Read an Excerpt
Saxons built Bran Castle on a cliff above the plains in 1377 to protect the gateway to Transylvania at the Bran Pass. The imposing construction with its solid, squared-off walls and reddish-brown roofs looks like a typical Transylvanian castle and it attracts a huge number of tourists who often come for the Dracula link. It is promoted as Dracula’s Castle, but Vlad III Tepes, the real person behind the Dracula myth, spent only a few nights at the castle, probably when he was imprisoned by the royal Hunyadi family. The Gothic portals, narrow staircases carved into the stone, secret stairs and passageways, vaulted halls and arches make Bran an atmospheric and impressive destination. In the 1920s, Bran became home to Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938) and she decorated the interior, importing much of the furniture from western Europe. The castle is now a museum (tel: 0268 238 333; brancastlemuseum.com; [clock] summer 12.00--18.00 Mon, 09.00--18.00 Tue--Sun; winter 09.00--16.00 Tue--Sun; admission adult/child 12/6RON) showing period furniture, carpets and a collection of weapons. In the grounds, an ethnological museum (same ticket as for museum) displays the way of life and architecture of the surrounding area. Beneath the castle is a vast collection of stalls selling mainly Dracula tat: T-shirts, mugs and jigsaws, in a heady ambiance of candy floss and burgers. Bran town is almost entirely made up of pensions and families letting out part of their homes to visitors.