Dracula: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

How some fake news and a fictional book turned a real prince and romantic castle into a horror legend.
Bran Castle, Romania
Long before the sparkling tweeness of the Twilight series, author Bram Stoker created a vampire with serious bite in his classic novel Dracula. First published in 1897, it contained a rich lore around the devilish Count Dracula, and created the blueprint for the bloodsucking vampire we know today.

Like plenty of legendary fiction, it was grounded in reality. Stoker based his pointy-toothed protagonist on the real-life Romanian prince Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler.

Renowned throughout Europe as a psychopath, sadist, murderer, and masochist, Vlad was infamous for the art of his cruelty, and so was the perfect guy to base a bloodthirsty monster on.

From impaling two monks (and their donkey), as a way of helping them get to heaven, to nailing turbans onto the heads of some Turkish visitors, after they refused to remove them, there was no shortage of wicked rumours and scuttlebutt for Stoker to draw upon, once he started researching.

The thing is, while Dracula is completely made up, so too are nearly all the stories about Vlad.

the legend of Vlad sitting down to a Sunday roast, surrounded by dead and dying people skewered on poles? Not true

Turns out, in much the same way modern political campaigns are run, Vlad had his reputation smeared by historians of the time, as a way for his political opponents to cast the prince as a madman, and have him tossed off the throne.

So the legend of Vlad sitting down to a Sunday roast, surrounded by dead and dying people skewered on poles? Not true, but why let the facts get in the way of a great horror story?

While Stoker never visited Romania, he did base Dracula’s legendary crib on a picture of the real-life Bran Castle, located in the south of the country. However, even that is up for debate. Some say the ruined Poenari Castle, once home to Vlad the Impaler, fits its description better.

The ruins of Poenari Castle
The ruins of Poenari Castle, which some say may be the real inspiration behind Dracula’s Castle

Described in the second chapter of the novel as “on the very edge of a terrific precipice… with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm with silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests”, it could actually fit either location pretty well.

Regardless of which castle was the true inspiration, there’s no denying Bran Castle and its stunning location within the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains fits the bill.

You can visit this historic castle on a TripADeal trip visiting Romania here.

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