Burned at the Stake in Transylvania

Dracula is based on Vlad III. Credit: Public domain

Dark and highly intense tales of mystery, superstition, and legend are passed from generation-to-generation in Transylvania. I am fascinated with Dracula and his blood-sucking legend which permeates our thoughts of this Romanian region. Transylvania is synonymous with Dracula and to this day there are also many additional local legends involving torture, coercion, punishment, death, magic, beasts, and alliances with the devil that have become common parts of the exciting local culture. Continue reading “Burned at the Stake in Transylvania”

My Adventure Stalking Dracula

“Dracula’s Castle” in Bran, Romania

Dark legend surrounds “Count Dracula” and his vampire wives as living in their Transylvania castle. Nourished by blood that they suck from their victims at night, these vampires are rumored to live an otherwise solitude life in the Carpathian Mountains. With wisps of clouds hanging low in the deep forest, I ventured to Bran Castle in Romania. The castle is otherwise known as “Dracula’s Castle.” This blog is about my latest exploration to learn more of this character made famous by Bram Stoker in his book and by Bela Lugosi, the actor in the 1931 Dracula movie. A light drizzle on a cold, gloomy, dismal April day set the mood to visit such a place shrouded in mystery.

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Eerie clouds from an inside the castle vantage point

Standing outside the castle entrance I observed a young Orthodox Christian couple taking a selfie and then blessing themselves prior to ascending the slippery, uneven stone steps to the open castle door.

I didn’t bring any garlic or wolfsbane with me but my traditional Romanian pork stew lunch was so loaded with garlic that I thought that only a breath directed toward any vampire would overpower and easily repel them. As I walked into the castle’s entry room, I noted the locked basement door were it was logical that vampires would be “resting” during daylight in their native soil. I saw no bats and heard no wolves; I saw no red eyes staring at me from the shadows. As legend has it, vampires cast no image in a mirror so I remained vigilant to look for mirrors but I found none.

The small castle has all the mystery one might expect to lend credibility to Bram Stoker’s creation. In reality, Dracula is based somewhat on Vlad III, “The Impaler,” Prince of Wallachia, who I will discuss a bit later. Stoker in his genius drew from tales he heard of the castle (that he didn’t visit) and other legends from Eastern and Central Europe. It is amazing how authors and screen writers can paint images in our minds so we escape into an artificial reality… and Stoker was quite capable of doing so with Dracula.

Castle Living Room

Constructed atop a huge rock, this small but imposing structure is a large interesting house with many rooms containing numerous artifacts of medieval furniture, carpets and utensils. The interior is often dark and certainly must be even more mysterious at night with its secret, dimly lit passages between floors, fireplaces, and numerous staircases throughout the building to link the rooms. In the 1931 movie, the castle entrance and cob-webbed rooms are larger than the actual castle. However, the castle in Bran provides exceptional inspiration for one’s imagination. And in this house there are other things that one doesn’t find in one’s house today.

Among the things to see in addition to the medieval furnishings are medieval clothes, suits of armor, ancient weapons, shields, items for torture and execution. The castle is very artfully decorated and I must say that the exhibits for torture and execution were the most compelling I have seen. The cruel inhumanity and ingenuity for inflicting pain and death from simple objects is amazing. I felt ill seeing them. And that’s where Vlad comes in; he is known as “The Impaler.”

This portrait of Vlad III, painted in the early 16th century, hangs in the museum at Castle Ambras in Innsbruck, Austria. Credit: Public domain

Count Dracula might be a fictional character who emotes fear from the scenes painted in imagery by Stoker and the movie by Lugosi. However, Vlad III, was known in his time as Dracula (Drăculea, in old Romanian). He was real and, in a sense, blood thirsty medieval prince. Known as “The Impaler,” Vlad would have been a terrorist tried on crimes against humanity for his brutally for the ways he punished his enemies. You can read more about his life and his brutality elsewhere on the Internet.

One of Vlad’s infamous ways of execution was to impale the person by driving a large wood stake about 2 1/2 inches in diameter up through the person’s torso along the spine, through the neck and out their mouth. If the procedure didn’t kill them, they likely would last only a short time until they did. Vlad was known for having mass impalements and reportedly washing his hands in the blood of victims before eating his meals among the “forests” of them. These forests of rotting flesh were his design to deter advancing enemies and to warn populations about the consequences of dissension to his rule.

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A view looking toward Bran, Romania

This castle known as “Dracula’s” was not where Vlad lived. He was at another one that today is rubble, However, the images for the biting, blood-sucking vampire tales are drawn from imagination based on facts and legends from this mysterious part of Europe that provide interesting and often gruesome stories (of which the Bran Castle is part).

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Dracula, the castle, and Vlad. If you have a reply or comment, please post it above where indicated. If you would like to receive my travel blog in your email, enter your address where provided on the right side of the page.