Dracula’s castle welcomes guests with coffins and no silver

Dracula's castle welcomes guests with coffins and no silver

As the sun set over Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, brother and sister Robin and Tami Varma slid into red velvet-trimmed black coffins, trying them for size before dining with gold-plated cutlery – not silver, of course, which hurts vampires.

The Varmas on Monday (October 31) became the first overnight guests for some 70 years to stay at the medieval Bran fortress, the model for the “Dracula’s castle” of Bram Stoker’s Victorian-era novel.

After World War Two, Romania’s communist regime expelled the owners, the Habsburg royal family. The castle was returned to Habsburg descendants in 2006.

The Varmas won a contest run by vacation rental marketplace Airbnb, which listed Bran Castle for Halloween and received 88,000 entries in 10 languages.

“After the (Paris) catacombs and Dracula’s castle, we really want to own this holiday, I think it would be great if we can make this a tradition. What do you think of Salem (Massachusetts) for example? Maybe the whole city,” said Ekaterina Kukurenko, a public relations manager for Airbnb.

The siblings arrived in a horse-drawn carriage and were welcomed by Dacre Stoker, the author’s great-grandnephew.

“Enter freely, go safely and leave some of the happiness that you bring,” Stoker said.

The Varmas’ grandfather, Devendra, a world authority in Gothic literature, walked the grounds in 1976.

“He would famously talk about his adventure to the castle and he said that on his way out he had heard these footsteps behind him and he said he could feel the evil in the air and in the walls, so he came back to Canada and shared that experience with everybody. So here we are, the sun has just gone down and the witching hour has begun,” said Tami, 31, who owns an event-planning firm in Canada’s Ottawa.

Situated in the wooded foothills of the Carpathian mountains, Bran is now a museum and major tourist attraction.

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