Durmstrang once had the darkest reputation of all eleven wizarding schools, though this was never entirely merited. It is true that Durmstrang, which has turned out many truly great witches and wizards, has twice in its history fallen under the stewardship of wizards of dubious allegiance or nefarious intent, and that it has one infamous ex-pupil.
The first of these unhappy men, Harfang Munter, took over the school shortly after the mysterious death of its founder, the great Bulgarian witch Nerida Vulchanova. Munter established Durmstrang's reputation for duelling and all forms of martial magic, which remain an impressive part of its curriculum today. The second dark period in Durmstrang's history came with the Headmastership of Igor Karkaroff, an ex-Death Eater who fled his post upon the return from exile of Lord Voldemort, fearing the latter's retribution. Karkaroff was an unprincipled and egotistical man who encouraged a culture of fear and intimidation among the students, and many parents withdrew their children from Durmstrang while he was in charge.
The ex-pupil who has done more than any other to cause damage to Durmstrang's reputation is Gellert Grindelwald, one of the most dangerous wizards of the twentieth century. However, in recent years Durmstrang has undergone something of a renaissance, and has produced such international luminaries as international Quidditch star Viktor Krum.
Although believed to be situated in the far north of Europe, Durmstrang is one of the most secretive of all schools about its whereabouts, so nobody can be quite certain. Visitors, who must comply with memory charms to erase their knowledge of how they got there, speak of vast, sprawling grounds with many stunning views, not least of the great, dark, spectral ship that is moored on a mountain lake behind the school, from which students dive in summertime.
Traditionally, there is a lot of rivalry between Durmstrang, Hogwarts and Beauxbatons. The school is concealed by magic in an unknown location, so that nobody can steal their secrets. Hermione tells Harry and Ron that the school will have made its location unplottable, to keep the location secret from foreign wizards, and might have Muggle-Repelling Charms on it. She thinks that the school must be somewhere in the far north, as the students wear fur capes as part of their uniform.
Durmstrang will be taking part in the Triwizard Tournament during the school year. The students will arrive in October, at the same time as those from Beauxbatons, and will remain at Hogwarts for the greater part of the year.
The school is based in a castle, although it is not as big as Hogwarts. There are only four floors, and the fires are only lit for magical purposes. The castle grounds, however, are larger than those at Hogwarts, although they can only really be enjoyed during the summer months. According to Viktor Krum, the students fly every day during the summer, over the nearby lakes and mountains.
According to Viktor Krum, the Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald carved his symbol into a wall at Durmstrang when he was a pupil at the school. Some students copied in onto their schoolbooks and robes to try to shock and impress others, until stopped by those who had lost family members to the Dark wizard.