Bram Stoker’s book ‘Dracula’ put Transylvania on a map. The remaining question was: Does Transylvania truly exist or is it a make believe land? For those who dug deeper the answer proved to be fascinating: Yes, Transylvania is a region within the country of Romania, located in Eastern Europe!
When rumors started that even the character-Dracula- is based on a true Romanian prince, people rushed to Transylvania to see for themselves: the land beyond the forest, the home of vampires, werewolves and creatures of the night.
The ones who do venture here discover a picturesque country, quite different from what they had imagined; however Dracula-themed tours will always be popular. Tourists look to step on the prince’s footsteps, visit his castles, his Royal Court and finally, his tomb.
Where Did the Romanian Prince Vlad the Impaler Find His End?
About 40 kilometers north of Bucharest, on an island in the middle of Snagov Lake, lays the monastery with the same name. Built around the time of Vlad the Impaler’s grandfather, the monastery has become famous as the burial place of the infamous prince of Walachia who would become the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
There are many gaps to fill when it comes to the life of Vlad the Impaler; while his traits have been exploited and his heroic battles against the Turks highly praised, little is known about the last hours of his legendary life.
It is believed that Vlad’s decapitated body was found in the woods around Bucharest by the monks of the Snagov monastery and brought here to be buried since both Vlad and his father had donated money to the church.
But Snagov was also a place of punishment: in a small cell, the prince would invite his victim to kneel in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary…all of a sudden a trap door would open and his guest would be sent to a ditch below where stakes stood erect ready to pierce his body; decapitated skeletons found here stand as proof of these horrific crimes.
The Legends of Snagov Monastery
Peasants talk about the “hidden treasures” of the Impaler: sensing death, Vlad had them make cast-iron barrels in which he placed silver, gold and precious jewels; he then ordered the course of a river to be diverted by a dam (perhaps the Dambovita river)…after getting rid of the riches, he gave free flow to the river and all the peasants involved were IMPALED!
Visitors who cross the lake by boat reach the quiet, remote monastery that brings the legend alive! One can pay his respects at Dracula’s tomb, located at the altar footsteps, and admire the beautiful frescoes, some of which go as far back as the 15th century.
Locals tell stories about a different church that existed here, which fell into the lake together with its steeple, during a storm. When the wind blows they say you can hear a chime rising from the bottom of the lake.
Nevertheless, people are superstitious and the monastery has had its fair share of bad luck: floods, earthquakes, the burning of the bridge connecting it to mainland during the 1821 revolution as well as being transformed into a prison in the 19th century.
Although there has been a lot of debate around the real tomb of Vlad the Impaler and whether you are a Dracula fan or not, the monastery of Snagov is worth a peak! It was once an important hub of the cultural and monastic life: it hosted a printing shop as well as a mint…When coming here travelers understand why it was used as refuge as well as a prison…
As for the vampire hunters…what better place to end a trip to Romania than the legendary burial place of the count of all counts: Count Dracula?!
- Raymond T McNally and Radu Florescu- Dracula – Prince of many faces: his life and times, 1989