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Transylvania is a historical region in central Romania. The region is bound on the east and south by mountainous borders and is known for its medieval towns and castles, the most famous being the Gothic Bran Castle ("Dracula's Castle"). Within Transylvania's historical area lies the city of Brașov, which is known for its old town and a short drive from there lies Poiana Brașov, a popular ski resort. The region is set in the stunning scenery of the Carpathian Mountains and has an extraordinarily controversial history which, for those interested, can be read about here [external webpage]. With several major Romanian cities such as Cluj-Napoca and Sibiu, as well as Brașov, Transylvania has a total population of 7.3 million in a territory which nowadays comprises 16 counties. A visit to this region by anyone from the English-speaking world can rarely take place without some sort of reference to vampires (as well as werewolves and witches) due to Bram Stoker's famous novel, Dracula, and subsequent references to it in film and popular culture. Mine was brief, and so, there's no better place to start this webpage off than by looking at Bran Castle and attempting to debunk a few myths.

Bran Castle [Above] was built by the citizens of Brașov over 600 years ago and is one of the most important architectural monuments in Romania. The castle lies approximately 30 km south-west of the town and formed an important feudal fortress during the Middle Ages, defending against invaders. It also played a role in controlling commercial traffic which had been coming through here for over 1000 years. After 1920, the Castle was restored for Queen Marie (1875 - 1938) and became  the residence of the Royal House. The castle sits on a cliff, guarding the strategic gorge at the juncture of the Bucegj and Piatra Craiului Mountains and overlooks the road which connecting the Romanian provinces of Transylvania and Wallachia. Today, the castle is a museum and open to the public. Inside, the visitor can step back in time, visiting areas such as such as the chancellor's office, the council hall and the garrison rooms. Various pieces of decorative art and furniture collected by Queen Marie is on display here, alongside weapons from the era. Outside the castle, at the foot of the hill is a small open-air ethnographical museum park. Further photos of the castle follow.


As mentioned above, Bran Castle is Commonly known as "Dracula's Castle", although several locations are linked to the Dracula legend, including Poenari Castle and Hunyad Castle. In 1897, the writer Bram Stoker introduced his famous character and set his novel in Transylvania. The idea of identifying Count Dracula with Vlad Țepeș, Prince of Wallachia (Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Drăculea) stems from his notoriety for ferocious cruelty. He died in Transylvania in the 16th century and was reputed to be an evil and blood thirsty man. However, he was really one of several fierce leaders at a time when cruelty was commonplace. Vlad the Impaler was known as such, posthumously, for his habitual impaling of Turkish invaders whom had been taken prisoner during the many battles and his name Dracul means Devil in Romanian. Hence, it is assumed that the character Count Dracula was created due to inspiration drawn from Transylvanian history, with the castles of the region setting the scene for terrifying vampires. Although Bran Castle has traditionally become known as the home of Bram Stoker's Dracula, drawing in large numbers of tourists annually as a result, there is no direct  evidence that Stoker knew anything about this particular castle which itself has questionable links to Vlad the Impaler. In more modern times, tourists were frequently taken by surprise by actors dressed up although my understanding from the visit was that this practice was stopped after a Vampire jumped out from a hiding place and caused an American visitor to suffer a fatal cardiac arrest as a result of this particular experience. In addition, it is not uncommon to see tourists visiting with garlic to ward off any vampires. Quite.

Above: The Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania

The next five photos show the centre of Brașov. It is the administrative centre of Brașov County and the seventh largest city in Romania. It lies a little over 100 miles north of Bucharest and its main sights include the Saxon walls and bastions, Council Square which is surrounded by baroque buildings,  and the towering Gothic Black Church (shown in the third photo). The city is the birthplace of the national anthem of Romania.

The final photos below show some typical rural Transylvanian architecture and it must be said, I wish I had taken more photos of this particular subject during my brief visit to the region. Throughout the visit, it was possible to see a large array of Gothic architecture, often characterised by steep pitched roofs and similar in style to the building shown here on my Bucharest page. Many buildings were reminiscent of horror movies and anything stereotyping the genre, giving the whole area a chilling, but inspiring mood. Throwing in the mix of modern alpine style wooden buildings in the ski resorts and the concrete of urban suburbia, I found the whole area fascinating from an architectural view point. Perhaps another visit (and with a better quality camera) one day again in the future...

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