Mountains, Valleys, and Kingly Castles: From the sylvan environs of Brașov to the Wallachian Plateau


In a small valley cut between two hills packed thickly with green trees, I sat ensconced in a wooden chair in the outdoor restaurant of my roadside motel. There, I supped on vegetable soup and “Transylvanian” Tochitură (a Romanian and Moldovan pork dish) with egg and polenta. As I waited to order, the man who had kindly given me a lift in his cart an hour earlier appeared. I translated the word...

The Transylvanian Heartlands: From Cluj to the mountains west of Brașov


We went south: through the freak downpours characteristic of mountainous regions, we sped along the newly completed motorway, skirting the western regions of Transylvania. Two hours later, we drew up by the site of the old Roman fort at Alba Iulia, a Transylvanian capital in days past. With the sun now back out in force, we strolled around the later-Hapsburg fortifications and restored old town...

Crișana and Northern Transylvania: From Oradea to Cluj


Come the morning, I set off from my roadside hotel just over the border into Romania. It was raining fairly heavily, and I followed a rather token cycle lane just to the side of the main road, where a long line of lorries and trucks queued towards the border. The winds picked up and it soon began to lash it down — though I had dressed fairly appropriately for the weather, I was drenched in little...

Crossing the Great Plain – Part 1: Into the Steppe


My eastern exodus from Budapest was not all that dissimilar to departing Bratislava, a few weeks prior, albeit on a grander, busier scale; the charming backstreets of the old town fell away to the city’s perimeter transport hubs, which soon gave way to clusters of commuting urban centres, complete with brightly coloured communist-era blocks lent new life by the parks, greenery, and the odd...

The Land of the Magyars: Easter in Esztergom and Budapest


By pure happenstance, I arrived in Hungary on the eve of Easter weekend just as Paddy did 90 years ago. Dropping my gear off at the hotel, I headed into town to grab some pulled pork as my celebratory supper. (This was one of the many cravings of the trip thus far. Most of these were frankly ridiculous, such as fish and chips, or American diner food – both of which I was hardly accustomed to back...

Into the Slavic realm: A march across Slovakia


In the small hours, I awoke in the middle of a wind storm: entirely predictable. I had tried my best to keep warm, dry and comfortable, readjusting my prone position on the small bench every 10 minutes or so. After only a few hours of restless sleep, the winds picked up, and I took shelter under the bench itself. I woke at 2:30am to howling winds. I was cold (due in part to sodden clothes) and...

Upper Austria: Returning to the Danube via Salzburg and Linz


On a bridge over the river Saalach I crossed into Austria. I stopped two elderly Austrian ladies in the middle of the bridge who were headed the opposite direction, and they very enthusiastically agreed to photograph the event. Having told them where I had started and where I was headed, they shook their heads in disbelief and began stopping other passersby, relaying the tale.