Trying to sum up a 14 day motorbike trip through Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, with all the roads, meals, people and historical sites that it involved, in around 1000 words, it is is like trying to cram 10 pounds of rice into a 5-pound bag. Adriatic Motorcycle ToursThe Romania tour in Istanbul lived up to its name, offering a dozen of us – four Australians and eight Americans – a rich experience in a very interesting and beautiful part of the world.
Our tour started in Bucharest, Romania, and followed a counterclockwise loop with overnight stops in charming towns and days off in Sibiu, Romania, and Istanbul, in Turkey.
Before our trip, Adriatic Moto Tours (AMT) sent us a detailed tour guide and map, and they made our hotel arrangements in Bucharest and picked us up from the airport. All my wife Becky and I had to do was pack our gear and make sure we made our flight. Orientation, bike assignments and everything went stress-free, and after our first dinner together, our group became familiar, bonded, and ready to ride.
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Rok was our motorcycle guide and PrimoÅ¾ was our support van driver and evening host. From Burcarest, we headed to TÃ¢rgoviÅte, where we enjoyed coffee and fresh pastries at a cafe adjacent to an imposing 15th century fortress. Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler and the inspiration of the vampire Dracula, fought bloody battles here. PrimoÅ¾ told us that Vlad once invited hundreds of guests to a banquet, then killed and impaled them all.
On that happy note, we drove north towards CÃ¢mpulung through lovely mountains, with rocky peaks in the background and a beautiful green pastoral landscape below. This stretch was twisty and winding but smooth and pleasant. There are many beautiful places in the world, all different, but there are not many more beautiful than this part of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. We visited Bran Castle, which was built in the 13th century and inspired Bram Stoker’s description of vampire castle in “Dracula”. On our way to dinner that evening, PrimoÅ¾ took us on a walking tour of the old town of BraÅov. Each evening we walked to a wonderful restaurant and the guides shared their knowledge of the culture and history of the area. Dinners were family style, with Rok and PrimoÅ¾ ordering a variety of platters so we could taste a bit of everything.
Our route continued through Transylvania on smooth roads through rolling hills, terrain and ever-changing landscapes. We had lunch in SighiÅoara, a 12th century walled city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For our ‘rest’ day in Sibiu, we did what the bikers do: we got up early and went for a ride, in this case to the famous TransfÄgÄrÄÅan road above the FÄgÄrÄÅ range. At the foot of the mountain, Rok gave the signal and the group split up, each climbing the steep, winding switchbacks at their own pace to the pass at 6,699 feet. The next day, after discovering that a landslide had closed the long-awaited Transalpina road, we allayed our disappointment with another race on the TransfÄgÄrÄÅan.
We crossed the Friendship Bridge in Bulgaria and headed to Veliko Tarnovo, where we spent the night in the Tsarevets Fortress. We visited the Shipka monument at a 3,900ft mountain pass which was the site of battles during the Russo-Turkish War in the late 1800s. And we descended into Rose Valley, where much of it originated from. rose oil from the world for perfumes, and passed through fields of sunflowers that stretched as far as the eye could see.
After a night in Plovdiv, which has Roman ruins in the center of town, we drove through the Rhodope Mountains to Greece. Most of the road had excellent pavement, gentle curves and beautiful mountainous terrain which gave way to a Mediterranean seaside landscape in Alexandroupoli. The next day we drove through Turkey and a perfect road arc around the Gulf of Saros took us to the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula, where we visited the WWI memorials.
Istanbul is beyond words. At the crossroads of East and West, it has a rich and varied history and a unique blend of cultures. Three nights and two days off in Istanbul left plenty of time to explore and see famous sites like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Hippodrome of Constantinople. The people in the streets and in the shops were warm and friendly, and the variety of food was endless and always delicious. Our hotel offered easy access to historic districts, and its rooftop bar and restaurant overlooked the Bosphorus Strait, which is the border between Europe and Asia. Just indescribable – you should really experience it for yourself.
After Istanbul’s sensory overload, we followed Rok northwest until our lunch break in Saray. The roads twisted and twisted, and the surface was somewhat rough from years of repair. We crossed the border back into Bulgaria, and at the checkpoint there were several luxury vehicles full of hundreds of holes. If that was meant to be a warning, it worked. Nessebar, located on a rocky peninsula jutting out into the Black Sea, was our overnight stopover. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and as we walked for dinner we saw monuments and ruins dating back to the 5th century. The atmosphere at dusk was breathtaking, another step back in time.
The terrain and scenery changed again as we drove north along the Bulgarian coast, which is a popular vacation destination with dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches and resort hotels. After a night in Kavarna, where we stayed in a modern condo overlooking the Black Sea, we passed through fertile grain producing agricultural areas. We returned to Romania on a ferry across the mighty Danube and returned to Bucharest, where PrimoÅ¾ greeted us with champagne at the hotel. After the party, we emptied the bikes and cleaned up for the farewell dinner. I don’t remember much from that last night. Our heads were spinning with memories, laughter and a few adult drinks.
This tour was everything we could imagine, multiplied by a factor of 10. Both guides worked tirelessly to accommodate us every day for 14 long days. The driving was brilliant, the ever-changing landscapes, history and culture beyond what we could absorb in a lifetime, and Adriatic Moto Tours earned our highest regards on everything from booking to the very latest. Maybe we can go back one day?
The AMT Adventure Tour from Istanbul to Romania takes place several times a year from August to October. For dates, prices and details visit adriaticmototours.com.