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  Nr. 3634 de sambata, 27 mai 2006 
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Rightful owner gets Bran Castle back
Bran Castle was restituted to its rightful owner, Dominic Habsburg, nephew of Queen Maria and son of Princess Ileana. Narcis Dorin Ion, director of the Bran Museum, signed the decision yesterday. Bran Castle, dating back to 1377, is one of the main tourism destinations in Romania, especially due to the Dracula myth. Bram Stoker's novel Dracula contributed a lot to its fame. (...)
After the Royal Family had been expelled from Romania in 1948, Bran Castle became property of the Romanian state, it was abandoned and much damaged. It opened in 1956 and a part of it turned into an art and history museum. In 1987 authorities started to consolidate it and the operation was completed in 1993.
Restituted after 6 decades
Dominic Habsburg got Bran Castle back at almost 6 decades after the communist regime had forced his family to leave the country. At that time he was only 10. The actual restitution is taking place after almost 6 months of negotiations between the Romanian Ministry of Culture and the new owner's lawyers, because of modifications operation on Law 10/2001 on the juridical regime concerning the buildings abusively confiscated by the Communists. The initial law forbade the heirs of Princess Ileana to get the castle back, and they were to be paid damages. According to the Ministry of Culture, at that time the estate was estimated to $ 25 million. But the present property legislation allows the heirs to get the castle back.
Flowers for Dominc Habsburg
This is the first time Dominic Habsburg has come to Romania after 58 years. The inhabitants of Bran village brought flowers to welcome him. Dominic said in Romanian that he was very impressed. Queen Maria's nephew mentioned: "Until a short while ago it seemed to be unbelievable that I should come here not as tourist. I thank all those Romanians who have been brave enough to repair the injustice committed in the past. This is a sign showing we live in a better world. All my thanks to the Romanians who have my family in their souls. My mother would have liked to thank all the well-meaning, brave people." He remembered: "When I left Romania was going through hard times. But the people suffered even more than we did. I don't expect things to be the same, still our souls are the same."
Dominic Habsburg explained: "Bran Castle is the foundation of my life. I spent here the best times of my life. Everything was wonderful. All I have carried inside comes from the life I had here. I am very impressed and happy. But I am also a little sad because my mother isn't here. She would have enjoyed it a lot. She gave us hope that we would get it back. I would have liked her to see this."
A museum for 3 years
Yesterday the Romanian Minister of Culture and Dominic Habsburg signed agreement on the administration of the castle, which is to stay a museum for 3 years. Minister Iorgulescu commented: "This is a very important and highly symbolical moment." He explained: "There are three important matters about both documents we have signed today. This is first of all an act o justice, as the property goes back to the rightful owner after so many years. Secondly, it is an act of justice because the Romanian State and the Ministry of Culture have got the obligation to obey the law on property restitution. Thirdly, it is a matter of culture because in the next 3 years this place is going to be administered by the same council. I hope it will always be available to Romanians and foreign tourists." (...)
Dominic Habsburg said he had no intention to move to Bran and claimed he hadn't decided yet how to use the castle after the first three years passed. As for rumors that it will turn into a hotel, Habsburg said: "I don't know if it's possible or not. I will live in America with my family." He expressed dislike for the connection between the castle and Dracula's legend, but said he could not change it.
George TARATA 
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