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Halloween Travel: A Tour Of The Real Dracula's Homeland

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 10/10/2011 10:01 am   Updated: 10/09/2012 11:26 am

Before there was "True Blood" and before Buffy started slaying vampires, there was only one name in blood-sucking: Dracula. The titular character in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of the same name, Dracula has since become the stuff of Halloween and nocturnal legend. But what of the man behind the fangs?

It’s debated how much Stoker knew about Vlad III Dracula, but it’s widely accepted that he served as the inspiration for the literary vampire in some capacity.

Vlad III’s nickname “Dracula” translates to “son of Dracul” – Dracul being derived from the latin draco meaning “dragon.” This was a nod to his father’s membership in the Order of the Dragon, which Vlad III would become an initiate of.

During his second round at the throne, Vlad III made a name for himself with his brutality. He would be given the moniker Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler due to his habit of impaling his enemies on long stakes, hoisting them up, and leaving them to die. It's said that he once left a virtual forest of impaled victims in a field to ward off invading Ottomans. And, apparently he once nailed the turbans of disrespectful Ottomans to their heads.

For those interested in following in Vlad’s grisly footsteps, here’s a DIY tour of the sights of Dracula’s homeland. Those liking a little more structure can find Dracula tours like Vampire in Transylvania Dracula Tour or Prince Vlad Dracula the True Story.

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  • Sighisoara

    Vlad III was born in 1431 in Sighisoara, Transylvania to Vlad II Dracul. The younger Vlad would hold the title voivode (denoting him as military governor or prince) of the principality of Wallachia. Wallachia would later join with parts of Moldavia and Transylvania to form modern-day Romania. Vlad's home is pictured above. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/adragnes/1163656916/" target="_hplink">Aleksander Dragnes</a>/Flickr

  • Sighisoara

    Sighisoara is located in central Romania, <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Bucharest,+Bucuresti,+Romania&daddr=Sighisoara,+Mures,+Romania&hl=en&sll=46.216944,24.791111&sspn=0.095616,0.154324&geocode=Fc8QpgId1zaOASlPrTy_OvmxQDEoppx84zIGrA%3BFfA2wQIdR0h6ASlbfmPm8nRLRzF_JGNBCeASew&vpsrc=0&mra=ls&t=m&z=8" target="_hplink">about four hours from the capital Bucharest</a>. It's home to a well-preserved medieval town that's also a <a href="http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/902" target="_hplink">UNESCO World Heritage Site</a>. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/22384042@N07/6008224362/" target="_hplink">trackranger</a>/Flickr

  • Targoviste

    In 1436, Vlad II became leader of the principality of Wallachia, and young Vlad moved to Targoviste, the capital of Wallachia. Targoviste is <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Bucharest,+Bucuresti,+Romania&daddr=targoviste&hl=en&sll=45.340085,25.45236&sspn=3.108086,4.938354&geocode=Fc8QpgId1zaOASlPrTy_OvmxQDEoppx84zIGrA%3BFQd9rQIdG3CEASlb83Anv_ayQDGg6JZYvxuqyg&vpsrc=0&mra=ls&t=m&z=10" target="_hplink">less than an hour and a half's drive from Bucharest</a>. While there, <a href="http://www.muzee-dambovitene.ro/en/curtea_domneasca.php" target="_hplink">visit the city's royal court</a>, which is open daily except Monday. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicubunuphotos/5525943632/" target="_hplink">nicubunu.photo</a>/Flickr

  • Ottoman Court/Constantinople

    Vlad and his younger brother were sent to the court of Ottoman Sultan Murad II in 1442. The boys were being used as a way to cement the relationship between Murad II and Vlad II. After Vlad's death, likely in January 1477, his head was brought to Constantinople. (The <a href="http://topkapipalace.com/index.htm" target="_hplink">Topkapi Palace</a> in Istanbul aka Constantinople, pictured here, was built by Murad II's successor Mehmed II. Entrance is between $10 and $15, but the Harem is an extra $10.) Photo: AFP/Getty Images

  • Moldavia

    Vlad II was killed in 1447 while Vlad III was still in Ottoman captivity. Vlad III returned home in 1448 to take the throne, but was ousted shortly thereafter. He fled to the region of Moldavia (north east of Wallachia) to the protection of his uncle. Vlad returned to his throne in 1456. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruizsanjuan/5598589481/" target="_hplink">ruizsanjuan</a>/Flickr

  • Poenari Castle

    Poenari is a cliff-top castle and fortress that Vlad refurbished and for a time called home. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cosmin_coco_ro/2725688975/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Coco_ro</a>/Flickr

  • Poenari Castle

    According to legend, Vlad's first wife killed herself by jumping from the castle's tower during an Ottoman siege around 1462. She is believed to have said she'd rather rot than be captured by the Turks. Poenari Castle is <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Bucharest,+Bucuresti,+Romania&daddr=C%C4%83p%C4%83%C5%A3%C3%A2nenii+P%C4%83m%C3%A2nteni,+Romania&hl=en&ie=UTF8&sll=44.093996,25.575485&sspn=0.396983,0.617294&geocode=Fc8QpgId1zaOASlPrTy_OvmxQDEoppx84zIGrA%3BFZp4swIdBhF4ASmRO7YmyidNRzF9jM-tOrOY0g&vpsrc=0&mra=ls&t=m&z=9" target="_hplink">located two hours from Bucharest</a>. Be prepared to climb 1,462 steps to access the castle ruins. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cosmin_coco_ro/2725685513/" target="_hplink">Coco_ro</a>/Flickr

  • Visegrad, Hungary

    From about 1462 to 1474 Vlad was held captive in Hungary, spending many years in Visegrad. However, he also spent much time living in the house of his second wife, a cousin to the Hungarian king. From Hungary he announced his third reign in 1476, but was killed about two months later. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dspender/2474901313/" target="_hplink">David Spender</a>/Flickr

  • Visegrad, Hungary

    Visegrad is a 12 hour drive from Bucharest, or an hour from the Hungarian capital of Budapest. A train between Bucharest and Budapest can take between 12 and 17 hours with fares from $126 at press time. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandervds/3118154324/" target="_hplink">sander_123</a>/Flickr

  • Hunyad Castle

    Hunyad is said to have housed Vlad for part of his Hungarian captivity. The castle is located in Hunedoara, Romania, <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Bucharest,+Bucuresti,+Romania&daddr=Hunedoara,+Romania&hl=en&sll=44.437711,26.097367&sspn=0.394668,0.617294&geocode=Fc8QpgId1zaOASlPrTy_OvmxQDEoppx84zIGrA%3BFR5XugId571dASmfFZZzVIpORzE7IzU87YzzGQ&vpsrc=0&mra=ls&t=m&z=8" target="_hplink">five hours from Bucharest</a>. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndave/1536482836/" target="_hplink">Nagy David</a>/Flickr

  • Snagov Monastery

    While Vlad's head went to Constantinople, his body might have been buried at Comana, a monastery he founded. Legend holds that he was buried at Snagov Monastery, but no tomb has been found. Tour companies like <a href="http://www.deltatravel.ro/bucharest_tour/bucharest_tours_go.php?id_oferta=34" target="_hplink">Delta Travel</a> and <a href="http://www.visittransilvania.ro/romania-tours-vacations/half-day-tour-to-snagov-42-english.html" target="_hplink">Visit Transylvania Travel</a> offer half-day excursions to the monastery on Lake Snagov. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/fusion_of_horizons/565742318/" target="_hplink">fusion-of-horizons</a>/Flickr

  • Bran Castle

    <a href="http://www.bran-castle.com/en/" target="_hplink">Bran Castle</a> is known as Dracula's Castle, though Vlad is only thought to have spent but a brief time there. Bran Castle is <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Bucharest,+Bucuresti,+Romania&daddr=Bran,+Brasov,+Romania&hl=en&sll=44.391414,26.087637&sspn=0.049373,0.077162&geocode=Fc8QpgId1zaOASlPrTy_OvmxQDEoppx84zIGrA%3BFd1ytgIdxwaDASlzWOVM5UezQDEQzPX-X3Sjsg&vpsrc=0&mra=ls&t=m&z=9" target="_hplink">about two and a half hours from Bucharest</a>. Entrance is 20 Lei (about $6) for adults. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

  • Travel To Bucharest video

  • Bran Torcsvar Castle in Transylvania video

    A video tour of Bran Castle.

  • Spooky Shadow

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Michael_Williams_1"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/559548681/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Michael_Williams_1">Michael Williams 1</a>:<br />Spooky Shadows from a tree in the main square in Sighisoara

  • Dracula's hometown Tower and Jail

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/RockyGibraltar"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://i.huffpost.com/profiles/430291-tiny.png?20090623190228" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/RockyGibraltar">RockyGibraltar</a>:<br />

  • Draculas Bran Castle

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/pcleaver1"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/pcleaver1">pcleaver1</a>:<br />Bran Castle was commissioned by Draculas grandfather and it is unknown whether he actually spent any time here.According to our guide the English tourists looking for Dracula's original castle decreed that this was it.

  • Brann Castle

    Upon entering the gates and walking up to the castle.

  • Brasov, Transylvania

    Bedroom in Dracula's Castle

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