The Danube Delta is a land in continuous formation. With the Danube bringing fresh sediments all the time, is continues to expand and change its shape with the passing of time. According to Herodot, over two millennia ago, the Danube reached the sea with seven distinct branches. These days, there are only three.
As a proof that the delta keeps growing, 8 years ago we’ve witnessed the birth of a new island in the Musura gulf, right below the Chilia Branch.
[adsense]I remember that years ago I was watching the “Sand Along Explore – Sand’Ale 2003” trip by a team of explorers who had the pleasure of being some of the first few people to walk on that island. To this day, it’s still unclear whether this new land belongs to Romania or to Ukraine. I didn’t manage to get there so far. The growth og the Isle has been accelerated following the digging of the Bastroe canal by Ukraine in 2004.
Recently, museums and other organizations have shown a great deal of concern for the Musura Isle and they’re been attempting to protect it and the pelicans, sea gulls and cormorants colonies that have populated it by turning the zone into a natural strictly protected area, part of Romania-Ukraine Danube Delta Cross-border Reserve.
Being a border area, from a legal standpoint, it has to be governed by international law, meaning that a joint program has to be agreed by both Romania and Ukraine.
With that said, I can’t get to get there. Maybe this year! 😀
Danube Delta is not only an impressive spectacle of nature which bewilders travelers from all over the world with its unique biodiversity and culture. It also has a darker, gruesome side.
[adsense]Half a century ago, it was not a protected UNESCO site. It was only a low populated and isolated region of the communist Romania. This made it the perfect site for one of the forced labor camps where Gheroghe Gheorghiu Dej, the dictator of that time, to send his political enemies and forget about them.
The site for this camp was set in Periprava, a village on the north east side of the Danube Delta, the last human settlement before the Chilia branch of the Danube reaches the Black Sea. It is one of the most isolated spots in the country, which can only be reached by boat. In the years it’s been active, it has witnessed many atrocities, a dark chapter in the county’s past.
Well, recently, there have been a number of attempts to get rid of this legacy and revitalize this area with tourism. The site itself is located in the middle of nature, right next to the forest of Letea, a unique oak tree forest protected by UNESCO.
A Frenchman, Sylvain Remetter, who found himself in this place a number of years ago, is now planning to build a nature resort right in the old barracks of the gulag which hopefully will awaken Periprava, a village of 150 people, from its Stalinist legacy and turn it into an important tourist spot.
[adsense]The hotel is called “The last frontier” or “Ultima Frontiera” and is housed in the building that used to be the command center of the camp. The idea is to attract the nature enthusiast, birdwatchers and fishermen starting this spring. With a number of Pelican colonies nearby and a healthy population of catfish, the plan looks promising.
He is also planning to build a small museum to remind people of the events that took place here. Having spoken with the last commandant of the camp, he knows the inside stories of the place.
I hope this project takes of and is successful. Most people are still suspicious about it, but it has the potential to change the area and bring in a fresh breath of modernity.
[adsense]The building of this lighthouse was decided on 2 November 1865 at Galati, after the establishment of the European Commission of the Danube.
The plans and the building of this objective were realized by the English engineers Ch. Hartley and M. Engelhardt who also helped create the plans of the digging and maintenance of the Sulina branch of the Danube.
The lighthouse was built in two stages and was finalized in 1870, being the property of the European Commission of the Danube.
The lighthouse is located in the middle of the city, somewhere in the back of the European Commission Palace, on the main road to the beach. In total, there are three lighthouses in Sulina.
[adsense]This one is often mistaken for the old Sulina observer lighthouse, which is further out of the city, accessible by boat or by foot using the long dike on the left side of the Danube. I hope I managed to clear this misconception, because visitors often leave this place with a wrong idea.
I spoke to an old man who’s a former director of the “Lower Danube Administration of Galati” and he explained that while the observer lighthouse helped solve the problem of finding the entrance to the Danube, ships would still get stranded on the shores of the channel given the lack of consolidations at the time, and would usully fall prey to the pirates that roamed free in this area.
The building of the European Comission Lighthouse solved this new issue by helping ships stay on course by tracing an imaginary line between the two powerful lighthouses.
Between 1856 and 1921, the headquarters of the European Commission of the Danube were at Sulina, in the E.C.D. Palace on the I St No.202, being relocated after that to Orsova.
When the European Comission was dissolved, the lighthouse entered the patrimony of the Lower Danube Administration of Galati, and it later was given in administration to the “Danube Delta” Museum in Tulcea.
From here, it is taken by the Ministry of culture in 1991 and is now under the administration of the National Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments.
The European Commission of the Danube Palace is easily the most imposing building in the whole of Sulina.
[adsense]Located right where the passenger ships from Tulcea lands, you will have plenty of time to admire its beautiful architecture during the ship’s mooring procedures.
It is a U shaped two storey edifice and was used as the headquarters of the European Commission of the Danube until 1921, when the offices of the Commission were relocated to Orsova.
The construction of the palace ended in 1868 and over the years, it housed several other local and national organisms that controlled the Sulina harbor, as well as the Sulina channel and the surrounding area.
The bombardments in the First World War affected the palace which was later rebuilt.
In the Second World War, this is where the German military High Command was housed. The building was set on fire and only the brick walls survived.
In time, the interior was slightly reorganized. Old pictures suggest acroteria on the frontal side of the building, lost long time ago.
The architecture of the building which reminds of that of a huge University, fits the neoclassical style, with a symmetrical composition.
[adsense]Built during the European Commission of the Danube, the observer lighthouse is currently unusable. It is located on the left bank of the Danube and the link with the continental part is made through a long stone dike.
What is fascinating about this dike is that it still holds the inscriptions of those who built it more than a century and a half ago.
The observer lighthouse in Sulina was used in the Romanian Television masterpiece “Toate panzele sus”, “All sails up”, which shows the story of a few sea adventurers who start their incredible journey in Sulina, during the former glory days of the city.
The grace of the architecture and the wilderness of its location give the observer lighthouse a mysterious and archaic appearance.
The first time I went to Sulina, several people told me to go look for the ghost at the lighthouse. The story goes that a young bride supposedly jumped from the lighthouse in the dangerous waters and is now haunting the place.
To my disappointment, when I got there, instead of the bride, I only saw two drunk old men, talking about the bitterness in their lives and the memories of places visited as sailors.
If you happen to go to the lighthouse by water, make sure to hold tight to the boat, because the waters really are turbulent there. The above story may hold some truth to it!
One of the most popular activities in the Danube Delta is birdwatching. Being called a “birdwatcher’s paradise”, the reservation holds over 300 species of migratory and year-round birds, a density you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
[adsense]Located on the 45th parallel, the Danube Delta is the ideal place to stop for migratory birds from the Equator to the northern parts of Europe.
Being the largest wetlands in Europe, more than 60% of it being largely untouched by man, the Delta offers a unique opportunity to witness these species go about their lives undisturbed.
Of the 331 species of birds, the White Pelican is definitely the symbol of the Danube Delta. You will find them mostly in the Roșca-Buhaiova reserve, which holds the largest breeding population of its kind in Europe.
As of the last count, there are over 3500 pairs that come here every year from the Nile Delta. The white pelican can be found here from March to October, in Roșca-Buhaiova and numerous other lakes.
Its close cousin, the Dalmatian Pelican is also common here. After a few decades of decline, the Dalmatian Pelican population is starting to grow again and now there are over 150 identified pairs going about their lives here. Most of them migrate every year, but some pairs stay here for the winter. You can see them from April to October.
The Danube Delta also offers home to more than 60% of the world’s population of Pygmy Cormorants and 50% of red-breasted geese. The red-breasted goose spends the winter in the southern part of the Delta, in the Razim-Sinoe lagoon.
From August to September, the Delta is one of the best places to see the Ferruginous Duck, a declining species, almost extinct in the rest of Europe. This time of the year, large flocks of Ducks gather on Somova Lake, 5 minutest west of the city of Tulcea.
For a birdwatching trip to Danube Delta, you can either contact one of the tour operators in Tulcea, or simply book one of the local boat operators. They will happy to show you some of the most secluded area of the Delta and the best places to spot numerous bird species. Booking a small boat has the advantage of the cost and the opportunity to personalize your trip.
Birdwatching trips usually start from Tulcea and follow one of the three branches of the Danube (Chilia, Sulina and Sf. Gheorghe) and the numerous canals in between. Common stops are taken in Crisan, Sulina, Mila 23, Chilia, Sf. Gheorghe and more.
So, if you haven’t decided yet where to go on your next birdwatching trip, Danube Delta should be your first choice.
Danube Delta is probably the last truly wild place in Europe, a stretch of land and water that offers a comfortable place to live to an incredible diverse wildlife and an incredible spectacle of nature to visitors. With over three hundred and twenty species of birds and 1500 species of fish, it has one of the biggest bio-diversities in the world.
[adsense]Because not many people yet know about it, the Danube Delta offers a rare opportunity for a true nature passionate to spend a few days in the middle of what could easily be called Paradise.
Being chosen as the “Landscape of the year 2007-2009” by The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, there are plenty of nature-related activities you can choose to spend your time with.
Take a Bird Watching Tour
Danube Delta is an El-Dorado for the true birdwatchers. Nowhere in the world will you see so many species of birds crowded all together in a small place. You will find here over half of the world’s population of cormorants and the largest population of pelicans.
[adsense]You will also have the pleasure to see the winter and summer swan, the white tailed eagle, wild ducks and geese, cranes, egrets, spoon bills, red neck geese, eastern flossy ibis, white, gray, yellow and red herons, bald coots, Dobrudjan hawks, storks, and many flamingo birds.
To go on a bird watching trip, you can either to book a trip with one of the many specialized agencies here, or you can simply choose to hire one of the locals to take you on a private boat ride. Usually, the second choice will be the most interesting because the locals know the best places to visit and they have many entertaining stories to complete the picture.
Fishing is one of the most popular activities here. With over 1500 species of fish, this place is the favorite place for many recreational fishermen to spend their holydays. Among the fish you can catch here, you’ll have the surprise to see the great sturgeon, the catfish, carp, pike and a whole lot more.
Now, at the end of the day, to celebrate a great day of fishing, somebody should prepare the traditional fish soup, or ‘bors de peste’. Again, a local will do it best. Trust me; you won’t eat anything like this anywhere else! It is simply delicious!
Relax on the Wild Beaches
Ah, yes… The beaches… If you want to catch a tan and also have some privacy, the 30 km stretch of wild beach between Sulina and Sf. Gheorghe is just perfect. There are no people anywhere near and you will most like have the chance to see the only pack of wild horses in Europe roaming around.
And if you feel particularly romantic, take your partner for a pleasant night walk on the beach! Out here, in the wild, you’ll see the night sky better than ever. There are so many stars out there, that some will start falling al around you. Start making wishes 😉
If you want a combination of wild and modern, then Gura Portitei is the place to go. It is a modern beach resort that has all the rustic and wild elements that make the Danube Delta the unique place it is.
The largest city in Danube Delta is Sulina. It’s got a great history and in the 19th and early 20th century it was the headquarter of the European Commission of the Danube, an early precursor of the European Union. It was one of the most cosmopolite cities in Europe at the time and the legacy of those days can still be seen today. If you happen to have a dink with an old local, make sure to ask him about the pirates that used to raid this place a century ago. The stories are great!
Indulge Yourself in the Many Cultural Activities Available
Being at the crossroads of many cultures, there is also an incredible ethnic diversity in Danube Delta. Each of the nationalities living here, the Romanians, Ukrainians, Lipovans, Armenian, Greeks, Turks and many more, have their own unique traditions which they celebrate during various festivals.
Recently, the International Independent Film Festival “Anonimul” has become the most important event in the region. It takes place every year in Sfantu Gheorghe and it brings together big names in the movie industry, from Romania and the whole Europe.