Bran Castle may be Romania's most visited castle, but there is another castle that is far more impressive in the region, both in reach and scale. Castelul Corvinilor, situated in the sleepy city of Hunedoara, stands as an epic medieval monument that rivals all others in Europe.
The castle was owned by several different people with origins that go back to the early fourteenth century, leading to a wide range of names, including Hunyad Castle, Vajdahunyad Vara (Hungarian), and Castelul Corvinestilor or Corvinilor (Romanian). Despite what name is used, the fact is that one of the best examples in the world of the fairytale form of medieval castle is the extensive medieval castle.Although it is not certain for certain, the prevalent hypothesis is that King Carol Robert of Anjou hired Italian builders to build Castelul Corvinilor and they completed construction sometime around the year 1315. The castle changed hands almost one hundred years later and was given to the Hungarian Hunyadi family and a complete restoration was granted between 1446 and 1453. The castle was taken over by Prince Iancu of Hunedoara in the following century and has since remained a Romanian house. A major reconstruction campaign has begun and is still under way, largely devastated by the fire and neglect of the Communist era in Romania. Although the finished product does not share too much similarity to the original structure, it is the many Castelul Corvinilor legends that have won it a well-deserved position on the medieval European tourism path.
Castelul Corvinilor's two key legends are both linked to prisoners that may have been located there. The first was Vlad Tepes, best known as Vlad the Impaler globally and the presumed basis for the story of Count Dracula. The fact that Tepes was imprisoned in the castle is not fully verified, but the timing coincides with the times when Tepes was known to be captured, so this tale may be very real. The other legend is of a party of executed Turkish inmates. These inmates were forced to dig a well in the castle to a depth of 30 meters, according to the story, with the promise of their release once the mission was done. The wife of Prince Iancu of Hunedoara, however, changed her mind and, once the well had been dug, executed the men. In answer, on the walls of the well, an inscription was written that loosely translates to "you may have water now, but you don't have a soul." Other castle attractions, such as a bear pit where prisoners were said to be thrown, only add to the building's mystery.
For some tourists, getting to see Castelul Corvinilor can present a challenge. As with many of Romania's other impressive sights, getting there is half the fight. The closest transport center will be the city of Deva, situated a few kilometers north of Hunedoara, as the train service to the city of Hunedoara has effectively ended. There is very frequent local transportation between the two cities, with buses leaving every few minutes. The best place to catch the bus is at the Deva train station, but it will also make stops on the way to Hunedoara at certain locations in the area. It may be possible for a person from major cities like Sibiu, Cluj, Brasov, or Bucharest to find direct bus connections to Hunedoara. Castelul Corvinilor might not be the easiest destination to enter, but it is by far the best medieval castle in Romania, if not in the whole of Europe.