Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tulcea - The Danube Delta - RO

Tulcea, (Danube Delta, RO)

An eon is a long time!

For eons the Danube River has flowed through most of Europe taking water from the interior and bringing it, mixed with silt, down the river and depositing it all into a huge delta. From being a small rivulet to being a broad, wide river, it empties itself out into the Black Sea after 1189 miles. The end of the River is very dramatic. The width of the spreading, huge delta is enormous.
Lots And Lots Of Birds

We drove into the delta through the mountainous region and entered a fairly flat region but not as flat as I thought it might be. I guess that is why the river spread out so much, there are hills and even steep knolls everywhere and the river found itself a way through this maze of spread out elevations.
A Huge Swamp
The Danube Delta is an ecologist’s dream space. Swampy, full of life and riddled with smaller channels that can get you lost amid the trees, grasses, knolls and whatnot. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, yet there was no real sign of a permanent dwelling in most of the area. The Delta today is declared a UNESCO heritage site and building anything is almost always prohibited.

There are some towns, of course, and Tulcea is one of those larger towns that live off tourism almost exclusively.
A Rare White-Tailed European Eagle
Avian life is predominant and fishing is a big business in this spawning place of aquatic life. Boats are the only reliable transport. We arrived by car but arriving seemed like the end of the line. Luckily I had made a reservation and the hotel was air conditioned and fairly modern. Our location was good, in the middle of the city, within walking distance to the River’s edge.
Our plan was to stay 2 nights in Tulcea, take a boat tour the next day, and then see which way to go next. To make sure we got on a slow boat tour we walked to the pier, saw the operator we thought was OK, and booked for a morning pick up the next day. The day of our arrival it was very windy and it rained, too. We had to find a sheltered eatery, there was no way to sit outside and enjoy a meal. The wind blew strongly and drove the rains. We found an Italian place but they had no spaghetti, the first for me, an Italian Restaurant without spaghetti. Go figure!

Breakfast at the hotel was between 7 and 10 AM but when we got to the buffet, at 8.45 there was no food left to eat. All the scrambled eggs, the wieners and the brown bread were gone. No, the Hotel would not put out more food; we ate what was left over. Strange custom!
Our Slow (Fast) Boat Hire

Our tour, an English speaking tour we booked the day before, started at 10.00 AM. We were early but when 10.00 o’clock arrived there were not enough people for our booked tour. Now what?  The only option was to take a longer, more expensive (45 Euros/each) tour that would take almost all day. I am not a water buff, and sitting in a small boat?  I don’t know about that, but Carol nodded and we took the long route, which was on a small, but faster boat. There goes my planning again. I thought of a leisurely, slow, drifting visit and now we are racing, full throttle through the channels.

Lucky for me I had enough Euros on me. No, they would not want to be paid in Lei, their local currency, they wanted Euros. (I believe the operator never had any other people booked for the slow tour, we were ‘blackmailed’ to be on the fast tour, especially when it costs more).
So we raced, then slowed, then idled through a maze of canals, feeder rivers, small inlets, shortcuts all crisscrossing the delta. Whenever a rare bird (Great Cormorants, Northern Lapwings, etc.) came into view the guide slowed down, even stopped and showed us his extensive knowledge of the nature around us. Not only birds, but seldom seen animals were visible. The one extreme rare one was the Raccoon Dog. Not a raccoon, not a dog, but something
Raccoon Dog 
in between. We saw wild pigs.
There Were Many People Fishing 

Fishermen in boats drifting along the sides of the waterways, or living in a fishing camp or even living for a few months in tents within the delta, were pulling out fish for a living. Some of those ‘camps’ were shacks in pretty bad shape. The people looked like drifters or hobos or were hiding from authorities, I don’t know, but some looked even dangerous. The delta is an “end of world” place. It deposits all kind of flotsam, even the human kind.

At about 1.00 PM we stopped in a ‘village’ for lunch and we took a walk to stretch our legs for a bit. We had a one hour lunch break and we were to ‘see’ the village. Well, it would be a prison sentence to live there. I cannot imagine being stuck in this spot voluntarily. There was no road, just a dirt track. Most houses were in disarray and nautical trash, old rotten boats, ropes, baskets; plastic stuff was strewn all along the water’s edge. It was not ‘romantic’ it was downright trashy. So much for ecology and the UNESCO!  Why people live like that is a mystery to me. I would need weeks to clean this mess up, if it could even be cleaned up.
Yes, With Bones, Careful When You Eat This 

We had lunch in an OK place, though; a four course fish lunch. Starting with boiled cooked fish made from pike, catfish and carp, then the left overs of that were poured into a stew like soup, made more palatable and different tasting by using herbs. All this was followed by deep fried fish, so greasy I could not eat it. Would not eat it! All of this fish eating ended with a cup of coffee and some sweet cookies.

We left the ‘restaurant’ at 2.15 PM but now the boat raced back to the docks in Tulcea, within one hour we were back in town. All the way back the driver of our boat forgot about his passengers, his tour, and his responsibilities as a tour guide. He was on his cell phone the whole way back. Somehow he found a very quick way to one of the main arms of the Danube (the Danube river splits into 3 main arms in the delta) and raced along at full speed to get ‘home’. We saw one of the splits on the Danube River, where one major arm splits off, but who really cares?  The boat driver sure did not! So we saw the delta, not at our pace, but we saw the delta. Would I recommend this part of Romania?  Maybe! 
Picture Perfect  -  Grey Heron
But I cannot tell you really the best way to see it. We tried to do it in a sophisticated way but it seems most people at the Delta are shortsighted, only looking for a quick buck from tourists. I felt like I was milked while at the river’s end. It could be so much more if only Romania had a better system, a better way to show off a unique area on this planet. Too bad, I hope it will change in the future.
Some Tourists Were In Kayaks But There Were Many Flies, Mosquitoes, Etc.  Glad We Did Not Do This!

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