We were recently asked by the Global Heritage Fund UK to lead a small group of their friends and supporters on an architectural discovery of the Saxon villages of Transylvania. One of their guests, Chris Wills, was kind enough to summarise his feelings for the journey, and the place, in an email shortly after getting home. Here are a few things he had to say, along with a selection of some of the best photos from the week, thanks to photographer Tom Hanslien.
"Romania has always been close to my heart. Our first trip as a family to Eastern Europe was to Transylvania in 2004 and subsequent trips have never failed to deliver fond memories of lush meadows strewn with wild flowers in a landscape barely touched by the modern age.
I’ve been helping the Global Heritage Fund UK for a while and was aware of their challenges in Transylvania. When I was asked if I’d like to participate in a cycling holiday in Transylvania I was cautious. I’d never thought of cycling on holiday. The thought of it was mechanical and organised but looking at the details I swiftly discovered The Slow Cyclist was dedicated to gentle cycle trips focused on all things cultural and natural. It didn’t take me long to persuade my wife that this was a good idea and I was off for a mini adventure...
Good tour companies live or die depending on the passion and commitment delivered by the team. Our team was headed up by Oli Broom who’s vision was 'The Slow Cyclist.' A nicer man you could not wish to meet and he was a joy to spend the week with. Oli has the patience of a saint and attention to detail which matters. Oli’s support team was made up of two dedicated cyclists, Cornel and Sergiu, whose passion for Romanian culture, history, landscape, people and everything in between was a joy. Our trip felt effortless and nothing less than spontaneous which meant they had worked exceptionally hard to get it right.
The majority of our time was either cycling through magical woods and into summer pastures, peppered with sheep or walking through villages which felt as though they had been lost in time. There is nothing more thrilling than arriving in an untouched village and chancing upon a gypsy horse and cart, trotting to deliver milk to the dairy or laden with hay. These are experiences which cannot be manufactured and will always be treasured. Oli and his team delivered such experience in spades.
Our few days focused on discovering some very special villages with beautiful traditional architecture along with the opportunity to learn about the fortified churches, local history and what makes Transylvania so very special. Our accommodation was excellent. Sensitive, in keeping with the traditional flavour of the trip but with enough luxury to make us feel special after a good day's exercise.
The idea of a cycling holiday sounds all effort and no joy. Possibly soggy sandwiches and bruised fruit for afters. Our culinary experiences were very different. Every lunch was fit for a king and our suppers, punctuated by traditional music, were equally inspiring. What became clear was we needed the cycling exercise to keep mobile and work off the extra helpings which were so tempting. Our accommodation was of a similar standard. I have already decided to take my wife back to experience a few of the places where we stayed which says something!
The best moments? I keep thinking of the gypsy cart ride and everything it entailed. A close second was visiting the shepherds and watching the sheep shearing and goat milking. Perhaps the supreme occasion was lunch in the orchard in Mesendorf with Monica and walking to the top of the hill behind her house. I want to go back!"
If you would like to experience cycling in Transylvania as Chris did, please get in touch. We're running a select number of group trips in Autumn 2015 and throughout 2016. We're also taking private bookings (firstname.lastname@example.org or +44(0)20 7060 4487).