We are in Romania. Transylvania has long been known as a place where vampires, werewolves, and the souls of the dead haunt dark forests, like Hoia Baciu forest, which has a reputation as one of the most haunted place of the world, and ghostly-looking fortresses. Many of the most “haunted places” in Transylvania, Romania are also popular tourist attractions.
On a tiny island in a lake just outside of Bucharest stands Snagov Monastery which local tradition states is the burial place of Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler, was given his name as a result of his habit of impaling human bodies on stakes.
Originally founded in the 14th century and later excavated in 1933, the monastery is a seemingly simple place of worship taking advantage of the calm its water-locked isolation brings. More than one church has stood upon the island’s ground at that time. Some, including a small wooden church has been destroyed, supposedly even sinking into the surrounding lake. Because of this many locals started to believe the island was actually cursed.
Historically, Vlad ruled Wallachia, a district within Romania, during the 1400s. He led armies against the invading Ottoman Turks and became notorious for his ruthless war tactics, which included terrible execution methods, included impalement.
However, there is much mystery surrounding the death of Vlad, many believe he was beheaded at a small pond just outside Bucharest, and there is an equal amount of mystery surrounding his current place of rest. As the story goes, after his notoriously cruel lifetime, Vlad Tepes III was buried in the Snagov’s church as per his request prior to his death. A number of archeologists and historians have worked to verify whether this tale is real fact or simple a legend, but none have been able to prove that the dictator was ever laid to rest on the island. During the 1930s, after having dug up some of the site’s burial stones all that was found were a mix of horse and human bones, but nothing that confirms the possible Dracula’s buried.
Most historians now believe that the Prince of Wallachia was buried in a monastery in the Comana area, but this has not stopped the locals from spreading this myth. Many believe he was buried deeper than was excavated or is buried in a different area of the church, while some even believe he may have arisen from his grave, true to the vampire mythology that surrounds him as being an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
A footbridge has been built to the island and visitors are encouraged to stop by the Snagov Monastery and view the (supposed) grave.
The Romanian government even began plans to capitalize on the church’s unverifiable history by building an amusement park in Snagov called “Dracula Park” although development was (mercifully) canceled in 2006.
Author’s notes: Snagov Monastery can be visited as a day trip outside of Bucharest. Caretakers charge anyone who wants enter and to take pictures. The Monastery even sells a number of souvenirs including wine, (which was my favorite purchase!).