Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Vampire Front Property: A unique home for the little bloodsuckers.

Vlad the unique selling point

Say what you will about his personal habits, but when it comes to spinning gore into gold, Vlad the Impaler, enthusiastic champion of man's inhumanity to man, can be said to have few rivals.

The 15th-century tyrant - the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Count Dracula - is known to have resided at Bran Castle, near Brasov in Transylvania, as either pampered guest or shackled inmate, according to conflicting reports.

What is indisputable is that the imposing, 14th-century fortress-turned-museum has never baulked from cashing in on its association with bad lad Vlad, whose preferred mode of execution secured his place in history. Today, it is for sale at a spine-chilling £40 million.

Castle Dracula, as it is commonly known, is a failsafe tourist attraction, pulling in 450,000 visitors a year. The former residence of Queen Victoria's grand-daughter, Queen Marie of Romania, it was appropriated by the country's Communist regime in 1956.

It was returned to the family, in the form of Dominic von Habsburg, eight months ago, on condition that it remained a state-run museum for the ensuing three years. Mr von Habsburg, a graphic designer who lives in the US, has since decided that, in preference to cohabiting with the ghost of Vlad, he would sooner make do with the proceeds of any potential sale, thanks all the same.

The government has first option to buy the 57-room medieval castle, but might there be a chance of returning it to private hands? "Oh yes," says public relations officer Alex Priscu, adding, in words that Vlad would applaud, "but it's bloody cold. There is no central heating - just a few electric radiators in some of the rooms, which are quite small. Even inside, you need a warm winter jacket."

In addition, maintenance and restoration bills could be more than a sharpish pain in the neck. "There's always something that needs doing around the place," says Alex, who has helped guide visitors through the castle since 1998. "But, for a building dating from 1377, it's in reasonably good condition.

"It would, of course, cost a lot to convert it into a private home. In any case, though, it is a very good investment."

In keeping with its colourful past, the castle sits atop a 200ft tall rock overlooking the village of Bran, 105 miles from Bucharest. The rooms and towers surround an inner courtyard. Other rooms are connected through underground passages.

The asking price is partially explained by the presence of a rich collection of Romanian and foreign furniture and objets d'art from the 14th to 19th centuries. Seven acres of forest and three smaller buildings are included in the sale.

What do you say honey? You want to get us a nice little home in Transylvania?



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