Souvenirs from Romania, Transilvania
The Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s Castle) is situated in Eastern Europe’s Romania and separates two of the country’s historical provinces: Transilvania and Wallachia. Closely associated in popular culture with the legendary Dracula prince, the Castle was made famous by writer Bram Stoker who based his notorious fictional vampire on a historical leader figure. Some researchers doubt the Castle is actually the one described in Stoker’s famous novel Dracula still its medieval charm, twisted history and splendid landscape of mountain cliffs and old forests fascinate visitors and historians. The Bran Castle was Queen Maria’s favorite summer residence – after her death, the Queen’s heart was kept in a shrine venue close to the Castle’s labyrinths and secret passages. Its elegant beauty is now celebrated on a resin fridge magnet souvenir available online.
Dracula’s Castle, a Place of Legends
The Bran Castle dates back to the 13th century when the Teutonic Knights erected a wooden construction as a protective fortification along one of the region’s traditional commercial routes. In 1242, the Mongol invasion destroyed the building and in the 14th century a first written record mentions the Bran Castle in a document issued by the Hungarian King Louis I. This gave permission to the Saxon population from nearby Kronstadt town to erect a stone construction using their own resources. In the first half of the 15th century the Castle protected against the attacks of the Ottoman Empire and started to function as a customs between the regions. Throughout its Middle Age history, the building was owned by Wallachian leaders, Hungarian Royal family and even the Brasov city inhabitants and was viewed as an important military symbol. Vlad Tepes, the historical leader who inspired the myth of Dracula, didn’t however have a significant influence on the Castle’s history even if he sometimes used the neighboring Gorge.
The Myth of Dracula and Popular Culture
Dracula, a fictional character who shaped popular culture, is actually based on the real historical personality of Vlad Tepes (or Vlad the Impaler), a medieval ruler whose harsh punishment methods and high intolerance of criminality won him a fearful reputation. Medieval chronicles mention Vlad as a powerful local leader whose unconventionality inspired the famous Dracula vampire character. Vlad Tepes was born in Transylvania in 1431 and it was one of Vlad Dracul’s sons, a Prince who was enrolled in the Medieval Order of the Dragon. It is said that throughout this reign, he killed up to 300,000 people, mostly war prisoners from his battles with the Ottoman Empire or simple criminals. He commonly used impalement as a form of torture: the higher the rank of the victim, the higher the stake which often created nightmarish forests of rotting men. The location of his body has never been found.
Transilvania, the Medieval Charm of History
The Bran Castle is now a museum and covers different periods from the Romanian history, from medieval times to 20th century art collections of Queen Maria and traditional rural houses. Visitors to the Bran Castle also choose to experience nearby Brasov city—with charming medieval cobbled streets and Gothic buildings—and marvel at its beautiful surroundings. In the interwar period, the Bran Castle became an official royal residence which was confiscated by the communist regime after the Royal family was forced to leave the country in 1948. In 2005, the Romanian officials allowed the restitution of illegally expropriated Bran Castle to Dominic von Habsburg, the surviving heir of the Romanian Royal family. In 2009, after long controversial investigations, the Habsburg family restored the landmark and opened the Bran Castle as the country’s first private museum.