July 3, 2007

 

For Sale: Dracula’s Castle

By Pamela Mortimer

 

 

For Sale: One medieval Castle, inc. crypt, secret passageway and dungeon towers; located in scenic Transylvania. All serious offers will be considered.

 

 

Perched atop a cliff, Dracula’s Castle casts a dark and foreboding shadow over the beautiful Romanian countryside. It could be a scene taken from your worst nightmare – the blood red towers bring forth gruesome images of those who were tortured in its dungeons. The main belfry resembles the tip of a razor-sharp knife, perhaps one similar to those used to murder unsuspecting trespassers.

 

As of Monday, it can be yours for a measly $135 million. But you’d better hurry.  

 

The castle is recognized mostly for its myth surrounding Count Dracula, the notorious and legendary vampire. Although quite famous in his day, Count Vlad Draculea III, the villainous warlord who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, wasn’t such a nice guy. The Count, aka Prince Vlad the Impaler, who earned his nickname from the preferred method in which he chose to torture his many victims, was responsible for a reign of terror throughout Romania that took place in the 15th century.

 

The castle, known as the Bran Castle, was built by the Saxons in 1378 to be used as a fortress against the Turks during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Serving many purposes over the years, the former fortress eventually became a royal residence for the Habsburgs, one of history’s most renowned royal families. The royal family was ousted in 1948 when the communist regime snatched it from Romanian Princess Ileana.

 

Restored in the 1980’s, Bran Castle gained worldwide popularity and quickly became Romania’s number one tourist spot. Oddly enough, there is no record that Vlad used Bran Castle as one of his residences as is believed; however, there is record that he was imprisoned there for a period of two weeks.

 

In May 2006, the Castle was returned to Princess Ileana’s son, Archduke Dominic Habsburg, a New York architect. After winning a long legal battle to receive the legal rights to their former home, the Habsburgs decided to sell it. The landmark was originally offered to the Romanian government for $80 million. They refused. Instead, Habsburg, 69, offered to rent the Castle to the government for use as a museum. This time, they accepted. The museum estimates receiving 450,000 tourists a year.

 

Although the museum contract runs through 2009, the Habsburgs formally put Bran Castle on the market on Monday. No selling price was announced, but it is expected to sell for $135 million.

 

Michael Gardner, chief executive of Baytree Capital, the company representing Habsburg, said that his client will sell the castle "to the right purchaser under the right circumstances".

 

Although The Ministry of Culture in Romania has been offered priority should they decide to buy the legendary citadel,  the government has balked at the asking price. The Ministry accuses the Hapsburgs of attempting to profit from a national treasure. They are also concerned that the new owners will use it to build a Dracula theme park.

 

Nikolai Paduraru, the director of the Transylvania Society of Dracula, is one of many who would be interested in owning the famous landmark. Paduraru is well known for hosting an annual Dracula Ball, as well as academic seminars on ghouls and vampires. "If I were a rich man, I would easily give $100 million, hoping the Count does not mind," he said.

 

A statement from Habsburg said, "Aside from the Castle's connection to one of the most famous novels ever written, Bran Castle is steeped in critical events of European history dating from the 14th century to the present."