I’m not a big fan of Dracula, but I am a big supporter of Vlad Țepeș (known as Vlad III Prince of Wallachia, the Romanian Voievode), the person on whom Bram Stoker based his character (he who made Romania famous…).
But this is not a story about any of them, but about a short one-day trip to Poenari Fortress (180 km from Bucharest, around three hours by car), the real Dracula Castle. Once you look at the pictures you will understand why Bran (where the tourists go), and not Poenari is the tourist attraction. I went there trying to show some Spanish tourists (who were very impressed by the Bran Castle) why the real place is not that famous.
To start with, back in 2007, you needed a GPS and some knowledge of Romanian in order to find it (for the record, it is close to Căpățâni village). If on your own, you need to be brave (the place is not marked as you expected and you might get lost on the hill). Just that a little adventure never hurt anyone, right?
The real castle of Dracula was built by another Voievode, Negru Vodă (his name means ‘black’) in 1453. It seems that Vlad Țepeș had his headquarters here (and was also defeated at this location in some battles) sometimes during the 15th century (he lived between 1431–1476/77).
The fortress has a diameter of 60 meters, once had five defensive towers and it situated on the top of a hill. The current state of the fortress is due to lack of touristic interest, but also due to damage from the 1915 earthquake. Some travellers, like us, are interested in Poenari fortress enough as to climb the 1480 stairs (I did started to count them, but I got lost at around 500). The effort to climb is worth it: the view from the top is spectacular.
I recommend you to take this trip anyway, because from here you can easily reach the Vidraru Dam, one of the Communist projects built with enormous life waste. The Vidraru arched dam’s purpose is to help produce hydroelectricity. “The dam’s height is 166 metres, the arch length 305 meters and it can store 465 million cubic metres of water”, as Wikipedia mentions.
Did I mention this is on the Transfăgărășan road, known from this episode of BBC Top Gear and called the greatest driving road in the world?