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Orient Express

Explore Europe by bike and join OE alumni of the past who have cycled from Paris to Itanbul on what is becoming the classic bike adventure thru Europe. From the ‘City of Lights’ we set off through French vineyards, and cycle nearly traffic-free along the Danube cycleway. Explore European highlights and lesser-known jewels including Regensberg, Bratislava, Veliko Tarnovo, and Vize. Explore the spas of Budapest, and the spices of Turkish bazaars, medieval cathedral towns and traditional farming in the countryside. Stop to sample local wines and pastries. See the landscape, culture, and cuisine change with each pedal stroke eastward to the city at the edge of the European continent: Istanbul.

The Experience

The adventure will begin in Paris, the City of Lights. After a brief cycle tour of the city, doffing our helmets at Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, we will head for our first stop in Chenoise. The next day we’ll pass through Provins, a walled medieval town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From Provins, the road takes us through the rolling “Champagne” region, home of the authentic bubbly and into Alsace, along a route dotted by spa towns. Cycling across increasingly lush, hilly and forested terrain, we enjoy a thrilling descent down to Munster, near the French-German border.

50 kilometers inside Germany, we arrive in the old university town of Freiburg, gateway to the Black Forest. From Freiburg it is a one-day ride to Donaueschingen, the official source of the mighty Danube River. It is in Donaueschingen 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. After reaching the top, we will take time out to explore the little known ruins of Poienari Castle – one of Count Vlad’s fortresses. From there, we zoom downhill through tunnels and past manmade lakes high in the mountains. The next stop is Tirgoviste, the city from which Vlad ran his empire, and the site of the trial and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu. Then on to Bucharest, once dubbed “Paris of the East”, because of its busy cosmopolitan social scene and its architecture.

From Bucharest we head further south, crossing into Bulgaria before turning east en route to Turkey. A few days and a few Turkish kebabs and coffees later we arrive at our final destination, exotic Istanbul, straddling Europe and Asia across the Bosporus Strait. The same city, known in antiquity as Byzantine and later Constantinople, was the capital of three successive empires. Today Istanbul remains one of the world’s most majestic, enchanting and vibrant cities.

The Experience

This section will take you to some of Europe’s most visited cities and all-time favorite tourist attractions; from Paris’s Eiffel Tower, to German Bavaria, and along the Danube to the Cathedrals and Opera houses of Vienna. Experiencing these sites astride a bicycle, you will see and sense Classic Europe in a manner unlike any other European tour. The adventure will begin in Paris, the City of Lights. After a brief cycle tour of the city doffing our helmets at Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe we will head for our first stop in Chenoise.

The next day we’ll pass through 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 spa towns, including Vittel, source of the famous French mineral water. We will cross the Vosges, where you will have a challenging climb from 200 to 1200 meters in altitude – the most difficult day of this section. Just 50 km inside Germany we arrive in Freiburg, gateway to the Black Forest.

From Freiburg it is a one-day ride to Donaueschingen, the official source of the mighty Danube River. It is in Donaueschingen where we meet the Danube Cycleway, a 1357 km dedicated bicycle path that runs along the banks of the Danube River. Occasionally isolated entirely 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. While in Vienna you can visit cathedrals, museums and opera houses, and/or tantalize your taste buds with Austrian-style schnapps, beer and pastries.

The Experience

On this section we will sample the delights of four of Europe’­s most cosmopolitan urban centers; Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Bucharest. 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, and Budapest, once dubbed the “Pearl of the Danube.” 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. 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 excruciating ascent up the Transfagaras range and into the territory ruled by Vlad Dracul. Over a distance of approx. 60 km we will climb to an altitude of 2034m negotiating more than 50 switchbacks on the north side of the pass. After reaching the top, we will take time out to explore the little known ruins of Poienari Castle – one of Vlad’s fortresses. From there, we zoom downhill through tunnels and past manmade lakes high in the mountains 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 with Vlad is complete.

The Experience

Feel the Orient drawing steadily closer as we cycle south from Bucharest to Istanbul through some of the least traveled regions of Eastern Europe. You will whiz past horse-drawn carts, observe farmers pitching hay the old fashioned way, and sip strong coffee proffered by curious villagers in rural Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. From Bucharest we head further south, crossing into Bulgaria and then turning east towards Turkey. After a few days getting to know the friendly people of Turkey over kebabs and coffees 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.

2015 Orient Express
Tour Breakdown
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€4350
Paris
Vienna
July 7
July 27
€3300
Vienna
Bucharest
July 30
August 14
€2100
Bucharest
Istanbul
August 16
August 25
€8300
Paris
Istanbul
July 7
August 25

A registration fee of US$150 must first be paid to hold your place on the tour. This fee is in addition to the entry fee listed above. Full tour entry fees will receive an early payment discount of €400 if full payment is received 6 months before the start of the tour. Those coming for multiple sections get 10% off for 2 or more sections on the same tour (multiple section discount does not apply to full tour price). A single supplement is available upon request. Returning riders get special alumni discounts. Please contact our office for further details.