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Bran Castle

From Academic Kids

Bran Castle near Brasov in Transylvania is a national monument and landmark of Romanian tourism. It is after a description of this castle that Bram Stoker fashioned Dracula's castle, and therefore the castle is sometimes referred to incorrectly as Dracula's Castle.

The castle is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia and is famous mostly because it is said to have been the home of Vlad the Impaler; however, there is no physical evidence that Vlad ever lived there.

The castle is open to tourists, who can view the inside alone or as part of a guided tour. Outside the castle are examples of old-style Romanian cottages, where visitors can see how Romanians used to live.

History

The first castle was erected by Teutonic Knights in the early XIII century in order to watch over the Rucar-Bran Pass, an important strategic and commercial route. This castle was made of wood and the permanent guard was constituted of local soldiers and a few knights from the nearby town of Christian, also built by Teutons. The wooden watch tower was besieged and burned to ashes in 1242 during the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe.

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Brancastle.jpg
Bran Castle (view from south)

In 1377 the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxemburg (also governor of Transylvania Principality) commissioned the burg of Brasov to build a new stone fortress on top of Dietrich's Rock in order to establish a stronghold over the pass. Also it had the purpose to collect customs tax from the passing merchants. From the moment it was finished, the castle and its surroundings were governed by a person ( called castellan) appointed by the House of the Council of Brasov. Originally, the garrison was composed of English bowmen, but eventually English soldiers took control. During the medieval period, the Castle passed several times to Wallachian dukes (Voievods), such as Mircea the Great or his grandson Vlad the Impaler. It was improved and additional towers were built. In 1663 the Gunpowder Tower exploded and heavily damaged the west side of the castle, but it was soon rebuilt.

During the reign of the Hohenzollern dynasty as Kings of Romania, the Castle was improved and transformed into a Summer Residence. Queen Mary of Romania loved the place so much that her dying wish was that her heart be buried in the hill facing the Castle.

It was in 1927, during Queen Mary's reign, that the castle's famous secret passage was discovered. The passage linked two floors of the castle and it is assumed it was originally built for spying purposes and immediate evacuation. Also a secret tunnel that linked the fountain in the interior garden and the base of the castle was accidentally discovered when a child fell through.

The castle became a national museum and opened to visitors during the 50s.

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