Poenari Castle - stronghold of Dracula
The true story of Vlad the Impaler called DraculaThere are several locations in Romania linked to the Dracula legend. Vlad III the Impaler, also known as Vlad Dracul or Vlad the Dragon was the legendary vampire, created by author Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel of the same name. Though Dracula is a purely fictional creation, Stoker named his infamous character after a real person. Vlad was the second of four brothers born into the noble family of Vlad II Dracul. His sobriquet Dracula (meaning “son of Dracul”) was derived from the Latin draco (“dragon”) after his father’s induction into the Order of the Dragon, created by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund for the defence of Christian Europe against the Ottoman Empire.
Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 in Transylvania and was the Prince of Wallachia - a kingdom that now comprises the southern half of Romania. Vlad earned his name Impaler (in Romanian - Tepes) by impaling his enemies on stakes in the ground and leaving them to die. The Ottoman (Turkish) Empire was at war with Wallachia. In 1462, Sultan Mehmed II fled with his army at the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses rotting on the outskirts of Vlad’s capital city, Targoviste. It is estimated that during of Vlad's rule his army killed about 100 thousand enemies in this cruel way.
Vlad was killed in 1476 in battle but remained a folk hero in the region for his battle against Ottoman invasion.
Locations linked to the DraculaAlthough Bram Stoker never travelled to Romania, he crammed his book with descriptions of many real locations linked to the Dracula, that can still be visited in present-day Romania. They include town of Sighisoara where you can visit the house in which Vlad was born, the Old Princely Court (Palatul Curtea Veche) in Bucharest, Snagov Monastery, where, according to legend, Vlad's remains were buried; the ruins of the Poenari Fortress (considered to be the authentic Dracula's Castle); the village of Arefu where Dracula legends are still told, the city of Brasov where Vlad led raids against the Saxons merchants (see: Brasov's Medieval Defensive Fortifications).
Many people consider Castle Bran as Dracula's castle, but it's not. Stoker's description of Dracula's crumbling fictional castle also bears no resemblance to Bran Castle. The location Stoker had in mind for Castle Dracula was an empty mountain top, Mount Izvorul Călimanului (2,033 m asl.), located in the Transylvanian Călimani Alps near the former border with Moldavia.
Poenari CastleThe major and real stronghold of Vlad III the Impaler was picturesque Poenari Castle. Castle also is known as Poenari Citadel or Poenari Fortress is located on the plateau of Mount Cetatea (at a height of 860 meters). Castle perched high on a steep precipice of rock on a canyon formed on the Argeș River valley, close to the Făgăraș Mountains in the west side of the famous Transfăgărășan Highway (read more at: Transfagarasan highway, Romania).
Poenari Castle was erected around the beginning of the 13th century by Wallachians. The size and location of the castle made it difficult to conquer but in the 14 century, the castle was abandoned and left in ruins.
In the 15th century, Vlad the Impaler repaired and consolidated the structure, making it one of his main fortresses and one of his main places of residence. The castle was rebuilt by the prisoners of Vlad. Vlad imprisoned a large number of his enemies and according to the legend, he told them they had two years to build him a new castle here. If they succeeded, he’d let them go free, and if they failed, he’d kill them. The actually did it, but it’s assumed a lot of them died along the way from the hard work.
The legend says that the first wife of Vlad the Impaler threw herself from one of the citadel’s walls, being afraid that she will be taken hostage by the Turks on one of their attack on the fortress. When she died, a river at the foot of cliffs got all red from his blood. Since then, it is called The Lady’s River.
The castle was used for many years after Vlad's death and was abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century. In 1888, a landslide brought a portion of the fortress crashing down the cliff. It was slightly repaired and the walls and its towers still stand today.
In 1970, Romanian authorities decided to make this place a tourist friendly and built 1.480 steps in the rock of the mountain so that people would have easier access. Don't expect to really see too much of the castle, though. but after climbing tiring steps to the Castle, you realise it was worth it. The ruins of the Citadel are quite well maintained but there are no rooms to explore or twisting hallways to walk through. However, the views from up there are incredible.
You might also like other articles about beautiful places in Romania (click to see)
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