North of the town of Curtea Argeş in Wallachia, Romania (about 153 km from Bucharest, for a map click here) are the ruins of Poienari Castle, also known as the Fortress of Vlad Ţepeş. In 1457 (or thereabouts) Vlad “The Impaler” Ţepeş forced Turkish traitors, captured from Târgovişte in western Romania to build this castle. The Turks had supported the invasion of the country by Iancu de Hunedoara (see my post on Corvin Castle in Hunedoara). The story says that Vlad had the town’s people rounded up, and after killing the older people and throwing their bodies around the outskirts of the town, he then marched the younger men and women to Poienari where he put them to work building this castle at the top of a very narrow steep ridge, near the Transylvanian Alps. The square tower was built first and the walls were built later.
Vlad the Impaler’s father was ‘Vlad Dracul’ (‘Drăculea’ means ‘son of Dracul’) and this is where the myth begins. Vlad the Impaler was a prince and a ruler of Wallachia in the 1400’s, and was known for extreme cruelty to his enemies (including impaling his victims in such a way that death took 48 hours to relieve the victim), but he did not drink blood nor turn into a bat.
The castle fell into disuse by the latter half of the 16thcentury. It commands a strategic view of the area—looking north towards Transylvania and south to Wallachia. From the parking lot, there are 1,480 steps up to the Castle, but don’t let these steps put you off. The steps are short, and even being out of shape, I made it up to the top in about 30 minutes, doing my best to keep up with my son.
There isn’t too much left of the castle, but it’s worth a visit, partly for the view and also because this was an actual home of Vlad Ţepeş. The entry fee of 5 lei (3.5 lei to 1 USD) is paid to an attendant near the top, where postcards and other memorabilia can be purchased. Bring plenty of water to drink along the way.
References: Rough Guide to Romania 2010 and Lonely Planet Romania 2010.