[adsense]This whole site was built as an attempt to answer to this ample question, but I’ll try to do a summary on this page, leaving you to discover the rest.
Let’s start with what Danube Delta is not and does not have:
Overcrowded – You’re in the middle of the nature. The permanent population is not very numerous and tourism, although is starting to become more and more important, is still not that widespread to disturb your peaceful holiday.
Crime – Wherever you are in the Danube Delta, you’re safe. People here are hardworking and mind their own business.
That doesn’t mean you should push it. You’re just as safe here as anywhere else in Europe.
It’s funny, there is a well documented case here about an entire ship mysteriously vanishing one night about 15 years ago from the Sulina harbor, and eventually entering the local tradition as the “Ghost Ship”. But, unless you planning to visit the Delta with a personal cargo ship, there’s no need to worry.
McDonald’s and other food chains – Nope, nothing even close to that. You’ll be serving only local traditional dish here. This place has its genuine cooking customs that you won’t find anywhere else.
Oh, did I mention that the food is delicious? It really is!
Shopping – Well, maybe the only drawback is that in the vast spread of swamps, lakes and canals you won’t find many really nice shops.
You will find a few boutiques though where you can purchase various artisan items in Tulcea, Sulina and other small villages.
Car Traffic – Besides the local customs Jeeps, there are very little chances you’ll see any automobile for days. In Sulina, the second biggest town in the Danube Delta, with a population of 5000, there are only about 10 cars.
That’s because people here use boats as the main means of transport.
When you go to Sulina, the first sight of the city is the tall, orange water tower that stands on the right side of the Danube. Its distinctive appearance make it one of the city’s best recognized monuments.
[adsense]The exact date when it was built is not yet known, but it is in perfect condition today and is doing a fantastic job at supplying Sulina with fresh water. And I must say that I never tasted a better water than here.
The elders of the city say that during the Second World War, the German army tried to blow this landmark up, but they only managed to destroy the upper part.
The water tower is a construction that impresses through grace and resistance. It is the first building that the traveler will see when coming to Sulina and one of the most important symbols of the city.
Sulina is the second of the two cities in Danube Delta, with a population of only a couple thousands of people.
[adsense]Although its geographic features set it apart from any other city in Romania (the country’s easternmost point, lowest altitude – only 3.5 meters above sea level, accessibility only by water), its history makes it truly unique.
The settlement was first mentioned in 950 AD by the Russians during their march against Constantinople. Later, extensive documentations of the city, either as Solina or Selinas, were made by Italian merchants who by the XIVth century were the main commercial force in the area.
Once the Turks conquered Chilia in 1480, they raised an important fortress in Sulina to control the entrance to the Danube and counteract the pirates and the Kazaks.
The most interesting period in the city’s history began in 1856 when it became the headquarter of the European Commission of the Danube, an international organism that was meant to neutralize the ‘hot spot’ that the Russian-Turkish wars created in this area throughout the centuries.
The ECD had representatives from Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Russia and Turkey, so the no one country had supreme control over the lower Danube. This way, everybody’s commercial interests were protected.
The city became a free port and very soon, every important shipping company in Europe had an office in Sulina. Sulina became one of the most cosmopolite cities in the region, with over 18 different nationalities living and working together in harmony. Testaments for this are the six different churches, St. Nicholas, Ukrainian, Greek, Protestant etc.
Most of writer Jean Bart‘s work is also centered in Sulina, with Europolis being a fantastic masterpiece accounting the lives of the people here in the first half of the past century.
Sulina’s cemetery, unique in Romania, is also a place where you will see the how all these different people coexisted. There are British and Austrians, buried next to Germans and Russians, with their resting places marked either with simple crosses or complicated monuments. Once, there was even a Cantacuzino princess in there, but she was later moved to Constantinople and only a monument reminds us about her.
[adsense]What I found the most interesting was that there is a Greek pirate buried a few meters from the princess. When I heard about it, I just had to go there and see it. As I was taking a picture, I couldn’t get a good angle, so I had to move back a little. Funny thing, I stepped into a big hole and fell over the grave behind me 🙂 I think I may have broken the fence, but one of the maintenance people said not to worry about it 😀
The sad thing is that The Second World War and the communist regime destroyed pretty much everything that Sulina used to be. Besides the Palace of the European Commission of the Danube, the water tower and the cemetery, there isn’t much to remind of the old days.
The city is now an important touristic place and old buildings and monuments are slowly being restored to their former glory. Sulina, for me, is definitely of the most important places to see in Danube Delta and next summer, if I don’t fit anything in my schedule, I’ll make sure to spend my holiday there.
The Sulina beach
The beach in Sulina is definitely of of the city’s main attractions. It is still keeping its wild aspect, making it one of the best retreats for the nature enthusiasts, as well as anybody who want to cool off during a hot summer day.
It continues to the south towards Sfantu Gheorghe, making it one of the largest stretch of wild sand in Romania. If you’re up to it, the thirty kilometer walk between the two is a unique way to test your endurance and enjoy nature.
In the last few years, Sfantu Gheorghe has become by far the most important attraction in the Danube Delta, much of its popularity being gained thanks to the ANONIMUL International Independent Film Festival that takes place here every August.
It is the best place to experience the natural wonders of the Danube Delta and join a huge outdoor event where you can meet both important names in the Romanian and international cultural world and teenagers having a great time at camp fires on the beach.
Sfantu Gheorghe is a small fishermen’s village situated right where the Danube meets the Black sea. It is the only village in the Delta where you can see both the Danube and the Black Sea at the same time.
It’s one of the most isolated places in the Danube Delta. It can only be reached by boat or, if you’re particularly adventurous, with a car from Sulina, a town 30 km to the north, which also can only be reached by boat. That’s great because in the whole place, you’ll only find about 5 cars, two of which are the “Trocarici” tractors that carry tourists from the camping to the beach.
ANONIMUL Film Festival
This was the sixth year for the ANONIMUL International Independent Film Festival and as I mentioned, for a week or two a year, it transforms Sfantu Gheorghe from the quietest spot in Romania to one of the most cosmopolite places in Europe.
It is the place where many talented film makers from all over Europe can present their movies to a mixed audience made of scholars, popular film makers and actors, cultural personalities, students and teenagers. And it’s all taking place in the open air! That’s why they call it “ANONIMUL, a festival on sand”.
Where can you spend the night?
For housing, you have a number of alternatives. My favorite is, of course, staying in a tent in the Delfinul (Dolphin) Camping. This is where they put the huge screen and project the movies at night. It’s got everything you need: showers, toilets, outlets, great atmosphere and lots of young people. There’s also a great open air bar and restaurant, where they obviously serve only traditional food! It’s perfect.
If you want a really comfortable bed but don’t want to miss out on the great atmosphere, you can rent one of the fifteen – twenty huts in the camping.
And of course, if you want five star comfort, you can rent a room in one the numerous villas in the eco-village right across the street. Every villa in there has everything you’d ever ask for top accommodation. They are right on the banks of the Danube River, have very nice ponds with nice bridges and great places to just sit and relax. It’s all very rustic and perfect for day dreaming.
What are some of the attractions?
The Sfantu Gheorghe Beach
Sfantu Gheorghe has one of the best and largest beaches in the whole of Romania. It stretches 30 kilometers, all the way to the Sulina beach to the north. It’s wild and basically untouched by man. It is situated about 1.5 kilometers east from the village and you have to follow a beautiful sandy road to reach it. It’s great for walking, but you can also take the Trocarici which will get you there faster.
The water is not very deep and you can walk for hundreds of meters and still touch the bottom. Most of the time, the water is actually sweet, not salty, because the Danube flows in the sea just around the corner.
If you’re lucky, you’ll even get a chance to see the wild horses roaming around.
The Modern Lighthouse
As soon as you set your foot in the village, you’ll notice the imposing lighhouse located in the east. The structure looks so good, that it gives you the impresson that it’s twisting.
Unfortunately, you can’t go up there. But just imagine the sight you’d get from up there… However, I had the chance to fly a plane in Sfântu Gheorghe, so I can tell you that it’s breathtaking.
I’ve no idea how tall it is, but it’s tall enought so you can see it from Sulina, for instance, which is 30 kilometers to the north.
On the other side of the Danube, going towards the Sachalin-Zătoane reserve, you’ll also have the chance to visit the ruins of the old lighthouse, which was built in 1865 by the Turks.
Sfantul Gheorghe Nature
Finally, the most important thing about Sfantul Gheorghe is that it’s surrounded by wilderness. Just south are the Sahalin Islands, the newest land in the whole of Europe. It is the beginning of a new secondary delta and the abundance of wildlife there is astonishing.
You can rent a boat from one of the locals who will gladly take you there. You will be amazed.
Well, that was the short story of Sfantul Gheorghe. I will expand on some of the subjects here soon. When you come here, make sure to leave only your footprints and help preserve this place.
I was looking so some fresh news about Danube Delta earlier and I ran into a really interesting article on austriantimes.at that really caught my attention.
[adsense]My surprise is that it was about Tichilesti, the last lepers colony in Europe, which, although is not in the Danube Delta as the article claims, is close and now is trying to reach out to the world by bringing back to life a medieval tradition of making Saint Lazarus Leper Wine.
Here’s an excerpt of the article:
“Wine buffs are to get a chance to taste one on Europe’s most exclusive vintages this month – a secret wine produced entirely by residents of the continent’s last leper colony. “
“Hidden for years from the public eye by Romania’s former communist regime, the lepers of Tichilesti on the Danube Delta have continued an ancient tradition of wine-making stretching back to the Middle Ages. “
“Now the St Lazarus Leper Wine – named after the patron saint of sufferers of the disease – is to be sold world-wide to raise funds for the community and its 200 residents. “
The Saint Lazarus Leper Wine is named after the patron saint of those who suffer from this disease. The leper community in Tichilesti counts about 200 residents who live in pretty difficult conditions.
The launch of the “Leper wine” was inspired by the late mayor of the Tichilesti community, Cristache Tatulea, who managed to transform the little village through farming. He created this vineyard that he hoped would help support the community.
Unfortunately, this year he passed away after he fell in his house, but as witnesses recall, his last thoughts were of his vineyard.
[adsense]Now, his friend, David Rogers, with whom he joked about selling this wine all over the world, has arranged for it to be sold through distributors in Austria. The money earned from it will go to support the leper community.
There is a website for Saint Lazarus Leper Wine. You can find out more about it there. I find it is a great thing that a small community like this can make itself known in the world for more than just the unfortunate conditions that gave birth to it.
Maybe the St Lazarus Leper Wine will grow to become an important product that could compete with other important brands, both local and international. Who knows? Hope I’ll find it in a store when I get back home, I’m really anxious to taste it.