The Slow Cyclist in The Telegraph

In the summer of 2016 I had a great time hosting travel journalist Will Hide for a few days of cycling in Transylvania. Like most folks who visit this special place with us, Will was keen to soak up local curiosities, eat and drink well and work up a bit of a sweat on the bike.

He seemed to enjoy himself and I was so pleased. His excellent article was published in The Telegraph last Saturday and he does a brilliant job of describing the place and what we do here. 

To paraphrase, Will says that "the cycling here isn’t that tough, but you’re on the move most of the day and there are enough uphill sections to require a decent level of fitness. Couch potatoes need not apply, but on the other hand you don’t need to be a pro." 

I couldn't have put it better myself. You can read the full article here and if you are inspired to come and have a look for yourself, get in touch.  

 The Saxon village of Copsa Mare, Transylvania

The Saxon village of Copsa Mare, Transylvania

8 Exquisite Photographs of Transylvania, by Viv Blewett

Many of our guests carry a camera on their travels with us, but - and I hope I won't cause offence by saying this - few have been able wield it with greater effect than photographer Viv Blewett. 

Along with nine friends, Viv spent a week traveling by bicycle, on foot and in horse and carts through the Saxon villages of Transylvania with us this May. We asked her to choose a few of her favourite photos from the journey and to explain her choices. 

1. Lady in Biertan

This lovely old lady sitting outside her house in Biertan, home to the first fortified church in the region to be listed with UNESCO, was happy for me to take her photograph. The colour combination of the rusty background and her clothes go so well together and I love her gentle hands and her trainers.

  

2. Mr Schass

Mr Schass, the Keeper of the Keys of Richis church, is the last Saxon in the village. Sergiu, one of our guides, is translating his stories for us. Mr Schass’s hand gesture and Sergiu’s expression perfectly convey what is going on.

Church key keeper in Transylvania

3. First Horse & Cart

When we were driven from the airport to our first stop in the village of Cund, we were so excited to see a horse and cart. We soon realised that it would be a sight we'd see many times a day. This shot of a farmer making his way home with his cart full of hay was taken while on our own cart ride...

Horse and cart in Transylvania

4. Carpet & Colours

I love the colours and textures of the brickwork and the carpet hanging out to air. Everywhere we stayed I took photos of the mats and woven wall hangings.

Beautiful textiles in Transylvania

5. Daia Dirt Road

When I talk to people about the villages and the main roads being dirt tracks this is what I keep in my mind. This shot of Daia is a perfect example of what we saw in many of the villages. I love the pastel colours and the threatening sky.

Daia, Transylvania

6. The Blacksmith's Wife

The blacksmith’s wife: the blacksmith was out for the day with his brother - apparently a rare occurrence - but his wife was kind enough to let us in to see the small forge behind the family home.  

The BlackSmith's wife, Transylvania

7. The Shepherd

After a two hour cart ride in the rain up the hills to the shepherd’s hut we were welcomed into their meagre living quarters and invited to watch the milking of the goats. This shepherd had just picked a rather large mushroom.

Sheepfold in Transylvania

8. Three Friends

Once again I have chosen a photo of people. When I look at it, I wonder if these three also sat together on this seat when they were young adults, teenagers and even as toddlers.

The people of Transylvania

If you are interested in joining us to explore the incredible villages of Saxon Transylvania please get in touch. We are leading a limited number of private trips in May, June, September and October 2017. 

The Prince of Wales This June

We are really excited to announce that we have partnered with The Prince of Wales's Foundation Romania, combining an exclusive, amazing week-long journey through Saxon Transylvania from 26 June with some fundraising for a great cause. We have limited the size of the group to 10 and we expect this to sell quickly so please, if you're interested get signed up soon.

Many of you will know that His Royal Highness has a well-known fondness for Romania and first went to Transylvania in 1998. A passionate supporter of the countryside and keen amateur botanist, HRH discovered a rural idyll, largely lost to the UK. Since that first visit, The Prince of Wales has returned to Transylvania many times, each visit further strengthening his desire to help preserve this unique landscape, traditional architecture and way of life, which have survived for hundreds of years.

Here is a painting of his house in Viscri, where members of the group travelling this June will spend two nights. 

Prince of Wales House Transylvania

What's It Like, Cycling in Transylvania?

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 (oli@theslowcyclist.co.uk or +44(0)20 7060 4487).

An Essential Travel Experience

In May we were delighted to welcome a group of 30-somethings from London to Transylvania. None had ever been before.

We had a fantastic few days pedalling some quiet tarmac roads, but mostly tracks through ancient beech and oak forests that, when we reached their edges, opened out onto epic views of Transylvania's famous grazing pastures. 

Laura, 32, from Battersea, wrote to us a few days after she got back home. "Transylvania was beyond my wildest imaginations... such a fascinating, unspoilt and stunning place. I loved mixing with the locals and understanding their way of life, learning about the region's complicated and remarkable culture and history. Cycling along beautiful forest trails that opened out above the mystical hills was breathtaking. Thank you for the most sensational trip. I will be back!"

So did Jamie, 34, from Wandsworth: "You delivered a truly unique trip. Incredible vistas, glimpses into other worlds, tranquil settings and memories to last a life time. I'll be recommending it to all my friends as an essential travel experience!"

Here are some photos from the journey. If you like what you see, drop us an email and let's get talking.