Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Romania puts bite on Dracula heir


Castle has rivals at cross purposes

A bloodcurdling row over who exactly should own a stake in "Dracula's Castle" has broken out in Transylvania.

Politicians have moved to block the return of Bran Castle to a Romanian royal heir.

Now the European Court of Human Rights could be asked to settle the ownership of the castle linked to Bram Stoker's vampire classic.

Bran Castle, the Transylvanian fortress commonly known as "Dracula's Castle", was given by Brasov villagers to Romania's Queen Mary in 1920.

But the castle was confiscated by Romania's new Communist rulers in 1948.

Archduke Dominic Habsburg, Queen Mary's grandson, was awarded the popular tourist attraction last year.

But now the Romanian parliament has ruled that deal was illegal.

The Archduke's ownership rights could now be subject to a Romanian court inquiry - or even an investigation in the European Court of Human Rights.

The court has previously ruled in other cases in which the Romanian state has been told to either return properties or buy their from their owners' heirs.

Bran Castle has featured in many movies, gaining fame - or infamy - for its links to Prince Vlad the Impaler.

The 15th century warlord, whose evil acts inspired Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, is thought to have spent time at Bran Castle.

The fortress was originally built to defend against Ottoman Turks, and now receives about 450,000 tourist visits every year.

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