Every year, Transylvania's Bran Castle hosts a Dracula-themed Halloween party
Guests given a tour of the castle followed by blood-themed cocktails
I’ve never celebrated Halloween before – it never really existed where I grew up in Australia.
But here I was in the mysterious land of Transylvania, where bloodthirsty vampires hide, dressed as little “dead” riding hood and ready to experience the holiday for the first time at none other than Dracula’s Castle.
Officially known as Bran Castle and located just outside the Romanian city of Brasov, it recently opened its gates to guests for one night only to offer travelers an opportunity to meet Dracula himself.
A tale inspired by Vlad the Impaler
More than 600,000 tourists flock to the castle every year in hopes of meeting the charismatic vampire made popular by Irish author Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula,” published in 1897.
While the book and movies on Count Dracula are fiction, there’s some truth to the tale.
Stoker never visited Central Europe, but his character is based on the 15th-century ruler, Vlad Tepes – better known as Vlad the Impaler – who ordered the brutal torture and killing of tens of thousands of people during his reign.
As several friends and I drove through the misty and winding mountainous roads it became very easy to see why Stoker became inspired by Transylvania’s eerie landscape.
We dipped in and out of ancient, crumbling villages before we finally saw the impressive silhouette of the fortress in the distance – lit up entirely in a deep, blood red.
I was convinced that if I were ever going to meet a vampire, this would absolutely be the place.
Howling wolves and blood-themed cocktails
In what felt like a pilgrimage, we joined hundreds of other tourists in the bitter cold to climb the cobbled stone cliff to reach the enormous medieval castle, built in the late 1300s, that sat confidently at the top.
Together we were guided through the 600-year-old rooms and narrow secret staircases by two men dressed as Vlad and Dracula, who told tales of their conquests and the people who once lived within the fortress’ walls.
The pilgrimage then continued out into the courtyard where guests were handed red wine and black vodka, while the sound of howling wolves could be heard in the distance (or perhaps by those who had a few too many black vodka shots.)
After the tour, we retreated down the walkway and were led into a giant tent at the base of the castle’s cliff. Here we entered Dracula’s after party.
The atmosphere was electric. I was surrounded by a sea of dancing people dressed as angry dead wives, clowns, several jokers from the movie “Suicide Squad,” pumpkins and even one man who dressed as a zombie cheerleader.
The floor was covered in autumn leaves, there were dancers in stilts and blood-themed cocktails were on offer from masked men behind the bar.
I’m not sure I’d be able to count how many times I met Dracula that night, but somehow, thankfully, I walked away unscathed.
While the Halloween party was incredibly touristy and the real Vlad Tepes may not have spent much time here, there was something exhilarating about wandering around the medieval fortress at night.
Unfortunately the night was over before I knew it and just like a vampire, I was forced to retreat into the bitter cold and into bed before the harsh sun rose.
Bianca Britton is a freelance journalist based in London