Perched atop a cliff like an eagle’s nest, at an altitude of over 800 m, the Poenari Castle was built in the 14th century on an isolated peak. It can only be reached by climbing a stairway of 1480 stone steps. The Fort was used at some point by Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian prince at the origin of the Dracula character. Vlad’s Castle, is a place that breathes history and beauty, its fame being overshadowed only by that of the legend of the Bran Castle. However, the historical evidence connecting Poenari castle with Vlad’s life and legend turns this site into the real-life “Dracula’s Castle”.
Poenari Castle 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. 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. 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.
The legend of the Poenari Castle
It is said that one day Vlad III 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, huddled together in gala dress, without saying goodbye to those who were happy enough to have remained at home, were conducted, like criminals, to the bank of the river, at the foot of the mountain. Then, after making footpaths, almost perpendicular in the mountain, they gained the platform and were surrounded by their stern guardians, exposed to every change in the atmosphere, and to nameless tortures.
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. These are no longer human beings, but machines, stupefied by sorrow, and no longer able oven to implore 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.