Bram Stoker’s Dracula has captivated and intrigued millions of readers since its publication in 1897, but few know the real story and inspiration behind the popular Gothic novel. The person upon whom the character of Dracula was based is said to be that of Vlad III, ruler of Wallachia, or, as he is otherwise known, Vlad the Impaler. Vlad’s story begins and ends in Romania and this guide will take you through the various interesting landmarks and sights that informed the Dracula novel and Vlad’s life.
Guests on board river cruises through Europe can gain a unique insight into the history of the world-famed novel through visiting the places that have become associated with the legend.
Vlad III’s reputation as the inspiration for the timeless Dracula lies in his ruling of the region of Wallachia in Romania and his bloodthirsty predisposition. It is thought that between the years of his three separate reigns of the area he had between 40,000 and 100,000 people killed, and his preferred method of killing was through torture and impaling his enemies, hence his chilling nickname. Despite this, he is regarded as a hero figure by many Europeans for protecting the Romanian people against the Ottoman Empire during his rule of the south and north of the Danube.
This pretty medieval town holds a dark secret – it was here that the notorious Wallachia ruler, Vlad the Impaler, was born. In this beautiful town lies the house of Vlad Dracul, whose other nickname ‘Dracul’ came from his father Vlad II having been a member of the Order of the Dragon, which is now open to the public.
Vlad Tepes, or the Impaler, was born in 1431 in a house situated in Sighisoara’s Citadel Square, nearby the town’s clock tower, and lived in the house in Sighisoara with his father until 1435. Today, visitors can come and see the wrought-iron dragon that hangs above the house’s entrance, explore the Museum of Weapons that sits on the first floor and enjoy a drink in the ground floor’s restaurant. To find out opening times and have a browse of the restaurant’s menu see the Restaurant Casa Vlad Dracul website.
One of the most talked about locations in Stoker’s Dracula is that of Transylvania and one of the most prominent features that the novel owes its inspiration to is that of Bran Castle, which sits in the heart of the region. Sat on top of a 200-foot-high rock face, the castle is steeped in history that goes beyond that of the myths that inspired Dracula and makes for a great attraction to visit in Romania.
Even though the novelist never actually visited Transylvania, his extended research of the castle and its surroundings are what is said to have provided the background for his gothic thriller. While the link with Vlad III is tenuous, the castle still forms a popular site for Dracula fans across the world and its staggering beauty makes it a place to visit in itself. Today the castle stands as a museum, housing art and furniture collected by Queen Marie of Romania and is open to the public – see the Bran Castle website for opening times throughout the year and admission prices.
Snagov Monastery sits on Snagov Lake in Bucharest and it was thought to be the final resting place for the ruler’s headless body for many years. Vlad III was killed in battle against the Turks in 1476 and was subsequently beheaded with his head then presented to Constantinople, the capital city of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and the Ottoman empires, as a trophy.
His body was thought to be buried within the decadent monastery, where there is a grave dedicated to the late ruler, but it has since been discovered that the monastery was built after the fact so it could not be possible. Despite this, visiting the monastery remains one of the most popular things to do in Bucharest, and Romania for that matter, where visitors can take a boat to the island on which the monastery sits.
While much of the Dracula narrative remains a legend and few of the sites mentioned in this guide have been proven to be authentic, they still make for an interesting tour of the country for Danube river cruise holiday guests to enjoy.
Image Credit: fusion-of-horizons (flickr.com)