Long before the tweeness of the Twilight series, author Bram Stoker wrote his classic novel Dracula, first published in 1897, where he imagined the original bloodsucking vampire, Count Dracula, living in an epic Romanian castle.
Like plenty of legendary fiction, Stoker based his pointy-toothed protagonist on a real-life character – prince Vlad Tepes. Or better known as Vlad the Impaler.
Renowned throughout Europe as a psychopath, sadist, murderer, and masochist, Vlad was infamous for the art of his cruelty, and so was the perfect guy to base a bloodthirsty monster on.
From impaling two monks (and their donkey), as a way of helping them get to heaven, to nailing turbans onto the heads of some Turkish visitors, after they refused to remove them, there was no shortage of wicked rumours and scuttlebutt for Stoker to draw upon, once he started researching.
The thing is, while Dracula is completely made up, so too are nearly all the stories about Vlad.
the legend of Vlad sitting down to a Sunday roast, surrounded by dead and dying people skewered on poles? Not true
Turns out, in much the same way modern political campaigns are run, Vlad had his reputation smeared by historians of the time, as a way for his political opponents to cast the prince as a madman, and have him tossed off the throne.
So the legend of Vlad sitting down to a Sunday roast, surrounded by dead and dying people skewered on poles? Not true, but why let the facts get in the way of a great horror story?
While Stoker never visited Romania, he did base Dracula’s legendary crib on a picture of the real-life Bran Castle, located in the south of the country. He describes the place in the second chapter of Dracula as “on the very edge of a terrific precipice… with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm with silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.” It’s the perfect description of the world-famous building, and its stunning location within the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains.
Today, descendants of the Romanian royal family run Bran Castle, and you can visit for yourself on this TripADeal tour.