The Danube, the only river on Earth that passes through 10 countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine) and four capitals (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade) flows into the Black Sea via a delta which covers, together with Razelm – Sinoe lagoon complex, about 5050 square kilometers, of which 732 square kilometers are in Ukraine. More precisely, it has the following coordinates: 28° 10’ 50” East (Cotul Pisicii) and 29° 42’ 45” East (Sulina); 45° 27’ North (Chilia Branch, km. 43) and 44° 20’ North (Midia Cape).
In 1991, it became part of the UNESCO patrimony, being the only delta in the world that is declared a Biosphere Reserve.
The Danube’s branches
One can say that the Danube Delta takes shape at Patlageanca, where it is divided in two river branches, Chilia at North and Tulcea at South. The last one is divided in Sulina Branch and Sfantul Gheorghe (Saint George) Branch when reaching the Ceatal Sfantu Gheorghe.
Chilia Branch, with a length of 104 km, marks the border with Ukraine, and carries about 60% of the Danube’s flow and alluvium. That is why the width of the Danube Delta increases by around 40 meters per year. On its banks there are the villages of Palazu, Pardina, Chilia Veche and Periprava.
Sulina Branch, with a length of 71 km, passes through the middle of the Danube Delta and has a linear course, proper to the navigation of maritime ships. This one is permanently dragged and carries only 18% of the Danube’s flow. On its banks there are the villages of Ilganii de Sus, Maliuc, Gorgova, Crisan, Vulturu and Partizani, and the town of Sulina.
Sfantul Gheorghe (Saint George) Branch is 112 km long, is south-east oriented, carries 22% of the Danube’s flow and when flowing into the Black Sea, it forms the Sacalin Islands, considered to be the beginning of a secondary delta. On its banks there are the villages of Nufaru, Mahmudia, Uzlina and Sf. Gheorghe.
Other sources state that Chilia Branch is 120 km length, Sulina Branch – 64 km and Sfantul Gheorghe (Saint George) Branch – 108 km.
Faun and flora
Thanks to the 5149 species of faun and flora, specialists consider it a veritable gene bank for the universal patrimony. Besides all these, we should say that this is the home for most of the common pelican (about 8 000 specimens) and curly pelican (about 200 specimens) European population; for 60% of the world population of small (pygmy) cormorant (about 6 000 specimens); for 50% of the world population of red breasted goose (about 40 000 specimens during winter). Besides all that, there are also 1 200 species of trees and plants. Everywhere you look, you can see floating aits covered with bulrush and reed, lianas like in the tropical woods, lakes with muddy depths and surfaces covered with water lilies. The fishers’ boats disturb the pelicans, the flocks of cormorants and the moor hens from their nests.
Customs and traditions
A series of traditions and customs of the Danube Delta inhabitants, typical to Christian feasts like Easter or Christmas, resemble the customs from other regions of the country. For instance, on the first Monday after the Resurrection of Christ, when the Deceaseds’ Easter (Pastele Blajinilor) is celebrated, people go to the cemetery with alms and pray for their dead relatives. The one who receives an alms has to say “God Bless you!” (“Bogdaproste”).
Or, on Shrovetide, the last day before the Lent, there is organized a feast, where they beat the “halvita” (a dessert, a candy made of caramel, nuts, almonds and flavour). That means that a piece of this candy is hanged down the ceiling, and those who participate in this game have to catch it with their mouth. The next day the boys follow the girls to smut them. In the households from Razelm area, on Maundy Thursday the garbage from the household is gathered in three heaps which are set on fire. They put a glass of water and a basket of eggs near the fire. After the fire is put out, the eggs are given to the children of the village. On Good Friday, people also use to wash their face directly in the Danube, with virgin water, to gain wealth, and those who fall asleep on this day must expect misfortunes in the future.
A series of customs, different from one village to another, are prepared for the older ones who have a baby. In Murghiol, for instance, the parents must jump over a fire set in their yard, meaning that they left the misfortunes behind. In Baltenii de Sus or Mahmudia the parents are toppled over the boat, because the water must wash their bad thoughts. The rich ones can redeem this “watering” with a treat at the village tavern for all who pass by.
In C.A. Rosetti and Caraorman, people put horse skulls at their gates to protect themselves from curs and witchcrafts, believing that the possible misfortunes will fall down over these skulls. The Lippovans do not allow anyone to whistle in their boat, because that brings them bad luck. Local fishermen usually use fire water or vodka as trade coins here.
Fishing places and facilities
The first documentary attestation of the Danube Delta was made by Herodotus, who described the moment when Darius’ Persian fleet entered the Delta, after a stop in Histria (515 – 513 B.C.). Mentions about the inhabitants are to be found only in the first century B.C… Nowadays, besides the villages on the banks of the branches, we can also mention Patlageanca, Maliuc and Mila 23. Sulina is the only town in the Delta, and it is a free port, used especially for transhipping. Besides the ship yards, there is also a canned fish factory in this town.
Fishing lovers chose the Crisan Channel to fish for bream, perch, rudd, sheat fish or pike (in the morning). One can fish for smolt at Mila 23. At Fortuna I one can fish for rudd, perch, crap and even pike.
Attractions in Delta
The institutions that coordinate the economic and touristic activities from this area are in Tulcea, although the town is not situated in the Delta.
You can also find here some interesting museums, like the History and Archaeology Museum, the Ethnography and Folk Art Museum, the Art Museum or Natural Sciences Museum.
When a tourist arrives in Tulcea, he /she has a lot of options for a trip into the heart of the Delta. The best way to arrive there is by motorboat (30 euro per person). The fast trains await their clients on the cliff from Tulcea. A very important spot is the channel called “Cu barca prin padure”, which is in fact a whirlpool that dug its way through a willow forest. The tourist has the impression that he travels though a sinking forest. The ones who want to visit the ”Purcelu” bird colony, they have to pay extra 10 euro. They can see egrets, herons etc.
The tourists that want a several – days perjury, they can travel by the passenger ship from Tulcea on the arms of the Danube. Every town that you get in the way is full of pensions that offer, besides accommodation, trips on the channels, traditional fish dishes and fishing contests, according to the tourists’ skills (the prices demanded by the pensions are no higher than 50 lei for the night).
Sulina, Sf. Gheorghe and Jurilocva-Gura Portitei are options for the tourists that are in love with the sea and want to discover the beauties of the Delta. Paying 100-400 lei for each night, the tourist can get accommodation in hotels, pensions or villas. They have the pure beaches of the Romanian sea-side at their disposal, but also they can go to the Delta for specific activities.
Danube Delta’s Curiosities
Even if the fisherman’s stories raise a smile of distrust, some curiosities deserve mentioning anyway: the smallest fish reported is a frog fish (Knipowitschia cameliae), with a length smaller than 3.2 cm, and it was recently reported at Portita; the biggest pike (Esox lucius) captured in the Danube Delta had 18 kilos and it was over one meter long; the biggest crap (Cyprinus carpio), captured at Sfantul Gheorghe (Saint George), had 48.5 kilos weight, and the biggest sheat fish (Silurus glanis) captured in the Danube Delta had a weight of 400 kilos; the most longeval animals in the Danube Delta are the land turtle (Testudo graeca ibera) and the water turtle (Emy obicularis), that can live about 120 years.
How to get there?
The best way to arrive into the Danube Delta is by personal car, other possibilities would be less practical. There are also maxi-taxis in Bucharest, Galati and Constanta that travel to Danube Delta every hour; there are trains that travel from Bucharest and Constanta to Tulcea, but they are way too slow. TAROM agency facilitates a weekly flight to Tulcea.
Ticket entrance in Danube Delta: 20 lei