ROMANIA GIVES BACK 'DRACULA CASTLE'

Rochester Post-Bulletin
Friday, 26 May 2006

Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania, was temporary home to Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian 16th-century prince who inspired Bram Stokerís fictional Dracula.



Romania gives back 'Dacula's Castle'
Associated Press


BUCHAREST, RomaniaóMore than 60 years after it was seized by communists, the Romanian government is to hand back one of the country's most popular tourist sites, the fabled Dracula Castle, to its former owner, the culture minister said.

The castle, worth an estimated $25 million, was owned by the late Queen Marie and bequeathed to her daughter Princess Ileana in 1938. It was confiscated by communists in 1948 and fell into disrepair. It will be transferred today to Dominic van Hapsburg, a New York architect who inherited the castle from Princess Ileana decades after the communists seized it, minister Adrian lorgulescu said.

Van Hapsburg is a descendant of the Hapsburg dynasty which ruled Romania for a period starting in the late 17th century.

The hand-over ceremony will take place today in the 14th century castle's museum deep within the fortress in Transylvania, Iorgulescu said.

Restoration work began in the late 1980s and was partially completed in 1993. It is now one of Romania's top tourist destinations. Under the agreement, the owner will not be allowed to make any changes to the castle for the next three years, Iorgulescu said.

While known and marketed as "Dracula's Castle," it never belonged to Prince Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Bram Stoker's Count Dracula character. But the prince is thought to have visited the medieval fortress.

At the gates of Bran Castle, peasants sell Dracula sweaters hand-knitted from the thick wool of local sheep, cheesecloth blouses, and Vampire wine. The castle is the most famous of 15 citadels and fortresses in the area, which were built by peasants to keep out marauding armies of Turks and Tartars and cruel local medieval lords.

Romania passed legislation earlier this year to return property to its former owners and establish a "property fund" to pay damages for assets that cannot be returned. The fund includes stock in state-owned companies that are being privatized.

Rochester Post-Bulletin