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The Bears Haunting Dracula’s Castle in Romania

Visitors have been turned away for their own safety.

Poenari Castle.
Poenari Castle. Emmanuel BRUNNER/CC BY-SA 3.0

Getting to Romania’s Poenari Castle isn’t easy. First there is the drive, to a rural part of the country around 100 miles northwest of Bucharest. Then there are the steps—1,480 of them to be exact—to the top of a steep hill near the Făgăraş Mountains. And now, authorities say, there are also bears to contend with.

The castle was built in the 13th century but made famous a couple hundred years later by its most notorious occupant, Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad Dracula, thought to be an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famed vampire novel from 1897. (Stoker had little or no knowledge about the castle itself.) The possible connection—actually still disputed—between the historical and fictional characters wasn’t widely known until the 1970s, when a Romanian scholar Radu Florescu published a series of books linking the two.

The castle has since become a popular tourist destination, and that popularity brings food and garbage, which Romanian police blame for attracting bears. One in particular—likely a mother protecting her cubs—has recently forced the closing of the site, according to the BBC, following tense encounters with visitors. Authorities are now trying to find a way to relocate the animal family somewhere without such a popular legend attached to it.