From Paris to Istanbul – now an all-hotel cycle tour.
In 2019 we have taken steps to improve a classic ride, and dramatically make the ride more comfortable, by moving to an all hotel experience, from it’s previous mix of camping and hotels. This will allow you to be more centrally located in the towns and villages we stop in on cycling days, enjoy the local cuisine each night, and sleep on a proper bed without worry about having to pack up your tent in the rain!
The adventure will begin in Paris, the City of Lights. After a brief cycle tour of the city for group pictures (and maybe one last crepe), we will head for our first stops in Provins, and Troyes – two medieval towns. From there, the road takes us through the rolling ‘Champagne’ region. Cycling across increasingly lush, hilly and forested terrain, we enjoy a thrilling descent down to Munster, near the French-German border.
50 km inside Germany, we arrive in the old university town of Freiburg. Then it’s a one-day ride to Donaueschingen, the official source of the mighty Danube River and where we meet the Danube Cycleway, a 1,357 km dedicated bicycle path that runs along the banks of the Danube River.
At times completely isolated from vehicular traffic, we will bike across picturesque Bavaria through Ulm, the birthplace of Albert Einstein. From Ulm we shall carry on to Linz and then to Vienna, with its monumental palaces dating to the Hapsburg Empire. After a day of inspirational classical music and delicious Viennese cream cakes we are off to Bratislava, the cosmopolitan capital of Slovakia.
We continue on to Budapest once dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Danube.’ Anyone who has not visited Eastern Europe will be enchanted by Budapest, a city that combines chic and upbeat commercial/dining districts with imperial Austro-Hungarian era architecture.
We take a short rest in Budapest, before we head for the Carpathians and the Romania region of Transylvania. Steeped in folklore this region also boasts some spectacular mountain scenery. Riders will not soon forget the Transfagaras Range. Then on to Bucharest, once dubbed ‘Paris of the East’, because of its busy cosmopolitan social scene and its architecture.
Leaving Bucharest we cross the Friendship Bridge over the Danube River, and cycle along a series of secondary roads to Veliko Tarnovo – a gorgeous town dating back 5,000 years perched on the cliffs high above the Yantra River. We stop a night in Kotel with its talented Roma musicians, and on to lively border town of Malko Tarnovo before we head into Turkey.
We will have a few days getting to know the welcoming near-east culture. Then we arrive at our final destination, exotic Istanbul, on the Bosporus Strait which separates Europe and Asia. There we will gather together one last time for a celebratory dinner, and reflect on the epic journey just ended.
This section will definitely give you a feeling of Joie de Vivre as we pedal from Paris’s Eiffel Tower along the meandering, quiet roads in the French countryside to the German Black Forest region. Experiencing these sites astride a bicycle, you will see and sense Europe in a manner unlike any other tour.
The adventure will begin in Paris, the City of Lights. After a brief cycle tour of the city stopping for quick photos at Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe we will head for our first stop in Provins, a walled medieval town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Provins, the road takes us through the rolling French “Champagne” region, home of the authentic bubbly, and into Alsace, along a route dotted by picturesque towns, including Chaumont and Plombières-les-Bains. We will cross the Vosges, where you will have a challenging 10 km climb from 200 to 1200 meters in altitude – the most difficult day of this section and on a route used in year’s past on the Tour de France.
After a night in Munster sampling its famous Munster cheese, we cross into Germany across the Rhine River at this borderless border between the two European Union powerhouses. Just 50 km inside Germany we arrive in Freiburg, a vibrant university town, and gateway to the Black Forest.
From Freiburg it’s a one day ride to Donaueschingen, the official source of the mighty Danube River. It is in Donaueschingen where we meet the Danube Cycleway – or Donauradweg as it’s known in Germany. This is a 1,357 km dedicated bicycle path that runs along the banks of the Danube River. Occasionally isolated entirely from vehicular traffic, this amazing cycle way offers gorgeous views, trailside cafes, bike repair stations, and winds through interesting towns and villages throughout the rest of this section.
We will bike across picturesque Bavaria through Ulm, the birthplace of Albert Einstein. On our day off in Ulm, riders can take some time to climb the 768 stone steps spiraling straight up to 141 meters inside the steeple of what is the world’s tallest church – the Ulmer Munster.
From Ulm we pedal through Regensburg with its old stone bridge, before we explore the delights of three of Europe’s most cosmopolitan urban centers; Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. Each is a capital city, ancient and modern, rich with imperial architecture, opera houses and museums, as well as chic shopping and delightful eateries.
Inspirational classical music and delicious Viennese cream cakes await you in Vienna. Then, we are off to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia – a mix of old and new, the city is rapidly modernizing while maintaining the ‘old city’ and it’s cobbled streets lined with shops and restaurants. Then on to Budapest, once dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Danube’ for its enviable spot on the river at one of its widest and grandest points. We will stop along the way to take pictures of the parliament buildings – Budapest’s tallest building with its impressive Gothic Revival architecture.
Anyone who has not visited Eastern Europe recently will be enchanted by Budapest’s latest Parisian fashions, an impressive array of international cuisine and majestic Austro-Hungarian architecture. Hungary’s centuries-old spas will relax you after your journey. Visit one of the large public spas and you will observe a slice of local life in this city unlike any other.
Leaving Budapest we will head southeast, traversing the plains of southern Hungary. As we cross into Romania and Transylvania, the flat days soon end. Not only is Transylvania rich in history and intrigue, its landscapes rival the Alps and Pyrenees for sheer challenge and awe-inspiring views. Throughout our time here we will observe horse-drawn carts, and farmers pitching hay into large mounds that dot the fields like giant furry thimbles.
Cycling eastward on country roads, we arrive at our rest day in Alba Iulia – the capital during Michael the Brave’s short reign as Prince of Transylvania.
On from Alba Iulia, the Carpathians creep ever closer on our right, until we turn inward and start our challenging (yet surprisingly manageable) ascent up the Transfagaras range and into the territory ruled by Vlad Dracul, better known as Dracula.
Over a distance of approximately 60 km we will climb to an altitude of 2034 m negotiating more than 50 switchbacks on the north side of the pass on a road engineered with gentled grades. After reaching the top we stay near one of the dictator Ceaucescus’s old hunting lodges set by Lake Balea.
After a cooler mountain night in idyllic surroundings, we zoom downhill through tunnels and past manmade lakes high in the mountains, stopping to explore the little known ruins of Poienari Castle – one of Vlad’s fortresses, until we reach Curtea de Arges – one of the oldest cities in Romania on the banks of the Arges River.
The next stop is Targoviste, the city from which Vlad ran his empire, and the site of the trial and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu. After another day of riding into the metropolis of Bucharest, the current capital of Romania, our time cycling is complete.
After a convoy out of Bucharest, it’s a straight shot to the Bulgarian border, crossing the Friendship Bridge over the Danube River, and staying in a riverside hotel for our final chance to watch the Danube on it’s journey to the Black Sea.
We cycle along a series of secondary roads and follow the Cyrillic-only signs past the UNESCO-recognized rock monastery at Ivanovo, and arrive to Veliko Tarnovo – a town perched on the cliffs high above the Yantra River. The town has a history dating back 5000 years, was the former capital of Bulgaria and once voted the most beautiful city in the country.
Then we follow even quieter roads through Bulgaria’s hilly interior. We stop a night in Kotel with its talented Roma population of musicians who can be found playing in restaurants and orchestras all over Bulgaria. After another stop in Malko Tarnovo we head to the Turkish border.
We will have a few days getting to know the friendly people of Turkey over kebabs and coffees until we arrive at our final destination, exotic Istanbul, which straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosporus Strait. The same city, known in antiquity as Byzantine and, later, Constantinople, served as capital, in succession, of three empires. Istanbul remains one of the world’s most majestic, enchanting and vibrant cities. There we will gather together one last time for a celebratory dinner, and reflect on the epic journey just ended.