OCTOBER 2006: I traveled to Romania for my second time to see a number of things I wasn’t able to the first time, the most important of which (to me) was Castle Poenari — the real Dracula’s castle. Visiting Vlad Tepes’ real castle was a lifelong dream of mine, and it was pretty mindblowing to finally see it with my own eyes.
I’ve included a lot of information about getting there on my article called Getting to Castle Poenari. For now, the photos!
After being dropped off in the Romanian countryside by my driver who simply pointed up the road, I walked a couple kilometers and caught my first glimpse of the castle!
Here’s the first view of the castle! There’s a hydroelectric plant near the base of it, which I’d seen mentioned in a few of the articles I’d read about how to find the castle, so I was happy to see that and know I wasn’t at, like, the wrong castle (which is more of a possibility than you might think! Eastern Europe is lousy with old, crumbling castles).
Zooming in here. This is neat; the castle was actually mostly destroyed during an earthquake in 1888. My guess is that the layer of gray stone at the bottom is part of the original castle from the 15th century, and the layer of red brick at the top is the rebuilt part (I have no idea when that was done, but even those “new” bricks are crumbling; are they a century old, or just made with shoddy Communist materials?). You can see the tiny bridge at the left, which you’ve got to cross to reach the castle.
At the base of the mountain there’s actually a sign confirming that this is Castle Poenari, in Romanian, English, and French! Since Romanians mostly just think of Dracula as a historical figure (in fact, a hero of Christianity!), this castle is visited like any other historical leader’s home; almost like Monticello or something. There are concrete steps that go all the way up, and I’ve read conflicting figures on how many there are; anywhere from 1,400-1,800, which is a lot no matter how you slice it, but it’s not a hard hike or anything. The only other people I encountered were some Romanians spending a nice afternoon outdoors after church (I presumed, because it was Sunday and they were wearing nice clothes), and one old French guy who was, of course, smoking a cigarette as he climbed up the mountain.
At the top of the steps, there’s a newly-constructed office (not shown) with a guard who charges visitors 2 lei (note: I’m told this has increased a little bit recently) to continue on to the castle. After you get your ticket, you cross this little bridge and you’re there!
This is Dracula’s view from the top of his castle! Other than the road down there, I doubt much has changed in 500 years.