprisoned For 12 Years

During this time anecdotes of its cruelty spread across Europe and later books of his cruel acts were some of the first bestselling in German-speaking territories. In 1476, he was released from prison but was killed in battle the following year. One will learn a lot about the real Dracula while in Transylvania.

Related: You Can Actually Visit Bran Castle In Transylvania, The Inspiration For Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'

Visiting The Poienair Castle Today

The Poienair Castle is located on the plateau of Mount Cetatea on a canyon formed by the Arges River valley. The vistas from here are breathtaking. It is worth visiting for its stunning natural setting as well as its role in the story of vampires.

  • Tip: Be Ready For An Invigorating Climb Up the 1,480 Steps
  • Ruined: The Castle Is Well Ruined Today

The earthquakes and years of neglect have done their toll on the castle and there is not much to be seen there today. It is located just at the start of the towering Transfăgărășan road and is worth a stopover if one is crossing Transylvania's mountains here.

  • Admission charge: 5 lei (approx 1.25 US Dollars)

Visiting hours:

  • Winter season: 9 am -- 3 pm (last admission at 2 pm)
  • Summer season: 9 am -- 5 pm (last admission at 4 pm)

Certainly, Poienair Castle is a place that every vampire-obsessed traveler ought to visit. As one hike up to the castle, be greeted by instruments of torture and dummies impaled.