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The curious life and times of Vlad Dracula

Bran Castle, Dracula’s Castle, Romania
Bran Castle or Dracula’s Castle
The most popular touristic destination in Romania is undoubtedly Bran Castle, more commonly known as Dracula’s Castle. Dracula is a work of fiction by a 19th century Irish novelist named Bram Stoker who had never been to Romania, let alone to Dracula’s Castle. Yet, Dracula haunts many of us so much so that we follow the pilgrims’ path to Transylvania to be where this fictional character supposedly lived and bit his victims to drink their blood.

Fiction aside, the family of the real Dracula lived in the picturesque hilltop town of Sighisoara, under the shadow of the 14th century clock tower. Find out more about Sighisoara here:

Vlad Dracul, the father of Vlad III, the Impaler, also known as Vlad Țepeş (and perhaps the inspiration behind the novel, Dracula) supposedly lived in this yellow house from 1431-1435. (There are studies that point otherwise.) Vlad Dracul was so called because he was a member of the Order of the Dragon (dracul). It is assumed that Vlad III was born in this same house. As the son of Vlad Dracul, Vlad III is addressed as Vlad Dracula which means son of Dracul.

This plaque says “In this house lived between 1431-1435, the Romanian ruler, Vlad Dracul, son of Mircea cel Bătrin.” Mircea is therefore the grandfather of Vlad III.
Family tree of Vlad III (Vlad Țepeş)
Mircea cel Bătrin
Vlad Dracul had 5 children (and several brothers which I will not enumerate here)
  1. Mircea III
  2. Vlad Dracula III (Vlad Țepeş)
      - Minhea cel Rău
  3. Radu III the Fair
  4. Vlad IV the Monk* 
       - Radu IV
         ° Mircea the Shepherd
  5. Alexandra of Wallachia
*Mary of Teck, later Queen Consort of King George V of the United Kingdom and daughter of Francis, Duke of Teck, descended from the line of Vlad IV through her great maternal grandmother, Baroness Ágnes Inczedy de Nagy Várad, who is a descendant of Mircea the Shepherd, grandson of Vlad IV. Mary of Teck is also the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.

Vlad Dracula III, Vlad Tepes, Romania
A bust of Vlad III in Sighisoara
Vlad III and his brother, Radu, were left by their father as hostages in the court of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II to convince the Sultan of his loyalty and that he would follow Ottoman rule. When Vlad III returned to Wallachia and became Voivode (military governor), he turned against the Ottoman invaders and stomped their aggression, going as far as impaling his enemies and displaying them in public spaces for everyone to see and to deter any further incursions. This is how he earned the name Vlad the Impaler or țepeş in Romanian.

Princely Court, Targoviste, Romania
The ruins of the Princely Court in Târgovişte
The Voivode of Wallachia lived in the Princely Court in Târgovişte including Mircea cel Bătrin and Vlad III. The names of the governors who stayed here are inscribed at the gate. Târgovişte is 50 miles northwest of Bucharest and may be reached by train.

These names are some of the Voivode who held court in Targovişte. Vlad Tepeş (Vlad III) was Voivode three times between 1448 and 1476.

The ruins hint at the magnificence and size of the princely court.

The grounds and fortifications.

Chindia Tower, Targoviste, Romania
Chindia Tower
Chindia Tower was important to this complex so they could observe the approach of their enemies. Nowadays, one can take the winding stairs up the tower for a view of the entire city. There are 100+ steps to climb. There’s a small entry fee to the ruins of the Princely Court.

The Great Princely Church

Curtea Veche (Old Princely Court), Bucharest
The Curtea Veche was one of the residences of Vlad Țepeş in Romania. This was his summer residence. It is currently closed for restoration. I took these pictures through a gap in the screen that surrounds the old princely court.  
Address: Str. Franceză 23, Old Town

Curtea Veche
Mircea cel Bătrin was behind the building of both the Curtea Veche and the neighboring Annunciation Church of St. Anthony in 1559.

Annunciation Church of St. Anthony, Bucharest

Poenari Citadel**
High above the Transfăgărăşan Highway in Transylvania are the ruins of Vlad Tepeş’ third residence, Poenari Citadel. He didn’t live here but this was his sanctuary. It would have been difficult for his enemies to make a surprise attack here as they would have to climb up the mountain to reach his castle. There are 1400+ steps for modern day invaders to take to reach the ruins which is closed to the public at the moment. This photo was taken by Diana Popescu and licensed under Share Alike 3.0, Romania. You can find this image and license in Wikipedia Commons by clicking this link: **

Snagov Church
Snagov Church and Monastery was enlarged by Vlad Țepeş during his reign. He also built a fortification around the property and a prison behind the Church. Read about this historical church and its beautiful frescoes located on an islet on Snagov Lake near the capital city of Bucharest here:

The iconostasis of the Church and the image of Vlad Țepeş on the floor below.

It is said that Vlad Țepeş wanted to be buried in Snagov and while it is believed to be his gravesite, his remains were not found here. Nevertheless, people flock to this beautiful medieval church located on an islet on Lake Snagov, outside of Bucharest, to see the supposed burial site of Vlad Țepeş who was killed by an Ottoman patrol  around December 1476 and January 1477. His birth, birthplace and death remains shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Just like the legend.

While Vlad Țepeș is viewed as a cruel and brutal ruler because of his method of killing his enemies by impalement, he is also seen by historians as an important historical figure for his role in defending Wallachia from the incursions of the Ottoman Empire, protecting Romanian lands as well as stopping the infighting among the boyar (war lords). He is a national hero of Romania.

Where to eat in Targovişte:
Alexo Reastaurant, Calea Domneasca 179
This restaurant is next door to the Princely Court. It has a terrace with pavilions surrounded by a garden so diners can ask to sit in their own pavilion. There is also indoor seating for cooler months. They have a big menu so there are lots of choices for the hungry traveler.

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Images by TravelswithCharie except where specifically indicated.

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