Friday, January 6, 2012

Mystery Photo 15: Yes, it is Bran Castle

     Bran Castle is located in the small village of Bran, Romania, but near the larger northern resort city of Brasov, Romania. The castle is known to tourists as Dracula's Castle, but like so many juxtapositions of history and fiction, there really is little connection between the fictional character  Dracula and this castle.
     As you may know, Dracula, the vampire, is the fictional creation of the Dubliner Irish novelist, Abraham "Bram" Stoker (1847-1912). Stoker was a fairly prolific writer, and wrote his novel, Dracula, in 1897. As far as we know, Stoker was never in Transylvania and had no contact or visit to Bran Castle. Perhaps he was influenced by a vampire novel that preceded his, Camilla, written in 1871, by Sheridan La Fanu in which a lesbian vampire terrorizes the story's characters. It is known that he researched Transylvanian and Eastern European folklore for 7 years before writing Dracula.  He was known to read William Wilkinson's book, Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia with Political Observations Relative to Them (London, 1820) several times, checking it out from the Whitby, Ireland museum.
     There is no knowledge that Stoker knew of the supposed namesake of Dracula, Vlad III, the Impaler. The family name of Vlad III was Dracul which means dragon. In Romanian dialects, Dracula means son of the dragon. Vlad III's father, Vlad II ruler of Wallachia, had taken the name "Dracul" after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431, a group that was founded to protect Christendom in Romania. Later and in modern Romanian the word dracul came to be used synonymously with 'the devil."  The history of Vlad III is quite gory. He was known as Vlad III Tepes, the Impaler because he was touted to have killed  10s of thousands of civilians and also as many Ottoman Turks in his fight to protect Wallachia from the Ottoman Turk empire. The method Vlad III used to kill all these people was by mounting them on a sharp pole that was fixed in the ground. He ruled as Vivolde of Wallachia from 1456 to 1462. His father had sold out to the Ottoman Turks and sent his two sons, one of them Vlad to be held hostage by the Ottoman ruler. There both boys were probably abused but Vlad was supposedly much harder to control, so he received the most abuse. This probably explains his vicious hatred for the Ottomans and his desire to resist them no matter what as they attempted to conquer the Balkan states. Though Vlad III is most remembered for his brutality, in fact he founded schools, monasteries, churches and tried to help the plight of the peasants. He killed many of the wealthy landowners who opposed him and promoted peasants to their titles. He did develop laws which were exceedingly strict but that applied equally to both peasant and noble. As far as we know, Bram Stoker did not know anything about Vlad the Impaler. Certainly Vlad was not a very handsome man by modern criteria. In fact I purchased a couple T shirts for children with Vlad's representation on them, but decided not to give them to our grandson because I thought they would be frightening. Here is a copy of his likeness. You can see why I chose not to give these T shirts.

     Bran Castle was built in 1377 at the entrance to a Pass through the Carpathian mountains from Wallachia to Transylvania in the north. It played a part in the defense of the area from the Ottoman Turk invaders from 1438-1442. Although Bran Castle is associated with Vlad the Impaler, it is not thought that he was ever at the castle. He is known to have passed through the local valley but not to have resided at the Castle. The Castle belonged to the Hungarian kings but one of them did not maintain it, and it became possessed by the people of the city of Brasov. In the 18th century it was used just as a deterrent at the border between Wallachia and Transylvania. In 1920 it became a royal residence of the nobility of Romania and became a favorite of Queen Marie. The communists took it over and eradicated the evidence of the noble presence there. After Romania achieved its independence from the Soviets, there was a competition between descendants of the Romanian Royal family and the local municipalities for control of the Castle. Finally in 2009, the judicial system of Romania awarded the Castle to the Royal Family and they decided to open it to the public as a museum. Mostly the Castle contains furniture and artifacts from Queen Marie's time, but one large room is devoted to the Castles' distant connection to Bram Stoker and Dracula.
Entrance to Bran Castle

Courtyard of Bran Castle

Rooms inside Bran Castle with antiques from Queen Marie's residence here.

Gorgeous antique inlaid wood cabinet

Another view of courtyard of Bran Castle and the Carpathian Mountains beyond.

The town of Bran that grew up around the Castle.

This area of Romania in the north central part is very beautiful. Here are the very lush green foothills of the Carpathian mountains. Many Romanians and Eastern Europeans travel to Brasov for vacations. Hence the Bran Castle has recently become a tourist site for both local and international travelers.

Brasov city square with the local Romanian Catholic Church

The City Hall of Brasov

Another view of the City Square of Brasov

It is spring and the storks are returning to nest. Villagers put up these platforms for the storks, because they are regarded as good luck if you can attract them.

          Here is an image of Queen Marie of Romania.

  She was the eldest daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh. She married King Ferdinand of Romania. Her father was the second eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England. The marriage to Ferdinand was not happy and there are many stories of love outside the marriage. That is beside the point here. But this woman loved to retire to the Bran Castle and many of the items seen inside it were if not hers directly, they were items like those she enjoyed.

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