Dracula: History and Myth

My Visit to Castle Poenari — part 1

2

[Part 1|Part 2|Part 3|Part 4]

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!

My first view of Castle Poenari, the real Dracula's castle, near Arefu, in the Transylvania region of Romania.

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).

A zoomed-in view of Cetatea Poenari, aka Castle Poenari.

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.

The infamous 1500 stairs leading up the mountain to Castle Poenari, the original Dracula's 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.

I crossed this short footbridge to arrive at the real Dracula's castle in Transylvania.

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!

A view of the beautiful Arefu Valley from Cetatea Poenari, the real Castle Dracula.

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.

On to part 2!

[Part 1|Part 2|Part 3|Part 4]

14 Responses to “My Visit to Castle Poenari — part 1”

  1. adrian says:

    A fantastic trip, wish I had the money and time to do it. It was like reading an adventure story but in compact form. Hopefully one day I may make this trip. To the author I say well done and thank you for sharing it with me. Utterly brilliant.

  2. sharon says:

    Thank you! I am in the planning stages of my own adventure. I too dream of seeing it. Your information is what I was looking for. Is the castle open for visitation year round I wonder? I would imagine certain times of year are better than others. Cold or rain doesn’t put me off, but crowds of people do.
    You’ve done an excellent job in telling your tale!

  3. [...] down some of the walls. To see the ruins of Poenari Castle, you must climb 1,426 steps (or just click here). You can also see a speculation on what the fortress looked like at its peak. When you consider [...]

  4. [...] down some of the walls. To see the ruins of Poenari Castle, you must climb 1,426 steps (or just click here). You can also see a speculation on what the fortress looked like at its peak. When you consider [...]

  5. Carolyn Roesbery says:

    excellent work– I am so pleased to see these photos. I am writing a film script that includes this castle

  6. Leigh Wallace says:

    I visited Romania in May 2012, and made a a visit to Cetatea Poienari, the ruins of Poienari fortress. I feel that i followed in your footsteps after reading your article. But I travelled by bus from Brasov to Curtea De Arges, and stayed at the Pensiunea Montana for 2 nights. Although some websites call this Hotel Montana, this is a really good value place to stay. I also ate in the resaurant on the ground floor both nights , and i think that the food is really very good here. On one night, I did eat the “pizza Sibiu”.. I found it quite easy to get a maxitaxi on Strada 1 Mai, which seem to be every 30 minutes to Arefu. I told the driver that I wanted to go to Pensiunea Dracula and he knew where that was, and dropped me off. I then walked the 2 kms and went past a couple of other pensiuneas before reaching the hydro electric plant, and then the deserted car park and kiosks. The climb to the top is greeted by a man who now charges 5 lei, about £1 (1 GBP), to enter the ruins, and also sells postcards for 1.50 lei.
    I am glad that I went there, but I think that a person has to be dedicated as there is not a lot to see, other than take in the history. I enjoyed reading your article about your adventure. Leigh Wallace.

  7. Leigh Wallace says:

    I forgot to mention that Pensiunea Dracula has been developed a lot since 2006 when Manning went to visit Poenari. It is now has a large Pensiunea, log cabins for rent, a large restaurant, and a mini market. Although you would still have to get here from Curtea de Arges, maybe using the maxitaxi (minibus), but it could be a nice place to stay. You can find it on the website http://www.pensiuneadracula.ro

  8. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  9. Steve Swisher says:

    I went to Poeienari Castle in September 2006 and went up after the guards were gone. we spent the night up there during a full moon. Very cool. As scary as I wanted it to be, nothing happened. Well worth the trip. Manning this is a great sight.

  10. Jim Cain - Mpls, MN says:

    I ascended the steps and path to Castle Poenari a little before noon on June 15th 2013. Getting to the top was an adventure of anticipation through the mountain side forest, going up, up, up. A couple breaks for burning calves and to hydrate are definitely called for on the ascent. I’m 56 and smoke from time to time and I could make, so you can too. Getting to the fortress was a rush and feeling of accomplishment. The views from on top of the surrounding mountains back down the valley and up the gorge verged on the surreal. It almost felt as if you were in a beautiful painting with God inspired vistas into nature and history of the past. I’ve traveled and been a lot of places and this was definitely one of the best things I’ve seen or done in my life so far! It was worth every drop of sweat getting there and once you’re on “cloud nine” from the experience, getting down is a breeze.

  11. Aaron Krull says:

    Great article/story thanks for creating it. I enjoyed it very much. I would love to go there someday. I found your site by doing some research on the castle and just so happens we have the same last name….this means I have to go someday.

  12. […] possible Dracula Castles include Poenari Castle and Corvin […]

  13. […] a stunning building situated in the middle of a lake, where the remains of Vlad the Impaler lie and Castle Poenari, Vlad’s stronghold. Reached by over 1400 steps and with breathtaking views, this now ruined […]

  14. […] are many more real castles that inspired Disney movies and novels, for instance Poenari Castle and Hunyad Castle inspired the fortress described in Stoker’s novel. Therefore, if you are […]

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