The legend of Dracula represents one of the most intriguing blends of history and fiction in the world. It also happens to be closely tied to Romania, which ought to make it particularly interesting for people who want to visit.
From a historical standpoint, it’s widely believed that author Bram Stoker (who wrote the actual novel Dracula based his character at least in part upon Prince Vlad III of Wallachia, aka Vlad the Impaler. Live Science did a nice in-depth look at the link between the characters, explaining that they don’t necessarily have much in common, but still articulating why many view Vlad as the “real” Dracula. For the most part, both are simply sinister figures associated with Transylvania and modern-day Romania – and both essentially left bloody trails in their wakes, in their respective stories.
In fiction, Vlad is largely left alone and takes on Dracula vary considerably. Branching off of the original 1897 novel, Dracula is sometimes portrayed almost cartoonishly as a classic vampire with a high-collared black cloak, blood dribbling from his lips, etc. Other accounts are different, however. A Dracula video game hosted at Slotsource is based on Universal’s 1931 film rather than the novel itself, and is even described as having “changed the book and the myth for future generations.” In this take, seen in both the film and the slot game, Dracula is more of a dark prince of sorts – a gothic monster, but one as much human as a beast, perhaps more in line with the true character of Vlad.
It’s actually pretty interesting stuff to explore. From a visitor’s standpoint, however, Vlad and Dracula may as well be one and the same. Whether accurately or not, Romania has been painted as a sort of an ancient center of sinister or vampire-related activity, and as a result, there are a number of sights around the country that people intrigued by these legends can see for themselves. We’ve covered a few of them individually before, but here’s a look at what a full-fledged Dracula (or Vlad) tour of Romania might include.
This is a sight that has been written about before here, as the real-life Dracula’s Castle. We actually know that the 14th-century fortress was built by prisoners for Vlad himself, and though it’s largely in ruins, it still projects an aura of strength and intimidation today. It’s certainly worth journeying to see, for though its history is closely associated with extreme brutality, there’s something thrilling about being there.
If you can’t make it to Poenari Castle in person, but you do travel to some of Romania’s main cities, Bucharest has an interesting alternative. Here, King Carol I actually erected an exact replica of Poenari Castle, and it now stands proudly in Carol Park.
This is a gorgeous medieval building that still stands in Romania, and is also known to some as Hunyad Castle. It actually isn’t mentioned as frequently in connection to Vlad or Dracula, though many historians believe that Vlad was imprisoned in its dungeons for anywhere from a few months to seven years. Some say this is where he went mad and by extension became so uniquely brutal.
This is a place you should work into your visit regardless of whether you’re embarking on a vampire tour of sorts. According to Lonely Planet, the Old Princely Court contains the nation’s oldest church, built in the mid-16th century. However, more exciting for legend lovers will be the ruins of an old Vlad fortress that were uncovered just 40 or so years ago.
Located in the fascinating medieval town of Sighisoara (which truly resembles a piece of history), the Vlad Dracul House is believed to be the actual home where Vlad was born in 1431. It’s remarkable that it’s still standing, and there’s actually a fairly widespread agreement that its origin stories are true. Nowadays, the building has turned into a bar and restaurant, meaning you can literally have a meal in the Impaler’s home (and perhaps the birthplace of the inspiration for Dracula).
Vlad Tepes house
This is almost a less authentic version of Poenari Castle in terms of its historical relevance to the Vlad and Dracula legends. But perhaps because it’s arguably the most striking castle in Romania, it has become known as Dracula’s Castle over the years. Given that this story blends legend with reality anyway, that makes it well worth including on your tour.
Altogether, visiting these sites is like retracing the steps of history and diving headfirst into Dracula lore all at once. It’s a fun way to explore this beautiful country, as well as to get a true sense of its medieval background.