Perched atop a cliff like an eagle's nest, at an altitude of over 800 m, the Poenari Castle is one of the most impenetrable fortresses in Romania.
Despite not being as famous as other medieval castles in Romania, such as Bran Castle, Corvin Castle, or Peles Castle, the Poenari Fortress is no less impressive than the ones we just mentioned. It was built in the early 13th century, and in the 14th century, it was the main seat of the House of Basarabs, but it was abandoned after a couple of decades.
Poenari is located in the Argeș County, right on the Transfăgărșan, the road that passes through the Carpathian Mountains. You can easily reach it from Curtea de Argeș, the nearest major city, or from Arefu, the closest town, by taking a bus or a minibus. But make sure to let the driver know that you're heading for Poenari, as there is no bus stop nearby, so they will have to drop you off as close as possible.
It is said that sometimes during the 15th century, when Vlad the Impaler set his eyes upon the castle, he recognized its potential and invested in consolidating the structure and repairing it, making it one of his main fortresses. Its size and location made it a place difficult to conquer, but its location made it vulnerable to landslides and earthquakes, as it happened in 1888 when parts of the fortress crashed into the river below.
Some people suggest that Poenari was, in fact, the inspiration for the real Dracula's Castle depicted in the novel of Bram Stoker, although there is no official evidence to support these claims.
Throughout the years, the castle was abandoned several times, but in 2009 the Argeș County Museum took over the medieval fortress and tended to it.
It is said that one day Vlad Țepeș was hunting along the banks of the river Argiș, and had noticed the ruins of an old castle on top of a cliff on Mount Albina, a cliff surrounded by the Argiș river, and inhabited only by vultures and other birds of prey. He decided that it would be the perfect place for a defensive fortress, so he conceived the design to restore it to its former glory.
The only setback was that he needed money, and the boyars refused to give him the money he needed.
You would not give me the money I needed," he said, "well, keep it! I will not have you killed to chastise you for your revolt, but I condemn you all, just as you are, to build with your own hands a Fortress on the top of Mount Albina. I wish it to be the largest, the best, and the most impregnable of all which I possess. You will not leave the mountain until all is finished. My soldiers have the right of life and death over you, to force you to carry out my instructions.
No sooner said than done, and these unfortunate creatures, young and old, were huddled together without having a chance to say goodbye to their families and were conducted like criminals to the bank of the river. They first created the footpath up the mountain, and then they started working on the platform of the mountain, surrounded by stern guards, exposed to harsh conditions, and deprived of sleep and food.
Sun, rain, and wind, blackened their faces; their clothes hung in shreds; their features haggard and careworn, some eyes burning with rage, others with the submission of despair. By the end, they were no longer human beings, but machines, stupefied by sorrow, and no longer able oven to implore the God above to send down his maledictions on the tyrant.
Still, their work progressed, and soon this Citta Dolente was completed.
High season: from May 1 to September 30.
From Monday to Sunday 9.00-18.00.
5 lei – adults; 2 lei – pupils, students, seniors.
60 lei – amateur; 1000 lei/h – professional.