Orient Express

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, including Vittel, source of the famous French mineral water. 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 1357 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 couple of days 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.

Countries: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Turkey

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