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News 31 Oct 16

Dracula Legend Lures Halloween Fans to Romania

Castle Bran in Transylvania is attracting growing numbers of foreign tourists over Halloween thanks to its connection with the world's most famous vampire, Count Dracula.

Marian Chiriac
Halloween parties are becoming more popular among young people in Romania | Photo: Bran Castle

Thousands of visitors, mostly from Western countries but including Romanians, too, have been heading for Bran Castle in Romania's Transylvania region this weekend to celebrate Halloween in the so-called home of Count Dracula.

Bran Castle has been dubbed Dracula's Castle owing to its connection to Vlad Tepes, the real-life prince 15th-century Romanian prince whose bloodthirsty deeds formed some of the source material for the Dracula legend and who lived there for a while.

Tepes, called “Vlad the Impaler” for his brutality, was infamous for burning down the suburbs of the nearby city of Brasov and for killing hundreds of its then Saxon German residents.

His life inspired Irish writer Bram Stoker to compose the famous novel, "Dracula", published in Britain in 1897. In reality, Dracula was just a nickname for Tepes whose father was called Vlad “Dracul”, as he was a member of the Order of the Dragon - Draco in Latin - founded to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe.

Stoker never actually visited Romania but appears to have depicted the imaginary Dracula’s castle based on a description of Bran Castle.

Vlad was almost certainly not a vampire - but Romania's tourist authorities have long been keen to exploit the misunderstanding to draw tourists to the Gothic castle, which was built in the 14th century.

These days the castle is one of Romania's top tourist attractions, attracting more than 600,000 visitors a year.

Raluca Adam, 24, was among them. She spent "a cool Halloween party at Dracula’s castle”, she says. "Halloween for me is not about wicked witches, bats and so on, but mainly about socializing and having fun with my friends.”

"We have been organising Halloween parties since 2009, but the one we had last Saturday was the largest so far,” the castle’s management said.

The party included tracing Vlad Tepes' footsteps, traditional folk dances, horror movies and, of course, the presence of a costumed Count Dracula, complete with ghosts and other vampires.

Bran Castle is hosting two overnight guests on October 31, selected through a contest organized by Airbnb, who were asked to use their "vampiric wit" to imagine what they would say to Count Dracula if they met him.

The winners - two Canadians from Ottowa - will get to sleep in coffins. It will be the first time that anyone has actually slept in the castle since 1948.

While US-style Halloween parties are becoming more popular across Romania and the rest of Eastern Europe, more traditional Romanians will be heading to church on November 1 for the Orthodox Day of the Dead.

While Western Catholics mark All Souls Day by going to church, Orthodox Romanians go to church and then on to the cemetery as well.

There they light candles, place flowers and even leave food in honour of loved ones who have passed away.

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