Hey. In summer 2015 my family and I went to Bulgaria. Why do I mention Bulgaria if this is supposed to be a 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. Most of 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. Just for a bit and visit some notorious places connected to Dracula.
After our online search, we picked 2 places – Dracula’s castle and grave.
The plan was to visit the grave, stay the night at a hotel we booked ahead and continue our long drive to our final destination – Bulgaria. On our way back visit the 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. Therefore, we were 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. We had to také some rest so we could continue to our holiday destination and be on time at our hotel’s check up.
All along our ride, we could notice this incredibly marvelous houses.
It would probably look luxurious in different settings. But in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by pretty much nothing it looked so odd. We could see 5-7 of these 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 these 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 an amazing time in Bulgaria. I shared our Bulgarian story in my Bulgarias Moonlight Summer Experience article.
So on our way back, we had a full program for one day. We wanted to visit both of the attractions we planed before 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. Dracula was also famous for dipping bread in his enemies blood while dining near their dead bodies
Allegedly, but who can really tell now.
I once saw this documentary explaining why the 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 a horrible death. People found out.
So to prevent this, they decided to impale dead people 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 it brought up the dead implied with the sticks.
Obviously, people freaked out and the legends began.
There’s a bunch of articles about Vlad and his life if you’re curious for more.
Truth remains Vlad Dracula’s sadism and Stoker’s book are great for Romania’s tourism.
Now back to my trip.
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 a lake on a small island. What surprised me the most was the lack of people. I assumed we would just follow other tourists and won’t have to do such a search on our own.
And the strangeness just began. To this day it’s still my weirdest trip ever.
We came to this island where we could see the towers of the monastery and the 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. They had these 2 small dogs that were laying in the heat on the grass. I remember these 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. The dogs didn’t give a damn. 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. Somehow we let her know that we’re looking for Dracula’s tomb. She understood and led us to the monastery and actually unlocked the door to the big as monastery with a key from her pocket in front of us.
Obviously, there were no other tourists besides us.
We wanted to ask how much is for the ticket and the lady handed us the paper where she wrote the number. It was easier to understand the number than just words. But it was in Romanian currency called lei. All we had was Bulgarians lev and euros. Lady picked up a calculator and paper with all of the currencies written on it. I guess she was not very good at math at school cuz the price she wanted for a 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 to explain to her that it must be a mistake that she can’t charge 1000 euros for this place. She was calculating it again and again for several minutes and the language barrier was making this all so hard for all 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 a simple grey rectangle with a picture of Vlad III. I guess there was a candle on the ground and that was it. That was the tomb of the great Dracula.
We did not take any photos as we figured it was forbidden as the 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 were underneath the monastery, and Vlad was probably hiding there at some point.
The most interesting part was when she “told” us that this was the 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.
I swear to God that’s really true and 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 the walls of this place.
It remind me of literally every other episode of a 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 the creepy Dracula thumb 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.
Fuck this family is wild.
All of our Dracula’s grave visit took us around 15 minutes and we went out, sat in a car, tried to figure out what just happened, and headed to Dracula’s castle – Castle Bran.
The storm was coming. Air got thicker the closer we go. 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.
Personal advice. Make sure you remember the opening hours to this castle or any other place you want to visit. Otherwise, you’ll be standing there 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 the whole floor in our case for tourists.
It’s much cheaper and feels more at home than a 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 your way up to the castle. Looked just like this.
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 though it’s famous as Dracula’s castle, the actual Vlad Dracula spend there only a very short period. All of the tourists are there for the place where Bran Stoker’s novel occurs.
And tourism is benefiting.
I myself got a 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. 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 places. 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