Brasov. Despite the clever marketing associating this castle with Dracula, we did not encounter any ghouls or blood-sucking vampires during our tour. But that shouldn’t deter you from visiting. Far from it! The old Romanian relic, rich in stories and myths provides a unique perspective of Transylvanian history worth exploring.
Bran’s historyWe learned that the site, built by Teutonic Knights back in 1212, was initially intended to be a fortress and only later converted into a castle. Because of its strategic importance as a prominent tax collection and military base, the Castle became the subject of ongoing feuds that lead to different owners on a continuous basis throughout the centuries. By the late 1800s after decades of neglect it became the property of the nearby town of Brasov which was by then under Romanian sovereign rule. The Castle’s luck seemed to change when In 1920 it was bequeathed to the English-born Romanian Queen Marie by the city of Brasov. She found the place enchanting ( she might have been a Bram Stoker’s fan ), and spent much of her time renovating and restoring the property to its previous glory days. In fact, the queen loved the place so much; she not only lived there during the last years of her life but asked to be buried there too.Rumor has it the queen ‘s heart is buried in a crypt chapel nearby. Nowadays, the Castle that was nationalized by the communists in the late 1940’s and returned to Romania’s Royal Family after the 1990 revolution displays remnants of the fine art and furniture pieces meticulously collected by the late Queen Marie.
Touring the CastleFor the ticket fee of eight US dollars for adults and six for students, (free for anyone with a disability) visitors can tour the castle’s maze-like interior on their own or with a guided tour. Perched on a high hill with magnificent views of the meadows below, the Castle has none of the fancy or elaborate decorations one might expect to see in a ‘real’ castle.We discovered the landmark’s most striking feature to be the fact that though impressive from the outside; it still manages to look and feel surprisingly ‘homey’ on the inside. The Castle is perfect for family visits with no scary areas to speak of. The most ‘frightening’ part of the tour is a set of slippery rickety stairs that lead to the top but even there, visitors will find a rail to hold on to. If the kids still have the energy to burn after climbing the hill to the Castle and wondering about the Castle; parents should head on to the open-air museum park exhibiting traditional Romanian peasant dwellings close by. Since no visit is complete without the obligatory souvenirs; guests should stop at the stores in front of the Castle that sell Vlad the Impaler snow globes, along with other tchotchkes, to take home.
Autism travel tips:
- Visitors are expected to walk up the hill to the Castle on somewhat uneven ground, so sturdy closed toe shoes are strongly recommended.
- The rooms in the Castle are relatively small so they can get crowded and stuffy on hot summer days. Mke sure you bring a water bottle and a small fan if your kid is temperature sensitive.
- The Castle is a popular tourist attraction so try to arrive first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.