"Suddenly, I became conscious of the fact that the driver was in the act of pulling up the horses in the courtyard of a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the sky"

-- Jonathan Harker, Bram Stoker's Dracula

Imagine, if you will, a chiiling ride in a carriage on a dark,stormy night as you travel beneath the arch of ancient trees that stretch above the narrow path that leads to a darkened stone castle not far beyond. The wolves wail a cacophony of fear above the howling wind that ravages the Carpathian mountains deep in the heart of Translyvania. Soon - to soon perhaps - you will arrive a Dracula's abode, and you are certain with each breath the Count will be waiting up to greet you, a smile spread wide across his shadowed face.

 

What would it be like to be Jonathan Harker, riding carelessly through the night to horror that awaits at the Impaler's castle?

 

"Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free will!" He made no motion of stepping to meet me, but stood like a statue, as though his gesture of welcome had fixed him into stone. The instant, however, that I had stepped over the threshold, he moved impulsively forward, and holding out his hand grasped mine with a strength which made me wince, an effect which was not lessened by the fact that it seemed cold as ice, more like the hand of a dead than a living man.  - J. Harker

 

In the comfort of modern times, our 21st Century, we may never know the stark, raving fear that climbed up and down the neck of poor Mr. Harker. But alas, imagine now (if you dare) what emotions might play on your mind if you could travel to distant Translyvania (now Romania)  and were allowed to spend the night inside Vlad Dracula's Castle!

 

Well, it's highly unlikely that will ever happen, Why? Because Vlad's (alleged) real castle abode, Castle Poienari, is nothing more than a mountain ruin these days. While you might find a guide to take you there by day, it's far too remote, cold and frightening to spend the night there even if you could. Truth be told, but take heart! In the land of vampyres, there are at least three castles that proudly bear the Impaler's name, or brand. Other than the ruins of Castle Poienari, there is the more modern Castle Bran located in Brasov, which has a long and rich history including temporary occupation by the notorious Impaler, also known as the castle that once housed Translyvanian nobles. And then there is a place where you might visit, a small and old building, The Vlad Drucul in Sighisora, that claims to be where the notorious Vlad was born, though in modern times it is just a local restaurant.

 

About Vlad

Vlad Dracula lived from 1431 to about 1476 and ruled Wallachia, which was actually south of Transylvania. As military leader, he was a hero to his people, and he has a place in the Romanian National Military Museum.

 

Another museum explains the name "Dracula" is actually a title from the knightly order of the dragon, whose mission was to defend Christianity. Documents he signed "Vlad Dracula" still exist.

 

A nickname often associated with him is Tepes, which means impaler, and comes from his brutal application of capital punishment by skewering bodies on a wooden spike.

 

Iif you're looking for a lodge where you can sleep however, you're going to have to rely on a hotel or bed and breakfast somewhere close to one of the aforementioned  historic structures. And there are plenty from which to choose.

 

In the small city of Turda in Translyvania is The Hunter Prince & Dracula Hotel. While it was constructed in more contemporary times, it does carry out the theme of the Drucula legend and makes for a great substitute to the real thing.

 

In fact, you will find plenty of Dracula-related or themed attractions across Romania, including Castle Bran, which make for a fun adventure. But never fear, the Carpathian Mountains can be a real scary treat all by themselves, especially if you take along Bram Stoker's famous novel to keep you company at night!

 

"Welcome to my house! Enter freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring!" The strength of the handshake was so much akin to that which I had noticed in the driver, whose face I had not seen, that for a moment I doubted if it were not the same person to whom I was speaking. So to make sure, I said interrogatively, "Count Dracula?"

 

He bowed in a courtly was as he replied, "I am Dracula, and I bid you welcome, Mr. Harker, to my house. Come in, the night air is chill, and you must need to eat and rest." - Bram Stoker's Dracula

 

If you're planning a visit to the Land of Dracula be warned. Catle Poienara is located about three hours away from Brasov and there are no scheduled tour buses. If you make the trip be aware you will need to walk up each and every one of the 1,400-plus steps that lead to the ruin at the top.

 

If you plan on visiting Castle Bran, the going is a little easier. Located in the central city of Brasov, the old castle certainly looks spooky enough to have been part of Vlad's world, and like most castles, it does hold many mysteries, like secret staircases and such, and a room that provides a little history on both the impaler and on Bram Stoker who made his name a household word.

 

The tour is fun and a pleasant way to spend some time in Translyviania, and also a good place to pick up a few Dracula t-shirts and things of that sort if so inclined.

 

If you would like to read a few chapters of Stoker's great tale online, click here.

The Carpathians Mountains

Vlad the Impaler

Castle Poienara

Castle Bran in Brasov

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