Time travelling in the Delta

Trip Start May 05, 2008
Trip End May 09, 2009

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Flag of Romania  ,
Monday, August 25, 2008

This was another whirlwind weekend planned by Tavi's cousin Mihnea, this time in a fairly remote part of Romania which is the Danube Delta. Unique in Europe, this is a labyrinth of canals, thatch and small land areas, populated mostly by fishermen and by birds who come from all over Europe, Asia and Africa, since the area is a critical stopping point on their migration routes, a veritable bird paradise. To get here, we first had to drive for about 9 hours from Northern Romania to meet up with Mihnea in the small town of Tulcea, then drive for another hour on dirt roads to the middle of nowhere, also known as the small village of Dunavatu de Jos, from where we charted a small fishing boat to take us to Sfintu Gheorghe. This is a small village situated at one the mouths of the great river Danube, which got electricity about 20 years ago, but which still feels stuck in time. The roads here are made of a fine sand, which stretches all the way to a giant beach a couple of kilometers away. There are some recent modern developments, but one cannot shake off the feel that it is a different world. We stayed with a Ukrainian family, and got to eat food which was all grown or caught locally and tasted fantastic! Then we went with another fishermen in a bird reserve, where we felt like we were visiting one of nature's cathedrals: a large shallow lake full of fish, and where thousands of birds of all shapes, from giant pelicans to tiny seagulls floated or flew across the waters. The expedition also ended up in an adventure, as on the way back to Dunavatu de Jos, we were caught by the encroaching darkness of the evening and our boatman had the uneasy task of navigating in obscurity in the labyrinth of reeds. One particularly awkward moment occured when the engine ran out of fuel and the thousands of mosquitoes had started to spot us. Fortunately all ended well and we had a chance to see the night sky as few of us city dwellers ever see it.
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