A preamble. Or rather a straight copy of the blurb from the TDA website. It omits the sampling of different cakes, beers and wines. The laundry line of cycling shorts. Mastering people’s names before the end of the ride. The evening cry of “what’s the wifi code?” or “can any one help me with my Garmin”. Or (comments to me) the “I’m sorry, can you repeat that please, I don’t understand your accent”. All good fun, especially the different knowledge and approach each person brings in a friendly mashing of nations and characters – mostly from ex-colonies of course just to get the pecking order sorted!
“It was in 1889 that the original Orient Express train completed the Paris to Istanbul route for the first time. Our cycling version of the Orient Express has been setting off from Paris since 2005, and is still going strong. Cycle past fields of sunflowers, along hundreds of kilometers of the Danube Cycleway, up into the Carpathian mountains in Romania. Be amazed by lesser cycled Bulgaria, and all the way to the Bosphorus at Istanbul.
The adventure will begin in Paris, and a brief stop at some of its most famous sites before we head into the countryside. The route through France passes through medieval towns and across increasingly lush, hilly and forested terrain, before a thrilling descent down to Munster, near the French-German border.
Inside Germany we soon reach Donaueschingen, the start of the Danube Cycleway, which we follow off and on all the way to Budapest. It snakes across picturesque Bavaria through Ulm to Linz and then to Vienna, with its monumental palaces dating to the Hapsburg Empire. After a day of inspirational classical music and architecture we are off to Bratislava, the cosmopolitan capital of Slovakia.
We continue on to Budapest and its iconic spot alongside the now wide and mighty Danube River. 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. Then on to Bucharest, before we cross into Bulgaria and cycle along a series of secondary roads to Veliko Tarnovo – a gorgeous town dating back 5,000 years.
Then it’s on to the border town of Malko Tarnovo before we head into Turkey. We will have a few days getting to know the welcoming near-east culture before we arrive at our final destination, exotic Istanbul. There we will gather together one last time for a celebratory dinner, and reflect on the epic journey just ended”.