On day two, we began the 35km trek towards Sighisoara, a 16th century town that is a World Heritage Site and birthplace of Vlad Dracula, the real-life inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Day three saw an early start, and we biked 50km through the forest towards our next destination, the Saxon village of Viscri, stopping for lunch in Saschiz. Each day, our guide marked out a route between the trees. He was fantastic and would spend a lot of time cycling backwards and forwards to gather misguided cyclists along the way. At dusk in Viscri, you can watch the cows guide themselves back to their barns, with the tinkering of their bells punctuating the silence.
Day four was a hefty 65km, but was well worth it after we stopped at the Stromba Valley to visit a bear hide, and saw these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. We spent the night in a village called Sinca Noua and stayed at Equus Silvania, a guest house whose owners, Barbara and Christoph Promberger, are also involved in the conservation of the region. Each evening we were welcomed into these local inns and fed on regional fare. Romanian food is generally preserved and there’s much nose-to-tail eating, including lots of preserved meat. The locals live off the forests and they forage seasonal fruits such as fresh berries, which happened to be in season during the trip. I’ve never tasted such vividly flavourful or fresh berries as I did during those few days. My wife, Jodi, accompanied me, and she and a friend hired a car and went exploring during the day while we were on the trails. One morning, she walked with our guide and his dog through the forest. His dog was trained to sniff out truffles, so that evening we feasted on these knobbly delicacies with our dinner.
On day five, a 45km journey enabled us to see the Wild Kingdom bus in action; this was followed by a stay at the Inn on Balaban near the village of Bran. The following day, which was our last, we had a gentle downhill ride to Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, and after this we visited a bear sanctuary on our way back to Bucharest by road.
Overall, being able to experience these dramatic forests are what made the tour truly special. Romania isn’t usually a sought-out travel destination, but the trip was quite remarkable. One morning, it had just rained and the fallen leaves were soft under the tyres of my Merida Big Nine 500. There was a gentle mist, and it was dark, still, and quiet. And yet, I could hear other cyclists up ahead, about 100m away, in perfect clarity. It was quite a special and surreal experience. theeuropeannaturetrust.com