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Long associated with vampires, Romania is home to the one and only Bran Castle (Castelul Bran). Immortalised as Dracula’s Castle by Bram Stoker, Stoker never visited Romania but conjured up his illustration based solely on a description. Scarily accurate, his vision has sent flocks of people worldwide to Transylvania.
Setting the Scene
As Halloween approaches, I felt compelled to recall my solo trip to Bran Castle. Reminiscing over the photos, I am left with goosebumps galore…
Arriving by bus early in the morning, greeted by a thunderous storm and torrential downpour, I made it to the entrance resembling a drowned rat. With no one around, I wondered if it was even open. After a short while, a staff member unlocked the gate and scurried back to their dry office. Still the only person in the queue, I began the ascent toward the castle.
What a scene it was to behold. As I made my way up, the rain finally ceased. Perched on the hill, between tree-lined mountains shrouded in mist, Castelul Bran began to show itself. The mist rose up behind it, encasing it with an air of mystery. Eerily silent, the swathes of mist enveloped the entire building by the time I reached its doors. Not another soul in sight, I looked behind me one last time and entered. I couldn’t believe the amazing scene nature had set, I don’t think Hollywood could’ve done much better.
Points of Interest
Once inside, it is set out like a museum with informative plaques, artwork and pieces of interest dotted about. The atmosphere was calm and only slightly creepy. The Torture Museum is what it is, with multiple devices on display. There is another section dedicated to Dreads such as Ielele and Strigoi, though I’m not sure their little Vampire Hunting kit would suffice in this area if the legends are true…
There are suits of armour and swords to marvel at alongside religious pieces. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bran Castle, but this wasn’t quite it. Smaller than I expected but, nonetheless, an enchanting building. It had a lot of interesting facets, and I spent a lot of time looking at the smaller details.
Ornate doors with intricately painted patterns, perfectly sculpted (iron?) flowers, and traditional ovens boasting beautiful tiling caught my attention time and again. Old furniture continued the bespoke theme, even down to the 5-toed feet adorning the wardrobes and bed.
After descending the creepy stairs where the hairs raised on the back of my neck, I found myself in the deserted courtyard. A beautifully crafted well takes centre stage, still bearing the majority of its original features.
Outside, the castle captivates with its strangely flat frontage. It almost looked like a prop-scene at certain angles because of how thin it gets. The grounds offer a tranquil escape with well-kept gardens, ponds and a café where I found popcorn and kittens to entertain myself further.
Fast becoming a popular location for weddings, you may find yourself with the pleasure of witnessing Bride and Ghoul floating around, too.
Wandering round to the rear, there were other stone structures and some ruined pieces though I’m not sure if these are part of the castle or not. Walking back round, just as you leave, there is also a reconstructed village. Many a place here to buy souvenirs or boiled corn on the cob.
Once I left Bran Castle, I decided to walk and see what else was in the area. The weather still wasn’t on my side, but I found a river with a picturesque setting, a wooden bridge and farm buildings. Following the course of the river there were also churches and strange statues.
Food and drink
I was on a 'budget day' so already had a packed lunch in my rucksack. I can recommend buying the fresh fruit from the fruit stall though - the apricots were the best I've ever had!
Bran Castle is a must for horror and history fans alike. Steeped in history it had plenty to see and the novelty of visiting ‘Dracula’s Castle’ still hasn’t worn off for me. It was inexpensive and relatively easy to find by bus from Brașov.
The return leg proved more difficult as I couldn’t locate the bus stop. The fruit seller, after complimenting me on my Romanian whilst ordering apricots, directed me to a small, ornate metal stand across the road. Turns out, this is the bus stop. No other indication to suggest this, no signs, no road markings – nimic!
Although I didn't encounter Dracula on this visit, I still recommend Bran Castle, even solo. So, enjoy your travels but be aware that not everything is as it seems… I'm still bemused by that bus stop.