Romanian Castles

Poienari Castle – The Real ‘Dracula’ Castle

Road sign to Poienari Castle-just 1.7 km to the parking area.

After paying the entrance fee the castle comes into view, with only about 150 more steps to go!

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.

At the entrance to the castle ruins, with my poor impaled friends just behind me and to my right.

My son, Sean, on the walls of Poienari Castle.

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.

How Vlad earned his nickname–I can think of better ways to die.

The Square Tower–believed to be Vlad Tepes residence at the castle.

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.

The view looking north to Transylvania from Poenari Castle.

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.

Corvin Castle—The best castle that (nearly) no one will see

The main entrance to Corvin Castle.

One of the best castles in Romania is Corvin, a 14th century castle located in the city of Hunedoara, at the western edge of Transylvania. This castle receives few visitors since it is a bit off the beaten path in Transylvania and since Romania in general is off the beaten path. We drove to Hunedoara from Sibiu, which took about 2 hours. The castle is at the western edge of the city, on a slight hill. The city of Hunedoara has a communist-era feel owing to several old (closed) steel mills located here due to the iron ore in the nearby hills. The iron deposits were even known by the Romans. For a map of locations visited in Romania click here.

The Council Hall of Corvin Castle.

The chapel at Corvin Castle.

The eerie unrestored part of Corvin Castle–Dracula would be right at home!

The castle and the town get their names from two kings (Ioan Huneadoara and his son, Matthias Corvinus), considered among the greatest Hungarian rulers of Transylvania.

A statue of Ioan of Hunedoara, the Hungarian King responsible for the rebuilding of Corvin Castle in 1453, the town where the castle is located bears his name.

In the 14th century, Turkish prisoners had the fun job of hewing the castle walls out of solid rock. Also, in the 15thcentury, three “lucky” Turkish prisoners had to dig a well, and were promised their freedom by King Ioan after its completion. It took them 15 years to dig about 100 feet deep, when they finally found water. Ioan was dead by the time they finished, and his wife, Elisabeth, revoked the king’s promised and had the three prisoners put to death. Upon learning their fate, one of them wrote on a stone in the well: “You may have water but you have no soul.” I wonder if those words haunted Elisabeth.

The inner courtyard of Corvin Castle.

The Mace Tower, Corvin Castle. Note the traces of 15th century frescoes on the outside.

The Knights Hall at Corvin Castle.

One more view of Corvin…a classic castle, with a long drawbridge over the huge moat.

Jules Verne thought enough of this castle to include it in his book, Around the Word in 80 Days, in 1873. It is one of the great medieval castles in Europe. The entrance fee was 10 lei (3.3 lei to the US dollar) and a photo pass was 5 lei.

We noticed these very unique metal roofs all over Hundedoara. Hungarian influence?

References: Informational signs throughout Corvin Castle.