Tulcea is not just a city in the Danube Delta. It is, first of all, my home town. Obviously, I am very fond of it. As much as I’ve traveled all over the world in the last few years, there’s still something here that I like and will always make me come back.
A Little Bit of History
[adsense]The area that is now the city of Tulcea has been inhabited since the VIIth century BC, when the Dacian ruler Carpyus Aegyssus founded the city and named it after himself, Aegyssus. The city was mentioned in the documents of Diodorus of Sicily and Ovid referred to it in Ex Ponto.
The city was an important center for wine production, drinking being one of the favorite past times of the dacians. After all, the God of whine was born around these places.
Burebista had to take massive action to force his subjects to fight against invaders, so he ordered all vineyards to be destroyed. It seems to have worked, but after the danger was over, everybody went back to their old habits. Today, the vineyard at Niculitel is one of the top in Romania.
In 12-15 BC, the Romans came here, destroyed the place and put it back together the way they saw fit. You can see these ruins on the hill where the monument was built after the 1978 unification with Romania.
Throughout the years, the city and the region went through the hands of Byzantines, Bulgarians, Ottomans, Genoese and Romanians, every one of them leaving its mark.
Arts and Culture
[adsense]Tulcea became an important refuge for artists who after 1940 had to retreat from the city of Balcic in south of Dobrogea which was given that year to the Bulgarians. Between the two World Wars, Balcic was the cultural center of the Dobrogea region. The events of 1940 however forced artists to abandon it and look for another location.
Tulcea provided the perfect environment for them because of its beautiful sights and the unique and cosmopolite population made of communities of Romanians, Russians, Lipovans, Turks, Greeks, Gypsies and many more, each with their specific customs.
In the Arts museum today, if you take the guided tour you will hear the whole story and you will get to see how these artists viewed and used this raw source of inspiration. Viewing many of these paintings, you’ll get a sense of how life used to be around here. It’s almost like a scene from a fairytale.
Besides painting, music is also an important part of the Tulcea culture. George Georgescu, one of the most prolific Romanian composers, was born in the surrounding region. Since 1992, there is a music festival that is held here every summer bringing together young folk groups from all over the country.
Today, Tulcea is the most important city of the Danube Delta. If you’re going to see the Delta, you have to go through Tulcea.
Places to see in Tulcea
The promenade on the side of the Danube. I believe this is the first place that everybody who visits the city sees. It a huge open space where everybody just hangs out, roller blades, skates, walks the dog and enjoys the beautiful days of summer and the boats docked in the port or the ships passing on the Danube. This is where all the tours through the Danube Delta start from. The train and bus stations are at west end of it and there are plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars along it.
[adsense]The Independence Monument, which is built on the same cliff with the Aegyssus fortress, serves as a testimony for the independence war of 1878 during which Dobrogea (Dobrudja) was reunited with Romania. It consists of a tall obelisk and a huge vulture and soldier on its sides, both of which were forged in Milan.
The Danube Delta Museum, or the aquarium, which is now housed in a new building, used to be housed in a huge mansion the used to belong to a wealthy Greek ship owner. When the new museum was opened, about two years ago, the prince of Monaco attended the ceremony, his foundation having contributed a good portion of the money for the project.
I’m not sure why but the media and everybody says that this aquarium is the best or the most extraordinary in Europe. Personally, I’ve seen bigger and more interesting aquariums in Lisbon and Crete alone, so I believe there is some propaganda somewhere in between. Anyway, it’s a great place and certainly worth visiting, because it presents many of the fish and bird varieties in the Danube Delta and not only, along with some of the traditional ways of living of the population in the area.
The Archeology Museum is a must visit spot in order to really understand the history of the area. You’ll see here traces left by every population that has gotten around these places through the last 27 centuries. It is located on the same hill as the monument and the Aegyssus ruins.