It ain’t easy to get here, but Dracula purists will find a way to get to the spectacular Arges Valley, about 30km north of Curtea de Arges, to lay eyes on Poienari Citadel (Cetatea Poienari). In 1459, Turks captured by Vlad Tepes – the real life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula – in revenge for killing his father and brother were made to march to this site, where they were ‘encouraged’ (under brutal duress that you don’t even wanna know about) to build this amazing defensive fortress. The finished castle was strategically positioned to guard the entrance of Arges Valley from Transylvania. It’s rightfully considered by Dracula buffs to be the ‘real’ Dracula’s castle.
Unfortunately, all that remains are head-high ruins (much of the castle fell down the side of the mountain in 1888), but these are enough to exemplify the astounding setting and scale of the former structure. Tickets are sold by the castle-keeper at the top of the 1,480 steps you’re gonna have to negotiate to get a load of the site. The steps lead from a small parking area off the main road, near a hydroelectric power plant.
Lake Vidraru Dam, a few minutes north of the Citadel, is a worthwhile stop if you’re passing by if only to get a vertigo-inducing look over the side and, if you’re none too comfortable with heights like I am, maybe gauge how far vomit can fall before vaporizing. About an hour further north of the dam, zig zagging through a thin, half-trashed forest road, is the beginning of the stupifying Transfagarasan road.
Alternatively, a few kilometers south is the turnoff for the tiny village of Arefu, which has an excellent agro-tourism scheme going, with homestays and all the immersion you can shake a stake at. Curtea de Arges is also a good staging area for visiting the citadel.