Exploring the Great Empires of Eastern Europe

In the Past:
Exploring the Great Empires of Eastern Europe
AALP Alumni Tour

Hungary and Romania are two of the most scenic, historic and agriculturally bountiful countries in Eastern Europe.

This tour explores these countries from an agricultural perspective through the centuries of history and conflict that has transformed their very nature. An excellent mix of history, unique sites and agri-based visits and meetings, our tour promises an insight into these romantic countries. From the Lipizzaner horse stud and UNESCO Heritage Sites to Dracula’s Castle, you are invited to join with fellow Alumni on this tour of exploration.


September 30, Friday Budapest (D)
Arrival in Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport and meet your Hungarian guide. Sightseeing tour in Budapest. The city’s unique location makes it one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The hills of Buda and the flat plain of Pest are separated by the sweeping meander of the river which is still blue today on fresh, spring days. Caves, healing thermal springs, nature reserves – and all this in a bustling capital of 2 million people. Among the monuments there is a Roman amphitheatre, genuine Turkish baths, and the special Hungarian variation of Art Nouveau. Many of the capital’s splendours have been awarded UNESCO Heritage status and protection. Participants will be shown a good selection of beautiful sights of this capital, situated on both banks of the river Danube, with a sweeping history that goes back more than 2000 years. Check-in in a 4* hotel in Budapest – Welcome dinner tonight.

October 1, Saturday Budapest – Hortobágy – Noszvaj – Eger (B, L, D)
Breakfast. Today we start with travel to Hortobágy and a visit to the Hungarian Puszta. This tour provides the opportunity to get acquantainted with the incomparable 'Hungarian Puszta', the flat region in the Hungarian Great Plain. Typical farm life in Hortobagy has survived, as have the ancient domesticated animals on the Hortobagy and bird species are unique to this region. The program will start in the Puszta Animal Park where we find walking turkeys, bare-necked hens and guinea-fowls talking too loud in the hen-yard. All the three varieties – blond, red and swallow-coloured – of mangalica, this long-hair, wooly lard pigs can be seen. The Hungarian Racka Sheep calls your attention by its really peculiar long hair and spiral horns. We then take horse-drawn carriages and head the puszta, where the largest herd of Hungarian Grey Cattle are grazing. Perfect forms, power and pride – this is the Hungarian Grey Cattle. Calves are born red and become grey by shedding. Lunch is included in the program prior to our departure to Noszvaj. Winetasting and dinner in Thummerer Winery and a walk around the cellar carved into the limestone hills. The wine region around the attractive Baroque town of Eger is often associated with Egri Bikavér (Bull´s Blood), a robust red wine the Ottoman (Turkish) invaders believed to have strength-giving properties. Wine has been made here for over 1,000 years, and a new breed of winemakers is successfully blending traditional techniques with modern methods to put Eger back on the wine map. The Thummerer cellar is one of the few private wine cellars which have achieved outstanding results recently. The Thummerer cellar is located in Noszvaj, a few kilometers from Eger. Winetasting, dinner and visit to the vineyard and the cellar. Travel to Eger and over-night.

October 2, Sunday Eger – Nagyréde – Szilvásvárad – Eger (B, L, D)
Travel today to Szilvásvárad. This is an important holiday area in the Bükk National Park to the north of Eger; Bükk National Park is an absolute gem. Established in 1976, it is the largest national park in Hungary and 97% of its area is wooded. Wonderful walks, a panoramic forest train ride and stud of the world famous locally bred Lipizzaner horses. Walking upstream along the Szalajka brook the Open-air Museum of Forestry, the Veil cascade and the prehistoric man’s cave on Istállóskő hill can be visited.

Todays’ program includes:

  • A horse carriage and ride to the grazing Lipizzaner horse stud
  • A horse carriage and ride to the grazing Lipizzaner horse stud
  • Introduction to the history of the Lipizzaner horse
  • Take the forest train and travel up the Gloriette meadow through the hills
  • Lunch in the Lovas Restaurant, participants will grill trout on their own
The breeding of Lipizzaner horses in Hungary began in the early 1800s, when the stud was transferred from Lipica to Mezőhegyes in order to save the animals from the Napoleonic troops. Later the breed was transferred further Northern part of the country to the present location of Szilvásvárad. The number of horses in the stud has been 250 for decades, with a number of 65-70 breed mares. The horses are divided into three studs, the breeding mare-, stallions of the year- and female colt studs. The stud of breeding mares with suckling colts is located in Szilvásvárad. The stud of 1-3 year-old colts is located in the Bükk plateau, in Csipkéskút; in addition, growing female colts have a separate stud in Szána-valley. Out of three studs, two can be visited: the stud of mother mare and the stud of growing colts. Travel back to Eger. Sightseeing walking tour in Eger; Eger is the western gate of the Bükk Mountains. It is the county seat and archbishop’s residence, rich in historical monuments and cultural sights, a centre of education. Secular sights include the medieval castle which had crucial role in stopping the Turkish invasion in the 16th century. Turkish minaret of the 17th century is the furthest one to the north in Europe. The building of the Catholic High School of Church was completed in 1784, and it now operates as a University. The seat of Heves county local government is decorated with a wrought-iron gate by Henrik Fazola. There are a large number of residential houses in Baroque style that is why Eger often called the Jewel of Bükk Mountains. Ecclesiastical monuments include the neoclassical Cathedral, the Baroque Archbishop’s palace, Franciscan monastery and church, the Minorite church and monastery. Dinner and accommodation in Eger

October 3, Monday Eger – Nagyréde – Zsámbok – Budapest (B, L,- dinner and breakfast box for the train)
Travel to Nagyréde and visit the Benedek Fruit Farm. The Benedek family started managing this farm in 1995. The main activities carried out are: fruit production (since 1995); direct sale of currants, blackcurrants, strawberries and apples and production of cherry juice. Travel to Zsámbok, with lunch en route Visiting the Bio Garden of Matthew Hayes in Zsámbok: Matthew is the manager of Zsámboki Biokert, an organic vegetable farm located in Zsámbok, Hungary. He has over 25 years experience in organic vegetable production and served as the director of the Szent Istvan University Organic Study Farm in Gödöllő before beginning his own operation in Zsámbok. He is one of the founding members of the Open Garden Foundation, an organic growing educational advocacy group. Matthew also helped organize the first community supported agriculture program in Hungary, and has been an advocate of short food supply chains for decades. Travel to Budapest. Arrival at the Railway Station in good time for our evening departure. 19:00 Departure by night train to Bucharest–1st class wagons 2 beds. (Packed dinner in the train)

October 4, Tuesday Bucharest (B, L, D)
Packed breakfast on the train. Arrival in Bucharest railway station at 12:00 where we meet our Romanian guide. Transfer to our hotel – 4* hotel in the city center. Lunch at the hotel. Later we will visit the People’s House – the biggest building in the world after the Pentagon. The People’s House was designed and nearly completed during the communist time, by Ceausescu, from 1984 till the Revolution in 1989. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Palace is the world's largest civilian administrative building, the most expensive administrative building, and the heaviest building. Today it is called the Parliament’s Palace - seat of political and administrative power, a multi-purpose building containing the both chambers of our Parliament. We then continue with our Bucharest city tour, the capital of Romania and the biggest city in the country. Bucharest is full of contrasts, noticeable especially in its architecture, which is the most important witness of its development from a small settlement to its glory days from the beginning of the 20th century and especially between the two World Wars, when it was known as Little Paris, going through 45 years of communism and undergoing nowadays an important restoration process mixed with the construction of modern buildings. Our welcome to Romania dinner tonight is in one of the most famous restaurants in the city. Overnight in Bucharest.

October 5, Wednesday Bucharest – Pantelimon – Afumati – Bucharest (B, L)
Breakfast at our hotel. Time to relax a bit as we enjoy an open morning prior to a departure to Afumati, close to Bucharest to visit DuPont Pioneer seed factory. Following this visit we will have lunch in a restaurant on our way to a dairy farm on Bucharest’s outskirts. This dairy farm is part of the elite farms for Holstein breed in Romania. It started in 1973 when 500 pregnant Holstein cows were brought from Denmark. Today there are about 500 heads, producing more than 5.000 l of milk every day. It has several milk dispensers in Bucharest and, in June 2009, they also opened the first “Farm Park” in Romania, close to the dairy farm. It is an excellent example of the transition of a former state owned communist farm to a private owned one. Meet the owner of the farm, a veterinarian who has been first working in the farm during the communism and then became the owner of it. Return to the city center for our overnight.

October 6, Thursday Bucharest – Saliste – Sibiel – Sibiu (B, D)
In the morning we leave Bucharest and transfer first to a 2,000 – 3,000 ha cereal farm, cultivating wheat, barley, corn, located on our way from Bucharest to Sibiu. Meeting and discussions with farm management representatives. We then continue to a traditional sheepfold, where we find out about the sheep breeding and cheese production and we taste the cheese they are producing here. We then go to the village of Sibiel, part of the ethnographical area of Marginimea Sibiului, where the Romanian shepherds created and are still supporting a strong, original culture. Here we visit a local farmer and have a traditional early dinner in the village, accompanied by homemade brandy and wine. After the dinner, we have a short transfer to Sibiu. The former European Capital of Culture for 2007, Sibiu is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Romania, carefully restored in later years. The city is known from the 12th century, rising in prominence to become an important trading town. It was inhabited by Saxon merchants who formed themselves into guilds, fortifying the town to protect its wealth. Sibiu is packed full of fascinating sites to explore, from its ramparts and towers to its passageways linking the two parts of the town together. Accommodation in a 4* hotel in the city center.

October 7, Friday Sibiu – Crit – Viscri – Sighisoara (B, L)
After breakfast we enjoy a city tour of Sibiu. Transfer to Crit village to see a World Vision Foundation project in Romania – Agrovision – a project farm, created to present to and to teach the locals how to make the transition from a subsistence farm to a commercial one. The farm has approximately 40 head and it must self-finance itself. Here we will meet with the administrative members and discussion their different activities: courses for the local farmers, summer camps etc. Continue by bus to Viscri village (Deutschweisskirch). This is a Saxon village included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, one of the villages in Romania where the Price of Wales owns a traditional Romanian house. The German colonists (the Saxons) arrived on the territory of Romania 800-900 years ago when invited by the new master of Transylvania, the Hungarian king. They occupied the fertile valleys, bringing the feudal organization, laying foundations for villages, towns and cities. The mountains however, the higher grounds, as well as the lands close to the borders of Transylvania remained Romanian, or as they called them at the time, Wallachian. Nowadays, following the Red Army invasion in 1944 and the communist era, most of the German population is gone, but we have the privilege to submerge in an enormous open air museum, the huge patrimony the Saxons left behind consists of naturally preserved architecture, especially the medieval fortified churches. There are over 150 fortified churches that survived to these days – nowhere in the world can be found so many reinforced churches and fortresses – 7 of them are included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. In Viscri village we enjoy a traditional lunch prepared by the locals, accompanied by homemade brandy and wine and then we take a ride in horse pulled carriages, visiting the surroundings and seeing some local traditional craftsmen at work. We can also visit the village’s fortified church. We will continue our tour to Sighisoara – a medieval citadel included in the UNESCO patrimony, inhabited continuously since its settlement in the 13th century by German colonists. Overnight in a 3* hotel in the centre of the citadel. It is a medieval building that once served as the town hall. *No elevators!

October 8, Saturday Sighisoara – Targu Mures – Sucevita (B, L)
This morning after breakfast we will tour Sighisoara and then visit a hop farm of about 2,000 ha in Sighisoara area. After this visit we continue north-east, crossing the Carpathians via Tihuta mountain pass – famous as it appears in Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel as Borgo Pass, at the Transylvanian border. We eventually reach the region of Bucovina – the oasis of Romanian spirituality, housing the famous painted monasteries, included in UNESCO’s heritage list (Voronet, Moldovita, Sucevita, Arbore and Humor). Accommodation in a 4* villas complex in Sucevita.

October 9, Sunday Sucevita – Humor – Voronet – Tarpesti – Piatra-Neamt (B, L)
We visit two of the monasteries included on the UNESCO heritage list: Humor monastery in predominant reddish brown, probably the best preserved along with Voronet monastery, and Voronet monastery – the most famous of all, also known as “The Sistine Chapel of the East”. We continue to Tarpesti village for a late lunch. Here we also have the chance to visit a private collection belonging to the Popa family, gathered throughout his life by Mr. Nicolae Popa – a self-taught sculptor and archeologist. Though he passed away a couple years ago, his family is carrying on his legacy. Visit the collection and meet the family. We may also have the opportunity to meet the mayor of the village and have a presentation about small communities’ administration and local political life. In the evening we transfer to Piatra-Neamt, one of the most charming cities in the North East Moldavian Region of Romania. Accommodation in a 4* hotel in the city centre.

October 10 Monday Piatra-Neamt – Prejmer – Brasov (B, L)
This morning we transfer to visit a big cereal farm, with about 6500 ha of land, cultivating cereals, but not only. They constructed a large silo in 2015 and also have an important livestock operation (dairy cows, meat cows (Angus breed), pigs, sheep and cows). Here we will also meet and have discussions with the farm management. After the visit we continue our journey, crossing the Carpathians once again, and back to the Transylvania region. We make a stop in Prejmer to visit its 15th century Gothic style fortified church, included on UNESCO heritage list and then we continue to Brasov. In the evening we get to Brasov – one of Transylvania’s major cities. Also known as Kronstadt due to the presence of German colonists as early as the 12th century, Brasov is a beautiful medieval city, boasting colorful facades, old ramparts, secret narrow cobbled streets and guard towers. Today it is one of the most appreciated and visited place in Romania, being also the centre of mountain tourism. Accommodation in a 3* hotel in the city centre, located in a mediaeval building (No elevators!).

October 11 Tuesday Brasov – Bran – Brasov (B, D)
After breakfast we visit a food market in Brasov, where local producers are selling their crops and food products. Potatoes are one of the major crops in the Brasov area. We will visit a farm producing potatoes for chips and for seeds and also beet and cereals, on approximately 700 ha. Transfer to Bran village in order to visit Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s Castle due to its link to Bram Stoker’s novel). This is a beautiful 14th century castle, restored in the 20th century to its former glory by the royal family of Romania. We see from here the imposing structure guarding the passing point between the two Romanian provinces: Walachia to the south and Transylvania to the north. We return to Brasov. Festive farewell dinner and overnight.

October 12 Wednesday Brasov – Bucharest (B)
Transfer to the Bucharest airport in time for our return flight.

Meet Rob Black
Chief Executive Office, Rural Ontario Institute

Rob will be the tour leader for this project and looks forward to a rewarding trip
to Hungary and Romania this October.

Rob Black is the Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) in Ontario. In this role, he directs and oversees the activities of the Institute in accordance with the policies and vision of the Board of Directors. Rob is an accomplished speaker, trainer and workshop leader and has worked in the rural, agricultural and leadership arenas and with organizations for much of his working career. He readily admits that he wouldn't be where he is today, but for his early involvement in 4-H and other leadership development opportunities. Rob was the recipient of a Queen’s Jubilee medal in June 2012 in recognition of his contributions to 4-H across Canada.

Rob is a past president of the Canadian 4-H Council; the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association; and the Wellington County Historical Society.

Most recently Rob was successful in his first bid for political office in October 2014 and currently sits as a ward representative on Wellington County Council. He chairs the Information, Heritage & Seniors Committee on Council and sits as Councilor on the County Social Services Committee.

Rob and his wife Julie live north of Fergus, ON and have four grown children and one grandson.

Price Includes:

  • Tour escort Robert Black, Chief Executive Officer, Rural Ontario Institute
  • Return air fare to Budapest and home from Bucharest, all air taxes as of February 2016
  • 12 night’s accommodation in double or twin room in 3* and 4* hotels
  • Meals as mentioned in the program
  • All necessary transfers by bus (different ones in Hungary, Romania)
  • The night train ticket: Budapest to Bucharest – 1st class wagons 2 beds
  • All technical/professional and tourism visits and meetings
  • All entrance fees for the visits included into the program
  • The ride in horse pulled carriages in Viscri village
  • English speaking guide/interpreter for the entire program (one in Hungary and Romania)

Price does NOT include:

  • Alcoholic beverages, others than those mentioned in included section
  • Personal costs (i.e. phone calls, pay TV, etc)
  • Medical or other travel insurance


  • The tariff in single room includes single occupancy on the BUD – BUH night train
  • There will be local elections by October 2016 and the results may impact on our schedule (if there will be a new mayor, we will have to check his/her availability to welcome us for the visit on Sunday October 9)


Mercure Budapest BudaBudapest - 4*
Mercure Budapest Buda
Centrally-located offering a very comfortable stay with FREE WIFI, two restaurants, lobby bar, souvenir shops, friendly staff.
Hotel Korona EgerEger - 4*
Hotel Korona Eger
Situated in the most quiet green area of the baroque city centre, near the pedestrian street.
Train BudapestTrain Budapest
Departure by night train to Bucharest – 1st class wagons with 2 beds.

Hotel CapsaBucharest - 5*
Hotel Capsa
Established in 1852, Casa Capsa Hotel is the symbol of romanian “high-life” society. It‘s a somptous location with sparkling chandeliers and baroque furnishing.
Golden Tulip Ana TowerSibiu - 4*
Golden Tulip Ana Tower
Situated in the heart of Sibiu, we offer you comfort and services at the highest standards, in one of the most beautiful and animated cities of Europe with rooms in an avant-garde style, a luxury panoramic restaurant, conference rooms and a wellness center.
Hotel SighisoaraSighisoara - 3*
Hotel Sighisoara
At Hotel Sighisoara no room is like the other. Each one has remarkable details with authentic furniture and fine decorations. Your comfort meets elegance!

Popas SucevitaSucevita - 4*
Popas Sucevita
Situated far away from the city’s agglomeration, in a special natural environment. Mirabela, Maria, Elvira and Vianora are the common girls name in the north of Romania, but also the most popular names in our complex.
Hotel Central PlazaPiatra-Neamt - 4*
Hotel Central Plaza
Stepping in the hotel, you enter a modern and refined environment where the harmony of colours, the style and the elegance with which the architect endowed the new construction are organically connected to the constant care for the guests’ comfort and for the warm and natural smile of the staff of the Central Plaza Hotel.
Casa WagnerBrasov - 4*
Casa Wagner
Hotel Casa Wagner offers a historic setting and an atmosphere of warmth and beauty of medieval times and a pleasant environment in the center of Brasov. Located downtown, close to major tourist attractions and most prestigious cafes and bars, terraces, restaurants and shops, pfferomg the most comfortable accommodation facilities.

Exclusive Reservations:
We were delighted to have the AALP team up with Frederick Travel Waterloo on this
Rural Ontario Institute / AALP Alumni Tour Project!

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