Transylvania - a place that brings to mind mystery, folklore, legends, and Dracula. It is also the location of the Transfăgărăşan, the pass described as “the most amazing road we have ever seen” by the guys on the TV Series Top Gear.
The cabal - to get to, and ride, the Transfăgărăşan. The method - a tour to discover all that is good between Bratislava and Brașov, Romania. The association - mostly members of previous Beach tours with a sense of adventure and curiosity.
This tour will explore places hidden from Western eyes for decades.
Participants will find countries rich in local folklore, with magnificent cultural and historical heritage. September is a favorite time to travel through these mountains.
Slovakia’s capital, and largest city, Bratislava is only a short distance downstream from Austria’s capital, Vienna. On the banks of the Danube both cities are alive with vibrating culture and historical charm. These two were the heart of Eastern Europe for centuries.
Our first free day allows extensive exploration in either, or both, Vienna and Bratislava. If cities don’t attract you, a ride of less than 20 miles will take you out into pastoral farmland and open country.
The first day on the road offers the same sort of choice. Take smaller roads through the Slovak and Hungarian countryside, or follow larger roads through Budapest, Hungary’s capital and largest city. To leap from one country’s capital to another in such a short time is possible only in this corner of the world.
Across the border - to Hungary:
The first overnight stop is in the small city of Eger, Hungary. During the expansion of the Ottoman Empire Eger was an important border fortress for the Hungarians, but was eventually conquered and occupied by the Turks for almost a century. A result of the occupation is the northernmost Minaret in Europe, which is one of only three surviving in Hungary.
In addition to the Turks, the Tartars, Habsburgs, and Russians have all invaded, and occupied, this small country. The national anthem describes the Hungarians as "people torn by fate.” They have persevered, and exist today while many of the conquering people have faded or disappeared.
On to Romania, and Transylvania:
A turbulent land with a convoluted history, Romania is our easternmost destination. Oradea, on the main trade route with Hungary, is a Romanian city that benefited greatly from the conquerors, as the Habsburgs were responsible for much of the Baroque architecture that dots the city. Oradea also has many fascinating Art Nouveau buildings constructed at the turn of the century. Thus, there is much to see on our overnight here �"Oradea is a fine introduction to Romania!
The next few nights are spent in Transylvania, the home of Vlad the Impaler, a hero to Romanians, a villain to fans of Bram Stroker’s Dracula. Count Dracul is only one of the fascinating attractions in the area. We will visit UNESCO protected medieval cities, salt mines worked from the middle ages, villages and peoples with historical ties preceding the Romans.
The Carpathians - the high roads!
Another attraction, and one most interesting to riders, are the southern ranges of the Carpathian Mountains. It is here that we have come to play on our modern machines. The country’s highest road, the Transalpina, or “King’s Road,” is one of our targets. Another is Top Gear’s favorite, the Transfăgărăşan. Nicolae Ceaușescu, post WWII dictator of Romania, built the Transfăgărăşan Road at great cost in the early 70s. The Transalpina was rebuilt beginning in 2010. And we, in 2013, can conquer them both! Our double overnight in Brasov gives us time to ride a variety of other great, coiling roads, to enjoy stunning landscapes, and ride through pristine forests.
Following the arc of the eastern Carpathians we make our way north. Dodging in and out of the mountains, we eventually arrive in the valley town of Targu Mures. Our modern accommodation, like the old parts of the city, stands in glaring contrast to the post-WWII residential buildings.
Adventuresome riders may detour on the ride to Baia Mare, our next stop, to set foot in the Ukraine. Adding another pin to the “been there” map is never a bad idea!
Baia Mare is our last overnight in Transylvania, and the luxuriant forests and outstanding landscapes of the Maramures region are our playground this afternoon.
The best Slovakian roads:
The excellent mountain riding we have grown accustom to in Romania continues in Slovakia over the magnificent alpine roads of the High Tatras. Slovakia is a country without the usual tourist congestion. Having emerged from its frumpy, communist-era cocoon and joined the EU, this little known area awaits discovery.
With a multitude of historical architectural sites and stunning natural beauty concentrated in a small area, Slovakia is quaint and jovial with a surprisingly rich cultural life.
A delightful walk down Košice’s main street will make that evident, as the sidewalk cafes, museums and impressive buildings vie with one another for attention.
Our last double-overnight is in Liptovsky Mikulas, a center for the Tatras mountains. From here day rides may take the adventuresome to Poland, or simply up to magnificent views of the city itself.
Join us and ride the Carpathian Mountains as they curl across Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Ride a little harder and add another 2 additional countries to your "been there" list. Experience traditional local hospitality, discover beautiful countryside and explore historic towns. It's all a part of Beach's Transylvanian Trek.