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Dracula's Castle in Transylvania to be sold

A Habsburg heir is hoping a buyer will take a bite out of his offer to sell Dracula's Castle in Transylvania.

The medieval Bran Castle, perched high on a cliff near Brasov in mountainous central Romania, is a top 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 the ruthless Vlad who earned his nickname because of the way he tortured his enemies spent one night in the 1400s at the castle that allegedly served as the setting for Stoker's novel about the vampiric Count Dracula.

The Habsburgs formally put the Bran Castle on the market Monday, a U.S.-based investment company said. No selling price was announced.

Bran Castle was built in the 14th century to serve as a fortress to protect against the invading Ottoman Turks. The royal family moved into the castle in the 1920s, living there until the communist regime confiscated it from Princess Ileana in 1948.

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."

In May 2006, Bran Castle was returned to Princess Ileana's son, New York architect Archduke Dominic Habsburg. He pledged to keep it open as a museum until 2009.

Habsburg, 69, last year offered to sell the castle to local authorities for US$80 million (EUR59 million), but that offer was rejected.

On Monday, he formally listed the castle for sale "to the right purchaser under the right circumstances," Michael Gardner, chief executive of Baytree Capital, the company representing Habsburg, said by telephone. "The Habsburgs are not in the business of managing a museum."

He predicted the castle would sell for more than EUR100 million (US$135 million) but added that Habsburg will only sell it to a buyer "who will treat the property and its history with appropriate respect."

Habsburg said in a statement: "Aside from the castle's connection to one of the most famous novels ever written, Bran Castle is steeped in critical events of European history dating from the 14th century to the present."

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

The government has priority as a buyer if it can match the best offer for the castle, he said.

Last month, opposition lawmakers criticized the government for returning the castle to Habsburg.

In recent years, the castle complete with occasional glimpses of bats flying around its ramparts at twilight has attracted filmmakers looking for a dramatic backdrop for films about Dracula and other horror movies.

Some 450,000 people visit castle every year.

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