The footsteps of Vlad the Impaler, a great and cruel Wallachian king, the real character who inspired the Count Dracula’s legend, can still be followed through modern Romania.
Vlad the Impaler has always been known for being a cruel but fair ruler. It is said that he despised liars, thieves and even beggars. His thirst for blood was mixed with his sense of fairness, so he was famous for killing in the most gruesome way the people who disrespected the law.
The birth place of Vlad the Impaler
Vlad the Impaler was born in the winter of 1431. He lived for 45 years, until he was assassinated at the end of december 1476.
Vlad the Impaler was born under the name of Valdislaus I Basarab-Luxemburg. He got the nickname “The Impaler” after he was throned and started killing wealthy boyars and common criminals by Impalement. The name of Dracula could have come from his father Vlad Dracul. He had that nickname from being a member of the Order of Dragons. The dragon is a mythological figure that wasn’t recognized by Romanian people. So, not knowing what a dragon is, the people nicknamed the ruler as Dracul (The devil).
Vlad the Impaler was born in a house in Sighisoara, a medieval town in the heart of Romania. The house where he spent the first four years of his life is located near the clock tower, on Cositarilor Street no. 5. On the spot of the old building, there is now a restaurant named Vlad Dracul House.
When he was 5 years old he moved with his father in Targoviste city that had become the capital of Wallachia. The ruins of fortifications can be visited today. They are close to the center of Targoviste city. Bonus: You can touch and even climb most of the walls.
At 11 years old, Vlad the Impaler and his brother, Radu the Beautiful, were taken hostages by the Ottoman Empire. Vlad was freed at 17 years old, in 1448, after the death of his father. He took the lead for two months, then he was replaced on the throne by his father’s rival. From 1448 to 1456 he took shelter in Transylvania region. He took the crown again in 1456 by killing his predecessor and took over Targoviste castle and also stronghold. This was his residence for the most of his reign. One of the most notable constructions in Targoviste city linked to Vlad the Impaler is the Chindia Tower. Vlad ordered for its construction so he could keep the surroundings under supervision.
During his reign, he sometimes chose to stay in a fortress in Bucharest. He said he could better defend the borders from there. You can read here about the ruins of Vlad’s fortress from Bucharest.
Vlad the Impaler – Poenari Fortress and Bran Castle
In 1459, he started the construction of Poenari Fortress over the ruins of an old castle. The Bran Castle was only briefly inhabited by Vlad the Impaler as he was visiting the area. After many power shifting and alliances between Wallachia, the Hungarians and the Turks, Vlad the Impaler got arrested by the Hungarians in 1462. He was taken and imprisoned in Visegrad, Hungary, at 42 kilometers far from Budapest, capital of Hungary. However, there are also some historical statements that suggest he had actually been imprisoned in Bran Castle for a brief period, as it also might have been behind bars in Corvin Castle. Two years before his release he got the privilege to stay in a house in Buda city (Budapest integrates two old cities – Buda and Pest) and he was allowed to marry a member of the royal family.
Death of Vlad the Impaler
He was released and back to throne in 1474. It is said that being one of the main targets for Ottoman army, organizing attacks and defence, he got caught in the chaos and became careless. He was assassinated by some of his own men who had sold themselves to the Turks.
The legend tells that his head was sent to the sultan as a proof of his death. However, no one knows exactly what happened to the body … or the head.
Some historians say that his remains could have been buried either in Snagov Monastery (42 kilometers North from Bucharest) or in Comana Monastery in Giurgiu county (36 kilometers South from Bucharest)
However, there is no irrefutable proof in either of these monasteries that his body would be buried there. All we know is that both monasteries were built by his order. So his death remains a mystery to our days.