Poenari Castle, the Fortress of Vlad the Impaler – an incredible landscape, a piece of history and a bloody legend

Poenari Castle, also known as Poenari Citadel or Fortress, is a ruined castle in Romania, on the cliffs of the mountains (at a height of 860 meters), notable for its connection to Vlad the Impaler.

The construction of this castle began in the 13th century, under the rule of the Black King.  In the decades that followed, the name and the residents changed a few times but eventually the castle was abandoned and left in ruins. It was Vlad the Impaler that brought it back to life in the 15th century.

The castle was used for many years after Vlad’s death in 1476, but eventually it was abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century and was in ruins by the 17th century.  In 1970, Romanian authorities decided to make this place a little more tourist friendly and built 1.480 steps in the rock of the mountain so that people would have easier access. Unfortunately, the northern  part of the fortress doesn’t exist anymore because of an earthquake that brought down the rock on which it was built.

The location of Poenari Castle

The castle is located on a cliff, on the West side of the “Transfăgărăşan” road in Argeş County (Arefu village) near a canyon formed on the Argeş River valley, close to the Făgăraş Mountains. Its placement is not nearly random. From this citadel one can have easy and permanent control of the surroundings. The scene offers the advantage of good scouting of the area.  Due to its size and location, control of the castle was difficult to take, even by natural forces.

Vlad and the legend of impaling boyars (Romanian noblemen and landlords) on Easter holidays

The legend says that at one time, during his reign in Wallachia, Vlad the Impaler noticed the defence potential of the Poenari Castle. So he decided to rehabilitate it. He knew that not all the people in the nearby town of Targoviste were on his side. Most of them were Boyars who were plotting against him. So Vlad decided to use them in reinforcing the old Castle of Poenari. In the first day of Easter, as the legend says, Vlad and his men attacked the boyars who were celebrating. He impaled the old ones and started to walk with them, in their holiday  clothes, on spikes. Frightened, the other boyars swore to obey him. He gathered all the people and commanded that they would start the reinforcement of the Poenari Fortress. The chronicles of that time note that those people worked so hard at the castle that their clothes got torn to pieces. Many of them died of exhaustion.

The legend of the Lady’s River, where Vlad’s wife committed suicide

The legend says that the first wife of Vlad the Impaler committed suicide from this fortress walls. Being afraid that she will be taken hostage by the Turks on one of their attack on the fortress, Vlad’s wife threw herself from one of the citadel’s walls. She died smashed on the rocks. Legend says that when she died a river that passed nearby got all red from the lady’s blood. Since then, the river is called The Lady’s River.

Where, when, how much?

Poenari Castle lies at about 150 kilometers from Bucharest, the capital of Romania. It is near the town named Curtea de Arges.

If you travel by car you should know that the access to the ruins is made by foot, on 1480 steps. It is not hard to climb those stairs but it takes time to do it. So be sure to reserve at least two hours for the tour at Vlad the Impaler’s castle. The ticket is purchased when you arrive at the Castle. It’s about one euro. There is no guide but on the way up there are signs that offer the tourists information (in English and Romanian) about the history of the place.

Dracula Myth

Vlad the Impaler is considered to be the character described as Dracula in Bram Stocker’s books. Here are some interesting videos about Dracula, Vlad the Impaler and Poenari Castle.