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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrIn the northern part of Dobrogea, the Danube ends its journey across nine countries with one of the most well-preserved and picturesque deltas in the world. As the second largest in Europe, the Danube Delta spreads on 1,603 square miles, 3,446 of which are in Romania.
GeologyThe genesis of the delta began 10,000 years ago, when the Black Sea rose to the current level. After 3500 BCE, its three distributaries were formed: Sfântu Gheorghe (Saint George, 3500-1600 BCE), Sulina (1600-0 BCE), and Chilia (1600 CE to present). Additional lobes were artificially built in the nearby lagoons, and a large part of the alluvium is the result of the deforestation and erosion that happened in the first millennium. Roughly half of the delta was formed in the past 1,000 years.
The delta acts as a home and a breeding ground for more than 300 species of birds, many of which coming from as far as Africa or Asia. From spring until early autumn, the bird watching season allows tourists to admire its unique fauna of over 3,450 species.
Chilia BranchChilia is the youngest branch of the delta, and also the widest (60% of water flow), and it goes right along the border with Ukraine. Along it, there are a few small villages and the fortress of Chilia Veche , a point that played important roles throughout history on many occasions. Lake Roşca hosts the largest pelican colony in Europe, while the Letea reserve is home to the forest with the same name, with trees older than 500 years old, and a tropical feel due to Periploca, a Mediterranean creeper that climbs and smothers the oak, elm, and ash of the swampy woodland. The fauna features Turtles, Black-Bellied Foxes, Wild Boars, Eagles, Falcons, and even Wild Horses. Visiting Letea Forest can only be done in the presence of a guide, and accommodation can be found in the Letea village nearby, from where you can also tour the nearby waterways by boat. Chilia can be reached from Tulcea and Periprava. The boat stops in Ceatalchioi, Plaur, Pardina, Tatanir, and Chilia Veche.
Sulina BranchThough the shortest of the three, carrying only 18% of Danube's water, it is the straightest, and most facile for navigation. In the vicinity of Sulina, Lake Furtuna, one of the largest in the region, is a breeding ground for Swans, Moor Hens, Pelicans, and Wild Ducks. The village of Crişan is the mid-point between Tulcea, the main city in Northern Dobrogea, and Sulina. Mainly comprised of fishermen, it is a great opportunity to explore the canals and taste the local fishery. It also offers guestrooms and boats for rent, so you can travel nearby to Mila 23 - another fishing village inhabited by Russian descendants from Lipov , or the Caraorman Forest (literally meaning Black Forest in Turkish), another protected area with specific dark oak trees, owls, wildcats, and many rare plants. Access is only permitted with a guide, and only on a certain route. There are scheduled boat services between Tulcea and Sulina with stops in Partizani, Maliuc, and Crişan.
Sfântu Gheoghe BranchAccording to legends, Sultan Mahmud came to visit a village in the delta, and he fell in love with a girl. He asked for her hand, but she was in love with another man. Upon learning this, the Sultan commanded her to embroider a shirt for him, that would be both fire and waterproof, otherwise he would kill her lover. As she was crying on the water bank, the Danube fairy came out of the water and provided her with a magical shirt for the Sultan. Since then, the village of Mahmudia bears the name of the Sultan.
The Sfântu Ghoerghe branch stretches for more than 62 miles and carries 23% of the Danube’s total water flow. Many fishermen villages are sprawled along its banks, and Murighiol is probably the most known and frequented by fishing enthusiasts. Here you can find a cottage complex and a strand, as well as a crypt and a basilica sheltering the tombs of Epictet and Astion, the first Romanian Christian martyrs. Built upon the Roman ruined city of Halmyris, the excavation is still going on, and it can be visited.
From Murighiol you can take boats to Uzlina. Roughly 25 miles east of Tulcea, Uzlina is the headquarters of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve and the Cormoran Tourist Complex, which allows the hiring of boats for deeper delta venture.
Dating since 1318, the fishing village of Sfântu Gheorghe is renown for its traditional fish cuisine, especially the famous black caviar. A 30-minutes walk will take you to one of the longest strips of beach on the Romanian Black Sea coast.
To reach Sfântu Gheorghe, a boat service can be employed from Tulcea and Sulina, with stops in Băltenii de Jos, Mahmudia, and Murighiol.
Visiting the DeltaThe delta can be explored either by cruise boat, or by foot, as excursions from Tulcea. However, to fully immerse into the real delta feel and experience, it is perhaps best to spend at least a weekend in a fishing village, interact with the locals, taste the local specialties, catch some fish and make a barbecue in the heart of nature.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Sep 13, 2014