Basil woke this morning much relieved. The garlic seemed to have worked, there were no suspicious holes in his oil pipes. I was not quite so cheery. I had read, when I awoke, the entry from one of my favourite blogs, about their visit to Castle Bran. Basically they were put off by the enormous amount of tourist tat for sale and so didn’t go in. So I was a little apprehensive that I had made a bad decision in coming to Bran.
First I need to clarify the very tenuous connection between Castle Bran and Dracula. Apparently the writer of Dracula, Bram Stoker, took as his starting point Vlad the Impaler. As you can tell from his moniker Vlad was not a nice man, even for the early 15th Century. He ruled Transylvania and other parts of current Romania with an iron fist, or perhaps more accurately by impaling his opponents on long wooden spikes. However, it was never suggested he sucked anyone’s blood.
Vlad’s father, who confusingly was also a Vlad, but not an impaler, was called Vlad Dracul and sometimes Vlad the Impaler was referred to as Vlad Dracula. So now we are beginning to get a connection. But where doe Castle Bran fit in. Well it doesn’t really. Vlad the Impaler did once besiege Castle Bran but he never lived there. However when Romania was looking at a way on cashing in on Dracula Castle, Bran was in the right area and looked the most, of all the local castles, like the one described in Bram Stoker’s novel. So basically there is not real connection between Castle Bran and Dracula.
That has not stopped Bran doing very well out of Dracula, thank you very much.
Sarah and I walked the 2 km or so from Vampire Camping to Castle Bran. The village itself looks relatively prosperous with many hotels and guest houses. As we approached the castle our fellow blogger’s words about tat stalls came to life. I have never seen so many market stalls in proximity to a tourist attraction. Luckily for us the stalls were mostly selling high quality tat. There were a few plastic knick-knacks and one or two dracula t-shirts, but mostly it was artisanal food and Romania crafts. Still it was excessive. There were so many stalls that if it was December I would have classified as a reasonably large Christmas market.
We quickly worked our way through the market to the castle entrance. At 35 Lei (€7) it wasn’t cheap but it was less expensive than the standard price we have been paying in Greece for historical attractions. As an extra bonus Mabel and Melek were allowed into the grounds although of course not the castle.
Bran Castle is perched on top of a high rocky outcrop and so there is a small climb up to the entrance. Sarah let me have first go, because she was not sure she was going to go in and would wait for my report. The staff were controlling the number of people going into the castle, but it was still very crowded and meant plenty of shuffling in slow lines. I found the castle interesting, primarily because it was very different from the castles I have toured in Western Europe. The inside was altogether smaller and more cramped, and not just because of the crowds. The interior had been updated in the 1920’s by Queen Maria of Romania, one of Queen Victorias hundreds of grandchildren married off to monarchy around Europe. The result is that most of the furniture is Victorian on early 20th century and so of no great interest.
There is small area of the castle dedicated to Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker and Dracula, with replica clothes and weapons from Vlad’s era. Overall it was a worthwhile experience, but it is not going on my top ten castle list, even if such a list existed.
While Sarah looked round I had a coffee and then we both sat down outside the castle restaurant for a mixture of Romanian appetisers, which I enjoyed but Sarah found a bit bland.
Back at the ranch I have watched the thrilling climax to the Giro D’Italia which was won by 31 seconds after 3 weeks and thousands of miles of racing, by the man who was caught short just before a vital climb, if you’ve been reading my blog. Justice was served, and it made for a thrilling race.
The owner of the campsite has recommended a restaurant in the village and we ascertained, on the way back from the castle, that they accept dogs. So we will be checking that out shortly. The weather is lovely again and so I hope we will be able go sit out on the terrace.
Tomorrow we move north to a UNESCO World Hertigate fortified Saxon village.