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Romania debates Dracula Castle deal September 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture.

Romanian lawmakers began to debate yesterday whether Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, was legally returned to owner Dominic Habsburg and whether he is allowed to sell it.

The Transylvanian castle, which has featured in many movies, was returned to Archduke Dominic Habsburg, the son of Princess Ileana, in May 2006. The princess had been given the castle in exchange for good deeds done by the royal family, which ruled Romania from 1866 until the communist era. The 14th century castle was confiscated by the communists in 1948.

Habsburg, 69, an architect from North Salem, New York, in the United States, pledged to keep it open as a museum until 2009. He offered to sell the castle last year to local authorities for US$80 million (57 million euro), but the offer was rejected because it was too expensive.

Opposition lawmaker Dumitru Ioan Puchianu said yesterday during a parliamentary debate that the return of the castle to Habsburg was illegal due to procedural errors. He said that Habsburg is legally not allowed to sell it. Lawmakers ended the debate without voting on the issue.

In a letter released yesterday, Habsburg’s lawyers said he would launch a lawsuit for 150 million euro (US$210 million) in damages if Parliament voted that the restitution and sale plans were illegal.

“I live once more with the feeling of dread in which I once lived, as a child, when my family and I were forced out of our home and thrown out into the streets in midwinter,” he said in a letter addressed to Parliament and calling on lawmakers not to allow “such a dreadful injustice to happen.” Bran Castle, perched on a cliff near Brasov in mountainous central Romania, is a major tourist attraction because of its ties to Prince Vlad the Impaler, the warlord whose cruelty inspired Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula.” 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.

Bran Castle was built as a fortress to defend against the invading Ottoman Turks. About 450,000 tourists visit the castle every year.

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