Is Transylvania a Real Place? Between Myth and Reality

What exactly is Transylvania? About Dracula, medieval history and timelessness...

Bram Stoker, in his famous novel about Dracula, used historical and geographical references of Romania to create real spine-chilling scenes. But how to make the difference about what’s truly real and what’s fictional in his work? In fact, it is believed that Stoker immersed himself in the legends and the history of Transylvania – “the center of some sort of imaginative whirlpool”, he mentioned. Even the fictional character of Count Dracula is considered to be the prototype of one of the most popular rulers from Romania – Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler. Locals believe that Transylvania lays on one of the Earth’s most powerful magnetic fields. Apparently that’s what made Stoker write about the area, too. So, what makes Transylvania so magnetic (not only directly speaking, but also figuratively)?

Transylvania region coloured in brown on Romanian map, credits: malachy120/Bigstock.com

Transylvania is the largest region of Romania. With castles, fortresses, and fortified churches surrounded by mountain forests, it displays a unique mix of cultures, nature and history in front of its guests. The lively cities with stunning architecture easily compete in the touristic domain with already very popular, similar destinations from Germany, France, and other European countries.

Town of Sighisoara, credits: DorinM/Bigstock.com

Tourists addicted by stories about vampires can visit some of the destinations that are part of the so-called “vampire tourism” present in Transylvania. Sighisoara should be definitely on the top of the list, as Vlad Dracula’s House is located here. It is supposed that the historical character who inspired Bram Stoker was born in this house, in 1431. Today, the building hosts a restaurant and a small weapon museum.

Medieval Clock Tower in Sighisoara, credits: Aleksandr Todorovic/Bigstock.com

But Sighisoara is not only about mysticism, it is also about medieval era. The Historic Center of the town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the place where time turns back. Undoubtedly, the most popular historical and architectural attraction remains to be the Clock Tower, from whose top one can admire the whole Historic Center. This massive defensive tower is just one out of those nine that still stand tall. Each of the towers used to be the responsibility of a different craftsmen’s guild. That’s why now they are known as the Tanners’ Tower, the Tinsmiths’ Tower, the Ropers’ Tower, the Butchers’ Tower, etc. However, Sighisoara is not a town whose attractions have to be visited strongly according to a map. Just get lost on its narrow cobbled streets and immerse yourself in history. The transition from present to past is particularly easy to do during the Medieval Festival, that takes place every year in July.

Medieval City Centre, Brasov, credits: Project-Photo/Bigstock.com

The city of Brasov offers urban comfort combined with historical sites. Situated at the foothill of Carpathian Mountains, the city is stuffed with a multitude of points of interest such as its Old Town, the Black Church, the Panoramic Tampa, the Brasov Citadel, the Rope Street, the First Romanian School, and many many more.

Guests who strive to find out more about Romania’s culture should direct to Sibiu County. Since 2016, the city of Sibiu has become the host of the largest performance arts festival in the world – the Sibiu International Theater Festival.

Traditional Folk Museum, ASTRA, credits: igabriela/Bigstock.com

In the Dumbrava Forest, south of the city of Sibiu, one can visit the huge ASTRA National Museum Complex. The museum complex particularly focuses on ethnography and is formed of four museums, a series of laboratories for conservation and research, and a documentation center. Yet, the most popular part of the complex remains to be the ASTRA Museum of the Traditional Folk Civilization – the largest open-air museum in Romania with over 300 houses and other buildings like windmills, a fishery, pottery workshops, iron workshops and other.

Biertan Fortified Church, credits: Izabela 23/Bigstock.com

The curious tourists can move to the Saxon villages of Transylvania. They provide the perfect destination for an unforgettable city break! Comprising more than 150 well-preserved fortified churches of different architectural styles, the south-eastern part of Transylvania currently has one of the highest numbers of existing fortified churches from the 13th to 16th centuries. There are seven villages in total, they being listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Biertan, Calnic, Darjiu, Prejmer, Saschiz, Valea Viilor, and Viscri.

While being in Transylvania, make sure to take a tour of the castles. While some of them are famous in Europe, others are real hidden gems and are not less impressive.

Dracula's Famous Castle in Bran, credits: Cristian Balate Photography/Bigstock.com

You can start your tour with Bran Castle, which has the reputation as Dracula’s dwelling, because namely this Gothic monument was in Bram Stoker’s mind when he wrote his famous novel. Being positioned on the edge of a steep rock and surrounded by an endless sea of green tree tops, this castle is able to offer beautiful, but also creepy feelings. Here you can discover some facts about what brought the legend of Dracula to life, but besides the legend, Bran Castle has it’s own history, as it was built in 1382 to defend the Bran mountain pass against the Turks.

As well, not far from Brasov, the Rasnov Fortress is found. The fortress is one of the largest and most remarkable medieval monuments in Transylvania, saving the lives of local people more than once in the past.

Fagaras Citadel, credits: cge2010/Bigstock.com

Another monument situated in Brasov County that is worth to be visited is the Fagaras Citadel - the only castle in Romania that has never been conquered by enemies. The Citadel lies in Fagaras Mountains – a very popular destination for trekking. Many people come here to hike its highest peak – the Moldoveanu (2,544 m). Others come to take a ride on the famous Transfagarasan highway, which offers spectacular views and unique emotions.

Corvin Castle, credits: cge2010/Bigstock.com

In the Hunedoara County, another large and imposing citadel lays above the small Zlasti River – the Corvin Castle. This Gothic-Renaissance construction is considered one of the most beautiful medieval castles not only in Transylvania, but in entire Romania. The castle is also popular due to the stories that revolve around it. History says that Vlad the Impaler was held prisoner for 7 years in the castle and namely this experience led to the development of his sadistic methods of torturing people. Nowadays, the attraction is often used as host for paranormal television programs, as well as for various genres of films.

Solar Disc, Sarmizegetusa Regia, credits: ollrig/Bigstock.com

Ancient Dacian ruins, found in Transylvania, are also part of Romania’s exceptional cultural and historical heritage. The so-called Dacian Fortresses, situated in the Orastie Mountains, are Iron Age defense works that served once as protection against Roman conquest. There are six locations that form this site: Sarmizegetusa Regia, Costesti-Cetatuie, Costesti-Blidaru, Luncani-Piatra Rosie, Banita, and Capalna. All of them were built between the 1st century B.C. and 1st century A.D. by the Dacians, who lived on the territory of modern Romania. Due to its well-preservation, the site was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999.

Emerald green mountains, medieval castles and fortified churches form a fairy-tale-like panorama called Transylvania! This is the exact place on earth where you’ll understand the term of timelessness, as no wonder even Prince Charles fell in love with this place! So, if you visit Transylvania, make sure you don’t miss any of these attractions!

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Is Transylvania a Real Place? Between Myth and Reality

Is Transylvania a Real Place? Between Myth and Reality