Hey. In summer 2015 my family and I went to Bulgaria. Why do I mention Bulgaria if this is supposed to be story about Dracula in Romania ?
Well as I’m from east of Slovakia on our car ride to Bulgaria we had to ride quite a journey and most off our ride was through Romania.
As a teen fascinated by popular vampires like Twilight saga, Vampire diaries, True blood or classic Bram Stoker’s Dracula I convinced my fam to make a stop and explore Romania for a bit and visit some notorious places connected to Dracula. After our online search we picked 2 places – Dracula’s castle and grave. Plan was to visit grave, stay the night at a hotel we booked ahead and continue our long drive to our final destination – Bulgaria, and on our way back visit castle, also stay the night and continue home.
But reality was slightly different.
Here is the rough distance we took from our place to Bulgaria:
We clearly went through a lot of Romania and unfortunately there were very few, almost no high ways and we was stuck behind trucks that were slowing us way down all the time. Because of this terrible road experience we did not have enough time to visit Dracula’s grave and we headed straight to our place for the night and continued to our holiday destination so we’ll be on time at our hotels check up.
All along our ride we could notice this incredibly marvelous houses. It would probably look luxurious in different setting , but in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by pretty much nothing it looked so odd. We could see 5-7 of this fairytale houses in a row and then just road and fields. It was not even like a village cuz there would be no other buildings just this huge houses. I also noticed them in bigger towns as well. It was still very spectacular to look at them.
We arrived safely and had amazing time in Bulgaria but I’m gonna talk about that in separate article soon.
So on our way back we had full program for one day – we wanted to visit both of attractions we planed and stay the night in Romania as well.
Let’s talk about Dracula for a while. Ofc we were not looking for actual Transylvanians vampires but tracking the life of Vlad III/ Vlad the Impaler/ Vlad Dracula – ruler of Wallachia. Vlad’s life and especially his cruelty inspired famous Bram Stoker in his novel Dracula which added great popularity to this historical figure. Not that he needed any more popularity I mean this dude was not called impaler just for a fun. This guy was impaling people through their rectum all the way up ( I once saw this brutal documentary where scientists were testing if it was possible that the victims of this kind of piecing could actually survive several days while being impaled as legends tell (spoiler alert – they could but it required a great amount of skills)), dipping bread in his enemies blood while dining near their dead bodies (allegedly – who can really tell)
I once saw this documentary explaining why legend of vampires came from countries like Romania or Bulgaria. I don’t remember the dates or name of the plague but to explain it simply, somehow dead people were not actually dead and they were waking up in their graves and dying horrible death, so to prevent this you had to imply them with a stick to make sure they are actually dead. I guess not everyone was familiar with this. Also they were making very shallow graves for their dead so when the float came and brought up the dead implied with the stick – obviously people freak and the legends begun.
There’s a bunch of articles about Vlad and his life if you’re curious for more.
Truth remains Vlad Dracula’s sadism and Stokers book are great for Romania’s tourism.
We had all of the directions in our GPS so it was easy to find the place while we were in a car. Turns out the grave of Vlad – Comana Monastery is in the middle of lake on a small island. What surprised me the most was the lack of people, I assumed we would just follow other tourist and won’t have to do such search on our own.
And the strangeness just began.
We came to this island where we could see the towers of the monastery and small pavement leading to it. When we came closer we met this family that were clearly residents as they were all in their comfy home clothes just chilling in front of their house right next to the monastery. The had this 2 small dogs that were laying in the heat on the grass. I remember this 2 old ladies, probably grandmas, small kids and one middle-aged lady all staring at us as we just entered their property in the middle of the day. I still have no idea what really went on cuz the weirdness was just too much. We quickly considered leaving but decided to go on and see what happens. The lady came to us and of course she did not speak english, nor could we speak Romanian, but somehow we let here know that we’re looking for Dracula’s tomb. She understood and led us to the monastery, actually unlocked the door with a key from her pocket in font of us – obviously there were no other tourist beside us.
We wanted to ask how much is for the ticket and lady handed us paper where she wrote the number (as it was easier to understand the number that just words) but it was in Romanian currency called lei, and all we had was Bulgarians lev and euros. Lady picked up calculator and paper with all of currency written on it. I guess she was not very good at math at school cuz the price she wanted for ticket to see the monastery – where we were already standing and it was just this one room – was over 1000 euros. We laughed and tried explain to her that it must be a mistake that she can’t charge 1000 euros for this place, so she was calculating it again and again for several minutes and the language barrier was making this all so hard for both of us. It turned out to be 10 euros in the end but no one can be really sure so my dad gave here like 20 euros just in case and joined us – while we already seen everything there was.
It looked like any other orthodox church in our place, gold, pictures of saints, mosaics, crosses and on the ground simple grey rectangle with picture of Vlad III and I guess there was a candle on the ground and that was it – that was the tomb.
We did not take any photos as we figured it was forbidden as lady just said “no” and pointed to our camera. She actually tried to tell us something about this place using hands instead of words and it was like playing charades. From what we guessed she was telling us about tunnels that was underneath the monastery, and Vlad was probably hiding there at some point, and most interesting part was when she “told” us that this was grave of Vlad’s headless body. Dracula’s head is buried in some other place but I might have guessed her gestures all wrong.
What was most fascinating for me was the strange feeling of this place AND (!!) there were satanic looking symbols all over the holly pictures and walls painted with deep dark reddish color.
It was creepy as hell. And I’m really not making this up even when this was 3 years ago ( i could never forget this) me and my sisters were just checking them all like what the fuck is that. There were pentagrams, stars, birds and other animals just simple ornaments all over the lower parts of walls on this place and it remind me of literally any episode of TV show called Supernatural ( cool show I would recommend watching if you’re into creepy horror like theme but it has like 20 series and I got bored after half of it) I tried to search for it online but I can’t seem to find the proof of my words anywhere. It might be just local vandals or something but it was odd like this whole experience.
BTW how cool is this family – imagine you have Dracula buried in your backyard. Forget the part about the vampire stuff but you have a guy who’s famous for his sadism buried in your backyard. Forget about that as well but you have your country’s ruler’s headless body buried in your backyard. This family is wild.
All of our Dracula’s grave visit took us around 15 minutes and we wet out, sat in a car and headed to Dracula’s castle – Castle Bran
Storm was coming, air got thicker the closer we got, dark clouds and Dracula’s castle in the distance. This image looks like straight out of Dracula’s novel:
As I mentioned – great for tourism – the closer we got the more of this gift shop we saw alongside the roads.
Make sure you remember the opening hours to this castle – or any other place you want to visit – otherwise you’ll be standing 5 minutes after closing hours like we did. We missed it. So we adjusted the plan again – we had dinner under the castle, checked out some souvenirs and headed to our place for the night. We stayed with some locals that offer a room, or whole floor in our case for tourists. It’s much cheaper and feels more at home than hotel.
We tried it again in the morning – opening hours of Bran castle 9:00 – 19:00 – price 15 euros. The place was lovely , lot of tourists though. There were huge gardens underneath the castle and you had to climb you way up to the castle.
Insides had quite small ceilings, so someone as tall as my dad would need to be very careful. You could find descriptions and stories in every room in different languages. Old rooms, displays of fashion, weapons, furniture, combs, torture instruments and incredible view – here are some photos:
Fun fact: even thought its famous as Dracula’s castle – actual Vlad Dracula spend there only very short period. All of the tourists are there for the place where Bran Stokers novel occurs. And tourism is benefiting – I myself got shit ton of Dracula’s souvenirs.
To be fair I was not as thrilled about this castle. Being from middle europe I’m very well familiar with castles or monasteries as we have a lot of them in my country and since I was a kid I took family or school trips to almost every of them. And in the end they all start to look the same (sorry) I’m sure it would be fascinating for someone who never visited such place – it was just nothing new for me. And the connection to Dracula was very little – his tomb was at least creepy and I would never forget that but I can hardly remember the castle now.
I would still recommend both places as they were both very interesting and memorable experiences for me.
Thank you so much for your attention