Brasov and Dracula’s (Bram) Castle

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series Bucharest to Brussels:

  1. Bucharest to Brussels – Introduction and Our Route
  2. Munich, Germany
  3. All Roads Lead to Rome, Part I
  4. Bucharest, Romania
  5. Brasov and Dracula’s (Bram) Castle
  6. Smaller Cities of Transylvania
  7. Budapest part 1: Sziget Festival
  8. Budapest Part 2: Daylife
  9. Budapest Part 3: Nightlife and Food
  10. Vienna and Salzburg, Austria
  11. Berlin, Germany
  12. Beer Around Belgium
  13. Biking to the Best Beer in the World
The Saxon architecture was a nice change from Bucharest!

The Saxon architecture was a nice change from Bucharest!

Brasov is a few hours north of Bucharest by train, but it feels a world away. No longer in a bleak, grey city, Brasov is set against green hills with beautiful Saxon buildings and churches. It was a welcome change. Brasov, along with many other towns in Transylvania, were originally settled by the Saxons (Germanic settlers) and later served as outposts for the Austro-Hungarian empire. As such, a lot of the architecture lacks the Soviet touch, which is a good thing. The city itself was very pleasant to walk around in, both day and night, with winding brick streets and a beautiful town square lined with nice cafes and shops. They also erected a Hollywood-esque “BRASOV” sign looking over the city, which we took the cable car up to.

The (not so) Black Church

The (not so) Black Church

Our first day we spent going on a free walking tour, which took us to several of the key landmarks in town – the black church, the Russian Orthodox church, and several of the bastions. The black church was the most interesting, as it was not black (but had burned down a few times) and also that it was so large compared to most everything else in town. Our guide also pointed out some nice restaurants, and we got our first taste of Transylvania cuisine, which is mainly pork and polenta in various combinations.

There it is - Dracula's Castle

There it is – Dracula’s Castle

Most people don’t come to Brasov for the food or churches, though, they come because it’s where Dracula came from. So, like everyone, we took a day trip to visit the castle. First, some mythbusting:

  1. Dracula is not real. His character is based loosely on Vlad the Impaler and his father, Vlad Drago (from the Order of Dragons). Vlad is sort of a folk hero for the Romanians, as he repelled the invading Ottoman armies, which they like given how many times they’ve been invaded. All of this despite that he was a cruel guy that impaled anyone who messed with him.
  2. Vlad the Impaler never lived in Transylvania. He and his father were from Wallachia, further south, in a flat farming region of Romania. He did visit the area occasionally, and was born in Sighisoara, further north.
  3. Bram Stoker never went to Transylvania. He just wrote Dracula based on the history of Vlad the Impaler, and thought a good setting would be in the more exotic Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania.
  4. “Dracula’s Castle” was just a regular castle that was repurposed by the Romanian government for Dracula tourism. Basically, tourists started showing up in Transylvania asking where to find Dracula’s Castle. Realizing they could make big money on this, they converted a nice castle on a hill in Bram and boom, Dracula’s Castle is formed!
You see more of these vampires in Transyvania than anything

You see more of these vampires in Transylvania than anything

So, as I hope was clear, everyone comes here to visit a castle that has no historical significance whatsoever. It is really just a marketing rebranding of Bran Castle for tourism purposes. All that being said, it was still a fun place to visit. The city has taken the Dracula tourism thing by the horns, and they sell any Dracula-based item imaginable: t-shirts, coffee mugs, masks and fake teeth, postcards, etc. The castle itself was quite nice, and they tried to do a good job of balancing the real history of the area and the castle with the lore around the Dracula story. They also had overpriced tourist traps like a “torture museum” but those were best avoided. There was also a medieval fair going on while we were there, which was free, and you could pay to eat medieval food and try on armor and things like that. Was a good way to kill a few minutes before our bus back to Brasov.

For us, the highlight of our time there was completely unplanned, but there was a major music festival in town. All of the bands were Hungarian, and there was everything from rock to hip-hop to electronica (including a guy who did a remix to the Imperial March from Star Wars, which was pretty cool). Plus they had dollar sausages and dollar beers, which made it all the better.

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