You get off the train after a five-hour ride from Bucharest, or leave the car not too far from the railway station. A five-minute walk takes you along a wide quay and then very soon it’s farewell to traffic, city noises, concrete, steel and glass… with only the endless greenery and the ever-present water to complete the vista around you. Somehow, at a certain point you find yourself sitting at a table on (more or less) solid ground, facing a bowl of steaming fish borscht while the smell of catfish on the grill fills the air. Just while thinking about it, your experience is about to begin. Sailing along canals, fishing, bird watching, lazily hanging around and leaving everything behind. More? What about listening to old Russian Lipovan music, visiting fascinating churches, and a picturesque graveyard which offers endless tales of the different nationals that either passed through or lived here? How about sunbathing on the beach, or cycling across bare steppes and through ancient forests with even the occasional ankle-or knee-deep stream to ford?
If sailing, bird-watching and fishing are the first things that come to mind when talking about a delta – any delta, that is – there is slightly more to this story: several different sailing routes with their Genoese, Jewish and Greek merchant stories; small villages where locals still sail their boats along canals rather than driving their cars on the roads, and, last but not least, good access to that cormorant or pelican colony you have seen on countless television nature programs.
Take 1. Follow the Northern branch, the Chilia, and sail along the border with a good history book in hand. Have a glance at the old town of Izmail to the north with its domed mosque from the 16th century and its 19th-century coloured tin roof churches. While you are sailing, look at the loads being taken off boats at Chilia Veche as the boat still remains the main commercial transport means in the area and locals heavily depend on it. It is only later when you find yourself in a local house in remote Periprava and get that “end of the world” feeling that you realize it was well worth it, with no car to spoil your going back to basics before heading off into the Letea reserve with its sand dunes and wild horses. Stay in Periprava: in a 4-star hotel, a wooden bungalow colony, or in one of the local houses that offer guest rooms.
Take 3. Another town and another beach await you in Sfântu Gheorghe, with its convenient and varied accommodations. Do a detour to Erenciuc Lake for its profusion of water lilies and also for the white-tailed eagles that nest there. Still in Sfântu Gheorghe, the young-at-heart can experience an exuberant music festival, while the more… sedate can taste an independent movie festival… When the festivals are over, feel free to head south to the Sacalin-Zatoane lakes where over 100 species of birds congregate. Stay: Sfântu Gheorghe offers many guesthouses as well as an extensive four-star tourist village, and the Danube branch on the way has several three and four-star hotels along the lagoons and canals.
Steady now – you are back in civilization and you must return home for now. Perhaps you should stop adding that wonderful fresh garlic and sour cream sauce to everything – especially before heading to work! But you know that you can always come back again next year. We’ll be waiting for you, so see you then!
Note: ‘Come Sail Away’ is a song featured on Styx’ ‘The Grand Illusion’ album issued in 1977.About the author:
Shortly after getting his degree in tourism, Alex started traveling across Eastern Europe. He then went farther on, Eastwards, riding trains, bicycles or overloaded trucks, as well as trekking through the Middle East, Central Asia, the Subcontinent he never gets tired of and, more recently, Central Africa. When at home, he spends his spare time hiking, cycling and camping in the Carpathians, respectively researching and exploring Bucharest. His passion towards these places can be read about in the guidebooks on Romania he worked for, or in his websites, bucharestian.com or notrails.info