Bran Castle, the most famous tourist attraction in Romania due to the connection to the bloodiest Romanian of all times – Count Dracula.
Despite the thousands of visitors and hundreds of articles and papers written about it, the castle kept it’s real secrets over the centuries. I will give you 5 of the most interesting, yet unknown facts about Bran castle.
I’m a professional guide in Romania, I was born and raised in Transylvania, and I’ve visited the castle probably over 200 times with my guests. I found all these secrets, that I’m about to share with you, first hand, from locals, from Romanian legends and history books.
1 The old entrance
Nowadays the entrance in the castle is an imposing and quite steep staircase that lead to a beautiful oak door to guards room. This doesn’t make much of a defensive entrance in the castle. That’s ok for the 18th century when castles were already obsolete and canons became so powerful that castle walls were no longer a match for them.
But the Bran Castle was built in the 14 Th century, when bows and arrows were the deadliest weapons on the shelf. So having thick tall walls and a hard to get to entrance was enough to make a castle or a fort impenetrable.
That’s why the old entrance was a small door about 25 feet above the ground and a drawbridge to get to it. And since the castle sits on a cliff, they had to dig a 20 feet wide 15 feet high gap in the rock to actually put the drawbridge over. This was a major undertaking for an era without power tools and dynamite. 🙂
2 The Queen’s heart
Bran castle was initially a border fortress on the Transylvanian and Wallachian border. It actually became a castle only in 1920 when Transylvania was united to the rest of Romania at the end of First World War. At that time the castle was abandoned and and almost ruined. The owners, the municipality of Brasov decided to give the castle Queen Marie
The Queen love the little castle and she brought her royal architect with her to rearrange the old fortress into a quaint castle. She loved the castle so much that in her will she mentioned that when she dies she wants her heart to be removed from her body and buried next to the castle.
You can see the urn with the Queen’s heart on the south-west side of the castle across the little creek, at the edge of the forest.
3 The secret passage
The secret passage it’s no longer secret. It used to connect first floor of the castle to the third floor. it was an escape tunnel built inside the wall and was used by the castle officers in case of emergency.
What most people don’t know about it is that until 1920 when Queen Marie renovated the castle secret passage was totally forgotten.
During the renovation an old fireplace was removed to rearrange the room and surprisingly they found the entrance into this narrow steep tunnel that led to the upper floor of the castle. To escape the room the officers entered the fireplace open the iron door to the tunnel and escaped through the secret passage
4 The well
A water well was crucial for medieval castles. It assured a very important autonomy during long sieges when people in the castle had to rely only on the supplies and resources within the castle. Water was important not just for drinking but also putting out fires that would occur during battles and was the cheapest thing that you could boil and throw over your enemies. But in Bran castle the well had another purpose. Being located on top of a cliff it was no easy task to build the well. Since the water was at the bottom of the cliff the builders had to dig 60 feet deep through the solid rock.
Then just before water level they build a secret room as a last resort hideout. when the castle was overtaken by enemies the treasury of the castle could be hidden deep into the well into this secret room
Now in 1920 when Queen Marie got the castle she extended this room inside the well with a 30 foot tunnel that reaches out at the bottom of the cliff below the castle. An elevator was fitted into the old well so that the Queen could go down in the park without climbing all the stairs.
That’s why when you visit the castle you would notice top of the well in the courtyard but no well. that’s because the top of the well was removed to make room for the elevator . The well and the elevator are hidden behind a big black door. The Otis Elevator motor is visible as you come down on the stairs into the courtyard.
5 Was Bran castle Dracula’s castle?
Well all historic evidence indicates that it was not . In fact it was quite the opposite Bran castle being owned by the Saxons in Transylvania who were one of Vlad Dracula’s worst enemies. So it makes sense to believe that Vlad Dracula attacked and took over the castle several times in his campaigns against the Saxons in Transylvania . Considering Dracula’s terrible torture and punishment methods, you can only imagine the horrors that this castle has seen when Bran fell into his hands.
Later, the Hungarian king Mathias Corvin arrested Vlad in 1462 in the vicinity of the castle . Vlad Dracula was probably imprisoned in Bran castle for some time, before being transferred to the prison near Budapest.
Want to learn more about Bran Castle? Check out the official page http://www.bran-castle.com/history.html