Chilia Veche (the Old Chilia) is one of the oldest settlements in the Danube Delta, with some sources suggesting that it goes back as far as the sixth century BC. Today, it is the largest village in the area, with over 3000 people.
The Romans called it Achillea which led many to believe that this is the place where Thetis buried the legendary Greek hero Achilles.
Given the fact that at that time Chilia was only an island, there could be a chance that that really happened.
However, romantic as that sounds, all evidence points to the Snake Island a few kilometers off in the Black Sea. They actually found underwater ruins there, so I tend to trust the less poetic version.
The settlement was later mentioned in the tenth century AD as an extremely populated and wealthy village thanks to the sturgeon fishing industry and commerce. Archeological evidence proved the existence of a large Genovese town, but unfortunately, the only visible remains today are the defensive ditch and the entrance to the city.
The name “Chilia” was fist mentioned in 1281 and it means “granary” in Greek.
Chilia Veche’s decline
In the fifteenth century, Moldavian ruller Stefan the Great destroyed the city and rebuilt it on the other side of the Danube as Chilia Noua (the New Chilia). It turned it into one of his most important defensive strongholds, as well as a major commercial port.
In 1854, following the request of the villagers who could not cross the Danube during the winter to attend the church events, the Ottoman Empire approved the construction of the “Sfintii Voievozi” church.
It stands 52 meters tall, making it the second tallest church in Romania.
Unfortunately, the Germans used it as a watch tower during the Second World War and some of the cracks in the structure date from that period.
In the last few years, tourism is becoming an increasingly important activity in Chilia Veche, making it a great spot to start your fishing or bird watching trip.