Bree left her hometown on the eastern coast of Australia to ride horses in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, which is where we met her. After welcoming Slow Cyclists to Transylvania since early 2018, you’ll now find her smiling face waiting for those who walk and cycle in Zagori, Northern Greece.

 

How did you arrive at being a guide? What did you want to ‘be when you grew up’?

I spent good amount of time growing up daydreaming about riding the world and guiding others on such trips as an experienced adventuress. After university I was on a straight and privileged career path, but after 2 years I threw it all in to live my daydreams. That was 5 years ago and I haven’t looked back once.

As for what I wanted to be when I grow up? I’m still deciding, changing and being just as imaginative as when I was four years old. Last week I decided I wanted to be a travel author. This week I am thinking yacht captain. This is what happens when you’re lucky enough to shed the expectations of the social norm.

 

You hosted guests in Romania for a few years before heading to Zagori. Do you think Romania has changed since you arrived?

I arrived in Romania in 2016 and it blew my little Australian mind. How has it changed me requires some complicated psychoanalysis but I will try and put it in words. One week in a country with The Slow Cyclist changes your view and appreciation of your life; the three years that I spent in Romania has unequivocally altered me and very much for the better.
I have learnt to appreciate the slow, quiet moments in life more. To enjoy the process, not just the outcome. To appreciate the origin of what I consume and the daily toil it takes to make it. I have a new respect for farming and am a more responsible consumer, and now my choice of food and other products reflects my knowledge of how the plant was grown, the animal was raised or labourer was treated. I have greater respect for the elderly and what they did, and continue to do, for their communities. I see the impact of the future generations and how critical they are for change. I am more patient than I used to be (it’s that or go grey seeing as nothing works as it should). The biggest change that I have enjoyed personally, and that my family has even commented on,  is that I stress much less and take things as they come. It seems the Romanian attitude that ‘it is what it is’ has rubbed off.

 

What’s your earliest cycling memory?

It cannot be my first memory but it is the one that stands out the strongest. My friend and I had the cracking idea to take our bikes on a hike to enjoy the downhills more. We forgot that most of the downhills were rough wooden stairs and I spent every downhill either ending up in the bush having lost control and veered off the track, or on my face at the bottom with the bike still halfway up the track. Unfortunately for me, but much to everyone else’s delight, most of this is on camera. I have never been smart enough to learn from my mistakes and still enjoy a good downhill cycle, my skill has improved little though.

 

Do you have a favourite place in Transylvania? And have you found one in Zagori?

My favorite place in Transylvania are the wildflower meadows. I have sat in, cycled through and galloped over them for years now and not one time have I failed to strech out my arms and hollar ‘The Hills are Alive’ from The Sound of Music. They have given me some of my richest memories and still give the warm fuzzies.

I am still discovering the many delights of Zagori but I think my favorite area is Boloi: a stone built path that leads out to an immense view where you are both above and in the Vikos Gorge. Epic, stunning and mindblowing.

 

Do you have a piece of kit would you never be without?

Ever impractical and unprepared I never have anything useful or lifesaving on hand but wherever I go I most likely have sunglasses on, car keys in my pocket and a Gerald Durrell book in reach.

 

What’s your favourite traditional dish? Do you cook it at home?

I had a glorious love affair in Romania with its seasonal, organic, local produce. Wild garlic soup is drool-worthy and Anca’s cabbage lasagna is more than moreish. There’s nothing like three years in Romania to make you think any meal without pork or cabbage is odd.
I am already loving the Northern Greek cuisine. The homemade meatballs in red sauce would have to be top of the charts at the moment. All dishes my willing family get to try on my annual visit down under.

 

Have you heard a favourite local saying?

The Romanians are mostly pretty superstitious. I love hearing them and their reasons for them, although most make me roll my eyes. William Blacker’s Along the Enchanted Way: its my favorite story written about Transylvania and is a pretty accurate description, if a little romanticised, of the way of life there.

 

Is there a traditional local game you and your friends enjoy playing?

During Greek Easter you smack the ends of painted hard boiled eggs together. The strongest one wins, although the looser gets to eat theirs. I love this tradition and game. We don’t have this beautiful traditional culture at home in Australia. The whole ceremony of blowing out the egg shells and dying them with onion skins, painting the boiled ones and cracking them together, while rolling out Easter greetings that I can never remember; it’s like being a kid again.

 

Which travel writers would you recommend?

William Blacker for sure in Romania. I am yet to read a book that describes the area more eloquently than Along the Enchanted Way. My favourite book about Greece – and all time favourite read – is My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Although not specifically about Northern Greece its a light, fun, engaging read that gives you good insight to the Greek mentality and life perspective. I am having a go at Roumeli by Patrick Leigh Fermor who I seem to be following from Romania to Greece. It’s a little wordy for me and, after three pages describing a shepherd’s moustache and hat, I need a break but I’m still enjoying.

 

Do you have a favourite word in Romanian? And in Greek?

My favourite and, not to mention most used, sentence in both languages is ‘I don’t know’. I can also say it in German and French, just in case. I use it in English pretty regularly too…

 

And when you’re not hosting, how do you spend your time?

If I am not speeding around working you will find me on horseback or at the beach, or both.

 

Where in the world would you like to visit?

Everywhere! Anywhere wild or relatively unknown. My greatest adventures have been in places that were not on my radar until I went. Although I am not usually one for a cities, they are also great to visit for a short time.

 

When you travel, what do you like to explore?

To start with, I love the independence of driving: I like to cruise. Hiking from guidebooks or along routes suggested by hosts means you slowly see places locally recommended. I love exploring the old cities, the small villages and the countryside. Most of all I love to ride, walk or cycle through forgotten regions where you can see how the real lives are led and meet the people living them.

To join Bree walking and cycling in beautiful Zagori, Northern Greece, sign up for one of our scheduled trips to the region or speak to us about arranging a private group.

Leave a comment

NEWSLETTER

Sign up to receive The Slow Cyclist newsletter and occasional updates from our journal