Transylvania Ride

Transylvania Romania: (IT-RORT01)
URL: http://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/romania_transylvania_ride.aspx

Introduction
Transylvania Romania

Not only has Transylvania proven to be Europe's great undiscovered trail riding destination, but it can also lay claim as the homeland of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula and has lent it's unique landscapes also to the acclaimed 2003 film of "Cold Mountain".  Step back in time and explore the forested hills of Northern Romania, where horses are still used to plow the fields and to pull hay carts during harvest time.  The untouched Rodna Mountains overlook the dramatic sweep that was Dracula's domain. To the south lies the Borgo Pass, now immortalized by Bram Stoker and his notorious fictional character. Close by are historic Saxon towns and the famous painted monasteries of Moldovita, Humor and Voronet, which are well worth a visit before or after the ride. The surrounding forests are home to bears, wolves, lynx and deer, while the hay fields are full of bountiful wild flowers. This is absolutely beautiful and timeless riding country which every horseback enthusiast should experience in their lifetime.
Transylvania may be closely associated as the homeland of Count Dracula, but is also part of the dramatic history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and boasts well-preserved Medieval villages and excellent Romanian wines. We invite you to discover Transylvania as it once was in the 1800's.
You ride out of Miklósvár (Micloşoara), a remote village situated in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, from which you will be able to explore Transylvania freely, past and present. Miklósvár is the oldest documented settlement of the region. Its castle was first mentioned in 1211 AD as a border fortress between the territory donated to the Knights of the Teutonic Order and the rest of the of the Kingdom of Hungary. Today's castle was started in the 1500s as a hunting manor for the family and still contains many Renaissance elements, including its lovely painted wall decorations. It has been abandoned during the last fifty years and is currently under restoration.
Your hosts, the Kálnokys, are one of the most ancient families of Transylvania! Their history reaches back to obscure medieval times. In 1252 AD the family was documented in this eastern part of Transylvania. The current 25th generation came back after 50 years of exile in the West and are now reshaping their lost heritage.

Accomodation


Accommodation 
Accommodation on the ride is quite varied and you will experience life as the locals live in the villages, a typical Transylvania farmhouse belonging to Prince Charles as well as the privacy of Ceausescu’s hunting lodge. Rural guesthouses in villages are roughly equivalent to British 'B&Bs' and you are staying with a family. They are simple but clean and well maintained, with inside plumbing, bathrooms and loos, hot water and central heating. Bathrooms are often shared and may be along a corridor or through the kitchen. Most bathrooms have showers rather than tubs but are clean with plenty of hot water. Ceausescu’s hunting lodge is set in the forest far from any village.



It is typically soviet, built with little cultural sympathy or taste - antlers and bear skins adorn the walls, there is a sitting room with an open fire, a big dining room and double bedrooms with their own bathrooms. The first night is usually spent at the Prince of Wales's property in Zalánpatak, and the last two nights at Miklósvár in houses which your host has re-built with great care and attention to detail. Each room is different with lovely antique furniture and woodburning stoves, typical of the region, which are lit in the winter. Rooms are twin bedded and if you would like a single room then this is possible although cannot be guaranteed.


  
Meals 
Food in rural Romania is generally organic and full of flavor and you will have the chance to sample some traditional dishes although the choice can be limited by what vegetables, etc are in season. Breakfast is eaten at your guesthouse or inn and is typically a selection of eggs, cheese or cold meats, bread or toast and butter and jam, with perhaps a choice of tea or coffee to drink milk (which is often straight from the cow!). Tea (chai) in Romania is not often the black, PG Tips style - but more commonly green or herbal - so you may want to take your own tea bags. Lunch is generally a very simple picnic out riding - ham or cheese sandwiches with fruit for pudding. Dinner, which is eaten at your guesthouse or hotel, is often soup (a strong point of Romanian cooking!), then a main course which will sometimes include a regional specialty such as wild boar or venison stew, peppers stuffed with meat or vegetables, different types of sausage, seasoned minced-meat wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves or perhaps spicy meatballs, followed by a cold pudding or fruit. Food is locally grown and fresh, however usually only one menu is prepared at the guesthouses and there is limited choice. Vegetarians can of course be catered for, but please let us know in advance. Dinner includes mineral water, tea or coffee and usually half a bottle of wine or a bottle of beer per person. Drinks at bars are not included. Mineral water is carried in saddle bags while riding and for lunch (soft drinks and alcohol are not usually available). You will also be offered 'Köményes' the local caraway seed brandy quite regularly - be warned that it can be very strong! (It is perfectly acceptable to decline!)



 

Riding


The Horses

The horses used for these rides are locally bred ponies characteristic of the area along with Arab and Lipizzaner crosses. Their breeding includes Huzul, a historic and robust breed unique to the Carpathian mountains, Semigreu (a Lipizzaner-Ardennes cross) and some locally bred Lipizzaners and Arabs. They range from around 14.2hh to 16.2hh. They are keen and spirited, adaptable and well suited to the going, which can get rough and is steep in places. They are also of calm temperament and sensible to handle. 

Tack
English general purpose saddles are used and saddle bags are provided. Please note that there are NO Western Saddles available.  The horses are ridden in snaffle bits.

Riding
The 6 night trip includes 5 full days riding and there is generally between 3 and 6 hours in the saddle, with breaks to rest and for lunch. When moving accommodation at night on the circuit outings, luggage is transported for you by back up vehicle. Rides are lead by two guides, one English speaking, and groups are usually limited to a maximum of 8 riding guests.

Pace
The rides are at a moderate pace overall, with routes taking you through forest and up and down mountain tracks. There are lots of opportunities for trots and canters each day as much of the riding is across open grassland. There is a little road work each day (some on tar roads) in the vicinity of the villages you pass through, but roads are generally very quiet with little motorised traffic.

Riding Experience 
To participate in these rides you should have a reasonable amount of previous riding experience. The terrain is varied and you cover about 150km during the course of the week. The minimum requirement is that you are comfortable and secure in the saddle at a walk, trot and canter and are used to riding in open country and over different types of terrain. The horses used are sensible and well mannered to ride so they are well suited to people of intermediate riding ability and above. You should also be reasonably riding fit to take part and we recommend you ride regularly at home before you go to accustom yourself to the hours you will spend in the saddle.

Terrain 
The area you ride through is very unspoilt and little touched by tourism. Some of the riding is through forest and up and down mountains and there are one or two places where riders might need to dismount to walk over rough ground, depending on conditions - a good chance to stretch your legs! However overall the area is excellent for riding, with plenty of space, wonderful open mountain pastures full of wild flowers in the spring, varied scenery and many wonderful views. There is also much to see of cultural interest with many local people living in conditions that have changed little for hundreds of years and with horses still widely used for ploughing fields and pulling carts.

Non riders are welcome: we can arrange activities such as walking, cycling, bird watching and traveling by horse-drawn carriage. Specialist guides can be provided for walking and cycling. Riders and non-riders stay in the same overnight accommodation, and on some days meet for lunch.

Itinerary

This is the standard itinerary available from the beginning of April to the beginning of November. Around 5-6 hours are spent in the saddle daily and a variety of terrain is traversed as you travel through wild hills and forest landscapes. The villages are situated at 450-600m, the hills reach 700-900m. This whole region is called Erdővidék, or “Woodlands”, and has been looking very much the same for the last centuries.

Sample Itinerary:


Day 1: You will be met on arrival at the Brasov train station and driven either to Miklósvár or Zalánpatak according to availabilities. 
The village of Miklosvar was part of the Kalnoky family estate and the old hunting manor is on the edge of the village. The area was part of the Hungarian empire but became Romanian during the 1st World War. A couple of the traditional houses in the village were carefully restored in order to preserve their original Transylvanian charm and character and accommodation is in these guesthouses. The guesthouses are situated within spacious gardens, with storks nesting on nearby rooftops.
Zalánpatak is a small & remote village, around 25 km far from the stables at Korospatak. The night is spent in a lovely farmhouse, restored by Count Kálnoky for the Prince of Wales, which is situated in a tiny village surrounded by hills with meadows and forests. 
Meet your guide or Countess Anna Kálnoky for a welcome dinner, and to discuss about the horses you will be riding during the tour.

Day 2: Transfer (7 km)to the riding center at Valea Crisului (Sepsikorospatak, “Round Brook”) by car. The ride starts climbing slowly onto a ridge, where we are heading north on high pastures with magnificent views stretching to the high Carpathian Range. We leave the villages of Kalnok and Zalan to our right below us down in the valley, meet shepherds and their flocks on the pastures and at the end of the day we descend through the forest to reach Malnas Bai (Malnasfurdo, “Raspberry Baths”), where the riders stay for the night as guests of a local hunter’s family (bathrooms might have to be shared). Once a thriving spa with plenty of mineral water springs, this village has typical wooden turn-of-the-century Transylvanian spa architecture, although now in a rather rickety shape. Riding time: approx. 5 hours.

Day 3: We climb back north-westerly into the deep forests of the Hatod region, where 6 villages share the same woods (hatod = “one sixth”). We travel along a quiet forest track, alongside which bear traces are sometimes to be found. After having ridden around the extinct volanco "Murgo", we descend on gentle grassy slopes to the Batanii villages (“Big Bacon and Little Bacon”) to reach our accommodations in village houses at lovely “Little Bacon” where we shall have common dinner. The villagers here are known to be especially hospitable and friendly, and before dinner will take pride at showing you their still functioning watermill and traditional looms. Riding time: approx. 5 hours.

Day 4: We head northwest through forests and hay meadows, to climb up to Szep Arca (“Pretty Face”) hill on the southern slopes of the Hargita Range. Wide views open out on distant Barot and Olt Valley. We descend northwest into the Kormos (“Sooty”) valley, where Romania’s ex-Dictator Ceausescu had his private hunting villa. The river is teeming with trout, the wet meadows have beautiful wild flowers. Ceausescu’s villa is now the ‘Kormos’ hunting lodge where you will be accommodated and have dinner (or in the neighboring forestry’s house during hunting season). 5 double rooms en-suite with French beds (no twins). Riding time: approx. 4 hours.

Day 5: We turn south down the Kormos Valley on a long ride along the lower slopes of the hills, passing the villages of Filia/Erdofule (“Forest’s Ear”) on endless hay meadows towards the town of Barot. We continue on the slopes offering many a chance for cantering, into the valley of the river Olt to reach Miklosvar and our guesthouses (or a guesthouse of similar standards nearby in the rare case of limited availability, and eating on the Estate). Riding time: approx. 6 hours.

Day 6: From Miklosvar, we return to Korospatak, crossing the hills and brooks. This trip was very common for many a generation of the Kalnoky family who had to ride often between the two villages, where their two manors are. This part of the region is particularly rich in game as there is no road or village for 25km. Arriving at Korospatak, you will be transferred back to Miklosvar by car for your last night at our guesthouse. Riding time: approx. 6 hours.

Day 7: Depart after breakfast, or adding on a few days of relaxation and tours based at Count Kalnoky’s Guesthouses in Miklosvar. 

   -- subject to changes --



Rates and Dates for Transylvania Ride

Rates include:

6 nights accommodations in country inns, all your meals, luggage transfers, Brasov train station transfer, equestrian guide, 5 riding days.

Packages and Options





Transfer and Other Options:



 DescriptionEUR~US$
2012 Transfer from the Brasov train station included 0 $0
2012 Transfer from Bucharest pp (min of 2) each way
- to be paid locally
70 $95

Dates Note:

Rates do not include:

Visa fees, additional sightseeing, entry to museums, alcoholic beverages other than at meal time. mandatory personal insurance, use of telephones and/or fax machines, gratuities, Bucharest airport/hotel transfer.

Other Info
Meeting: Miklosvar
Airport: Bucuresti Otopeni
Transfer: Brasov train station

Climate:

The climate in Miklosvar is that of continental Europe, with an altitude of between 500 to 800 meters. The summers are generally hot; however, the temperature can drop during the night.

Most rides are run from set dates between April and October when the weather in the area is best. In spring and early summer the ground is scattered with wild flowers; in August and September the hay fields are harvested and the countryside is busy with horse drawn carts; later in September and in October the forests are full of color with the changing leaves. Average daytime temperatures between April and October are roughly as follows - April 11°C; May 16°C; June 19°C; July 21°C; August 21°C; September 18°C; October 13°C - though it may be about 5 degrees hotter at midday and about 5 degrees colder at nightfall. Rain is possible at any time so you need to be prepared for this.

What To Bring:

The climate in Transylvania is that of continental Europe. The summers are generally hot; however, the temperature can drop during the night, so pack a warm jumper.  In the winter, warm, waterproof clothing and boots is a must, especially for those wishing to leave the fireside and venture forth into the forest!

Walking boots and a rucksack are essential if you intend to explore the surrounding countryside or participate in more adventurous activities.  Hikers might want to bring along their own compass (maps can be provided).  Be prepared for hot weather by packing a hat, as well as a good sunscreen.  Insect repellent is also useful in certain areas.   A good waterproof jacket (and possibly trousers) is also useful for unexpected rain showers.  Those with an interest in wildlife should bring along their binoculars, as well as nature guides to help with the identification of birds, plants, mushrooms, and animal tracks.  A handy torch is advised, as the village is poorly lit during the night (and there is also the occasional electricity cut). Please note that we do not provide riding helmets, so bring your own if you want to wear a riding helmet.

Since Miklósvár is a Szekler Hungarian village, the local population speak Hungarian, so feel free to include a phrasebook.  Your efforts are most appreciated by the locals!

Finally, you should bring along an open mind.

 For those with an interest in fishing, we have some rods, but please feel free to bring along your own if you prefer.

This list is only a guideline for you

 

Travel documents and Voucher
Flight tickets
Passport
Visa (check with your consulate)

 

RIDING GEAR
Riding pants or Jodhpurs (used if possible!)
Riding boots (short) + full or Mini-chaps
Riding helmet (recommended for all trips - you need to bring your own helmet)
Riding gloves
Hat (with chin strap) for sun protection
Waterproof jacket and pants

 

PERSONAL CLOTHING
Windproof jacket
Comfortable T-Shirts/Shirts
Jeans
Warm jacket and hat for cool evenings
Underwear and socks
Pyjamas
Bag for dirty clothes
Trekking boots/ comfortable shoes
Swimsuit
 
ADDITIONAL THINGS TO BRING
Personal Toiletries
Insect protection
Personal medications
Sore cream (for an emergency)
Sewing kit
Flashlight
Adapter for electric appliances
Camera and enough extra batteries
Water bottle
Sun glasses with strap
Sun tan lotion and lip balm