Spend­ing a night at Drac­ula’s cas­tle in Tran­syl­va­nia

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - By Ali­son Mut­ler

Drac­ula’s cas­tle will have overnight guests on Hal­loween, mark­ing the first time since 1948 that any­one has slept in the Tran­syl­va­nian fortress.

The site’s ac­tual name is Bran Cas­tle, and two peo­ple will get to sleep there Oct. 31 thanks to a pro­mo­tion by Airbnb. The guests will be wined and dined, then left alone to lie down in red vel­vet-trimmed coffins just as Drac­ula did in the Bram Stoker hor­ror novel that pop­u­lar­ized the leg­end.

The 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. Vlad in­spired Stoker’s story of Count Drac­ula.

The Airbnb con­test to find guests for the night launched Mon­day. Ap­pli­cants were asked to use their “vam­piric wit” to imag­ine what they’d say to Count Drac­ula if they met him. Win­ners will be flown to Ro­ma­nia and then taken to the cas­tle set dra­mat­i­cally in the Carpathian Moun­tains. If they’re too spooked to sleep in the coffins, beds are on hand.

The cas­tle is one of Ro­ma­nia’s top tourist at­trac­tions, with more than 630,000 vis­i­tors a year. Host­ing the one-off Airbnb event is a de­scen­dant of Bram Stoker, Dacre Stoker.

“I want to make it both re­al­is­tic and show the leg­end in the won­der­ful coun­try that birthed the whole thing,” Stoker said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. He’ll play the role of Jonathan Harker, a char­ac­ter from the novel who en­coun­ters Drac­ula at the cas­tle. When the win­ners ar­rive in a horse­drawn car­riage, he plans to greet them us­ing the same words Drac­ula used in his an­ces­tor’s story: “Wel­come to my house! En­ter freely. Go safely, and leave some­thing of the hap­pi­ness you bring!”

Stoker added that stag­ing “Hal­loween night in Drac­ula cas­tle” was a way of “re-cre­at­ing the book, and giv­ing peo­ple a good ex­pe­ri­ence and a good scare.”

The win­ning pair will tour the cas­tle, then be treated to a can­dle­light din­ner of chicken pa­prikash, the same meal de­scribed in the novel. Airbnb’s rules for the night are sim­ple: no gar­lic or sil­ver jew­elry — both be­lieved to ward off vam­pires — and this re­minder: “The count is not a fan of mir­ror self­ies.” (Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, a vam­pire’s im­age can­not be seen in mir­rors.)

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.

Vlad im­paled his vic­tims as pun­ish­ment for wrong­do­ing. His vic­tims re­put­edly in­cluded all the elderly res­i­dents of one com­mu­nity to avenge the deaths of his fa­ther and brother.

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. A Ro­ma­nian com­pany man­ages the cas­tle which is rented for wed­dings, soirees and cor­po­rate events. Haps­burg plays an ac­tive role in the site, but no­body has stayed overnight there since Haps­burg and his fam­ily were ex­iled from Ro­ma­nia.

The cas­tle is very pop­u­lar with tourists. “We just love Hal­loween, so what drew us to Ro­ma­nia was Tran­syl­va­nia,” said Gina Ric­cia­rdi of Boca Ra­ton, Florida, vis­it­ing with her hus­band and friends. “We wanted to see Drac­ula’s cas­tle and just ex­pe­ri­ence the whole Drac­ula.”

Might Count Drac­ula him­self show up on Oct. 31?

“Did he re­ally die at end of the novel when he was stabbed with knife? Bram leaves the ques­tion am­bigu­ous,” Stoker said. “But if he’s still float­ing around, he would make an ap­pear­ance.”

Com­pe­ti­tion: https:// www.airbnb.com/night-at/ drac­ula

Cas­tle Web­site: http:// www.bran-cas­tle.com

PHO­TOS BY ANDREEA ALEXANDRU — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bran Cas­tle lies on top of cliffs in Bran, Ro­ma­nia on Oct. 9. Airbnb has launched a con­test to find two peo­ple to stay overnight in the cas­tle on Hal­loween, pop­u­larly known as Drac­ula’s cas­tle be­cause of its con­nec­tion to the cruel real-life prince Vlad the Im­paler, who in­spired the leg­end of Drac­ula.

Two girls light up can­dles be­fore a photo shoot in Bran Cas­tle, in Bran, Ro­ma­nia on Oct. 9.

Apor­trait of Vlad the Im­paler is hung on a wall in Bran Cas­tle, in Bran, Ro­ma­nia on Oct. 9.

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