Dracula may only exist in the imagination – of both Bram Stoker and his readers (not to mention its numerous film and television adaptations). But it’ll still be ghoulishly fun to find yourself a part of the myth, history and macabre legend. Discover Transylvania on our Gems of Southeast Europe or Grand Danube land packages.
A Gruesome History
Of course, as is true of all good castles – the fortress was also the setting of a number of other myths, legends and famous residents. Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad III or Vlad Drăculea (sound familiar?), was reportedly held captive and locked up in the dungeon in the 15th century. Not that Vlad might not have deserved it – he earned his nickname as he killed an estimated 20-80,000 people by impaling them with spikes. In other words, this Medieval warlord also had a taste for blood. Vlad’s father, Vlad II, was given the surname Dracul (the old Romanian word for dragon) after being inducted into a knightly order (the Order of the Dragon) to defeat the encroaching Turkish Ottoman Empire.
As his son, Vlad III was hence known as the ‘son of Dracul’ or, in old Romanian: Drăculea. Stories on Vlad’s gruesome habits are chilling: he is rumored to have invited hundreds to a banquet only to have them stabbed and impaled on spikes, still twitching, as he himself continued his feast. Stories of him dipping his bread in their blood were rampant. When a group of Ottomans refused to doff their turbans out of religious respect, he nailed them to their skulls. And there’s many, many more. While some may have been exaggerated, many stories repeated certain details so at least a good amount must have been historically accurate.
In the Middle Ages, notoriously known for its brutal violence – Vlad managed to stand out from the rest. Yet he was praised by many for being a just ruler in Transylvania and keeping invaders at bay. An 1820 book by the British consul to Wallachia, William Wilkinson, mentioned the sadistic ruler bringing him to the attention of more modern audiences.