Dracula’s Castle, in Transylvania, is on the market. Not in the usual way, with estate agents staking their For Sale signs in the ground, but in a quiet, offers-are-invited-from-the-right-people sort of way.
“If someone comes in with a reasonable offer, we will look at who they are, what they are proposing, and will seriously entertain the idea,” says Mark Meyer, of Herzfeld and Rubin. The New York law firm is handling the sale.
The property comes with a long list of previous owners: everyone from Saxons to Hungarians to Teutonic knights. And although the facilities may not be exactly state-of-the-art, the plumbing is reported to be in some disrepair, there’s no questioning the detachedness of the property. It stands on top of a hill, and is most definitely not overlooked by neighbors.
The views are similarly uninterrupted. The original property particulars don’t survive, of course. But you can bet that the estate agents in the nearest town, Brasov, would have put plenty of emphasis on the expansive and beautiful view.
There’s no doubt that the structure, whose real name is Bran Castle, comes with several centuries’ worth of history clinging to its sheer walls. First records of a fortress on this spot date back to 1211. Since then it has been through numerous fortifications and invasions.
And yes, we all know that the bloodsucking vampire Count Dracula was a purely fictional character, invented by the Irish writer Bram Stoker, and made famous in films. But the fearsome real-life Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes famously operated in this area in the 15th century. Indeed, he is said to have been imprisoned in Bran Castle for a couple of months. On top of which, Transylvanian legend and folklore are full of characters called strigoi, ghostly beings who leave their physical bodies when darkness falls and roam the surrounding valleys searching for sleeping villagers to terrify.
In the real world, too, the castle has a whole dungeon full of gripping stories. In 1920, when Romania had a royal family, the fortress was given to Queen Marie, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. When she died, in 1938, she bequeathed the castle to her daughter Princess Ileana, who in 1944 set up a hospital at Bran, to treat soldiers wounded in the war. The royal tenure came to a sudden end, though, when the communists came to power.
“In 1948, the entire royal family was given 24 hours not just to get out of the castle, but out of the country,” says Meyer. “They were packed off in a train.”
58 years later, following the fall of the Ceausescu regime, Bran Castle was restored to the royal family, Prince Dominic and two of his sisters, Maria Magdalena and Elizabeth, who have been running it ever since.
With some success, too. Each year 560,000 people pay six dollars each to visit the fortress. The trouble is, all three children are now in their 70s, and unsure whether they can put in the time and energy required to bring the castle into the 21st century.
The biggest problem is the lack of lavatories and bathrooms. These are provided for the visitors, but were ripped out of the residential part of the castle by the communist regime. A busy main road running through the village is another potential disadvantage.
“Archduke Dominic and his family care very much for the castle, and it’s in far better shape now than it was when run by the government,” says Meyer. “The aim, though, is to take the whole thing a stage further, re-route the road and make Bran a destination, the kind of place people will stay for two or three days.”
There’s enough land to build a small hotel, he adds. “And we’re also installing a glass elevator that will lead to a tunnel in the mountain, with a light show featuring Dracula and the whole history of the place.
“That’s why we’d like whoever buys the castle to continue running it as a tourist destination. This isn’t just a national monument, it’s the largest and most significant attraction in Romania.”
So it’s hoped that the castle will attract investors who want to increase the current drip-drip of Dracula-related income into a steady flow.
The question is, of course, how much will the castle cost? It’s been reported that Archduke Dominic offered it to the Romanian government for $80 million, but Meyer is not prepared to quote a figure.
“What you have to remember is that this castle is the real thing. We don’t need men going around dressed up in old-fashioned costumes; the place speaks for itself.
“At present, it makes a tidy profit, but in the right hands it has the potential to generate far more revenue than we could ever imagine.”
On top of which, the castle has already proved itself as a regal residence. And if it’s good enough for queens and princesses, it should be good enough for non-royal families, too.
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