Traveling in Romania: Debunking the Dracula myths

If Romania has a representative, it must be Dracula. But as our local guides very honestly pointed out, what most people know about Dracula, is nothing more than a marketing strategy. Dracula does exist; Vlad III a.k.a. Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Vlad Dracula was once the prince of Wallachia in the medieval times. He was also known as Vlad the Impaler, but no, he was not known for biting people on the neck nor was impaling him in the heart the only way to kill him (but I believe that will kill him, or anyone actually). He was known, however, for impaling his enemies as well as criminals in his region, supposedly avoiding all vital organs so that they will die a slow death. In this post, let’s explore Brasov, Sighisoara and Bucharest, debunking the Dracula myths together!

Debunking the Dracula myths – Dracula’s Castle in Brasov

Bran Castle (Castelul Bran), situated near Bran and in the immediate vicinity of Braşov, is a national monument and landmark in Romania. Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle”, it is the home of the title character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Well, no, Vlad himself never resided there, at most he might have been imprisoned there for a short period. Our local guide shared that Bram Stoker chose this castle because it was located in the foresty Transylvania, which is more spooky than Wallachia where Vlad was from. I prefer to remember this as the castle of Queen Marie, one of the most popular Queens of Romania. Still worth a visit!

The Black Church

PC: Europeupclose.com

Apart from the Bran Castle, do check out the Black Church when you are in Brasov. Located in the center of Brasov City, the Black church is one of the most impressive religious edifices in Romania. The church was originally named Saint Mary’s Church. But in 1689 a great fire destroyed the interior and damaged the walls and the roof. After the renovation, the edifice was named the Black Church, mostly because of the exterior walls and roof were blackened from the fire.

The Black Church is not only an interesting religious and historical edifice but also a great place to visit for the legend of a boy who died tragically or for the bullets that can be seen in the walls of the church.

PC: touristinromania.net

On one of the church’s exterior pillars, on the edge of the roof, there is an odd statue of a boy leaning forward as if he would have dropped something on the ground. No one knows for sure why that statue was there but there are three legends that try to explain its existence.

There’s a great hiking point in Brasov Turnul Alb. Although I hate climbing stairs, the view all the way up did not disappoint me! The White Tower itself was so-so, but you can see the Black Church and the Old Town from up here.

Peles Castle

This is one castle you cannot miss. Although it has nothing to do with Dracula,  it is so beautiful, both outside and inside. Nestled at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains in the picturesque town of Sinaia, Peles Castle is a masterpiece of German new-Renaissance architecture, considered by many one of the most stunning castles in Europe. But it’s not very easily accessible by public transport, so we took a paid tour which included Bran Castle, Peles Castle and Rasnov Fortress.

 

Debunking the Dracula myths – Hometown of Dracula – Sighisoara

PC: gotravelaz.com

Second stop on our search for Dracula, is his hometown Sighisoara, where his head is on display. Sighisoara is a really small town, nothing much to do, but it’s fun searching for the nine towers that this colourful medieval town is known for.

And here’s the house where he’s born! You can visit the room that he’s born in, for a price. Well, it looks like a Fright Night set-up, but it was funny more so than spooky.

 

Debunking the Dracula myths – The ruined Curtea Veche in Bucharest

Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania, as well as its cultural, industrial, and financial centre.  Inside the big city, there’s a small courtyard that is closely related to Dracula. Curtea Veche is now pretty much a ruin, but it has more to do with Vlad Dracula. Bucharest was the capital of the medieval Wallachia, and this Old Princely Court was built as his residence.


As scary as Vlad might have been portrayed, one local actually joked that they wish Vlad will come back to life and deal with their politicians. When we were talking to our guide on the walking tour and a taxi driver on the way to the train station, we could feel how much they love this country, but both are unhappy with the politics. As much as I think Duterte is crazy, I am now reminded of Vlad whenever I hear about him. But I still think he’s crazy.

The architecture in Bucharest very much fits my impression of European cities before this first visit to Europe. Such huge grand buildings! Which ends up leaving not much of an impression individually…

Memorial of Rebirth

Interesting monument, sadly not part of the free walking tour we joined, hence I left Bucharest with no idea of the significance behind it. But I just Googled! It’s called the Memorialul Renasterii, or Memorial of Rebirth, and it commemorates the struggles and victims of the 1989 Romanian Revolution which overthrew Communism and Romania’s best known Communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu.

Speaking of the walking tour, I actually don’t remember much of what the guide shared about the various landmarks. What touched me the most was the story about the protest in 2013 against a mining project that would have destroyed their environment and heritage. The people was victorious, and how the younger generation was awakened by their power to make a change.

 

Where to stay with Dracula?

Aparthomes was my favorite part of Bucharest. As you can see, it has nothing to do with Dracula either. But I really like the fact that we have our own suit and big comfortable bedrooms. The apartment is very close to town too. What’s more, it’s super affordable. Highly recommended!

 

Final thoughts from Chloe

I’ve heard so many stories of Dracula but I never really know Dracula actually existed! Till date, I’m still fascinated by how people have successfully marketed and transformed the image of Dracula. Thanks Kia Hui for sharing with us her awesome journey to Romania, debunking the Dracula myths. If you would like to find out more about Kia Hui, check out her biography and be inspired!


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