The Danube Delta is the second largest delta (Volga is the first) but best preserved of European deltas, with an area of 3446 km2. This land of waters takes you away from everything that looks like a human establishment and guides you into a journey sprinkled with natural islands, lonely floating forests and incredible wildlife.
The Danube, springs from Germany and it gathers all the tributary streams from 10 countries and crosses 4 capital cities. After covering 2860 km and before flowing into the Black Sea, it forms a delta. The Danube Delta is situated in the Southeastern part of the country, it has the shape of the Greek letter “delta” and it is bordered in the Southwestern part by Dobrogea Plateau, in the Northern part by the Ukrainian border and in the Eastern part by the Black Sea.
The delta was created over the past 5,000 years—through much of recorded history. Before that, the delta was a gulf of the Black Sea. The deposition of million tons of alluvia links the three branches of the Danube: Chilia, Sulina and Sfantu Gheorghe (Saint George) with a fascinating net of channels, brooks and ponds. Wherever you look, you can see floating islets covered by rush and reed, rainforest-like lianas, lakes with muddy depths and surfaces carpeted by water lilies. The silent boats of fishermen stir countless pelicans and flocks of cormorants and moor hens from their nests beyond the reed curtains. Every year, the alluvium deposited by the Danube increases the width of the Delta by around 40 meters, making it extremely dynamic and the youngest land in Europe.
The Danube Delta is listed as a UNESCO Reservation of the Biosphere because of its peculiar features and its variety of ecosystems (more than 25 types of natural ecosystems). It is considered to be the third in ecological significance among the 300 reserves of the world. There are 16 strictly protected areas in which no economical activities are allowed, areas for ecological rehabilitation and buffer zones between economical areas, where tourist activities are permitted as long as the environment is protected. It hosts over 1,200 varieties of plants, 300 species of birds, being the richest ornithological fauna on the continent, as well as 45 freshwater fish species in its numerous lakes and marshes. This is the place where millions of birds from different places of Earth (European, Asian, African, Mediterranean) come to lay their eggs.
The Danube Delta has been inhabited for thousands of years. The descendants of the Scythian and Getae tribes never ceased to live on this land surrounded by waters. During the 10th through 15th centuries, the area of the sea-going Danube became a main trade place between merchants from Genoa and Venice, Arabs and Greeks and the native inhabitants. That’s why on the shores of the lakes Razelm (the biggest lake in Romania – 415 sq Km) and Sinoe you can still find ancient settlements like Histria and Enisala. Starting with the 15th century, the Danube Delta was part of the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Paris of 1856 which ended the Crimean War, Danube Delta together with two districts of Southern Bessarabia was included in the Principality of Moldavia and was established an international commission which made a series of works to help navigation. In 1859, it became part of the United Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia and later Romania. Around 15,000 people live in the Delta, most of them are living off fishing with their traditional wooden kayaks, small agriculture, animal breeding, and reed harvesting in winter. The Danube Delta has a particular rural civilization made by acculturation between Romanians and other ethnic groups i.e. Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Lippovans . The Lippovans are the descendants of the Old Rite Followers who left Russia in 1772 to avoid religious persecutions.
The largest town, at the entrance of the delta is Tulcea. From Tulcea there are ferry services into the delta. The ancient city lays on 7 hills like Roma, and has been an important harbor since ancient times. Some of the highlights include St. Nicholas’ Church (1865), the Azzizie Mosque (1924), the Danube Delta History Museum, Art Museum, History and Archeology Museum. Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe are smaller towns, lying at the end of the Danube, at the Black Sea-coast.
In 2004, Ukraine inaugurated work on the Bistroe Channel that will provide a navigable link from the Black Sea to the Ukrainian section of the Danube Delta. The European Union urged Ukraine to shut it down, because it will damage the wetlands of the Delta. The Romanian side, committed to protecting the delta, said they will sue Ukraine at the International Court of Justice.
The net of lakes, channels and brooks is the main line of communications in the Delta and a great place for boating, water sports and angling. Furtuna, Merhei, Babina, Matita, Gorgova, Uzlina, Lumina, Puiu, and Rosu are some of the most beautiful lakes. Channels such as Sireasa-Sontea, Eracle-Lopatna, Litcov, Dunavat, Lipovenilor lead to the most hidden and charming places in the Danube Delta. This is the place where luck smiles even to the most unlucky fishermen and where the finest lunch of all is a savory sturgeon and its black caviar. Nevertheless, the traditional cuisine based on fish products like fish borsch, spitted fish, brine pickle of fish with garlic dressing, fish meat balls “sprinkled” with the finest wines of the region, i.e. Niculitel can be an unforgettable delight.