I have always wanted to visit Transylvania at Halloween. I imagine the Gothic Bran Castle sitting high on its 200-foot rock with a full moon behind it, a little bit of fog and enough wind to make the trees creek. Throw in a few bats and coffins and I may faint. I know, I know… don’t roll your eyes at me. Dracula is a fictional character invented by Bram Stoker who never went to Romania. The character was possibly based on Vlad the Impaler who never lived at the castle. Bran Castle is a fake Dracula Castle. I know.
On the flip side, Vlad was imprisoned at Bran Castle for several months. He enjoyed impaling his enemies so much so that historians describe him as blood thirsty. Vlad was from the house of Dracul, which translated to Dragon back in the day; today it translates to Devil. Romanians originally viewed Vlad as a hero because he fought against the Ottomans defending Christianity. The Catholic Church turned on him over money and began calling him Vlad the Devil. Facts aside, Bran Castle has all the makings of a perfect Dracula Castle! Its Gothic, it has secret tunnels and passage ways, and, it fit Stokers fictional description in the book. I’m on board!
People love to complain about Bran Castle. It is either not real, not touristy enough or too touristy. Surprisingly, Romania has not jumped on the ghost tour phenomena. Could it be because, for many, it is real? What?!? Yep. Don’t believe me? Google ‘Vampire Craiova’. You will find articles such as: ‘Six men jailed for exhuming a vampire to eat his heart’. They were convicted for desecrating a grave but didn’t actually go to jail. And they shared the heart with a bunch of sick villagers who immediately were well. They are not sorry; they believe they saved the village. True story… 2005. Vampires are not vampires in Romania or Bulgaria. They are Strigoi and they do not like the living. This belief remains so strong in the villages that it is customary to pierce the heart after someone dies to prevent them from coming back and terrorizing the village. Go back to google, I have another fun one for you. Enter ‘Vampire Grave Bulgaria’. They ran DNA on this skeleton and found indicators of Porphyria. Porphyria is a blood disease that causes victims to be sensitive to sunlight, their gums shrink making their teeth look like fangs and they develop an aversion to garlic. A garlic aversion would be a noticeable problem in Romania were everything is cooked with garlic!
What does all this have to do with Bran Castle? Setting the scene! Do not expect a castle sized haunted house when you visit. There will not be scary music playing as you climb the stairs (unless you remember to download it to your phone), there are no coffins in the bedrooms, no large pictures with beady eyes watching you as you walk by and not a single bat. It’s quite disappointing. Instead, you will find a castle restored to reflect the life of Queen Mary. Which is more accurate historically. If you are wanting the vampire version, you need to create it yourself. Start by reading these google searches! Download some scary music, make a garlic necklace, bring a cross (or two) and some holy water. Have fun, but as always, be respectful of those around you. BTW, Queen Mary had her heart buried at Bran Castle after her death… things that make me go hmmm.
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