Virtual Tour: Dracula – Real Life and Myths

Between Myth and Reality| A Virtual Journey in Transylvania


How I realized Dracula is so famous…

Who was Vlad the Impaler or Dracula? Was he a brave Price? Was he a tyrannic, despotic count? Was he a… vampire? Did he really drink blood? Did he impale people just for fun? Who was this mysterious character that inspired the author Bram Stoker and made the whole world so curious?

Well, dear friends, there are countless questions about Vlad Dracula, so I suggest to have a general view over him and his life, trying to answer, thus, some of the questions above.

Now, let me tell you this story, first. In 2005 I went to Los Angeles, for a student Work and Travel Program. I was supposed to work for 3-4 months at Universal Studios Hollywood (in the Theme Park/ Universal City and also the filming area). When I got there, I had to introduce myself to my new colleagues. When I said “Hello, I’m Adela and I’m from Romania”, they all seemed a bit confused. It was obvious they were rolling their eyes in their head trying to spot Romania and the map. Then, I went on and I said “Hello, I’m Adela and I’m from Transylvania, Romania”. Suddenly, a smile appeared on their face… Finally, there was someone from the mysterious Transylvania!


That’s when I discovered for the first time how much people were into Dracula. Of course, Universal Studios also had their fun rides dedicated to Dr. Van Helsing, one of their Dracula theme films. So, for the whole summer, I was the VIP there, lots of my colleagues or neighbors being so curious to learn more about the crazy vampire. It was my moment of fame… You can’t even imagine how many stories I had to make up for them!

Vlad Tepes (the Impaler) – Childhood and Teenage Years

Now, let’s get back to our Vlad… In order to understand the whole story better, I challenge you to make an imagination exercise and try to travel back in time, in a remote place, in South East Europe, beyond the Carpathians. It was 1431. Vlad Dracula (or Vlad III) was born in Sighisoara, a medieval town hidden in the Transylvanian Highlands. His father, Vlad II, was a Romanian nobleman, from Wallachia (today South Romania, then a different country). Little Vlad was brought up by his father as a real knight, with no fear for blood and able to handle a sword. He spent his first childhood years in Transylvania and then, they moved in Wallachia, as his father became a Prince.

Dracula's_Birth_Place
Dracula’s_Birth_Place

Vlad had quite a difficult childhood and teenage-hood. At about 11 he went as a prisoner to the Ottoman Sultan, where he spent several years. His life there was pretty tough. Meanwhile, as his father and elder brother were killed in Wallachia, his anger against the Ottomans and the noblemen grew even bigger. Vlad was transforming himself. Revenge was close.

D-R-A-C-U-L-A | The Story of a Famous Name

There are lots of theories around the name. But, the most appropriate one is connected to the Dragon Order. Vlad III (the father) was a member of the Dragon Order – a religious-military order created by the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxembourg in order to protect the Catholic Church power and influence in Europe and protect it from the attacks of the Ottomans. As a member of this Order, Vlad II took the nickname “Dracul” or “The Devil” as a word replacing the word “The Dragon”.

Dragon's_Order

When his son (Vlad III) was born, he became a “Son of the Devil” hence a “Draculea“. It’s like Johnson, Jackson in English – a suffix added to the end of the name referring to their father-son relationship. So, the nickname Dracula, is related to their connection with the Dragon Order. The fact that Vlad III became, later, a cruel prince, is just a coincidence.


Vlad the Impaler, the Prince

Vlad escaped from the Ottomans when he was about 17-18 years old. Quite young and full of hate. He wanted to revenge his family’s terrible death but also to fight against the Sultan. On the same time, he led a sort of chaotic political strategy for those times attacking also the Saxon tradesmen and merchants in Transylvania.

Vlad_Dracula
Vlad's most famous portrait, 16th century
Vlad_Dracula
Vlad’s most famous portrait, 16th century

News started to spread: noblemen in Wallachia and Saxons in Transylvania described him all over Europe as an oppressive, despotic prince, a devil enjoying torturing people, chopping their organs, burring them alive, impaling them while drinking their blood. In modern terms, Vlad had quite a bad PR and image. His name didn’t help him too much, either… Thus, Vlad Dracula became the most famous prince of his times… Till today.

Now, as a child he was a prisoner of the Ottomans, as a teenager he tried to revenge his family, as an adult he ruled twice, he was kept prisoner by the Hungarian King, Mattias Corvin, for 14 years, he was married three times, he might have had a mistress in Brasov… He impaled and tortured – some say for hate, some for justice. He was murdered in 1477 by his own noblemen conspiring with the Ottoman Sultan. Vlad was beheaded, his head was sent to the sultan and his body, probably buried at Snagov, an Orthodox Monastery, close to Bucharest.

Don’t you think that this is a fabulous life story? Are you still attracted by vampires sucking blood?

Bram and Bran

Up until now I haven’t mentioned the famous Bran Castle – the one that has been associated a lot with Vlad… Well, there isn’t too much to tell.

Bran Castle

Now, Bran is a medieval castle built in the 14th century by the Saxons in Brasov and it was used as a strategic defensive construction. It is said that Vlad came here several times, once as a prisoner but this wasn’t his castle… And this is not the castle Bram Stoker took his inspiration from… Indeed, the location of the castle and its architecture seem to fit perfect the castle one might imagine a vampire (or a famous count) could live in. But, if Vlad didn’t live here, why and how was this castle associated to his image? Well that’s another story and we’ll learn more during our virtual tour…

Vlad Dracula’s life is quite fascinating; much more captivating than the vampire’s story… Probably, this is why Bram Stoker created such a complex fictional character. Still, there are some more questions left and, probably, the more we talk, the more questions might arise.

I invite you to an virtual tour through Transylvania and Dracula’s life… We shall debate into more detail all of these topics and, of course, I will be happy to answer all your questions. Come, let’s have a pleasant debate. each of us from our comfy home and, why not, plan together a future visit in Transylvania.