Dracula, the most famous symbol of Romania in the Western conscience, is not Romanian. May I say that some people will only now find out that Transylvania is a part of Romania, and not a mythical place or a country of its own. And why am I saying that Dracula is not Romanian? Easy answer. Because it came to life in the mind of an Irish writer called Bram Stoker, after reading quite a lot on European folklore and stories of vampires.
It is known that the character of Dracula was to a certain extent based on the Wallachian ruler Vlad III, also known as the Impaler. But what intrigues me the most are the incosistencies that exist in the story, the differences between what is real and what is fiction, as these have created a big mess in the mind of the Westerners.
First of all, Vlad the Impaler was not known to drink people’s blood. He became infamous for his cruel methods of punishment, of which his favorite one was impaling the enemies of the country. Wallachia was being persistently attacked by the Ottomans (Turks), and Vlad made his best to defend his country, which gained him a high place in the Romanian history, and in European history as well, because if it hadn’t been for his efforts, the Turkish would have occupied a large part of Europe, and its culture and layout nowadays would probably be different.
Secondly, Bran castle, which everybody calls Dracula’s castle, is not in fact Dracula’s castle. It is not even Vlad’s castle. The first documented mentioning of Bran Castle is the act issued by Louis I of Hungary on November 19, 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt (Braşov) the privilege to build the stone citadel on their own expense and labor force. It is not even likely for Vlad to have used the castle as a residence since it belonged to a different country, Transylvania, which was under the control of Hungary. The only connection between Bran and Vlad was the fact that he used the Bran Pass for his incursions in Transylvania, as it was relatively easy to cross the mountains through this point. Also, he was held captive in the castle for a couple of months when the Hungarian king thought Vlad had betrayed him.
What’s more, the castle is not even mentioned in Stoker’s book, so there is no reason to relate Bran castle to the character of Dracula.
Whereas Bran castle is situated on the border between Transylvania and Valachia, the castle that Stoker envisioned in his book was situated on the border between Transylvania and Moldova, in Tihuta Pass, near Bistrita. There is no castle there nowadays, but the legend is based on some mysterious ruins that still can be seen on the Rachitaua Peak.
There is a local legend that is passed from generation to generation, which says that Vlad Draculea saw the ruins during his travels and tried to uncover the treasure that was said to lay underneath. But the place was cursed, and Draculea made a pact with the Devil in order to finf the treasure. The Devil betrayed him and took all his powers away with the help of a beautiful maiden, so Draculea had to write with his own blood that he will give up on the treasure if he wants his powers back. He cursed the place, and ever since all kinds of strange things happen there to people who are looking for the treasure.
Vlad’s residence, that could be called Dracula’s castle by people who identify the two characters, is Cetatea Poienari, in Arges County. Unfortunately, not many people know about it, this being the reason why tourists are drawn towards other places such as Bran and Tihuta Pass.
These are only a couple of the false ideas that revolve around the myth of Dracula, but if you want to find out more, read Stoker’s novel and then read the history of Romania.
You will be amazed how much you don’t know about this amazing country! Google „Pasul Tihuta” to see images of the area that inspired Bram Stoker when he chose the location of Dracula’s castle. Also click here to access the official website of the Bran Castle.
For a guide to Sighisoara, the place where Vlad was born, click here.