MYSTERY WIRE — Nestled in the heart of Transylvania, this is said to be the home of Dracula.
Bran Castle is famous for its connection to Vlad the Impaler, a real-life prince who stayed there in the 15th century and had a cruel habit of using stakes to impale his victims.
But it was Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, written in 1897, that cemented the legendary tale.
The novel tells the story of a vampire called Count Dracula and his attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood.
It has been the subject of numerous films and TV shows and the legend would normally bring in thousands of visitors to Bran Castle every year.
But this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of visitors to the castle has fallen to roughly 200 people each day.
“It is worse and worse. No foreign tourists or maybe only few. Even for Halloween, there are no big expectations or we are waiting for a decision to close the shops,” says souvenir shop owner Adriana.
Marketing manager at Bran Castle, Alexandru Priscu, explains this Halloween may not be as terrifying as the last.
There will be no Halloween party held in the castle’s courtyard.
Visitors are only allowed on a castle tour while following the coronavirus restrictions; using hand sanitizer, wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance of two metres.
“Well, to be honest with you, 2020 has brought some changes in regard to the preps for Halloween. We’ve decided immediately than anything, any decorations that has to do with that (COVID situation, deaths) is a no-go for this year. So we’ve given up to all sort of skeletons and all sort of death drawings and anything like this. And we resumed ourselves to pumpkins, you know, crows, bats, some black materials covering the windows, candles.”
Romania has recorded more than 229,000 cases of COVID-19 and 6,764 cases, according to the John Hopkins University.
Earlier this week, the number of patients being treated in intensive care reached a record high of 861.
The Romanian capital and five other counties remain in a ‘red zone’ after the rate of infections exceeded 3 people per 1,000 inhabitants.
That requires the closure of bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and schools.
But a trickle of visitors is still making its way to the castle for a spooky Halloween visit.
“”It was nice, it was full of history but also a little bit sad that it’s so very few people here. We are sorry to see that in such a beautiful part of Romania, so full of history and meaning for us, as Romanians, that there’s so very few visitors because of the virus situation, but we enjoyed it,” says tourist Raluca Focsaneanu.
Bran Castle was originally a military fortress, strategically set on a highway that links Transylvania to southern Romania.
Vlad the Impaler did not own the castle, but is believed to have used it briefly during his incursions in Transylvania.
He is also believed to have been imprisoned in the castle for two months in 1462 when he was captured by a rival Hungarian king.
Following World War I, the castle was given to Queen Marie in gratitude for her role in unifying Transylvania with the rest of Romania.
She bequeathed it to her youngest daughter Princess Ileana.
In 1948, the Communists seized it from Ileana.
In 2006, years after communism ended, the castle was returned to Ileana’s son Dominic Hapsburg, a retired New York architect.
His sisters spent their childhood there.