Romania is teeming with historical vestiges of Vlad Țepeș, the cruel but fair voivod who served as the unlikely source of inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and ascended to worldwide fame. Today, we’ve compiled a list of places connected to the historical character of Vlad Țepeș, which tell a slightly different story of this prominent and oftentimes misunderstood 15th century ruler.
Sighișoara, Dracula’s birthplace
Vlad Țepeș was born in a house in Sighișoara, a medieval town in the literal heart of Transylvania. Vlad’s father, Vlad Dracul (so named due to his belonging to the Order of the Dragon, a military and religious society dedicated to the defense of Christian land and values against the Ottoman invaders), lived in Sighișoara at the time, and so it was that his son spent his early years here as well.
Vlad Țepeș was born in this house to Vlad Dracul and his second wife, Barbara Cillei, a Transylvanian noblewoman. (Source)
As luck would have it, not just the house itself, but the entire city of Sighișoara is well-preserved, boasting one of the most authentic medieval moods in Eastern Europe and with scores of tourists visiting every year. A stroll through the cobbled streets, between authentic and exceptionally-maintained 15th century buildings, will really take you back to another time and place… a time and place where legends were born.
Princely Court at Târgoviște
After Vlad came into his own as a ruler, he held court in several places. One of these was Târgoviște, the feudal capital of Walachia during the Middle Ages. This was the residence where Vlad lived longest (for seven consecutive years).
The ruins of the palace and part of the fortifications still stand today. (Source)
Târgoviște was also the site of an important battle fought during Vlad’s rule, when he and his army attempted to assassinate the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. Although the attempt was unsusccessful, it is said that Mehmed II and his troops were horrified by a forest of impaled Ottomans that stretched as far as the eye could see and decided to turn back before laying siege to the capital.
Aside from the castle itself, the Chindia Tower and the hand-painted Princely Church can also be visited in Târgoviște. The ensemble is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites list.
Old Court (Curtea Veche) museum in Bucharest
Centuries before Bucharest became Romania’s official capital in 1862, Vlad Țepeș consolidated an old 14th century citadel built by Wallachian voivod Mircea cel Bătrân (Mircea the Elder) and expanded it as an alternative residence to the official court at Târgoviște. The residence consisted of a fortified citadel – the Voivod’s Palace, where the ruler and his court could retreat to if the premises were under siege –, a church consecrated in the name of the Annunciation, several houses and servants’ hovels, stables and gardens.
The Old Court was actively used until the great fire of 1718 that razed the entire city of Bucharest. Before it could be properly rebuilt, an earthquake in 1738 sealed the doom of this ensemble. It was never rebuilt.
Currently, the ruins of Curtea Veche are actively preserved and the entire area has been transformed in a museum. (Source)
Bran Castle: Vlad didn’t actually live here, but it’s a nice place to visit anyway
While we might’ve gotten a bit carried away with the title, the truth is that Vlad Țepeș never really lived or ruled from this beautiful Transylvanian castle. A legend says that the blood-thirsty voivod stopped here once, on the way to the city of Brașov.
Though, looking at the castle, it’s easy to see where it would serve as an inspiration for Dracula’s lair. (Source)
Tourism certainly flourishes here, as locals sell a variety of Dracula-branded merchandise at the foot of the hill where the castle is located. Making further use of the legend, a Bram Stoker room has been prepared inside, where tourists can learn more about the legend of Vlad Țepeș and the myth of the vampire Dracula.
Snagov Monastery: Journey’s end
The feudal monastery of Snagov was built in the early 15th century by the Wallachian voivod Mircea cel Bătrân, on an island in the northern area of Lake Snagov. It was rebuilt several times, including during the latter reign of Vlad Țepeș.
When Vlad finally met his end in a battle against the Ottomans in 1476, it is said that the monks of this monastery found his body and took it away in secret. Then, after the battle concluded and the opposing armies moved on, he was buried here observing all Christian rites.
Although there are those who say that Vlad might have been buried at the Comana monastery instead, in later centuries, a stone tomb was discovered in the church pulpit. Inside was the body of a man dressed in fine clothes. (Source)