The ‘real Dracula Castle’ lures visitors with COVID-19 jabs

Visitors to Dracula’s castle are more likely to find puncture marks in their arms than their necks this month, after medics set up a COVID-19 vaccination centre at the Transylvanian attraction.

Castle staff hope the service will bring more people to the site in Romania’s Carpathian mountains, where tourist numbers have plummeted since the start of the pandemic.

Bran Castle, a haunting, dramatic-looking structure on the Transylvanian side of the historical border with Wallachia, is marketed as the home of the title character in Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula.

Count Dracula is popularly believed to be based on Romanian national hero and 15th-century ruler of Wallachia Vlad III Dracula, better known as Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Țepeș in Romanian) after his habit of executing enemies by impaling them on wooden poles.

Although there is no evidence Stoker knew about Bran Castle and little evidence he knew much about Vlad the Impaler – and only scant evidence Vlad Dracula ever even entered Bran Castle, which was not under his rule – the Romanian government markets the building as the “real Dracula Castle”.

It is now marketed as a vaccination hub, where medics wearing fang stickers on their scrubs will impale anyone who turns up – no appointment necessary – every weekend in May.

Visitors also get free entry to the castle’s exhibit of 52 medieval torture instruments.

“The idea … was to show how people got jabbed 500 to 600 years ago in Europe,” the castle’s marketing director Alexandru Priscu said.

Passageways and balconies inside Bran Castle, Romania.

One of the visitors on Saturday was Fernando Orozco, a 37-year-old renewable energy market developer usually based in Berlin who has been working remotely out of Romania.

“I was already planning to come to the castle and I just thought it was the two-for-one special,” he said.

The government has said it wants to vaccinate 10 million of its people by September, but a survey released in April by Bratislava-based think tank Globsec showed Romanians were the least inclined to get vaccinated among the EU’s eastern members.


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