Vlad Dracula (1431 - 1476)
In 1431, Romania's most famous son, Vlad Tepes, or
Count Dracula as we know him familiarly, was born in Sighisoara,
Transylvania. At least that's what the guide books say. Dracula
is linked to many places in Transylvania on shaky evidence
but there is no doubt that he roamed the forests and valleys
of Romania during the 15th century. The popular image of Dracula
is of a blood-sucking vampire, who snoozes in a coffin and
turns into a bat when the sun goes down owes much to Bram
Stoker who created this blood-thirsty Nosferatu based
on the equally gory heroics of a real Romanian Prince in his
novel published in 1897.
Who was Dracula?
Vlad Dracula was actually a Wallachian warlord who fought
against the Turkish invaders during the 15th century. The
name Dracula came from his father who also fought the Turks;
Dracul meant Dragon (from a German order of knights) hence
Vlad Dracula "son of the dragon". Vlad had a passion
for impaling his enemies on huge stakes and picked up the
catchy nickname of Tepes - the Impaler. Vlad was a little
psychotic and regularly took to having his dinning table placed
outside near the dying so that he could watch the show whilst
having dinner. On one occasion there were so many impaled
enemies hanging around that the area became known as the "Forest
of the Impaled".
Despite his cruel and savage reputation Vlad Tepes is a national
hero, remembered for defending Romania against the invading
Ottoman Empire and references to him can be found all over
The myths and legends surrounding the inspiration for Bram
Stoker's Dracula novel are inescapable here and Dracula is
big business. Fortunately for Sighisoara, a recent plan suggested
by the Romanian Tourism Board to build a Dracula theme park
(complete with an Institute of Vampirology and a brand new
Castle Dracula) has been stopped. The effect on the citadel
- one of only two inhabited medieval citadels in Europe -
was deemed too destructive and the proposed site has been
relocated to the outskirts of Bucharest.
Essential haunts to visit for Dracula fans:
Located 14 miles outside of Brasov. Built in 1378 but
heavily restored, it proudly bears the tag of Dracula's official
residence and is on every tourist's must-see list even though
Dracula probably only stayed on a few ocassions.
The Trans-Fagarasan Highway - the highest road in Europe
- takes you across the mountains and into Wallachia.
It is here that you can climb the 1480 steps to Poienari Castle
- the most authentic Transylvanian haunt of Dracula.
Trains reach Sighisoara from Bucharest via Brasov. Vlad's
birthplace is now the Restaurantul Cetatea and is opposite
a small museum with Dracula paraphernalia.