Flying to or from Budapest on a river cruise vacation? While you are in Hungary, you should consider staying a few days to explore nearby Romania as well. Though a bit far away for a day trip (even two), you might wish to consider visiting Bran Castle tucked away on the Transylvania border near the city of Brasov. Some river cruise lines do include this land extension on select itineraries. Inquire of your travel professional, Shari. Bran Castle is now a privately-held castle and a museum, open to the public : www.bran-castle.com.
Some interesting facts about the castle:
Bran Castle has little real association either with Vlad III , Bram Stoker, or the legend of Count Dracula. For some reason , it was one of several castles in Transylvania that became linked to the story. Hunyad Castle is another and is far creepier in the author’s opinion.
The castle was built in the late 13th century-early 14th century and functioned as a fortress against the Ottoman Empire, and as a customs post due to its strategic position on a main route through the mountains between Transylvania and Wallachia.
It became the home for the royals of Romania after World War I and summer home to the country’s beloved Queen Marie. It is her collection of art and furniture that now form the basis of the museum.
Queen Marie modernized the castle piping in fresh spring water, building a hydro plant which also furnished nearby villages with electricity, and creating extensive gardens, ponds, stables, church and guest house. Her heart is resting in a marble sarcophagus in a crypt chapel opposite the castle.
Princess Ilena , her heir, operated the castle as a hospital both during and subsequent to WWII. It was aptly named the Hospital of the Queen’s Heart. She and her family were forced into exile in United States upon the start of the communist regime in 1948. She had six children. In later life she entered a convent, became Mother Alexandra, and was subsequently buried in her new country in 1991 when she passed. However, she did get to visit Romania shortly before she died and soil from the castle foundations is buried with her.
It was the communist government that transformed Bran from castle to museum. It concentrated on the local customs, the medieval period, and some on the Royal connection. After the change in government, the castle museum was restored and renovated having gone downhill under their care.
Bran Castle was passed back to the heirs of Queen Marie and Ilena in 2006 after the country’s properties illegally expropriated in the 1940’s and 50’s were returned to their rightful owners.
Interested in seeing Romania and perhaps this infamous castle? Just ask Shari!