The land of Dracula has a few thousand years of history to delight you with. When you have attractions dating back to prehistoric times, you’re bound to run into a few myths, haunted places, and spooky ruins. Or still inhabited medieval citadels, with walls thick and old that so wonderfully preserve stories of old of death, love, and torture. So, let’s begin exploring all these amazing attractions you should definitely visit in your lifetime.
Following in the Footsteps of Dracula
Vlad Tepes, Vlad Dracul, or Vlad the Impaler is thought to be the inspiration for iconic vampire Dracula. Bram Stoker’s character, although residing in Transylvania and resembling Vlad in appearance, is more likely to be inspired by a certain woman of the Hungarian royalty who was allegedly drinking and bathing in young virgins’ blood.
Either way, Dracula is huge and the number of tourists coming to Romania to find him is.. astounding. Retracing the steps of Vlad the Impaler, however, is a lot trickier than it seems. Beyond marketing ploys and fun parties (there was a Halloween party this weekend at the so-called Dracula Castle in Bran), a lot of Vlad’s history is fuzzy. And although the Bran Castle is most famous for its connection to Dracula… it’s unclear if Vlad the Impaler spent any amount of time there. Given his ongoing conflict with Brasov and the Saxons, he probably only passed by.
Regardless, the castle is gorgeous and in recent years all the furniture brought here during the Romanian Monarchy has been replaced with very Gothic, vampire inspired decor. If you visit, check out the not-so-secret-anymore secret passage. Even if you know it’s there, even if you go through it with people around you, it’s still creepy as hell!
If you’re more into the historically accurate tourist sights, then start your journey in Sighisoara. Vlad the Impaler was born here and he lived here. You can enjoy a traditional meal in the house he was born into, and the medieval citadel’s museums are a few steps away. For a minimal fee, about 50 cents, you can even visit the room Dracula was born in.
For other spooky thrills in Sighisoara, visit the citadel at night, or take a look at the torture chamber that’s part of the museum tour. Or visit the cemetery up the hill after dark. Nothing like a darkened wooden stairway to a deserted cemetery late at night.
Another historically accurate destination is Targoviste, Romanian city that served as capital of Wallachia in the past. We know Vlad Tepes spent quite some time here at Cetatea Domneasca. He even added to the citadel, the Chindia Tower is his creation. His predecessors as well as his illegitimate brother Vlad the Monk have all added to this beautiful reinforced complex. While the tower is a must see, the entire citadel is well worth a visit.
Spiritism and Ghosts in Campina
Technically a city, but more on the town size, Campina is located along the Prahova Valley. It used to thrive as it was located on the main road from Wallachia to Transylvania, but as the roads were rebuilt, things changed. Nevertheless, Campina is a sought after destination, especially for those who believe in the supernatural. Why? Well, Campina is home to the Iulia Hasdeu Castle. Iulia Hasdeu was the daughter of Romanian historian and politician Bogdan Petriceicu Hadeu. She was an extremely smart young woman, rumored to be the first Romanian graduate of the Sorbonne university. Unfortunately she died at 19.
Iulia’s death threw BP Hasdeu into spiritism sessions and investigations into the occult in a desperate attempt to contact his daughter. He claimed the plans to the castle were given to him by Iulia herself during a spiritism session. The castle, was severely affected by both World Wars but is still standing and currently houses the BP Hasdeu museum.
Ravens and Betrayal at the Corvin Castle
The Corvin Castle in Hunedoara is an impressive architectural masterpiece, complete with a bridge over a moat, torture chambers and dungeons, and impressive throne and ball rooms. There are several legends connected to the castle, some relating to the raven that is part of the Corvin family crest, some to the well. This well is dug into stone. It is said Ioan de Hunedoara had three Turkish prisoners dig it. He promised them freedom if they found water. Fifteen years later, they succeeded, but Ioan had died and his surviving wife decided not to keep the promise and the Ottoman prisoners died in captivity. It is said they inscribed the fountain with something in the lines of “You have water, but no heart.” Poetic as it might be, the translation is false. I prefer it to the real one, which is a pretty much functional attribution of the inscription to one man called Hassan.
This is my absolute favorite medieval castle in Romania and I’ve loved every second of visiting it. Alas, all my photos of the day are thoroughly… lost! It’s a curse, I tell you 😀
Find out more about the castle here. I’d link to the actual Castle site, but they seem to have forgotten to add the English translation properly.
The Haunted Forest near Cluj
The Hoia-Baciu Forest near Cluj is thought to be a highly active area in paranormal activity. Of course, in more recent years, this has all been explained by magnetic fields and other scientific endeavors, but the goosebumps are real. Reports of animals refusing to go in are quite common, and it is said an authentic UFO picture was taken here.
The Disappearing Lake in the Prahova Valley
There’s a myth about a disappearing lake in the Bucegi mountains, most probably somewhere near the Poiana Tapului area in Busteni. The lake is said to have been taken over by a witch that lured kids and young folk to her, to then drown them in the lake. The villagers in the area got angry and fought the witch. Although defeated, she returns along with her lake once a year and only disappears after she had taken a life.
As this is a lake that appears and disappears, there’s no clear location for it. Of course, it might be a simple question of a flooded area when it rains too much, or when the snow melts. I like the witch story a lot more, enough so that a friend of mine and I are working on a story around this lake and its witch.
Bucharest, the Capital of Haunted Spots
Bucharest might be the official capital of Romania, but apparently it also holds the title of haunted capital. At least according to this list of haunted locations. Orphanages, hotels, hospitals, and houses are all reported to be haunted. If you’re only there for a quick visit and can’t take the time to visit any of the other places I’ve mentioned, a spooky tour of Bucharest is all you need. Some of these places, like the Cismigiu Hotel, are quite close to the Old City Center and most of the business hotels in the heart of Bucharest, so squeezing a Halloween Haunted Tour of your own design shouldn’t be too hard!
So, how about it? Would you like to visit any of these scary places? If you’re intrigued, you should definitely give it a try. And don’t worry, our version of Halloween, St. Andrew’s Night, when the local zombies known as strigoi arise, and the barrier between the living and the dead is broken, is a month away! There’s plenty of time 😀 Just get your garlic ready for the occasion!
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