So who was Dracula?

Was he real ? or he is just the invention of a great novelist?

Well the answer is very simple. There are two Draculas. There is a real Dracula who was the ruler of Wallachia back in the 15th century. And there is a fictional Dracula, a sophisticate vampire,  who just borrowed the name from the real one, but they don’t share much else.

On this article we will talk about the real Dracula since we all  know everything about the fictional Dracula, but little is known about the real Dracula

So once again who was Dracula?

The real Dracula was the second son of Vlad Dracul, born in November 1431 in a little town in Transylvania nowadays Romania. The house where Dracula was born still exists in Transylvania, and we often visit the place on our Dracula Tours

Dracula's house in Sighisoara
Dracula’s father painted on a wall in their house in Sighisoara

The name Dracul literally means The Devil. Vlad Dracul was a Dragon Knight, a very exclusive Society of Crusaders only reserved for high-ranked nobleman. Proud to be a Dragon Knight, Dracul adopted the dragon symbol on his flags, on his royal seal, and even the money that he printed. In the local folklore the Dragon is the devil. Therefore people called him Vlad the Devil “Vlad Dracul” in Romanian.

His son inherited the name from his father and called himself Dracula, in the same way as in English son of John will be called Johnson our son of David becomes Davidson. So son of Dracul becomes Dracula. Therefore you can say the Dracula literally means son of the devil.

So what is the connection between Vlad Dracula and Transylvania?

The real Dracula statue
The statue of real Dracula in hist birthtown Sighisoara

Despite being royalty of Wallachia, Vlad Dracula was born in Transylvania. There were two dynasties fighting for the throne of Wallachia,  the Dracula’s Dynasty and the Danes Dynasty. They would kick each other out of power and succeed to the throne . in 1431 when Dracula was born the Danes dynasty was in power in Wallachia and the Dracula’s family was fugitive in Transylvania seeking support from the Hungarian King to get back on the throne of their country.

Later on the Young Dracula will be exiled to Transylvania, due to his failed attempt to get on the throne of Wallachia. But we will talk about this in the future article about his life. so stay tuned cuz we will continue to reveal the real life of Dracula, which I believe is far more interesting send fictional blood-sucking Dracula that you see in the Hollywood movies.

To be continued

 

More and more people ask us about the Turda salt mine. What is there? We heard is an amusement park … underground. Why would they make an amusement park underground in the salt mine. 

turda salt mine
fantastic lighting in the salt mine
 

Well it all started somewhere in the 1200s when the first documents talk about the salt exploitation in Turda. Back then salt was prime resource, and it was worth it’s weight in gold. Salt mining was done entirely manual, and it was one of the most dangerous jobs. The salt was cut into big blocks from the floor of the mine, then transported vertically to the surface using a horse powerd elevator. 

The mines have a bell shape 90 maters high, with a diameter of about 4 meters on the top and 87 meters wide at the bottom. Shaped like this the mine walls were stable and was less prone to collapse. 

 

turda salt mine in transylvania
two sections of the mine intersect
 Mining stopped here in 1930, when you were and more productive mines were opened in other regions of Transylvania. 1950 the mine was open as a tourist attraction, then between 2008 and 2010 the mine went through a serious renovation to be opened again for public in 2010.

In Romania there is a strong belief that the salty air in the salt mines has beneficial effects on health, especially onrespiratory conditions. That’s why a lot of Romanians go to the salt mines for a salty air cure. In Turda salt mine, there is a even a spa area where people go for the salty air treatments. But most people just want to spend a day or two in inhaling ionized salty air inside the mind. So for these people, who spend the whole day in the mine, there are a couple of entertainment facilities down there including a Ferris wheel, pool tables, minigolf, a small amphitheater and even some boats on the small lake at the bottom of the bell shaped mine. 

turda salt mine  underground amusement park
rowing boats on the on the ground lake
 That’s why the amusement park is not the primary reason why people go to Turda salt mine, but seeds people spend a lot of time in the mine they needed some activities to kill the time.

For the tourist the main attraction is the amazing site of the mine. Down there it feels like out of this world. The sheer size of the mind is just impressive. One of the bell shaped mines is 90 meters high, with glossy black salt walls, and amazing patterns created by various layers of colored salt. The lighting in the salt mine adds to this atmosphere. Neons hiking from the ceiling, and brilliantly lit structures would make you think you are in a science-fiction movie set. You feel like an ant down there, so small compared to everything that surrounds you. 

  

Where is Turda salt mine?

Turda salt mine is located 30 km south of Cluj Napoca, in the middle of Transylvania. Is about 6 hours driving from Bucharest but you can fly to Cluj Napoca and drive from there 45 minutes. 

Alternatively you can join our complete tour of Romania which includes a visit to the salt mine, or request a custom tour to include it. Make sure you have at least four days for this, since it would be a shame not to see the rest of the things that are on the way.

If you visit Romania for a couple of days and you have some spare time I would strongly recommend going to Turda salt mine. The words are not enough to describe the experience of visiting this place. The mind is open every day from 9AM till 5 PM,  last entrance is at 4 PM. Entrance fee is 20 lei per person.

For more information visit www.Salinaturda.eu

I’m a tour guide in Romania for over 13 years now. I have conducted hundreds of tours in all regions of Romania. We usually include in our tours  the most known attractions in Romania but sometimes we have more time than what we planned. This is when we throw in  the best unknown tourist attractions. We want our customers to experience the real Romania off the beaten path,  so we take them to these secret places. 

I narrowed down  the list to 5 most impressive places that I realized have a WOW effect  on the tourists that I take their. So here we go


 

Prejmer fortified church

 

Prejmer - Romania tourist attractions

This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site one of the best medieval forts in Transylvania. This rich land was desired by several  empires and nomadic nations. Therefore the  the indigenous population was so often attacked And their homes and crops destroyed women raped children kidnapped and men take into slavery that they decided to take faith into their hands. They started building fortifications  where they would take shelter when their village was attacked.

Most often  the villagers build defensive walls around their churches then they added towers,they brought in ammunition, weapons, supplies, and had everything ready, to withstand the attacks. In Prejmer, the villagers even built private rooms, for every family in the village. The 270 rooms, are stacked on 4 floors against the defence wall with Hundreds of wooden stairs, to get to them. 

At the very top of the  the defence wall there is a patrol corridor with dozens of shooting windows pointing out. Among the shooting windows you will notice 4 “toilets” pointing outside of the fortress. This way they kept the fortress cleaner and they could show their enemies what they think of them.

In the very center of the structure is the church. Much older than the rest of the fortress, being established some 800 years ago by the Cistercian Monks.

Even though from outside it doesn’t look like much once you step into this 15 century fortress you step into a different world. you just have to close your eyes and imagine what went on within these walls 500 years ago. 


 

Fagaras Fortress

 

The superbly preserved Castle is still surrounded by its original moats. A secret tunnel channels water from the nearby Olt river into the moat making the fortress so well defended that was virtually never taken.

Under the communist regime the castle became a political prison, where where opponents were thrown for life sentences.

Nowadays Fagaras Castle is guarded by beautiful graciously floating swans instead of armed angry guards

The fortress is open

summer (June – Sept) Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 6pm,

in winter (Oct – May) 9 am – 5 pm


 

 

Turda salt mine

 

Turda salt mine - Romania tourist attractions

 

Salt was one of prime resource in the middle ages, sometimes just as valuable as gold. Transylvania was one of the richest salt areas  in Europe, salt mining at Turda started over two millennia ago. The last block of salt was extracted in 1932, and in 2010 after 5 years of preparation the mine was opened for visitors.

The place is absolutely stunning, with impressive dimensions. Theresia mine is is so tall that you can put the Statue of Liberty in it with the pedestal and foundation included. You really feel minuscule down there. Glossy black salt walls are decorated by unearthly white salt patterns and complemented with an ingenious lighting system that makes you feel like you are on a Star Trek space ship. Just about nothing looks like you are on Earth – well.. a bit under.

The place is open every day from 9am – 5pm, but you should enter at 3 pm the latest to have enough time to see it.   


 

 

Densus Church

 

Densus - Romania tourist attraction

The most peculiar church in Romania – near Hateg in Hunedoara county.

Built in the 4th century from stone blocks from a nearby Roman ruin, it’s the oldest church in Romania. The random use of stone blocks gives the church it’s unicity.

Stone lions that probably used to decorate the entrance to a Roman edifice are now sitting on the roof of Densus Church or Roman temple columns support the northern side of the church. And all this surrounded by superb countryside.

A couple of minutes west from the church you will find the “house of volcanoes”, a place where you learn that you are sitting on a 65 million years old, tropical, volcanic island inhabited by dwarf dinosaurs. Mind boggling isn’t it?


 

Alba Iulia

 

Alba Iulia - Romania tourist attractions

The largest fortress in Romania. 3 successive fortresses are overlaid in the historic center of Alba Iulia. The 2000 years old Roman city ruins, the 1500 medieval fortress and the more recent (and most spectacular) Vauban style fort.

You need at least 3 hours to get an idea about Alba Iulia. I would definitely recommend the southern itinerary, and the “3 fortifications” itinerary. If you plan having lunch or dinner here, check our “Pub 13” located inside the old gunpowder warehouse. You will love it. http://www.pub13.ro/index.php/galerie-foto

A fantastic experience is the Medieval Hotel for those who want to spend the night in Alba Iulia. http://www.hotel-medieval.ro/


 

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

Bran castle original entance

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

Queen Marie heart bran
The tiny niche where Queen Marie’s heart rests next to Bran Castle

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

Bran castle 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

bran castle 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?

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

 

Tours that include Bran Castle

Bran Castle hiking tour

Hiking tour starting from Bran Castle to the true wilderness
6 hours
6/10

Transylvania day tours

One day tour to Transylvania Hotel or Airport pick up
1 Day

Dracula tours

Our Dracula tours are a pleasant journey through the dramatic life
6 days
On request