A historical site in Transylvania, mostly famous because of its association with Count Dracula, is the Gothic architectural monument known as Bran Castle. Situated near Bran, between Transylvania and Wallachia, Bran Castle is a national landmark in Romania. The oldest record of Bran Castle dates from 19 November 1377, in a document from Louis I of Hungary.
Louis I gave the Saxons of Kronstadt (Brașov) permission to build the stone castle, although at their expense. It is thought that Bran castle was held by Mircea the Elder of Wallachia (r. 1386–1395, 1397–1418) and that during this period a customs point was established. Between 1438 and 1442 the castle was used in defense against the Ottoman Empire.
Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler, is thought to be the inspiration behind the figure of Dracula. He ruled Wallachia in the years 1448–1476, but appears not to have had a significant role in the history of the fortress. However, the castle has been associated with his name and the legend of Dracula. When the region came under attack from the Ottoman Empire, around 1456 to 1462, Vlad Dracula gained his reputation as a fearful enemy of the Turkish army.
Impaling his enemies upon spikes, Dracula is a notorious figure from this period and was considered the most dangerous enemy of the Ottoman Empire. It seems his name is linked to Bran Castle because of the novel “Dracula,” by Bram Stoker, written in 1897. The main protagonist in the novel, Dracula, is a fictional character. The castle that is described in the novel matches some parts of Bran Castle, but there is no evidence that the writer knew anything about this castle. However, this castle continues to be known as the “home of the real Dracula.”
The Castle belonged to the Kings of Hungary, but after the failure of King Vladislaus II to pay his debts (r. 1471–1516) it became a possession of the city of Brasov. Up to the 18th century, the castle played a militarily strategic role. Bran castle became a royal residence, and it was a favorite home and retreat of Queen Marie, who ordered its renovation. Her daughter, Princess Ileana, inherited the castle and ran a hospital there during World War II. In the present day, Bran castle is a museum and Queen Maria’s collection of art and furniture can be seen on display.
The beautiful structure visible from outside is supported by a rich interior, roomy spaces, and is decorated with statues. The dining room is decorated with works of art, including portraits of Vlad Dracula. The walls are constructed of wood and stone. On the ground floor, there are six rooms, a small kitchen, a spacious hall, which is decorated with frescoes, two vestibules, and various other rooms.The floor above contains the tower room, two rooms for different purposes, and a bigger kitchen. The style of the architecture is Gothic. Today, visitors can see the interior of Bran Castle individually or as part of a guided tour.