It is generally accepted that Bram Stoker’s famous character, Dracula, was based on the historical figure Vlad Tepes (also called Vlad Dracula and Vlad the Impaler).
Vlad was born in this well to do house in Sighisoara (pictures 1 and 2) in November or December 1431.
His father, Vlad II (Vlad Dracul), claimed the Wallachian throne in 1436 by killing his Danesti rival.
Little is known about Vlad’s early life, though he left Sighisoara in 1435. In 1444, at the age of thirteen, Vlad was sent to Adrianople as a hostage, to appease the Sultan. He was returned to his homeland in 1448 by the Sultan. Ignoring a short period on the throne, supported by the Turks, in 1448 he assumed total control and the Wallachian throne in 1456.
Vlad earned to title “Impaler” due to his propensity to punish his victims by impaling them on stakes and displaying them publicly as a warning to any would be transgressors against his strict moral code. He is credited with eliminating, in around six years, between 40,000 to 100,000 people in this way. In 1459, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, Vlad Dracula had thirty thousand of the merchants and boyars of the Transylvanian city of Brasov impaled. Ten thousand were impaled in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu in 1460.
While impaling was certainly Vlad’s speciality he was quite adept at a range of tortures – nails in heads, cutting off of limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning, cutting off of noses and ears, mutilation of sexual organs (especially in the case of women), scalping, skinning, exposure to the elements or to wild animals, and burning alive.
The Turks forced Vlad to flee to Transylvania in 1462 and finally managed to catch and kill him near Bucharest in December 1476. His body was decapitated and his head sent to Constantinople where the Sultan had it displayed on a stake. Sweet revenge!
While all this happened over 500 years ago, Sighisoara (and indeed Romania) seems not quite sure whether to, or how to, commemorate/celebrate Vlad Tepes’ life (or rather Stoker’s Dracula) or ignore it.
Today, while Dracula certainly features in Sighisoara it is not over done. Those Dracula fans amongst my readership will be interested in:
Casa Vlad Dracula, Vlad’s birthplace, which now houses the Museum of Medieval Arms on the first floor and a restaurant downstairs serving such delicacies as Tepes Steak covered in blood (tomato sauce) which you can wash down with Dracula blood to the accompaniment of human screams and creepy organ sounds by way of background music.
Nearby between the Clock Tower and the Church of the Dominican Monastery is a bust of Vlad Tapes.
Should you have to urge to roam the town at night dressed as Dracula this can be catered for by a few souvenir shops where you can acquire the necessary cape and other gear. Recommended gear for a night visit to the Saxon Cemetery – go on, I dare you!
To their credit, the townsfolk of Sighisoara turned down a request to erect a massive Dracula theme park on the outskirts of the town in 2003. Without doubt any such park would detract from the medieval beauty and relative tranquillity of this beautiful city.
Address – Casa Vlad Dracula: Citadel – By the Clock Tower