Tuesday, July 3, 2007

For sale: `Dracula‘s Castle‘ in Romania

By ALEXANDRU ALEXE, Associated Press Writer 11 minutes ago

BUCHAREST, Romania - An heir of Romania‘s former royal family put "Dracula‘s Castle" in Transylvania up for sale Monday, hoping to secure a buyer who will respect "the property and its history," a U.S.-based investment company said.

Legend has it that Vlad, who earned his nickname because of the way he tortured his enemies, spent one night in the 1400s at the castle.

After being restored in the late 1980s and following the end of communist rule in Romania, it gained popularity as a tourist attraction known as "Dracula‘s Castle."

Habsburg, a 69-year-old New York architect, pledged to keep it open as a museum until 2009 and offered to sell the castle last year to local authorities for $80 million, but the offer was rejected.

No price was announced, though Gardner predicted the castle would sell for more than $135 million. He added that Habsburg will only sell it to a buyer "who will treat the property and its history with appropriate respect."

According to a contract signed when the castle was returned, the government pays rent to Habsburg to run the castle as a museum for three years, charging admission. After 2009, Habsburg will have full control of the castle, Gardner said.

Opposition lawmakers have claimed the government‘s decision to return the castle to Habsburg was illegal because of procedural errors.

Some 450,000 people visit the castle every year, Gardner

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