Saturday, November 04, 2017

Romania Context Timeline, Vlad II Dracul and Vlad III Dracula, Vlad Tepes, the Impaler.

A.  Overview
B.  Romania Context Timeline - Three Vlads
C.  Comment

A. There are three Vlads.  Vlad I:  Ruled briefly 1394-1397;  Vlad II Dracul, Order of the Dragon; and his son Vlad III Dracula, also Order of the Dragon, Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler.  Explore the turmoil and context of their lives, Ottoman incursions, Hungarian control, In 1410, Sigismund I of Hungary and other illustrious posts (including Holy Roman Emperor later) established the Society of Dragonists, Society of the Dragon, See 
That Don Linke site has been helpful in sorting out names and inconsistencies.  Where no attribution is given in this timeline, revert to 

Of interest: the link between Christian fervor and military objectives.
  • Vlad II Dracul, joined the religious fervor of the Christian Sigismund of Luxembourg not out of religious upbringing, but out of practicality. Like Olaf of Norway, join the Christians not because of conversion, but because of organization, resources, weaponry.  Is that so? See Norway Road Ways.  See FN 1 comment here. 
    • So, out of the constant battling of the 14th Century as the Ottomans advanced, retreated, advanced again, emerges a triangle:  
      • Religious Christian  Sigismund of Luxembourg, fostering the Wallachians  and Society of Dragonists, en crusade;  and against Muslims, Ottomans under Murad I and Mehmet II.  
      • New fervor religious Christian Vlad II and Vlad III Dracula;  and
      •  The 'secular humanist'  Janos Hunyadi, see that characterization at  Not an ideologue, relying on his own leadership abilities to counter the Ottomans, delay, divert prevent the Vlads from compromising with the Ottomans (all the impaling only 
      • delayed the onset by some 40 years)
Again, an anchor site here is; other sites listed specificallly in addition. Where there are contradictions, will lay it out.

B.  Timeline


1290 -- Romania founded by Radu Negru, Rudolph the Black. Hungary dominated.

1310-1352 -- Rule by Basarab I, see

1330 -- Romania independent of Hungary (but still a province? vassal?) and under first king, Basarab the Great, identified as an ancestor of Vlad III

1352-1364 -- Rule by Nicolae Alexandru  see

1364-1377 -- Rule by Vladislav I ("Vlalcu")

1377-1383 -- Rule by Radu I

1383-1386 -- Rule by Dan I

1386-1418 -- Rule by Mircea the Old, see See  Mrcea had several illegitimate sons, including Vlad II.  Was Alexandru Aldea also illegitimate? And Radu II Prasnaglava or Presnaglava, who died in 1427?  Were there any legitimate sons.  See narrative at (Alexandru Aldea identified as illegitimate).

But see 1394-1397 - Start with Vlad I.  Interpose the Rule of Vlad I of Wallachia, Vlad the Usurper, Vlad Uzurpaturul, who took the throne from Mircea the old for  3 years, , see .  What is Vlad I's relationship to Vlad II, illegitimate son of Mircea the Old; who became Vlad II when he took Wallachia, see below.

1387-1437 -- Sigismund I  King of Hungary and then Holy Roman Emperor.   

1397-1418 -- Mircea the Old resumed his rule of Wallachia. What happened to Vlad I?  See list of voivodes at

1408 -- Sigismund of Hungary founded the Society of Dragonists, Order of the Dragon. See   Order was similar to the Crusading orders, the Order of the Dragon, the Society of the Dragonists, here see

Drac in Romanian also means devil.   
gSemantics:  Drac, dragon.  Dracul -- The Dragon.  Dracula -- Son of The Dragon.

Sigismund: Pivotal in many places.
1408 --Sigismund I became ruler of Luxembourg (how?) and founded an Order

1410 -- Sigismund I of Hungary and Luxembourg becomes Holy Roman Emperor. This timelineL Sigismund as HRE 1433-1437, see

Some time -- [Vlad I lived, known only through the designation of  Vlad II (Vlad II Dracul).  Son Vlad III Dracula.  But Vlad

1418 -1420 -- Rule by Mihail I.  See  See also factional split.  1.  Descendants of Mircea, vs.  2.  another faction led by "Dan" or "the Danesti".  This Danesti is different from the early tribe known as the Dacians from Roman times, see 

1420-1431-- Rule by Dan II; then interpose briefly in 1421 Radu II "Presnaglava". In a google translator, 'presnaglava' shows as Slovenian, and means "We are overwhelming."   Then back to Dan II. Then in summer 1423 back to Radu II Presnaglava, Then back and forth between the two until 1431. See
  • Mircea had an illegitimate son,  Vlad,  father of Vlad Tepes, Vlad father later Vlad II.  At some point, Mircea sent his illegitimate son Vlad to the Court King Sigismund of Hungary, see Events that Formed the Modern World eds. Thackeray and Finding 2012.   Vlad became a member of the Order of the Dragon founded by Charles IV of Luxembourg, a Christian society dedicated to the defeat of the Ottomans -- thus the name Vlad Dracul.

14___ -- First Son.  Prince Vlad Dracul (later Vlad II) has  first son, Mircea, elder brother of the later Vlad Tepes.  The family name becomes Draculesti,  a branch of the House of Basarab, at

1431 -- King Sigismnud installed  Prince Vlad Dracul as Military Governor of Transylvania,  (was Transylvania still a vassal of Hungary? ) Meanwhile, Wallachia to the south was ruled by a Danesti Prince, Alexandru, some disagreement on identity.

1431-1436  -- Rule in Wallachia by Alexandru I Aldea. 
Was this a brother of Vlad II? See And that Vlad III's father's brother was Alexander Andeu.  See kishiniev site. Aldea, Andeu, not sure.

Prince Vlad  Dracul coveted Wallachia.   Here, Alexandru is stated , however, not as a Danesti but as Vlad Dracul's brother -- that would be the legitimate son of Mircea the Old?  see

Wallachia at time was pulled in two directions -- a vassal of Hungary to the northeast, as well as dominated by Ottomans, Turks, to the south, see  Events that Formed the Modern World .  Vlad Dracul - which to honor, self and aspirations, or loyalty to Hungary? 

1431 --   Second Son. Vlad Dracul has second son, Vladul' (Vlad Dracula, later Tepes, or the Impaler). See   Name Vladul' - see 

1436-1442 -- Rule by Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Devil see 

Vlad Dracul, settled in Transylvania nearby with approval of Sigismund. I This is a lesser role than being military governor, see  Vlad Dracul wanted Wallachia. 
  • Vlad Dracul's half brother Alexander I Aldea, legitimate son (or illegitimate also, but elder?) of Mircea the Old, had a superior claim and ruled Wallachia util his death.  Issue:  Did Alexander I Aldea die naturally, or was he killed by Vlad Dracul? see kishiniov) cc
  • Vlad Dracul was second tier but was displeased that Alexander bowed to the Sultan Murad II.  See
  • 1436 -- Prince Vlad Dracul gathers supporters and invades Wallachia, and acording to this acount, kills his brother Alexandru Aldea and becomes Vlad II.  See also  
1437 -- Sigismund I died 

1438 -- Turks, Murad II invades Wallachia    

1439 -- Third son.  Vlad Dracul has third son, Radu. Radu the Handsome, see Events. and

1441 -- John Hunyadi, voivode (prince)) of Transylvania convinces Vlad  Dracul to join in an effort against the Ottomans, defeats an Ottoman army in Transylvania, then Murad convinces Vlad I to come to Edirne to talk peace (east Thrace, near borders of Greece and Bulgaria, Turkish. Hone in at map.) 
Hunyadi: a 'contemporary humanist' see

1442 -- March-summer -- Rule by Mircea (which?)  

1442 -- Turks invade Transylvania.  See Events that Formed the Modern World .  Vlad Dracul did not act against them because Wallachia where he also ruled was itself a vassal of the Ottomans. But Sigismund had also made Vlad overseer of Transylvania, and the Hungarians became angry.  

Vlad Dracul turned to the Ottomans (Sultan Murat II) for help in keeping his throne in Wallachia, see Events,  Then, to anchor his ongoing loyalty to the Ottomans, Vlad Dracul is required to leave his two younger sons, Vlad and Radu, like hostages, at the Ottoman court at Adrianople, see Events, Kishiniov.

Vlad I is captured in the Turkish city of Edirne (northwest from Istanbul now) by Murad.
Imprisoned at Gallipoli, see

 Hunyadi invades Wallachia.  Made the cousin of Vlad, Basarab II, voivode.   Hunyadi begins a 1442-1443 engagement against Ottomans (the "Long Campaign"), with help of Venice and the Papacy, see
  • Inter-group involvements. Janos Hunyadi: among the first rulers to maintain a standing army rather than rely on feudal levies. Hired Czechs, Serbs, veterans. See site. Crossed the Danube, into Serbia (Sofia is now Bulgaria) to fortified Turkish garrisons. Got to the Balkans, were forced back by winter weather, and regrouped in Buda, Montenegro.
1442-1443 -- after summer -- Rule by Basarab II

1443-1447 -- Rule by Vlad Dracul.  
  • Vlad Dracul is released, but has to leave his 2 younger sons (Vlad II and Radu) as hostage of the Ottomans.  Vlad I regained Wallachia, with Ottoman support (what happened to Basarab II?).  See 
  • Elder son: Mircea -- was he written off as beyond protection? What?
Hostage status had advantages; being groomed, perhaps, for later posts; and disadvantages, the advances of the Sultan (see as to Radu, at kishiniov)

1443-1447  --Vlad Dracul rules Wallachia.
  • Crusade of Varna:  John Hunyadi sends 4000 horsemen against Ottomans. Vlad I also sent his sother son Mircea, see kishiniov.   Murad II had sued for peace, but Hunyadi's forces were unable to prevent resurgence, and Murad prevailed at Varna, ultimately Hunyadi barely escaped, see

1445 -- Vlad I captures Giurgiu, Ottoman fortress

1446 -- Hunyadi becomes governor of Hungary.  Meanwhile, Vlad makes peace with the Ottomans, see  This angers Hunyadi who invades Wallachia and Vlad has to flee from Targoviste

1447 -- Vlad Dracul was killed "at a nearby village" see  Kishiniov says Vlad was killed by John Hunyadi; 

The Turkish Emperor (Sultan?) sent Vlad III to rule in Wallachia. See kishiniov.  

The First Son:  Then comes the fate of Vlad II's elder son, Mircea, if this is the right chronology.  Mircea was captured, blinded and buried alive at Targoviste. By whom? The kishiniov article continues later: that it was Vlad III  himself who had bis elder brother buried alive. 

1448 -- Hunyadi lost to the Turks at Kosovo, influence began to wane

1448-1456 -- Rule by Vladislav II, a "distant cousin", who unseated Vlad III Dracula, and rules Wallachia, see kishiniov.  Vlad Dracul fled to Moldova, to an uncle Bogdan ruling there. 

1451 -- Vlad Dracul musters supporters and leaves Moldova, to try to retake Wallachia. kishiniov.  Senators at Brasov were asked by Vladislav, however, to send Vlad Dracul back to Moldova, but apparently they did not do so, angering Vladislav. Vladislav sent two Hungarian noblemen, assassins, to do the deed on Vlad while in Geoagiu.  [Is that the same Ottoman fortress, the Giurgiu ,that Vlad II captured? see above]  

Vlad III  needed support, and went, oh no, to John Hunyadi's court  for it.  What else could he do? Yet, this, was the court of the killer of his father Vlad II see kishiniov. Many pulls.

1453 -- Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans under Mehmed II.  In Europe, the Order of the Dragon declines, but remained vital to Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary still confronting Ottomans.  

1456 -- Hunyadi's support for Vlad III pans out   He nstalls Vlad III as military commander in southern Transylvania.  Hunyadi then musters his own supporters yet again and defeats Ottomans at Battle of Belgrade.  Meanwhile, Vlad III invades Wallachia and kills Vladislav, and takes Wallachia.

1456-1462 -- Vlad III rules Wallachia.  Took it with help of Hungarians.
 1458 -- Hunyadi died during an epidemic.   

1458-1490 -- Son Matthias I becomes king, Mathias Corvinus.  See Kingdom of Hungary at  King of Croatia and Hungary, illustrious soldier, statesman, philosopher.  The name "corvinus" comes from the raven on his shield coat of arms. See  The city of Buda recurs, now in Montenegro and a resort area. 

1462 -- Vlad III is forced off his mountain castle eyrie, Poinari Citadel in the Carpathians. We were told that his wife, fearing capture by the Ottomans, flung herself off the ramparts and down to the gorge of the Arges River below. See it at  It is dicey to park your car, even with the little we carry in the little trunk, down in the parking lot and know it will be hours before you return.  Trust, grasshopper, trust. We were fine.  The castle began construction under (says site) the Black King. Is that Radu the Black, Radu Negru in 1290, see above. Wiki says he was from the Fagaras region, but also attributes the founding not to Radu but to a Basarab, see   The road by the castle entry is the Transfagarasan Pass or Transfagarasan Road. Check before starting out to see it is open (snows).

Vlad fled through a village named Arefu (that still honors him) (go visit; there is a small guesthouse) and back to the court of, not John Hunyadi any more, but his son ruling  Mathias Corvinus;  who imprisoned him. Is this the castle at Hunedoara?

1462-1474 --  Vlad imprisoned, but rehabilitating apparently. He converted to Catholicism instead of Orthodoxy. Would that matter to Mathias? Was the Mathias Corvinus castle still at Hunedoara?

1462-1473 -- Rule by Radu the Handsome, Radu cel Frumos, younger brother of Vlad. 

1473-1476 -- Rule alternates between Radu the Handsome and Basarab cel Batrin Laiota, Basarab the Old, battle, battle. See Then Radu dies, and Basarab the Old rules.

1476 -- Vlad III Dracula again invades, with a mixed force, his supporters and some of Basarab. Death of Vlad III Dracula, facing an overwhelming Ottoman force near Bucharest, and with his own forces deserting to Transylvania, and Basarab's also falling away.  Many conflicting reports as to which side killed Vlad III, his own, Basarab's, or the Ottomans.  The Ottomans got the body, decapitated it, and here stories again vary:  Either the head was taken to Sultan Mehmet in Constantinople; and the body remained;  to be taken later by friendly forces into Bulgaria, to a monastery; and the body buried at the monastery at Snagov near Bucharest (now an island, was it then?). But there was digging at Snagov, at the doorway at least (why not at the altar?) and the bones found were not human (chicken, we were told). Is he elsewhere there?  The altar area has a memorial.

1476-1477 -- Rule of Basarab the Old Laiota

1477-1481 -- Rule of Basarab the Younger, Basarab cel Tinar

1481 -- Rule by Mircea (which?)

See eliznik site for successive rulers through 1859.  Follow the Kingdom of Hungary at

Overviews and maps continue at Pinterest.

C.  Comment:
Religious fervor does not always underlie alliances with religious groups. Look first, before expecting to find evidence of ideological conversion, to what is offered under the table:, or above it -- resources, organization, ready fighting bodies, weaponry in exchange for live bodies worshipping (and paying) as required.  The prospect of such advantage in seeking or retaining power against an enemy may well stir moral (?) attitudes otherwise happily dormant.  Just as with the conversion of Scandinavia to Christianity, Olaf and others first found in their visits to the Holy Roman Empire vast resources, skills in warfare, support for the aspirations of the ruler ito overcome rivals in exchange for ready forced conversion, that were irresistible.  See Conversion Among the Germanic Peoples
by Carole M. Cusack 1998, for example, esp. p.3: conversion just happening to coincide with expansion, Christian kingship bringing a "sacral" justification to the governance role.

Now see the Ottoman advances in the 14th-15th centuries --  alliance with the Holy Roman Empire was seen as a ready means to win affected not just those on the front lines from time to time, but also remote areas -- like Luxembourg -- where Sigismund founded the Order of the Dragon in 1410, the Society of Dragonists, of which Vlad II Dracul and Vlad III Dracula (who wasn't a vampire at all), became spearheads.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Romania Road Ways Vlad Tepes Merged at Romania Road Ways

In response to requests, the posts relevant to Vlad III Tepes have been merged at the overall Romania improvised road trip site,

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Vlad Route

The Vlad sites are appropriately separated out here, because of the extensive identification of the country with that medieval ruler. Our recommendation is to incorporate Vlad in an overall trip to Romania, because the distances can be long and there is so much more to see.  See
We take a middle ground, and offer the Vlad sites here, on their own, and also refer to them in our overall route to show how they fit easily in a road trip.  Romania Road Ways I
Our improvised road trip begins and ends in Bucharest. Here is the index to posts, with fast overviews.
1. Bucharest - Fly in.  Have some Romanian cash with you already - we had $200 from home.  The airport has ATM's also and Bank exchanges, but those lines can be long. ATM's outside the airport may not be available outside main towns.  Get rental car and immediately head north. Our practice is to save big cities for the end, and immediately aim for the countryside.  Thus, the need for cash.
2. Lake Snagov.  This is the possible-doubtful burial place for all or part of Vlad Tepes, beheaded on a battlefield, apparently.  The burial is at a lovely monastery, not the original, but a smaller reconstruction.  Parts may have been there, still lovely and worth being rowed over). Vlad. monastery island claimed burial place , and Lake Snagov;  for details on Vlad, read the novel "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova -- definitely a novel, but a good read with interesting facts and factoids, see
3. Bran Castle (not much connection in fact with Vlad, but it is tourist-convenient), Brasov. Bran Castle.  The guides there will disavow any Vlad connection except perhaps an occasional overnight stay as a visitor.  Tourism has taken over, but enjoy.
4. Poinari Citadel, Poinari Citadel, at the Transfagarasan Pass.  This pass takes you from Wallachia to Transylvania; on the way, through the steep and formidable vales, is the real castle, now a ruin but worth the climb.  To make it easier, the climb is an easy series of switchbacks for walking, and a rail. Transfagarasan Pass.  Take a few dollars for the guides up there. I understand that a dollar can buy a great deal. 
5. Sighisoara (birthplace), Sighisoara, a lovely medieval town, long staircases from one level of the town to another for protection, great timbers for the stairs.  His birthplace is now a restaurant, and a good one.
6. Bistrita (fiction author Bram Stoker and his "Dracula" site, tavern there).  This gets to the fictional side of Dracula.  The town is unremarkable except for the interest in how Bram Stoker, an Irishman, turned the historic Vlad into the vampire Dracula.
7. Castel Dracula, at Piatra Fontanele.  There is a new hotel here, serving not only the tourists who enjoy Dracula's story; but also serious hikers, climbers.  This is where Bram Stoker's fictional character's castle supposedly located, in central hiking-outdoor-near wilderness type park, some kitsch but fine), Castel Dracula, Piatra Fontanele,
8. Hunedoara.  Town. Its castle is known as Hunedoara Castle, a/k/a Corvinilor Castle, or Corvinilor Castulul.  It was built in the 14th Century by Hungarian John Hunyadi, ruler of Transylvania, sometime ally, sometimes enemy (he ordered the death of Vlad's father), see Corvin Castle, Hunedoara
Iancu de Hunedoara. Johannes Hunedoara. Spellings from different languages, make researching complex.
 This site underplays his role with Vlad, see; this Angelfire site goes too far into areas of the occult, see
Start research instead with Romanian sources? Try
9. Targoviste (actual court), the Princely Court,  Targoviste, practice your browser's translation ability at  For a touristy site but with a nice photograph, see
10. Curtea Veche (Bucharest), an actual court of Vlad III Tepes, the "old court", is still being excavated), Bucharest court, Curtea Veche, see
11.Dracula Club (Bucharest).  This is a themed eating club, kitsch and fun, and clearly and appropriately geared for tourists. Dracula Club. Apparently the idea has caught on, see  When we were there, unfortunately at the same time as a promotional evening October 31 for tour guides from the US, some guides were commenting to each other that the distance between Vlad sites would be a detraction from tours just focused on Vlad, and we agree.  So incorporate Vlad in everything else.  Fried rats.  Yum. Chicken breast covered with poppy seeds, tail of pasta, ears of pasta, whiskers, little beady eyes.
If you prefer a formal tour, this one looks good; but bus rides over long distances must get boring.  See photos and narrative at  Here is a site with a fine introductory set of photographs on Vlad Tepes sites - at

Sunday, September 09, 2007


We leave directly from airports, to more open country. It gives a chance to get accustomed to the car, maps. We have no fixed destination for the first night.  Just have cash on hand.
  • Eastern Europe may not be familiar to you.  See some videos for your own orientation about history:
Romania History Part 1;
Romania History Part 2
Romania History Part 3
1.  Distances. Accommodations.
Distances are substantial between the Vlad sites, so plan to stop many times along the way.  For distances between major towns, see Romania Driving Distances
Most every town has several choices for accommodations.  No reservations are needed.  This idea makes some people nervous, so we include some possibles here.  Never once did we need a reservation anywhere in Romania, however, and all was safe, clean, and our choice of location.
Prince Charles sponsors guest houses.  There is also a new category of accommodations, thanks to Prince Charles - he has been fostering the preservation and renewal of traditional structures, and use as guesthouses, see Prince Charles, sponsoring Guesthouses, other preservation sites.
We enjoy the spontaneous stop, or seeing where we might have stopped had it been the end of the day - example Pensiunea Dracula at Cazare, see Poinari Citadel.
  • A cazari is an apartment, we understand, and a pensione is a rooming house. We did not stay here - it is midday clearly, and we had miles to go.
  • Why travel on your own?  You can find places like this, that most tour groups would not touch perhaps because it does not have those ridiculous stars that mean only conformity. 

Pensiunea Dracula, Dracula Pensione, Cazare (accommodation), Arges, Romania

2.  Overview map.
For a simple map of where these Vlad II Tepes, Vlad Dracula, places are located, see
Vlad tours:  beware that some tours may add filler sites to break up the tedium of buses only going to "Vlad" sites.  Those added ones, may be really peripheral: added by tour companies to beef up the ads. 
Tour guides.  Watch yourselves.  You do not make good diplomats when not officially on duty.  Is that so?  You get overheard anyway, including by local people. FN 1
3.  Counties. Regional highlights by time of year
See a map of all the counties, click and find the accommodations. There is also a side menu by town.  County map, Romania - Tourist Accommodationsin Romania. Many sites are in Romanian: go here for another map of accommodations,, and click to translate.  Cazari is not a town, it means accommodations.
FN 1 

Bucharest at the Dracula Club on Halloween. There were American tour guides there, on tour themselves, in a large group figuring out how to package Dracula tours. A "Romania" tour without the specialty would be better, with highlights for Vlad. We stand by our Vlad sites here as the most historically solid.
Some guides were discussing the long bus rides between sites (this is true - distances) and that they needed filler between, to keep tourists happy (probably true). Some tour guides also took pride in saying -- loudly -- almost like a brag, that they would never eat local food. With attitudes like that, especially so rudely said loudly, some of us would never take a tour.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Lake Snagov, Snagov Monastery - Vlad's island burial? Complex Astoria

Lake Snagov, 
Snagov Monastery, 
Burial, Possible once,  Vlad III Tepes
Complex Astoria
1.  Lake Snagov.  This is a traditional resort area now, and about 18 miles from Bucharest. It looked like a perfect first destination.  We avoid motorways, so arriving there took longer than usual.  If you are pressed for time, take the motorway. Arrival is worth it. Even if you get lost, you will be safe we found.
Lake Snagov, Romania. Rowing to monastery from Complex Astoria

2.  Complex Astoria.  We had trouble locating the guidebook's recommendation for overnight, the "Complex Astoria".  No wonder:  it had closed for the season (we were there in October). Still, we drove in and enough maintenance and other people were there -- got a room.  The alternative would have been to drive on to Brasov.  See FN 1
3.  Roma.  On the way, the first glimpse of rural Romania was stark. We drove through small, dirt poor either peasant or Roma villages. We believe they were Rom, or Gypsy, because of their darker skin and such poverty.  Along the road: old women bent double under firewood, gaunt faces in doorways. We could not be sure at that early time in our visit.  Everyone was helpful, pointed the way.
For any candidate in any country for any substantial elected office: what have you done to promote the well-being of the Roma population in your borders? Education? Structures? Jobs? Health?
4.  Dinner when there is no dinner.  Magazin Mixt.
That means convenience store. We had a fine meal from a general deli (dried sausage, rolls, cheese), a kind of bodega, at a village. People came around to stare, but we felt welcome.
There were no other cars out there in the country where we were, dirt road, dirt houses, dirt everywhere, no amenities, even so close to Bucharest. There were deep ruts from the wagon wheels, and horses. Horse carts. That has probably changed by now, with the funding coming in from the EU membership. Has it?
2.  Snagov Monastery:  The only way to get to the island monastery, and the alleged burial place of Vlad;s body (the claim) is by rowboat. Strong young men at Astoria will do the rowing. Leave plenty of time. Transport to the island is by rowboat. Go fast, before all this changes to motor launches and noise. See it at
The Monastery:

There is a small church on the island, with a priest taking the entry tickets to the interior spot in front of the altar where Vlad is said to be buried. See  This looks like a Romanian offering an overview, to be preferred over the tourism sites, see
Apparently he is not there any more.  The story tells that he was moved (his body - the head was decapitated during battle) to the outside, by the door, to protect it. Then, when places were dug up to find him, there was no sign -- only chicken or other animal bones.
Still, there are records that he had once been buried in the church.
The interior is lovely. One novel, "The Historian," by Elizabeth Kostova, see focuses at one point on where the head might have gone, then the body, and by whom, and what happened to the parts next. Are all reunitings good things? See and speculate about the stories at - Vlad tales.
FN 1.  Complex Astoria
Overnight.  This had been a communist resort, still is a resort, see  Use your translator at  Beware that it is seasonal. This was October, and just past the tourist season. More at It was already in process of closing until spring completely, and we were the only guests there.  Nervous?  Why.  It's too late to go elsewhere, we don't travel fancy, our backpacks are all we have, and without faith in human nature no travel is worth it anyway.  When the door would not lock, we stuck a chair under the knob as seen on TV.  Done.
Be sure to have some cash -- either from the US or an airport exchange or bank ATM because not all places are equipped to do credit cards once the place is closing.
There are many campsites and chalets at the resort. The main building is a large hotel with atrium, long halls with rooms. Just fine. Back to locks. Check that you know how to work the locks before accepting the room and unpacking. They are not the same as ours. May take several turns. As it turned out, ours would have locked if we just kept turning, and turning.
5.  Timing an arrival somewhere:
Our flight landed just before noon, so we did not have this choice: But do the Snagov trip early in the day. That gives time to go back to the motorway to the next big town (even Brasov), if the Complex Astoria is closed.
If you find yourself in a place without restaurants or hotels, as here (we finally found the Complex) just stop at the nearest Magazin Mixt - at the nearest crossroads - convenience store - and make a picnic. Sit outside and eat, and just be friendly. Lots of horsecarts, people, children.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Brasov: Bran Castle - Popular tradition for Vlad. Not really Vlad.

 Brasov, Bran Castle
This looks "Dracula" but was he ever here? Probably not.

1.  Bran Castle, in Brasov, is about 70 miles north of Snagov Lake, where the island monastery claims to hold Vlad remains, or did. Bran is about 87 miles north of Bucharest.  Brasov gets tourists because Bran Castle looks good, is indeed a real and very historic castle, see, and is not far Bucharest's airport.  It is located in a confluence of trade and military routes, defending against the Ottomans, and became wealthy with customs and other fees and duties.
2.  Vlad's armies also attacked Brasov, but that did not relate particularly to Bran Castle. See the Draculas Info site.  The Bran Fortress is pivotal to Romanian history in its own right:  the incursion of Vlad tourists thinking this is pivotal Vlad does the castle a disservice, diminishing interest in real history.
The guides at the castle will tell you that Vlad was only there as a guest once in a while, if even that, or was imprisoned there. It is lovely, well restored, but tenuous in any significant connection or any connection at all to the historic Vlad Tepes.
Tours do hype the factoid that Vlad lived there. But it makes a buck - or lei, or the new leu.  For the claims, see, for example.
A recent TV show (this is an update 2/2/07) showed Bran Castle and the town of Brasov, as one of the walled towns that Vlad used in anchoring his rule, especially against the Ottoman invasion. There was no hint of that when we were there, but we see now that he had other connections to Brasov.  He was arrested near Brasov by Matthias Corvinus; and he later, for other reasons, led an assault on the town and impaled many on a nearby hill.  It was a successful commercial town, with many influential Saxon merchants.  Vlad led an assault on Brasov (no mention of Bran) to break the hold of the Saxons.  Credibility of all the accounts historically is questionable, but they clinched his reputation. See overview account at

3.  Vlad the Impaler and "Impalement"

Impalement:  this was also a means of "crucifixion", see Crucifixion, history, uses, variations for etymology and more information than you want to know.  The point is that the method was common. Did Vlad do more than most? Probably, or not? Takes more research than merely looking at woodcuts with agendas, making a point.
4.  Return of property.
I read that the government is giving the castle back to the heirs, so it may or may not remain open as a tourist destination. Vlad or not, it is lovely.
5.  Comparing history with legend
Some sites do a fine job of comparing the legends with the historical reality, as far as that is known or debated now. We took time to read the exhibits.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Transfagarasan Pass - Carpathian Alps - Route from Wallachia to Transylvania

Transfagarasan Pass
Carpathian Mountains

Carpathian Mountains, Transfagarasan Pass, Romania

1.  Blasting open the Pass

The Fagaras Mountains, are part of the Carpathian Range.  Wallachia is on one side (Vlad was Wallachian) and Transylvania on the other.

There is a history of hardship and labor deaths here, from blasting a way across and through a tunnel, for vehicles. See

The Pass was built as a way to move troops and ammunition to defend against a feared Soviet invasion, 1968. The Transfagarasan Pass, through and over the Transfagarasan Mountains, is more easily remembered by the name of the town at the north side, Fagaras. See

2. Accessibility

The Pass in these mountains is open as weather and season permit.

There is a sign at a town in the southern end of the road, at Curtea de Arges, that will give the information, we now hear.

We didn't know that, but went up anyway with the intention of using common sense, and turning back if the road was closed. This was the end of October - lovely for leaves, not quite New England, but fine.  The fine weather below can be misleading. Again, before going toward the Tranfagarasan Pass, check that the entire road north is open through the Carpathians. It closes seasonally, and depending on the weather. The gap on maps signifies tunnels, against rock slides and snow.

3.  Accommodations

Cabanas is the magic word. There are hotel-type places for sleeping, called Cabanas. Are they government-run? Not sure.  Just don't let it get dark on you. Stop in time. For an overview of the mountains in Romania, see "Romania's Road to Heaven," at

On the way, we knew there would be "cabanas" or small hotels, but did not expect the distances between. Don't wait too long in the day to stop. You need all the visibility you can get - not all vehicles have good headlights, and animals may wander in the road. We were just about to turn back, when one appeared. Do not expect signs to tell you when the next will emerge.

At the northern end of the pass are Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad III Tepes, and Sibiu; entry to the painted monastery areas, and much more. See Romania Road Ways.

Transfagarasan Pass, midday hike, Romania

Start early the next day.  There are hairpin turns, incredible cliffs and a winding road.

We took our time the next day. Stop along the way and take a hike. If you are a worrier about leaving the car, you will miss out. We never had a problem. How long will that last? There is the Car half of the Car-Dan Tour Company, snapped by the Dan, crossing a boulder-strewn creek bed with no particular destination in mind.

Then, in the distance and above, is the Vlad Tepes castle, where he sought to defend against the invading Ottomans.
This site does not name Poinari Citadel, however; but tells the story as he escapes to another castle at Targoviste.  See; and the more touristy

Vlad Tepes castle ruin, Poinari Citadel, Transfagarasan Pass, Romania

The castle ruin is to the left, on the mountaintop.

This Carpathian area is historically central to any trip to Romania, whether focusing on Vlad or not. His actual castle up here, one of them, is a fine attraction, but there is much else to see. See

More blogs about Romania Road Ways Vlad Tepes - Impaler.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Poinari Citadel, ruin of castle of Vlad III Tepes (Transfagarasan Pass)

Poenari Citadel, Poinari Citadel.
Castle Ruin, Vlad Tepes
Phonetics change spellings. Search various ways.

Vlad's real castle.

At the top of the mountain is the ruin of the actual castle of Vlad Tepes, where he defended against the Turks, then escaped. His wife, however, had already hurled herself from the parapet in despair, and in fear of being captured. The site is known as the Poenari Citadel. See
1.  Getting there.
Watch for a small parking area below, few signs if any, near a utilities complex in the valley.  There is a manageable walk up a long S-curves; and there are even some long stair steps at places on the pathway. This is not a climb, just a long, long walk.

Dan Widing, Poenari Citadel path, Castle, Vlad Tepes, Romania
Some buses or vans with tourists arrived after we started up,, and a small group was ahead.  We often had to leave the car far behind, and just trusted it would be there. It always was, and no reason for concern except our own.
The ruin is good for climbing around, but not extensive in size.
The path is safe, with a pipe-type railing to keep you on track. A group of Romanian teens behind us called the rail The Great Wall of Romania. Lots of laughs - Japanese tourists were ahead of us. This is clearly a worldwide attraction, but not crowded in October.
2.  Guides.
These are not really needed, because there are signs and pathways, but expect someone to join you and expect a payment. We did that, and I only regret not giving more.  Sometimes, however, with a larger tip, there is more intrusion as the guide wants to be sure you get your money's worth.
Our guide appeared when we were just about at the top, from a little house up there. Do carry some dollars for people who are especially helpful. They really want them, and deserve to be compensated. I tended to tip in Romanian currency, however. Dollars: There is a midground to caution. I do wish I had been more generous with other individuals, like older women sitting asking for money at the monastery gates.
3.  Arefu - the village that spirited Vlad away
View from Poenari Citadel, Castle ruin, Vlad Tepes, Romania
Vlad escaped with the help of villagers at Arefu nearby. I understand that the villagers still identify with that event and can name the individuals and their descendants.

Vlad rewarded them with land, an unusual step for peasants. For an account of places and his life, see the Vlad sites at  Someone slept out up there. See
View from the ruin itself, to the road below.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Vlad and current events: Uses of extreme interrogations, torture for political ends

Poinari Citadel
Ottoman Invasions of Romania

Vlad Tepes III engaged in torture, to preserve law and order, for which his citizens were grateful, and to fend off the invading Ottomans, for which his citizens were also grateful. Biography: at  His form of impalement was the Persian, through-the chest-breastbone area, judging from the woodcuts. See, if you must,

That worked for about 40 years. He is revered in Romania, as far as we could tell. See post. Still, his tactics did not last. The drastic measures just gave a reprieve until the Turks regrouped and came again. See Romania Road Ways

Needed now: 

Put the history of Romania and its reputation for torture and political repression in perspective. What uses do cultures make of pain, by whom, against whom, and why. Are we so far removed.   Is impersonal use of agent orange, or napalm, any more moral than impalement just because the victims of napalm are, or become faceless; and impalement is highly personal. Extreme interrogations: are those so much verbiage for torture but on an individual level -- any less worse?

Global Menswear - The Cap. Measure by Pi. Poenari Citadel

 The Driving Cap
The Practical Cap at Poinari Citadel

Universals in travel.  The men's driving cap. See it here at Vlad's castle ruin in Romania, worn by The Guide.

Many of us know little of the stitcheries of driving caps vs. newsboys' caps, and other similar caps around the world. The fashion is global because it is practical, the cap is easy to carry, stays on, and looks good.

Style details.  We understand this about details: the well-designed and well-fitting cap accommodates base of skull to hairline, no puckering.  It should be stitched (not snapped) at the front (we do not recall here).  There should be three panels to be a driving cap, and more like eight for the more circular, wider newsboy's cap.  Think of the 1930's - kids on the streets hawking papers.

Sometimes there is a buckle in the back.  The longer the brim in front, the tougher the look.  This fine guide, who lives near the ruin, was gentle and had a welcoming cap.

Measuring for a driving cap.  What is your size?  For a European cap, measure your head, say in inches for Americans, then multiply that times 2.54;  or, for an American cap, divide by 3.14 or pi.