Bird Watching

Beautiful Shots of Pelicans in Danube Delta and Greece

Earlier today I rand into a couple of beautiful photos by Hungarian photographer  Bence Mate, a couple of which were taken in the Danube Delta.  They depict several rare scenes that you don’t get the chance to see every day, so I had to share them with you. They will definitely bright up your day.

[adsense]All of these photos were taken across Europe in a water rich environments.

The first photograph that captured my attention was that of a pack of Dalmatian pelicans being mobbed by a flock of gulls. You wouldn’t expect  a couple of tinny little birds like that to go head-on against the giant pelicans, but obviously somebody’s overstepped his territory and now has to pay!  Who’s the though guy now?

Dalmatian Pelicans Mobbed by Gulls

Another interesting picture is the one taken with two pelicans, were the younger one begs for some food from his parents. That’s so touching.

Pelican Chick Begging For Food

There are a number of shots taken elsewhere. Take a look at these five pelicans yawning at Lake Kerkini in Greece. Looks like somebody’s full and ready for a good afternoon nap:)

Pelicans Yawning

To see the rest of the pictures, go take a look at the Daily Mail article. You’ll love the scenes depicted there.

You can also read this article in Romanian: Poze Rare cu Pelicani în Delta Dunării și Grecia

Things to Do

The Wild Horses of the Danube Delta

The other day, I turned the TV on and I accidentally found a documentary about the wild horses roaming in the Danube Delta, especially those in around the Letea forest.

[adsense]I must admit, it was very interesting because it filled plenty of gaps in my own knowledge of the matter.

The wild horses have been a hot topic in the Danube Delta and the rest of the country this year. I actually don’t watch much TV and I was unaware of what was going on, but the news eventually got to my ears through my friends.

What was going on?

The whole country was enraged when authorities decided that the horses in the Danube Delta are making too much damage and that they should be put to death.

Whoah whoa! How did we get here?

Let’s go back in time for a minute

It was the year 1989 and the communist regime was finally crumbling here in Romania.

The old socialist agricultural projects were being abbandoned. The authorities didn’t have any plans to handle the numerous farms animals that were left behind, so, at least in the case of the horses, they decided to set them free.

They didn’t expect them to make it through the harsh winter, but they were wrong! The horses adapted pretty well to their new condition and actually prospered.

Back to present day

Over twenty years after their release, they’ve addapted perfetly to their environment and spread to all corners of the delta. Their younglings were born in the wilderness and, unlike their parents, they are completely wild, never having had contact with humans.

Wild Horses in the Danube DeltaThe TV5Monde documentary was great because it showed many footages of the horses in their environment, with their social construction, compeeting for females. It was beautiful.

Here’s a a scene from a German documentary:

We can’t talk here about a distinct race, but we can say that they are a special phenotype. According to the researchers, by studying these horses, there is the possibility to identify ways of transfering some of their strengths to races that lack certain capabilities.

What’s the controversy?

Well, according to some researchers, because they have no natural enemies, they’ve multiplied their numbers to a level that is no longer safe for the environment.

[adsense]The Danube Delta has a pretty tight trophic chain with a fragile equilibrium. By adding the horses, a foreign species, to the mix, you destabilize the whole thing.

The center of the controversy is the Letea Forest. They go about their lives around that area throughout the year, but they move into the forest during the winter. The forest offers them shelter from the cold wind and also, food, a rare treat for that season.

The horses eat the bark of the trees there. It contains tannin, which has the same effects for them as mint tea has for people. It helps them to better handle the cold.

However, that directly affects the forest and especially the centuries old oak trees. That’s the reason why some have suggested that the horses should be removed.

The Government has taken up the idea, but put it to practice in the most horriffic way possible: send them all to the slaughter house.

Fortunately, NGO and other animal protection organzation jumped up screaming, but that didn’t save the horses in the first few shipments 🙁

What’s my stance?

I actually don’t know where I stand on this issue. For one, I love the wild horses. They’re beautiful and fit perfectly in environment of the delta.

On the other hand, I understand that they can’t really continue multiplying without affecting the rest of the delta. There are already numerous species on the brink of extinction here, so we don’t need more negavative impacts on their environment.

A project where you allow the horses to roam free, but clearly delimitate the strictly protected area where they should be kept out of with fences, and also control the population, that I think would be the most appropriate.

Things to Do Useful

Read Europolis to Get a Full Grasp of The Old Life in Sulina

I just finished reading Europolis, written by Jean Bart, the pseudonym of Eugeniu Botez. I had written an article about him and it was appropriate to go ahead and read his work to better understand what he was doing. I bought it in the Danube Delta Museum gift shop a few days ago.

[adsense]I won’t tell you all the details because it will spoil the story if you decide to go ahead and read the book. (Which I totally recommend!) I made the mistake of reading the foreword before the rest of the book and that pretty much ruined it for me.

What I will tell you, however, is that the story takes place in the port of Sulina, around the early 1930. The book itself was published in 1933. A critic wrote once that Jean Bart used the whole story as a pretext of conserving that unique way of life that he witnessed during his many.

EuropolisAs the author himself says, Sulina is the only place in the country where you could see authentic port life. While Constanța, Brăila or Galați were cities with a port attached, Sulina was just a port. Everything there revolved around commercial maritime activities.

Unlike the popular belief, Jean Bart actually made it a point throughout the book to mention that Sulina wasn’t really that great a place to live in. Most of the time it was pretty boring, and although there were numerous nationalities living  together peacefully, they were all here just trying to get rich, holding great rivalries towards one another.

He did indeed, as some critic mentioned, exaggerate with the word cosmopolite. The main characters of the story are part of the Greek community, which, at the time, represented more than half of the population.

What is fact and what is pure fiction?

Knowing the place where the action takes place, you can’t help but wonder which parts are true and which are just made up?

The city of Sulina

First, the description of the city is, in my opinion, almost a hundred percent true. I can’t say that I know for sure that the names of the restaurants are the original ones, but having been there, what he’s saying about the place is pretty accurate.

Just for that, I believe that the book is worth ten times the amount I paid for it. There’s no museum trip that will give you a better picture of the city than that.

The real people in the story

[adsense]The characters were inspired by the lives of real people in Sulina at the time. As captain of the port, Jean Bart knew closely his community and always scribbled notes of the events in the city so he could later use them in his books.

Evantia, the central figure in the story, was actually a real person. Much later, in the 1960s, Al. Protopopescu caught up with her. She mentioned that ‘the writer had played superbly with her life’. Although she did come to Sulina with the same boat the the American, she wasn’t his daughter..

She had tremendous respect for Jean Bart for handling the details of her life in such a delicate manner, although she couldn’t understand why the writer finished the book the way he did.. “For, look ‘ere, I have outlived the lot of them.”

Her tomb can be found in the catholic part of the maritime cemetery in Sulina. Had I read the book a month earlier, I would have made a point to get there and see it. Oh well, maybe next year.

Damn, I just slipped a spoiler in there. Ok, here’s another one…

You know the two old lighthouses, on the left and right side of the Danube? At the time they were right at the point where the Danube’s course finished and entered the Black Sea. Now, the seashore has moved east another two or three kilometers.

Well, at some point in the story, somebody jumps in the water from the right bank lighthouse and makes a point not to swim out.

But can you guess who?

I won’t tell you if it’s Evantia or not. You’ll have to read Europolis to find out.

Buy your copy of Europolis from here!

P.S. There’s also a english version!

That’s true! Europolis was translated to English throughout the years, but it’s quite rare and you’ll hunt for it.

Get your English copy from here.

Things to Do

Get Ready for the 2011 Anonimul Film Festival

Brace yourselves because this year we’re going to the 8th edition of the Anonimul Film Festival in the Danube Delta. More than ever, this year is going to be outstanding.

[adsense]If for no other reason than my friends finishing college. Yep, this may very well be our last summer as kids, and we’re going to make it totally phenomenal!

So, in order to join the party, here are a couple of ideas to make sure you’ll get here and have a great time.

How to get to Sfantu Gheorghe?

That’s easy. First, you’ll have to somehow get to Tulcea.

If you’re coming from Bucharest, the fastest way is by car. You’ll have to follow the A2 motorway for about 100 kilometers, then turn left towards Slobozia and from there it’s a pretty straight forward road. Just follow the road signs and you’ll be here in no time.

You can also take the train or a bus, but it’s going to be a little less comfortable. I just came home with the train and it took forever to reach Tulcea.

Same story if you come from Braila, Galați or Constanța. I wrote a distinctive post of of how to get to the Danube Delta, so make sure you read that too.

Second, once you’re in Tulcea, get yourself a ticket on one of the passenger ships from that big white building next to the train station. It’s about 10 Euros, so no biggie.

You can also make take a speed boat that will take you to Sfantu Gheorghe in about an hour and a half, but seriously?

The passenger ship is where the action goes down, so consider that first.

Where to stay?

Personally, I prefer the Delfinul Camping where I can set up my tent and hang out with the rest of good people. They’ve got everything you need there. Showers, a shop, a restaurant and even electric outlets every few meters.

Yeah, so you can send a constant stream of live tweets from your smart phone for the whole vacation 🙂

Dalfinul Camping in Sfantu GheorgheMost important of all, the camping is where the big screen is! That’s where they present most of the films.

The camping has plenty of space to set your tent up, and there are also about 15 or so bungalows.

However, if you’ve traveled half the world to get here, you probably want to make sure you have a decent night’s sleep.

For that, there’s the Green Village. The Vilas are truly amazing, with four star conditions. The owners really didn’t cut any expenses in making sure that the village really blends the modern facilities with the provincial look and feel of the Danube Delta.The Green Village in Sfantu Gheorghe

So there you have it! Get ready, pack your bags, quit your job and make sure that this august you are here, because it’s about to be extraordinary!

Fishing Things to Do

What are the best fishing spots in the Danube Delta?

For anybody who comes to the Danube Delta, fishing, if not the main goal of the trip, is definitely on their mind. And there are good reasons for that. There are hundreds of lakes, swamps and canals of all sizes that offer the right conditions for a fantastic holiday trying to catch the most sought after prey.

[adsense]Finding out what the best places for fishing is at least a little tricky because there is water and fish everywhere and simply casting the rod you’re guaranteed to catch something.  Asking the experienced local fishermen however will point you to the right direction and you’ll know precisely where you can capture your favorite trophy.

Here are just a couple of places where people have told me they managed to capture impressive amount of fish:

Caraorman and the surrounding lakes and canals.

From Caraorman, you can easily access some of the richest lakes in the Danube Delta: Puiu, Lumina, Puiulet and Chirilova. They are less than half an hour boat ride from the village. From one account, this is where you can catch pikes and perches so easily that you don’t always need sophisticated equipments.  Simple rods could easily do the trick.

The canals in this area offer plenty of opportunities. Generally, fish such as the rapacious carp, perch and bream, prefer the places where two canals of various streams meet. Where the water flows gently, there’s a good chance you will catch large carp specimens.

Some of the canals you can check are Litcov, Vatafu, Puiu-Rosu, Puiulet-Lumina, and Puiulet-Rotund.

Sfantu Gheorghe Canal

[adsense]This is one probably the most beautiful of the three main canals of the Danube. You can simply fish right on the canal, or head for the surrounding lakes and canals. You can check out the Uzlina canal and the lake with the same name. It is about 2 meters deep and offers great fishing possibilities, but you’ll have to compete with the huge pelican colony that regularly dines here.

Still on the left side, you can access the Ierenciuc Lake through a small canal with the same name. From the shape of the lake, I suspect that a few centuries ago, it was an actual part of the Sfantu Gheorghe channel.

To the south, there are a number of canals that lead either to the Razim Lake, the largest in Romania, or the Dranov Lake. Such are the Lipovenilor, Dranov or the Dunavat canals.

Mila 23

Surrounded by water and experienced fishermen, there is no chance you’re leaving Mila 23 without eating the traditional fish soup (Bors de peste) that they prepare here. This village is great if you want to prove yourself by fishing in the nearby Fortuna, Trei Iezere or Ligheanca lakes.

But whatever you do, please make sure you don’t spoil the water lilies that cover the waters in this place.

So there you go, I just gave you a few great ideas. Of course, these aren’t the only fishing spots, but the possibilities are endless.  Just make sure that you familiarize yourself with the fishing restrictions and never go overboard. Let’s keep this place wild.

If you’re going to check out any of these places, I’d love to hear about it. And better yet, do send me a picture with your trophy! 😀

Have fun!

Bird Watching

Danube Delta Birds

If there’s one thing that everybody knows about the Danube Delta, it’s the fact that it’s one of the world’s most amazing bird paradises. With 331 different species flying around every year, it certainly is a unique place, where birdwatchers can feel at home.

[adsense]Here’s a quick list with some of the most important of them:

Of all the 300 birds that enjoy their time in the Danube Delta, I think it’s only natural to put the pelican, both the common (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and Dalmatian (Pelecanus crispus) on top of the list.

It’s the most spectacular of them all and when people think of the birds in this place, it is the first that pops to mind.

Danube Delta Pelicans
Danube Delta Pelicans

Many of the people the visit these places come specifically to see this monument of nature. For a good reason then, the pelican is the symbol of the Danube Delta, the Tulcea county and the whole of Dobrogea. The largest colony is located in the Roșca-Buhaiova reserve, a strictly protected area in the north of the delta.

Another important bird is the cormorant. We have here 61% of the whole pygmy cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) population in Europe. They even spend the winter in here.

Bird Watching

Danube Delta Cormorants Dine In Tulcea

With the unusually cold winter that has hit Romania this year, the few bird species that stayed in the delta for Christmas had to adapt to make sure they survive till the spring.

A number of cormorants, which usually hunt fish underwater, found the thick lair of ice impossible to break this year, so they moved their camp to Tulcea’s promenade, where they can easily find food in the debris that seamen throw out.

Cormorant in Tulcea
Cormorant in Tulcea

Although it’s a busy port with plenty of boats and people on the promenade, difficult times call for drastic measures, so they’ve leaned to live with that.

Normally, Cormorants live on the seashore or on lakes surrounded by thick vegetation. They eat huge quantities of fish and hunt only during the day. The fishermen hate them because, well, eat their prey and also break their fishing nets. They tend to live for 10 to 15 years, but there are a few species that go all the way through 30 years.

Here’s a picture o one of the cormorants who’ve found a welcoming new home for the winter of the deck of the boat-restaurant and museum “Republica”, anchored near the city’s center.