Dracula tour by the book

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Dracula Book Cover

If you’re planning a Dracula tour in Romania, you should read this, if you want to see all the places mentioned in the novel,  and secure an original experience, by the book (Bram Stoker book).

updated in May 16, 2020

Who has Dracula?

Dracula is a fictional character created by the Irish writer Bram Stoker in 1987. He is the main character of Stoker’s Gothic horror novel called (yes, you have correctly guessed) Dracula. After its release, the book became the foundation of an entire genre for literature, and later, for the film.

In the book, Dracula is a solitary count living in his remote castle in Transylvania. And this is probably the only positive thing about him. Because Dracula is not only a count but also a horrifying creature, with supernatural powers, capable of controlling people’s minds, transforming from human to bat or to change the weather. In other words, a vampire. He is taking all of his powers from drinking human blood. Those poor humans, after being infected by him, are also becoming vampires.

Is Transylvania real?

Transylvania is very real. Nowdays is a region in Romania. Transylvania is having a long history behind. It used to belong to Austria, Hungary, and for a few centuries it was a separate entity (a principality).

Why Bram Stoker choose Transylvania to put the action of the book? We don’t know exactly. Maybe because the historical character, Vlad the Impaler, was born in Transylvania, in the medieval citadel of Sighisoara.

Another important element to consider is Stoker’s access to a few books written by a Scottish author who has spent a few years in Transylvania. The author, Emily Gerald wrote “The Land Beyond the Forest” and an essay called “Transylvania Superstitions” which includes references about the vampire myth in the Romanian folklore. It is possible that these writings inspired the writer to put the action in Transylvania, at that time a region in the eastern extremity of the Austrian Hungaria Empire.

Everybody knows that Transylvania is the realm of Dracula. There are a few Dracula related places mentioned in every guide book, like Bran Castle or Sighisoara, but are they having anything to do with the count? Are there any other places in Transylvania that can be related to the legend of the famous vampire?

Dracula Book Cover
One of Dracula Book covers

Well, before starting looking on the Internet, I think the best thing to do is to read the novel, written by Bram Stoker. And surprisingly, in the book, there is no mentioning about Bran Castle or Sighisoara. Yes, one can say that those places can be related to Vlad the Impaler, but Bram Stoker didn’t mention them in the novel.

Bran Castle or Dracula’s Castle?

Indeed the Dracula’s castle is positioned in Transylvania, but the location is in the north of Transylvania, on the Borgo Pass,  not in the South, where Bran is.  What can connect the Bran Castle and the Count Dracula castle? The description of the castle in the book sounds a little bit like Bran Castle: “The castle was built on the corner of a great rock so that on three sides it was quite impregnable …… To the west was a great valley, and then, rising far away, great jagged mountain fastnesses,”

Bran Castle old image
This image may have inspired Bram Stoker, when we created the Dracula Castle

Bram Stoker did a great job when we documented his book, at least geographically. All the places mentioned in the book in Transylvania are real, and the description of Borgo Pass, for example, make us think he has been there. The Transylvanian action in the novel can be found in the first chapter of the book, where the author carries us through north Transylvania, from Cluj to Bistrita, and finally to the Borgo Pass ( Pasul Bargaului in Romanian), near the border with Bucovina. 

The name Bran Castle comes from the name of the village at the foot of the Carpathians of the same name. It’s just a coincidence that Bran is very similar to Bram, the writer’s first name. Bran Castle was built in the 14th century by the Saxons of Brasov, in order to better control the southern border of Transylvania towards Wallachia. Vlad was born and lived in the 15th century, after the construction of the castle.

So Vlad Tepes probably passed the commercial rout near the castle many times, but we don’t have any historical evidence to link the Wallachian prince to the medieval fortress. His grandfather was indeed the owner of the castle for several years, but he didn’t transfer the ownership to his descendants.

What Sibiu and Medias have to do with the legend of Dracula?

For Dracula enthusiasts , Sibiu and Medias may say nothing. But, in the book, Bram Stoker refers to these two medieval Transylvanian cities.

Sibiu, with its German name, is mentioned in the novel. “They learned his secrets in the Scholomance, amongst the mountains over Lake Hermanstadt, where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due.” We may connect Lake Hermanstadt with Balea Lake, as is the closest big known lake close to Sibiu. So, according to the book, Balea Lake was the place where Dracula attended the sorcerers (solomonari in Romanian) school. 

Balea Lake
Balea Lake might be the Lake Hermanstadt from the book

Then, another place from Sibiu county is mentioned in the book.  It is Medias, or Mediasch: ” The wine was Golden Mediasch, which produces a queer sting on the tongue, which is, however, not disagreeable”.  Is not a surprise, as Medias, a former Saxon town, located 60 kilometres north of Sibiu, was known for its wine and the grape can be found on the coat of arms of the city.

Medias  coat of arms
Medias coat of arms

Dracula from a historical point of view.

There are a lot of hints in the book who are pointing to historical character Vlad the Impaler. First, the name. The Romanian voivode (the term used for the head of state in Wallachia) was also called Vlad Dracula. He inherited his name from his father, but this is another story. Below we can see an old document with his name on it:

Wladislaw Dragulia
Wladislaw Dragulia or Dracula,

Historical inconsistency in the novel

Then, in the book, Bram Stoker is not very consistent. At the beginnig, it is saying about the Count that he was a Szeckler, not Romanian, putting the character in contradiction with the historical evidence: ” We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship“.

Then, the character is getting closer and closer to the real Vlad the Impaler: ” Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery on them! ” We know from the history books that Vlad the Impaler  fought the Turks and his brother, Radu, turned against him.

Vlad Dracula
One of the leaflets portraying Vlad Dracula as a cruel, bloodthirsty prince

Then it becomes more clear that the Count character is based on Vlad the Impaler: “He must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land.”

The physical resemblance with Vlad the Impaler.

Another connection with the historical character is the physiognomy. The aspect from his official portrait is as described in the novel: “His face was a strong—a very strong—aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose.  The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking,

Vlad the Impaler official portrait
Vlad the Impaler official portrait

Having said that, if you’re interested in a Dracula themed tour in Transylvania, please contact us, in order to benefit from our experience as experienced travel operators in Transylvania and Romania. Our Romania tour, cover most of the places mentioned in the book, and we can customise the trip especially for you. Also, we recommend the dedicated Dracula tour from our partner site, Romania Guided Tours. The tour is created starting from the book and it including all the places in Transylvania mentioned in the book, as well all the historical sites related to Vlad the Impaler, the prince of Wallachia.