Welcome to our mini tour of Bran Castle, now a secret tunnel down a well. Do read here about how the fortress came to be, first rising as a wooden watchtower in 1211, and also learn how you can receive your Covid-19 jab in this medieval location.
Onward we step, through Thursday Doors.
We are in 1377. It was King Louis I of Anjou who, tired of battles against Wallachia, ordered that the wooden Bran fortress be replaced with a mighty castle that will help control all military access to (and from) the south, where Wallachia was neighboring Transylvania, and through where the Ottoman threat was on the rise.
Of course, trade routes moved, bypassing Braşov whose inhabitants became restless, losing money. So Louis I of Anjou promised them to bring the customs center to the new fortress of Bran, if only they would build fast enough.
The King kept his word and on November 19 he granted in writing, to the city of Brasov, privileges over the customs center located at Bran Castle. And the fortress bustled with soldiers, mercenaries, and even a commander who held the title of Vice-Voivode of Transylvania.
The beginning of the 15th century marked an important event, for in 1407 Sigismund of Luxembourg (King of Hungary and later Holy Roman Emperor) gifted Bran Castle to Prince Mircea the Elder of Wallachia (grandfather to Vlad the Impaler) as a sign of his deepest gratitude. Bran castle remained in the property of Wallachia until just after the death of Mircea the Elder.
Over the following centuries Bran Castle exchanged hands several times between the inhabitants of Brasov and various Princess of Transylvania.
This way, many doors opened and closed for this medieval fortress.
Until 1920… when Transylvania finally became part of Greater Romania (the interwar Romania). The citizens of Brasov gifted Bran Castle to Queen Marie of Romania as a gesture of courtesy towards the new sovereigns… Queen Marie, born Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria of Edinburgh, was wife to King Ferdinand I of Hohenzollern, the second King of Romania (1914 until his death in 1927).
…”Many years ago, in a trip over the border, I saw it standing in stark loneliness on that cliff and wondered how it would feel to govern such a fortress and to transform it into a home. How wonderful it would be to revive a small medieval castle, a true fairy tale. And the unbelievable truly happened.”Queen Marie of Romania on first laying eyes on Bran Castle
Under the hand of Queen Marie and the court architect, Czech Karel Liman – who designed the castles Peles and Pelisor, also Royal residences – Bran Castle was restored and transformed into the Queen’s summer residence – improving the medieval fortress, but without changing it.
“I have done nothing to take away its feudal aspect, I did not change the swiftness of the stairs, I did not deprive the roof of porches, nor have I straightened the skewed rooms. The doors have remained so low that one must duck when entering the rooms, the walls are several cubits thick, the heavy beams cross the un-arched ceilings, and there are so many floors in the castle that one hardly knows which level they are on”.Queen Marie of Romania, on restoring Bran Castle
What about the old well?
Dug around 1388, it was now over half a century old. The 57 meter deep well of Bran castle was giving an insufficient amount of water, so a modern system came in place, with water piped into the castle straight from the natural springs surrounding the valley.
While in the old well’s shaft… an electric elevator was installed that provided easy access between the castle and – through a maze of tunnels – the valley below with its Royal Park and flower garden for the Queen who was, by now, suffering from arthritis.
After 1948 when the Royal Family left Romania – King Mihai I was forced to abdicate on 30 December 1947 by the communist regime – Bran Castle, but especially its tunnel, were engulfed by darkness. And they slept the length of a human life…
It took a great team of many craftsmen, architects, miners, IT specialists, historian, restaurateurs… to revive it.
Today, visitors of Bran Castle can go down the Queen’s elevator shaft, through the old well, visit the Time Tunnel and exit, as the Queen once did, through her flower garden.
It is worth mentioning that the Romanian company who created and installed this specially design elevator won with this project, Bran’s Stone Elevator, 1st Place at the Elevator World Competition held in USA. The historical monument with its asymmetrical architecture, above and below the ground, tested the skills of the 100% Romanian construction team that finalized this entire project. The elevator booth is unique, specially designed to fit the necessities of the Bran Castle’s time travel historical project.
Next time we will watch a video of Bran’s Time Tunnel together – with detailed explanations of its many historical reenactions. I can’t wait!
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