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Dear Japanese Tourists - Come to The Danube Delta

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The mighty Danube River flows 1,788 miles from its springs in Germany’s Black Forest to the Black Sea. Just before reaching the sea it forms the second largest and best preserved of Europe's deltas: 2,200 square miles of rivers, canals, marshes, tree-fringed lakes and reed islands. The Danube Delta is a wildlife enthusiast’s (especially a bird watcher’s) paradise.

Travelers can spend three or more days exploring its passages, teaming with the highest concentration of bird colonies in all of Europe. The maze of canals bordered by thatch, willows and oaks entangled in lianas, offers the perfect breeding ground for countless species of birds, some of them from as far away as China and Africa. Millions of Egyptian white pelicans arrive here every spring to raise their young, while equal numbers of Arctic geese come here to escape the harsh winters of Northern Europe.

Some 300 species of birds make Danube’s Delta their home, including cormorants, white tailed eagles and glossy ibises.  The bird watching season lasts from early spring to late summer. Birds are not the only inhabitants of the Delta. There is also a rich community of fish and animals, from wildcats, foxes and wolves, to even an occasional boar or deer. Altogether, 3,450 animal species can be seen here, as well as 1,700 plant species.

Access

The Delta can be explored as part of a Danube River Cruise, or on day trips and boat excursions from Tulcea which has good hotels, restaurants specializing in fish dishes and the Museum of the Danube Delta.

Interesting Facts

  • The Danube River is the most international river on the planet - its course runs across — or forms a part of the borders of  several countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and four capitals: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade.
  • Formed over a period of more than 10,000 years, the Danube Delta continues to grow due to the 67 million tons of alluvia deposited every year by the Danube River.
  • The Delta is formed around the three main channels of the Danube, named after their respective ports: Chilia (in the north), Sulina (in the middle), and Sfantu Gheorghe (in the south).
  • The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve has the third largest biodiversity in the world (over 5,500 flora and fauna species), exceeded only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador.
  • The Danube Delta is home to over 60% of the world’s population of pygmy cormorants (phalacrocorax pygmeus), 50% of red-breasted geese (branta ruficollis) and the largest number of white pelicans (pelecanus onocrotalus) and Dalmatian pelicans (pelecanus crispus) in Europe.
  • It also is home to the world’s largest reed bed expanse – 625, 000 acres / 240,000 ha.
  • Some 15,000 people inhabit the Delta area, living in 28 villages and one city (Sulina).
  • The area was first attested by Herodot of Halicarnas (484 – 425 B.C.).
  • More then half of the Delta Biosphere Reserve is virtually intact.

The Danube Delta is comprised of an intricate network of waterways and lakes divided between the three main estuary channels of the Danube. This area of floating reed islands, forests, pastures and sand dunes covers 3,000 square miles and is home to a fascinating mix of cultures and people as well as a vast array of wildlife. Located at the tip of the three channels, Tulcea makes a great starting point for exploring the Danube Delta.

Chilia Arm(Bratul Chilia)

Tulcea – Chilia Veche - Periprava
Access: Scheduled boat service between Tulcea and Periprava with stops in: Ceatalchioi, Plaur, Pardina, Tatanir, Chilia Veche

The youngest arm of the Danube Delta stretches for some 72 miles along the border with Ukraine and has the greatest flow of water (approximately 60%) of the three arms. Its shores are home to several scattered villages – Patlagean, Ceatalchioi, Pardina, Tatanir – and Chilia Veche, a settlement with a long history (initially a Greek colony called Achillea).

Centuries ago, Chilia was a port on the Black Sea, a vital link between Europe and the Orient. In time, the alluvium deposited by the Danube has extended the land ever further into the Black Sea. Today, Chilia stands more than 25 miles from the sea. First documented in 1241 in the works of the Persian chronicler, Rashid al-Din, Chilia Veche was the site of a battle between the armies of Mahomed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, and forces led by Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler). A town on the Ukrainian side of the Danube, known as Novo Kilia (Chilia Noua, or ‘Newer Chilia,’ in Romanian) was founded by Stephen the Great of Moldavia in the 15th century in order to counteract the Ottoman Empire.

Lake Rosca (Lacul Rosca), a strictly protected reserve located between Chilia Veche and Periprava, is home to Europe’s largest white pelican colony; the area also harbors geese, egrets and storks.

Periprava, downstream from Chilia Veche, is the last site served by passenger boats on the Chilia arm. South of Periprava, you can explore the impressive Letea Reserve (Padurea Letea) with trees more than 500 years old. Oak, black poplar, elm, ash and thorny shrubs are smothered in the tropical creeper named periploca, a Mediterranean plant with reddish-brown bark and simple, glossy leaves, giving the Letea Forest its tropical looks. Here, you may encounter black-bellied foxes, wild horses, boars, falcons and white-tailed eagles. The surrounding sand dunes are home to tortoises and lizards.

Note: Access to Letea Forest is permitted only with a guide (warden) on the designated route.

You can find accommodations in nearby Letea Village and spend a few days touring the surrounding waterways.

Sulina Arm (Bratul Sulina)

Tulcea – Crisan - Sulina
Access: Scheduled boat service between Tulcea and Sulina with stops in: Partizani, Maliuc, Crisan

The Sulina Arm, shortest of the three, stretches some 42 miles from Tulcea to Sulina. Although it only carries 18% of the total water flow, Sulina is the main navigation route for passenger and commercial traffic. Between 1880 and 1902, a canal was dug to facilitate river traffic, shortening the natural course of the Sulina arm and allowing for easier access to villages in the Delta.

Maliuc (15 miles east of Tulcea)
Maliuc is one of the Delta’s youngest settlements. Lake Furtuna, one of the region’s largest lakes, lies just to the north of Maliuc. Pairs of swans and numerous moor hens and wild ducks mingle with other species while white pelicans often gather in huge numbers to feed and roost around this lake. 

Crisan (28 miles east of Tulcea)
Crisanis the main stepping-off point between Tulcea and Sulina.A fishermen’s village with a few houses spreading over the right bank and a fishery on the opposite shore, it makes an excellent base for exploring the surrounding lakes and canals. Private guestrooms and B&Bs are available. From here, you can rent a boat, or lotca, from the locals, and travel on the Old Danube Canal to Mila 23 or to Caraorman (Black Forest in Turkish) village and Caraorman Forest, a strictly protected reserve with brown oak trees, white and black poplars, white willows and fluffy ash surrounded by sandbanks. Owls, white-tailed eagles, falcons, wildcats, boars and wolves, as well as many rare plants, thrive in the area.

Note: Access to Caraorman Forest is permitted only with a guide (warden) on the designated route.

Mila 23
English engineers measured the course of the Danube in miles, starting with mile 0 in Sulina on the Black Sea coast.  Hence, 23 miles inland, you will find Mila 23, a quaint traditional fishing village. Located on a bend of the Sulina arm known as the ‘Old Danube’ (Dunarea Veche), Mila 23 is one of the main settlements of the Lipoveni, descendants of Russian refugees who fled from religious persecution in the early 18th century and who make their living from fishing, livestock breeding and reed harvesting in this vast area. As this is a good starting point for trips to the nearby waterways, many villagers rent rooms to visitors.

Sulina
Sulina, the terminus point for cruise liners sailing across the Delta, was mentioned for the first time more than 1,000 years ago under the name of Selina in a work written by Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenetes. This port town once bustled with traders from Europe and the Middle East, adventurers and sea pirates. The town served as headquarters for the European Danube Commission during the 19th century when the Danube was turned into a waterway suitable for commercial shipping. This huge project attracted workers from all over Europe, and the Anglican, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish tombstones in Sulina’s cemetery bear witness to this former international community. Notice the 19th century Greek Church of Saint Nicholas on the waterfront. The 60-foot-tall lighthouse, located in the middle of town, was built in 1802 and restored in 1870 by the Danube Commission. Enjoy a stroll along the 25-mile-long fine-sand beach.

Interesting fact: Sulina is the easternmost point of Romania.

Sfantu Gheoghe Arm (Bratul Sfantu Ghoerghe)

Tulcea – Sfantu Gheorghe
Access: Scheduled boat service between Tulcea and Sulina with stops in: Balteni de Jos, Mahmudia, Murighiol

A number of interesting villages dot the banks of the Sfantu Ghoerghe arm, which stretches for some 67 miles and carries 23% of the Danube’s total water flow. Mahmudia and Dunavatu de Jos were founded either atop or near Greek, Roman and Byzantine vestiges.

Interesting fact:

  • Legend has it that during Sultan Mahmud’s visit to a fishing village in the Danube Delta, he fell in love with a local girl and asked her to marry him. Upon learning that the girl was in love with another man, the sultan commanded the girl to weave him an embroidered shirt that was both fire- and water-proof or he would kill her lover. Sad and hopeless, the girl walked to the riverbank and started to cry. Hearing her sobs, the Danube fairy came out of the water’s depths and gave her an embroidered shirt. Before sunset, the girl presented the shirt to Sultan Mahmud, thus, saving herself and her fiancé. Since then, the village of Mahmudia has carried the name of the sultan.

Murighiol, a traditional fishing village, is home to the ruined Roman city of Halmyris, one of the most important ancient sites in Romania. The city was continuously inhabited from the 6th century BC to the 7th century AD. Although a basilica and a crypt containing the tomb of Epictet and Astion, the earliest Romanian Christian martyrs, have been discovered here, much of the ruins remain unexcavated. A visit offers the chance to see an ancient city still in the process of being uncovered.

Murighiol is the jump-off point for boats to Uzlina. Located 24 miles east of Tulcea, Uzlinais home to the offices of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve and the Jacques Cousteau Foundation. The Cormoran Tourist Complex in Uzlina provides facilities for hiring boats and guides to venture into some of the more interesting parts of the Delta.

First mentioned in 1318, the fishing village of Sfantu Gheorghe is well-known for its traditional cooking, including the famous black caviar (icre negre). A 30-minute walk will take you to one of the longest strips of beach on the Romanian Black Sea coast.

Visit historic sites, explore the waterways in a canoe or traditional fisherman boat, catch a sunset you’ll never forget, sample wine from vineyards dating back to the Roman Empire and savor some of the finest caviar in the world, the beluga sturgeon from the Black Sea!

Bird Watching
 
A bird-watchers’ paradise, the Danube Delta offers the opportunity to spot more than 300 species of migratory and resident birds, including eagles, egrets, vultures, geese, cranes, ibises, cormorants, swans and pelicans. Located on the 45th parallel, the Danube Delta makes for a perfect stopping-off point between the Equator and the North Pole for millions of migratory birds.

Some of the most important species include:

The White Pelican (pelecanus onocrotalus)
In March, swaths of white pelicans leave the Nile Delta and the Red Sea to come nest in the Danube Delta. The Delta is home to Europe’s largest breeding population (some 3,500 pairs).
Best seen: March to October

Dalmatian Pelican (pelecanus crispus)
After decades of decline, this species’ numbers have slowly begun to increase in the Delta. Currently, some 150 pairs have been spotted in several small colonies.
Best seen: April to October; some pairs may stay over the winter.

Small Egret (egretta garzetta)
A migratory species protected by law, the small egret lives in marshy areas and nests in small willows.
Best seen: April to October; some pairs may stay over the winter.

Pygmy Cormorant (phalacrocorax pygmeus)
Best seen: April to October; some pairs may stay over the winter

Ferruginous Duck (aythya nyroca)
The Danube Delta may be the last place in Europe to see this declining species. In August and September, large numbers often gather at Somova Lake, just west of Tulcea.
Best seen: March to October

Red-breasted Goose (branta ruficollis)
In winter, thousands of this species – almost half of the entire world population – reside on the Razim-Sinoe lagoon and coastal plain to the south of the Delta.
Best seen: Late October to March

Glossy Ibis (plegadis falcinellus)
More than 30% of the European population nests in the reed beds of the delta.
Best seen: April to September



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