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Bran Castle is deep in the Carpathian Mountains in the area of Romania called Transylvania, about 20 miles from Brasov the second largest city in Romania. It is a good example of a gothic fairy-tale castle and today is better known as Dracula's Castle. In fact, his castle was a few miles away and is now in ruins but for some reason the name has stuck.
The first wooden castle was built by the Teutonic Knights in 1212 and was known as Dietrichstein. It was built on a rock, 60m high, at the narrowest part of the Turcu river valley and was connected to the mountain by a viaduct which gave a great view up the valley making it hard for attackers. By the end of the century, Saxons had taken it over and used it to protect the important trade centre of Brasov and the Bran mountain pass below. In 1370 it was attacked and badly damaged by invading Turks.
In 1377 the castle was rebuilt by the citizens of Brasov and consisted of a four-storey keep with a lookout post on the top, two towers, a curtain wall and underground rooms used as a prison. The walls were built of stone from the river, bricks and some of the upper parts of wood and had rectangular firing holes as was common in Transylvanian castles. They were allowed a permanent garrison of 12 to 24 soldiers, mostly archers with a few operating ballistas. It was added to over the years and throughout the middle ages stood as a defence against numerous invasions. By the beginning of the 1500s it was used mainly for trading by the local merchants and glass was put in the windows for the first time. They collected tolls and sold cheese, meat and wood. In 1836 it became an official border post and housed Austrian border guards so defense was no longer a priority.
Today the castle has four towers, one of which, the Powder House tower, is from the original 13th century castle and was where gunpowder was stored. The Observation Tower and Eastern Tower, which had murder holes to drop boiling water and pitch on attackers, were added during a 15th century restoration. The Gate Tower was rebuilt in 1622, this time rectangular rather than circular and the curtain walls were strengthened until they were 11 feet thick because of the introduction of cannons.
In 1921 Queen Marie did extensive renovations to the castle to change it from a stronghold into a royal palace. The ancient Gunner's Room was converted into the Royal Chapel and an extra floor was added to one of the towers for her secretary. The fire holes were turned into windows. She installed a lift in the well in the courtyard which descended nearly 200 feet to a maze of secret passages together with a tunnel leading to the park in the valley below. It remained a summer palace for the royal family until the abdication of King Michael in 1947. After this it was abandoned and started to fall into disrepair.
The castle was given to the town of Brasov and has been open to the public since 1956 and in 1987 restoration started again as the building was falling down. This was finished in 1993 and has displays of weapons, furniture, statues and hunting trophies.
I have more pictures of this castle HERE