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Napoleon - Paris to Moscow

Napoleon Bike Tour Overview

 Recognised as one of the  Best Cycling Tours in Europe 2015

'Europe is a molehill' - Napoleon Bonaparte

Considering this epic adventure is set across 7 countries and 2 continents this quote is quite apt! The expedition takes us from West to East on the trail of one of history's most famous conquerers.

Join us on this ride of historical proportions as we ride in the footsteps of Napoleon from Paris to Moscow.

Divided into 3 stages the Napoleon tour is an exploratory epic ranging the length of Europe into the heart of Russia following in the footsteps of Napoleon’s near 700,000 strong Grande Armée.

We will ride across the Champagne region of France into the picturesque castle clad green hills of southern Germany. Our route then takes us through UNESCO protected medieval villages in Poland to the North Sea. From here we strike east via the great lakes of Poland and The Baltics. We arrive in St Petersburg, a city Napoleon never took, but a must on a Russian odyssey. Then south to Moscow on the all Russian final stage!

Experience total immersion into the landscape, history and culture of the places we visit as we ride this inspirational trail on the road less travelled.

The Napoleon Expedition - for riders looking for something unique (courtesy of Rapha and pretty much right on the money!)

Tour Structure

The Napoleon Epic Adventure is divided into 3 distinct stages and you can choose to do any or all of them. For those of you wishing to do the full journey we call this the 'Grande Armée’, the name of the army commanded by Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars. The Grande Armée scored a streak of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. 

We work around the changeover days between stages being on Saturdays. These are rest days for those riding on. The Saturday in the middle of each stage is also a rest day. Therefore each stage has 2 potential rest days (optional riding available for those who simply can't get enough!) On the rest and changeover days we try to stay in interesting towns which have all the practical facilities available (laundromat, atms etc).  This doesn’t mean that you cannot take a rest any other day! The van is always available.

Watch below for a 2 minute slideshow of the inaugural 2015 Napoleon - Paris to Moscow

Napoleon Bike Tour Highlights

Stage 1 - Paris to Bautzen

We meet for the first stage of our Napoleonic odyssey in the City of Love and Light – Paris! Our warm up ride takes us around the Longchamp hippodrome with the locals then and down the Champs Elysees before a welcome aperitif in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. A stunning ride through the working innards of one of Europes premier cities, along oak-lined canals, is arguably one of the most beautiful city exits we have discovered; and so fabulously French! From here we head east into the beguiling Champagne Ardenne and Lorraine regions before crossing the border into Germany. With increased European integration the border is not marked but the cultural and scenic differences are immediately apparent as we traverse the famous Rhineland towards the university town of Worms; which provides a pleasant end to the first part of Stage 1.
Champagne on the Napoleon Tour
From the giddy heights of Frankenstein's castle the Napoleon epic is glimpsed upon a horizon of towering forest spires; which guide our trail through this Tolkienian fantasy land. The grandeur of the Rhine is the perfect launch pad for the sensorial overload that awaits, as we traverse some of Germany's most dynamic pastoral scenery. From the resplendant ravines to the dappled majesty of primordial pine forests, stage two is as inspiring to the eye as it is fantastical to the mind. One cannot but help being drawn into the ambient mysticism of castles and churches, which mirror the magical realism of this deep-forested and much fabled beauty. As our quest takes us through the antiquated towns of these ancient, forested mountains, be prepared to feast - as did warriors of the past - upon the delicacies that abound spectacular Saxony. From its medieval pork knuckles to the exquisite monk beers and Rhineland wine, stage two is a bombardment of the senses that is as difficult to describe as it is to forget; simply exquisite!

Stage 2
 

Stage 2 -Bautzen to Vilnius

Leaving Germany's fantastical land of ice smooth bike paths and mountain forests feels a little like emerging into the twilight zone; particularly at the border crossing. However, once the frontier has become part of our touring history, the beauty of Poland oozes into our cycling cognition as we glide into an almost soporific state amongst the avenues of deciduous giants that line the roads less travelled. Upon reaching 'Chapman's Homer' (Palac Wieclice), to be entertained by the masterful Ziggy and his wonderful palace staff, Germany becomes but a distant memory, as we embark upon a journey into the Polish unknown. The tree-lined avenues along which we ride are not of the fantasy inspiring variety, their charm can be found, however, in the undulating beauty which makes riding these flatland roads about as relaxing as epic bike riding can be (our hardest task is to be the first to spot the mercurial stork nests dotting the horizon). We meander from quaint village to open farm land, guided always by the magnificent arboreal monsters that line our path. Riding conditions that are perfectly suited to chewing up the kms, lead us into the cobble-lined streets of Poznan and Zamek Gniew, where castles and medieval jousting are just part of the scenery. From the flatlands and lakes to our destination (the amazing Gdansk), the first part of stage 2 will leave you in awe of a culture that is very new to us all and one which is suited beautifully to the travelling cyclist.
Torun Stage 3
From the sequestered seaside port of Sopoto - with its seaside forest paths and white sand beaches - to the pelagic magic of the pristine Polish Lakes, the second part of stage 2  is a surf n turf feast of the cordon bleu genre! The ambience found in one of Europe's imminent seaside towns is a delightful way to spend the stage changeover, before embarking upon the journey into the heart of the former Eastern Bloc and the springboard for Napoleon's assault on the great Russian Empire. If the senses were not sufficiently piqued by our Gdanskian sojourn, the peninsulars, antiquated ferry's and medieval castles that follow will undoubtedly unlock the preceptors. Kaunas' magnificent monastery and the rustic Reszel castle come close to taking out the accommodation acclaim, while the forest paths and stunning lakes systems that abound, provide the perfect balm to the ('hump stage's') mid tour aches and pains!
 

Masurian Lakes

Stage  - Vilnius to Moscow 

Leading up to this most auspicious frontier crossing is a stage of growing immensity, as our days in the saddle soar to just below the 200km mark! Thankfully, the topographical features (or lack thereof) in the Baltic states, finds us circumnavigating huge inland seas as opposed to scaling mountain ranges. With two stages of hardened muscles behind us and gorgeous views abundant, the Baltic states provides the perfect flatland cycling scape. As Lithuania slides into Latvia and morphs eventually into Estonia, the Baltic ambience will leave an indelible mark. With the disco lights from Jekobpils illuminating our journey, we finally pierce the Russian armour and glide into the jewel that is known as Saint P; from whence our final drive to Russia's capital will be orchestrated!
 
Open Road Bike tour
From the former imperial capital to the current capital of Russia, this journey into an awe inspiring world is a pinball ride from one magnificence to another. From munching Pozharsky chicken cutlets, to toasting with Russia's finest bubbly at the Borodino battlefield, this final leg of our epic delivers a cultural kaleidoscope of Russia's amazing history and tantalising traditions. Tolstoy's world comes to life as we near the immense magnet of Moscow. As did Napoleon 200 years ago, we view our destination from the Vorobievy hills and relish the task of descending upon the capital. In a fitting 'coup de grace' to this record breaking bicycle adventure, we cruise along a bike-pathed river all the way to the capital's centre; entering Red Square as the world's inaugural Napoleon epic survivors!
 
Red Square

Napoleon Bike Tour Dates 2018

StageStart Date 2018End Date 2018Days/NightsCost (Euros)
1. Paris to Bautzen 7th July 21st July 15/14 €5,820
2. Bautzen to Vilnius 21st July 4th August 15/14 €5,820
3. Vilnius to Moscow 4th August 18th August 15/14 €5,820

GrandeArmée

7th July 18th August 43/42 €16,180

Supplements

Single supplement - Our prices are based on twin/double occupancy. Our single supplement costs for Napoleon - Paris to Moscow are €60 for stage 1 and €40 for stages 2 and 3.
> Bike hire - If you don't bring your own bike we have a fleet of bikes that we are able to rent out. Please click here to visit Our Bikes page which shows the options we have available, including the pricing which varies according to the length of the hire.
> Wine kitty - On all of your tours we run a wine kitty system. This is very much an optional arrangement that ensures non-drinkers can be accommodated. The wine kitty is owned by the group and anything left over is divided up although this rarely happens! 
> Deposits - To reserve a place on a stage of this tour you need to pay a deposit in € (or your local currency equivalent). We also accept payment in GB£ and AU$.  The final invoice will include any applicable single supplements or bike hire costs. Normally. unless otherwise requested, we collect the wine kitty monies on the tour itself.  Once you fill out the booking form you will automatically be taken through to the deposit payment details.

Napoleon Bike Tour - Food & Wine

Stage 1 - Paris to Bautzen 

“In victory you deserve champagne, in defeat you need it”

Napoleon Bonaparte
We start our journey in the culinary capital of Paris, whose bistros in particular, are both as unique as they are characteristically French. From Paris, we ride into the Champagne Ardenne region, which is known as one of the cradles of French gastronomy; with the eponymous fizzy stuff and the delicious produce that comes from the forests of the region, it is easy to appreciate why this is the case. We then head for the luscious region of Lorraine, perhaps best known for its quiche. Interestingly though - and testament to it bordering Germany - the Quiche Lorraine actually has German origins. Stage one finishes well into Germany’s interior, as we ride through the Rhineland on our way to Worms. Anyone for Rheinischer Sauerbraten (a marinated beef dish) and Wheat beer on the banks of the Rhine?
Napoleon bike tour paris to moscow
Napoleon's favourite wine was actually Chambertin a robust, red wine and still regarded as one of the best reds in Burgundy.
'Rhein em Flammen' is the title given to the spectacular midsummer 'town off' (of all things gastronomic) that occurs along Germany's most famous stretch of food and wine 'der Rheingau'! With nearly 8000 acres of vineyards - packed into the 20 mile stretch of West flowing Rhein, which provides an exceptional wine climate - this tiny pocket of paradise provides the inspiration for much of our German menu. Crisp Rhein Riesling is sipped almost more frenetically than her bubbly French neighbour, while the Rheingau 'Spätburgunder' (pinot noir) accompanies the Saxonic pork knuckles and beef bonanzas with its charming German frankness! But lets face it! We are all aching to sup upon those time renowned monk ales and artesian beers that literally dribble from these sacred forests! Protected by German purity laws, the produce that has been perfected in these regions over centuries will be one of the outstanding gastronomical experiences of the tour, if not of your life!
Vineyards and Castles on Stage 2
Vineyards and castles along the Rhein - what else could you ask for?

Stage 2 -Bautzen to Vilnius 

Leaving Germany's bountiful forests, one feels momentarily anxious that the food fantasy may begin to fade. The impression lasts only as long as the day's ride, as we enter into Zen Ziggy's majestic Palac wherein reside his kitchenly wizardz! Our first meal with our host featured the tantalising Polish dumplings 'pierogi' accompanying a crispy duck delight and a Polish hunter's stew 'Bigos' (although when we arrive in Lithuania we will find they claim this excellent dish!). With our anxiety appeased, we sailed leisurely through the plethora of Polish delicacies, from Golabki (stuffed white cabbage) to Zrazy (juicy maet rolls) and never did a plate return un-Polished! With stomachs satisfied we set about replacing those Monkian ales with the magnificent Polish Mead - a refined, pastorally sweet beverage based on pre-Napoleonic recipes; using all natural ingredients and aromatic bee honey..Buuuzzzzzzz!
Polish Hunter Stew
The Polish Hunter's stew 'Bigos'!
Lithuania's favourite dish, the 'Cepelinai' (named after Graff von Zeppelin because the potato dumplings are similar in form to the airship he invented), has to be tried just for the name! With Z's becoming a leit motif of this tour, the Lithuanian ʺdidžkukuliaiʺ takes phonetics to a new level and you can dine for free if you can pronounce it! While traditional foods are bland in style, the simple, whole food flavours are perfectly suited to the ravenous appetites of a hungry cyclist! The Lithuanian desserts are a menajerie of invention, utilising their bounty of local, forest fruits and penchant for design - the 'šakotis, a large circular branching structure similar in taste to German baumkuchen or 'tree bread' - to recreate their natural surrounds even as we feast! Oh, and the wine?...if it is called 'Birute' it has to be gute!
Trakai Lithuania
Trakai - On the route in the Lithuanian lakes - home to kibinai, a Lithuanian speciality.

Stage 3 - Vilnius to Moscow 

Although Latvia is traditionally a country of beer drinkers, whose purist laws for fermentation are as rigorously applied as the Belgians, the same deference exists towards its wine making; and there are a remarkable number of tiny farm outlets that sell their produce! It has to be said, however, that the Latvian way is quite simply the beer way (not that our wine samplings with dinner will change) and they pay unwavering homage to their favourite village recipes during many a discussion of whether 'Tērvetes Senču' beats 'Užavas Dark' in the malten-hoppy stakes! But we must not forget enigmatic Estonia; whose inhabitants also love a beer! and where there is beer, there must needs be Fish!!! Peipsi Jarv, the massive inland sea that fends off Russia, has a plenitude of pisces to supplement the effervescent brews and our dining feels more like al fresco Mediterranean than al freo Estonian!
Tervetes Beer
'Tērvetes Senču' or 'Užavas Dark' ?
Moscow and St.Petersburg have been feuding since 1703, when the reformist Europhile czar Peter the Great built himself a brand-new, Western-style capital here on the Baltic swamplands; spawning at the same time an inspiration to outdo each other in gastronomical eminence! From the perfect cycling gap food - the big rectangular pies called piroghi (succulently fruitful or chunkily savoury) - to the authentic venison stroganoff and shredded black radish with pork crackling, the Muscovites and ‘Piterians’ have pushed themselves to greater feats in culinary perfection. Working our way from St P to Moscow, we are able to witness this ongoing phenomenon as each self-righteous village will offer the very best that Russia has to offer in their specialised and time proven dishes. As we chase the favourite ‘Pozharsky’ chicken cutlets. towards our final destination, it is hard to retain sobriety as each course is accompanied by alcoholic accompaniments such as pine kernel infused vodka (at first like sipping pino-clean but very palate cleansing!!), or a sanguineous slew of ‘zakuski’ (“vodka chasers”), like crunchy, house-cured sauerkraut with lingonberries!. And if none of the parochial plates are pleasing to your palate, one can always rely on the benevolent borscht soup and gastro-gorgeous goulashes that ubiquitously engorge the menu lists!
 Borscht soup?

Napoleon Bike Tour Essentials

Our Pre Tour information pack which we will send you when you sign on to the tour will tell you everything from what to bring and meeting arrangments to training recommendations.

Trip Difficulty / Espresso Grading

Napoleon is graded between 3 and 4 espresso cups throughout the 3 stage tour.

Stage 1 - Paris to Bautzen   

Stage 2 -Bautzen to Vilnius   

Stage 3 - Vilnius to Moscow   

This tour is rated at Tre to Quattro espressi. For a full explanation of the Expresso Grading system click here

Napoleonic History

"Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily."

Napoleon Bonaparte

By 1812 Napoleon had already conquered virtually the whole of continental Europe - from southern Italy to the Baltic, from Portugal to Poland. With a glittering 20 years of military triumphs behind him, Napoleon had enough gall to proclaim himself emperor of a kingdom that rivalled the size of the ancient Roman empire.

But Great Britain, France’s arch enemy, remained independent and defiant. At the Battle of Trafalgar  in 1805, Lord Nelson defeated the combined French and Spanish navies. Napoleon had hoped to undermine the economic superiority of Britain by banning trade with her and excluding the products of the 'nation of shopkeepers' from European markets.

However, When Russia refused to join a Europe-wide blockade of Great Britain, Napoleon made preparations to invade by assembling the largest army the world had ever seen. The Grande Armée, consisted of about 700,000 soldiers from almost every nation in Europe. Not only did the emperor Napoleon believe he could not lose but also that victory would be quick - Russia would be defeated in three weeks. Yet the Russian campaign – known to Russians as the Patriotic War of 1812 - was a catastrophe of epic proportions that sowed the seed for Napoleon’s downfall.

On 24th June 1812, the Grande Armée crossed the river Neman in a bid to conquer Russia.  Napoleon entered enemy territory at Kaunas in Lithuania and against all expectations, the Russian army simply withdrew first into the city of Vilna, then into the heart of Russia.

They retreated adopting a scorched-earth policy and the faster they withdrew, the further Napoleon pursued them into Russia, looking to strike a killer blow. By this stage of Napoleon’s invasion it was the middle of July and it was the heat rather than the cold that was becoming a major obstacle.  One veteran described the hot conditions as, “worse than anything we'd known in Egypt”. Men died of heatstroke and dysentery at such a rate that the army had been reduced in size by a third when it reached Vitebsk. The remaining men were at the end of their endurance and they hadn’t even fought a single battle! Many of them had been on the march for three months, all the way from Paris with only two days’ rest. Others had endured a forced march for 32 hours covering a daunting 170km!

The armies finally met at the Battle of Borodino - It was one of the bloodiest single days of battle in the Napoleonic Wars. It has been calculated that nearly 2 men died per second. There were over 70,000 casualties by the day’s end. Although the Russians were defeated, Napoleon regarded Borodino as "the most terrible of all my battles."

A week after Borodino, on the 14th of September 1812, Napoleon marched into Moscow. Out of the almost 700,000 men that had made up the Grande Armée, only 100,000 reached Moscow. What they found was a deserted city which the Russians had stripped of all supplies. To make matters worse, the next day Moscow went up in flames; perhaps burnt down by its Governor. Four-fifths of the city was destroyed.

Napoleon hung around for a month, waiting for the Tsar - who was in St Petersburg - to make peace, but the Tsar was in no mood for negotiation. “My campaign, led by General Winter, is just beginning”, he said. “There can be no peace with Napoleon.”

Napoleon - Reading

War and Peace RIde and Seek Bike Tours

One of the most important works of epic literature War and Peace focuses on the experience of 5 aristocratic families during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in 1812. A fantastic book but also one of the longest you are ever likely to read!

There remains the greatest of all novelists - for what else can we call the author of War and Peace?

Virginia Woolf

Tolstoy's War and Peace has often been put in a league with Homer's epic poems; it seems to me that the same might be said for Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation of his great novel.

Michael Katz New England Review
Ride and Seek Bike tours Napoleon book

Focusing on the 1812 invasion of Russia this excellent account of the disastrous event is a extremely readable and a great book.

Zamoyski’s book is a brilliant piece of narrative history, full of sparkling set-pieces, a wholly fascinating account of what must be reckoned one of the greatest military disasters of all time.

Sunday Telegraph

No review can do justice to the scholarly integrity and human sensitivity of this book, or to the horror is describes … “1812” is one of the greatest stories ever told.

Christopher Woodward Spectator
David Markham Napoleon Bike Tours Ride and Seek

A fast moving and fascinating biography of Napoleon from childhood to death. A great easy and informative read.

A fine blend of scholarship and story telling...puts to rest some of the myths surrounding Napoleon.

Ben Weider, President, International Napoleonic Society

Markham has given the man and events a totally original and new spin that is a veritable tour de force.

Prince Gregory Troubetzkoy, International Napoleonic Society

This book has always been the one great source for scholars on the Emperor Napoleon's Russian misadventures. An extremely readable first-hand account of the events, starting from the entrance of the Grande Armée into Russia and providing enthralling detail on the following campaign.

Napoleon Bike Tour Testimonials

Ruth Kerr

Your team did a magnificent job in the planning & executing of this tour – the castles, chateaux, monasteries & mansions we stayed in were amazing ( who could forget Ziggy?)!

Ruth Kerr
Gary Powell

Sam, Max, and Mark, thanks guys, in your role as tour operators and guides your professionalism, work rate, attention to detail and commitment was second to none.

Gary Powell
James Sulzburger

The finest food and wine from France, the best roads of Germany, Polish castles, new age Baltic states, and behind the romance of Russia. We did more than follow Napoleons footsteps, we opened up a new world. Thanks to Ride and Seek, my life is enriched because of the 2015 Napoleon tour

James Sulzburger
Kay Jacob Testimonial

A fan​tastic tour for the adventurous with the usual Ride and Seek standards - well researched, great accommodation and meals and the best of guides and support. This tour has a variety of landscapes, terrain, cultures and is filled with history both ancient and modern.  There wasn't a day when I thought I'd prefer to be somewhere else.​

Kay Jacob
Sharon Watson testimonial

The guides? What a team! On and off the bike the guys could not have been better. their focus was on ensuring that everyone was safe and enjoying themselves. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble. They handled sometimes difficult situations , with grace, and good humour. And as an added bonus Mark and Dirk's photography is simply stunning. So I've done 2 Ride and Seek trips now, thoroughly indulged and enjoyed myself both times. Now I just have to convince my boss that it is in his interests to let me go on Cesear next year:)). I'm working very hard on it. ​

Sharon Watson

The Trip

The Napoleon tour is an epic ranging the breadth of Europe from Paris into the heart of Russia. This tour runs biannually, the next in 2018.

Email me the trip catalog

The Stages at-a-glance

Choose from three stages or take on the entire epic journey! 2018 details are below.

Stage 1 - Paris to Bautzen
Length: 15 Days / 14 Nights 
Distance: 1414 km | 878 miles
Elevation: 16,551m | 54,301 feet
Dates: July 7th -21st
Price: €5,820
Grading:
 
Stage 2 - Bautzen to Vilnius
Length: 15 Days / 14 Nights
Distance: 1412 km | 877 miles
Elevation: 6982m | 22,907 feet
Dates; July 21st - August 4th
Price:  €5,820
Grading:
 
Stage 3 - Vilnius to Moscow
Length: 15 Days / 14 Nights 
Distance: 1382 km | 859 miles
Elevation: 6523m | 21,401 feet
Dates: August 4th - 18th
Price: €5,820 
Grading:
GRANDE ARMÉE! Paris to Moscow
Length: 43 Days / 42 Nights 
Distance: 4208 km | 2615 miles
Elevation: 30,056m | 98,609 feet
Dates: July 7th - August 18th
Price: €16,180
Grading:
 

Trip Difficulty

This tour is rated at Tre to Quattro espressi. For a full explanation of the Expresso Grading system click here

Trip Press

Bicycling Australia Article Max Hofman

New York Times Napoleon Paris to Moscow

Outside Magazine Top 6 European Tours