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…try to imagine, just for a minute or two, how would it be to live in a fairytale, a place where time passes differently, where you can shake hands with the nature and delight you soul…
What to expect
The Danube, an international waterway, originates in the Black Forest of Germany. After crossing ten countries (Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Ukraine, and Moldova) including four capital cities (Bratislava, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade), it splits into three branches: Kiliya to the north, Sulina in the center and Saint George to the south.
The Danube’s journey (2850 km entirely) ends when it flows into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine. The Danube Delta could be described, without exaggeration, as a fabulous universe: hundreds of lakes, dunes, trees and lianas, not to mention about the refreshing wind that bends, in cadence, the reed. When you explore this magical, colorful and complex place, you meet inevitably many species of birds, animals and flowers but also you learn about the traditions of the area from the people and fishermen.
For a better understanding, we have to go back in time with 12.000 years. Well, 12 thousand years looks like… a lot for a human life, but a piece of cake for our planet, so the biggest Delta in the Europe is actually very young compared to others. Everything started with just one tiny bay and a little bit of help from the Black Sea.
The surface extended a little bit every year and today the approximate surface area is 4,152 km². And it’s still growing! As the water of the Black Sea rises, this will slowly cause more inundation in the Delta, which means more sand and silts so the riverbanks will continue to grow.
The Kiliya is the longest branch(120 km) and the sinuous branch. It receives from the river approximately 60% of the flow and it’s also the natural frontier between Romania and Ukraine. Before flowing into the Black Sea, the branch also splits into a secondary delta, drawn by many small rivers and lakes.
Unfortunately, Kiliya isn’t very visited by the tourists, compared to Sulina branch, which is the best managed. It’s not as long as Chilia, only 70 km, but it stretches to Sulina, the only veritable city of the Delta. When the water level decreases, you can catch a glimpse at the impressive roots of the trees, which looks like some huge tentacles.
The last branch, Saint George, is the oldest one, or at least that’s what archaeologists said, because they found there some “footsteps” of Romans and Greeks.
UNESCO and the Danube Delta
Try to imagine the Danube Delta like a big sponge which filters the waters of Europe. That’s why this place is so important and we should take care of it. The entire balance of this extraordinary biodiversity depends on that.
In the 19th century, the industrial revolution caused a population boom and the traditional agriculture could not produce enough food anymore, so the Western Europe started to look for new grain producing countries. Romania, Moldova and Ukraine were some of them.
Soon, Braila and Galati (Romania) became the main export harbors and the grains were exported through Sulina to the international seas. This, in turn, caused massive erosion of the top soil.
In 1980’s, there was a big threat when large areas were affected by the large-scale of the agriculture and pisciculture. In the 1990’s, the Delta was declared a biosphere reservation and it was included into the UNESCO World Heritage list. This place is currently administrated, protected and promoted for a balanced tourism.
In this permanent meeting between the sand and the sea, 35 ecosystems have been born and just as many sceneries (lakes, lagoons, floating islands), almost 2000 vegetation species (water lilies, seaweed and so on) and 3500 species of animals: fishes, birds, mammals and insects. Looks like this area is full of life and energy!
The geographic location and living conditions explain that. Some birds come here from a long way, like Africa or Siberia. The White Pelican and the White-tailed Eagle are the “stars” when it comes to birds. There are almost 300 species of birds and 230 of them are protected. In the villages, you can see descriptive panels for different species, in English and Romanian.
As for the vegetation, the reed occupies an area of 1750 km2, which is the largest compact area in the world. Among the curiosities of the Delta are those two Carnivorous plants: “otrățelul de baltă” and addrovanda. Another interesting plant is Noctiluca Miliaris.
Some fisherman from the area said that if you bath at night into some specified places in the Black Sea or into the Razelm Lake, when you get out of water, your body will have a phosphorescent glow.
Insects are interesting too. For example, the biggest butterfly ever seen in the Danube Delta has a spread of 7.1 inches! The dragon fly beats another record: it only lives for two days and it doesn’t eat, because she reproducing all the time. On the other hand, a species of turtle from this area can live for a very long time: up to 120 years.
Let’s talk about the biggest fish ever caught: a beluga which weighed 882 kg (1944 lbs). It was caught in 1890 at Saint George river branch. The biggest mammal is the wild boar – up to 200 kg (440 lbs).
The ethnographic mosaic and the culinary specialties
The European fauna sanctuary is also populated and exploited - fishing, reed exploitation and so on. Some humans adapted to this environment and they have developed new techniques for fishing, transport and construction.
The Black See made it possible for a lot of people from Asia and Europe to come here: Ukrainians, Greeks, British people and many others and this led to the formation of a cultural diversity.
The abundance of the fish and the influence of the cultures created a very special cuisine. The garlic and the condiments, but also the fruits and vegetables create unique sauces for the food. Don’t miss the caviar and the seafood, prepared in a special manner and neither “borșul de pește”, an outstanding soup with fish. In the same menu you can find fried carp, pike dumplings and meat too.
The traditional polenta and the garlic sauce can be combined with any of them. You need to know that these foods depend on the season so if you are interested in that, be careful to choose the proper time for your trip. You can enjoy these foods at any pensions, restaurants or even at the hotels.
Some small example of traditional Danube Delta recipies:
• Danube Delta fisherman Borsch
• Danube Delta Carp with fisherman sauce
• Perch filled - Delta recipe
• Danube Delta Carp on fisherman oven
• Scordoleaua - (in Saint George - Danube Delta region) is a traditional dish of Delta, which is prepared from a spicy mashed potato, and put it on a top of the fishes. The full recipe you can find it on the link.
• Malasolka- Malasolka, traditional food from the Danube Delta, is prepared from fish that has been previously salted and not pilled boiled potatoes.
Ideal would be that the fishes which we have to be predators (pike, pike perch) or just carp family fishes and to boil them all together.
Before boiling it, the fish is cleaned up from the salt. It is recommended that fish sit in a pinch of salt thicker hours. Do not worry, the fish always take how much salt needs.
Peel the garlic, crush it, rub it with salt and then add oil until mayonnaise out. And do not forget to add a little vinegar to cut the strength of garlic.
When potatoes are cooked add to the pot over a little shaken pieces of salt.
In 7-10 minutes the food is ready and remove the "plateau". Boiled boiled potato + garlic + = malasolka beat.
View more recipes at : More traditional recipies (RO-language)
Did you know
• With more than 5,000 species of plants and animals,the Danube Delta is the third area in the world in terms of biodiversity after Barrier Reef, Australia, and the Galapagos Archipelago , Ecuador
• DANUBE DELTA is the only one in the World declared Biosphere Reservation, part of the International Network of UNESCO and is a true museum of biodiversity , with 30 types of ecosystems and about 5,380 species so far, 284 of the species , according to the National Institute Delta Danube , being new to Romania and other 39 were new to science .
• The Danube Delta we can be found the lowest density of population from Romania , a resident at 30 hectares , 87 percent of whom are Romanian residents , 10 percent - Russian Lipovani 2 percent Ukrainian , and 1 percent - other ethnicities .
• The only city in the Danube Delta , Sulina , has both port on the Danube and Black Sea.The town is located at the lowest altitude in Romania and is also the sunniest area of Romania
• Reed occupies 1750 km square , and Danube Delta is the most compact reed surface of the globe .
• Among the curiosities in Danube Delta , a special place two carnivorous plants : Pond “otrăţelul” and Aldrovanda
• The largest butterfly found in the Delta is “night peacock eye” , which has a wingspan of 18 inches .
• The least -running insect dragonfly living in the Delta is two days , during this time she feeds , but only multiplied .
• The largest fish was a cod of 882 kg , the fishery in 1980 to St. George , and the smallest fish with a length of 3.2 inches , occurs in”Gura Portiţei”
• Longest migratory fish that can be seen in the Delta is eel . Specimens of this species in six months are crossing 8000 km to the Sargasso Sea , where they reproduce at a depth of 400 meters and then die . Juvenile reaches the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve in 3-4 years.
• The forest Cararoman place called " Fountain Hunters " you can encounter the oldest oak . It has about 400 years , a diameter of 3.8 meters and is known as ' kneeling Oak '
• One of the longest snakes in Europe, known as " evil serpent " , living in areas near the Danube Delta is a protected species in Europe. Its length can reach 1.8 meters and is also one of the most aggressive species , but its bite is not poisonous
• The most enduring creatures in the Delta are water turtle species and land, their life being about 120 years.
• White-tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey in the Danube Delta , its wingspan reaching 2.5 meters.
• In the next place in a top of the largest birds in the Delta is placed pelican , a species protected at European level. Its wingspan is about 320 cm , a weight of 13 kg and a length of 170 cm .
• The smallest bird in Romania is aster and can be seen in the Delta. It has up to 10 cm long, a wingspan up to 17 inches and weighing up to 13 grams.
• The largest mammal in the Delta is the wild boar , which can reach a weight of 200 kg. The smallest mammal is the shrew Delta .
What to do and how to get there
If you want to see these miracles by yourself, first you have to travel to Tulcea country, Romania. It’s 300 km away from Bucharest and 150 from Constanța country. After that, the ship is the main mean of transport and only Saint George branch is accompanied by a paved road.
For lodging you can choose either pensions or hotels, many of them offers some very good conditions and you won’t be disappointed. When you get to the Delta, you must remember to make reservations in time for the ship and others utilities.
Well, you did get there. Now what? There are so many interesting things about the Danube Delta, but maybe you won’t be able to see them all. There is a list which includes the main attractions:, but if you have the time and you like to plan your own trip, you can improvise or take advices from the denizens.
There are some agencies which could organize your schedule. Take this advice if you like to watch birds: bring the binoculars with you, this is a must! You will also want to choose to come here in May, June or October (periods of migration).
• Tulcea country, harbor, and also considered “a gate to the Delta”. Visiting is a must, because here the Danube spreads into a beautiful fan and its presence, color and flavor gives to the city a unique touch. As for the museums, it will takes several hours.
• The Museum of Natural Sciences – in the beautiful house “Avramide”, the different ecosystems of the delta are itemized and detailed carefully.
• The Ethnography and Folk Art Museum – here you can admire and learn something about the specific of the area: costumes, fabrics, furniture and farm tools.
• The Art Museum – a beautiful collection of paintings, signed by the local artists.
• The Museum of History and Archaeology keeps the result of many years of research: coins, ceramics.
Also, if you want to discover more things about Romania, you can visit Constanța Country and the beach, you won’t regret it.
Don’t forget about your pass! All the tourists who want to visit the Danube Delt must have one. It costs only 3 euro and you can buy it from ARBDD (Str. PORTULUI 34A, Tulcea, Romania; for more information click here ).
Michelin, “Ghidul verde”, pag. 312-321.
Published by Alina-Ioana Anghel