hanging with dracula in transylvania

We’re in, we replied. My oldest son and his partner had invited us to join them for a Halloween dinner and party at “Dracula’s Castle”.

Indeed, there is a castle in Transylvania that is widely promoted as the “home” of Bram Stroker’s fictional Count Dracula. Legend suggests that Vlad the Impaler, a possible model for Dracula himself, once stayed here, although most likely as a prisoner and not an honoured guest.

Bran Castle, completed in 1388, is perched on a rocky hillside with a commanding view of the narrow valley below, and the rural landscape all around. It served various political and military roles over the centuries, but much of the time it was a toll booth of sorts, collecting a tax on goods and livestock being moved along the valley.

The castle fell into disrepair in the early 1900s, and when Transylvania joined Romania at the end of the First World War, Bran city council gave it to Princess Maria of Romania — here, you fix it up! Which she did through the 1920s, turning it into a splendid summer residence. In 1938 it was inherited by Princess Ileana, but ten years later when the communists took Romania, the royal family was forced to flee.

Eventually the abandoned castle was repaired and run as a museum. And then, following the fall of the dictatorship, a long legal battle resulted in the royal family finally regaining ownership. Along the way, someone realized promoting the admittedly tenuous connections between Bran castle, Vlad, and Dracula would draw tourists to this otherwise sleepy little valley.

In fact, the whole town of Bran gets in on the act over the Halloween weekend — centred around an eclectic outdoor market with all manner of Halloween and especially Dracula-themed crafts and mass produced trinkets. The stores, restaurants, and bars in Bran are decked out with bats and pumpkins, and we accidentally wandered into (and immediately out of) a huge Chucky Cheese-style family-funhouse Halloween party.

And then there is the castle overlooking Bran, complete with steep narrow stairwells, dimly-lit rooms, and for the Halloween party, stocked with creepy decorations and creepy actors playing all sorts of creepy characters.

The gourmet dinner we signed up for featured a lot of dark red vegetables, sauces, and desserts, and a very bloody steak. Okay, we get it!

The after party was lively and loud with every simple and elaborate costume imaginable, with an emphasis on creepy!

The next day we were having lunch a few kilometres down the road and we mentioned we had attended the Halloween party at Dracula’s Castle. Our server blamed “the west” for all this Dracula nonsense that was corrupting their children and displacing traditional Romanian values. Oh, right, like the family values held by the powerful and murderous Vlad the Impaler. Or the fact that the story of Dracula draws heavily from local beliefs about ghosts and evil spirits that were still held close here in the first half of the 20th century!

Bran Castle

Inside Bran Castle

Deadly knives on display

Ready for Halloween dinner!

First course included blood sausage and red currant sauce

After party!

More after party!

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