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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Danube Delta and Down the Coast to Constanta

ROMANIA | Saturday, 24 July 2021 | Views [205]

Even though we had planned to do some more hiking in the mountains, a huge storm was engulfing Europe and heavy rainfall was heading our way. So time for plan B. We had always planned to head to the Danube Delta after the mountains, so why not go now when the weather promises to be better on the coast than the mountains? Sound sensible to me.

Getting to the delta was a bit complicated but as seasoned travellers we were not fazed. The quickest way had us heading back to Bucharest on the train and from there getting a bus to the town of Tulcea, the gateway to the delta. The train was packed heading to the capital and we couldn’t book a seat, but instead of coughing up for first class, we took our chances in cattle class and we bagged two flip down seats in the bike rack area. We were soon back in bustling Bucharest and fortunately the bus station we needed was just around the corner from the train station. We had our sandwiches as we awaited for our mini bus to depart and we were soon pushing out through the city and eventually into the countryside on the way to Tulcea.

 

Tulcea is a functional town on the Danube and all the ferries and tourist boats into the delta go from here, so most travellers have to pass through. As it was late afternoon we needed to stay the night before getting a ferry the next morning. We’d booked an apartment and once we finally located it we weren’t too excited as it was a pretty horrible block of flats. We met up with the owner and the dark dank stairwell didn’t give us any more hope of a comfortable night’s stay, but once we were inside we couldn’t believe it. A swanky compact apartment with a view over the Danube, result. The owner asked us about our plans for the delta so we explained we planned to get the ferry to Sulina in the morning. He said he had a day trip going in the morning and we could come along, take in the sights, stopping off at Mila 23 and Letea forest before being dropped in Sulina. The price seemed ok and we would have to book a trip from Sulina to explore the delta anyway, so we signed up.

After an uneventful night in Tulcea, an average meal on the not very picturesque waterfront and an early bath, we were up an at ‘em to head into the delta. After the usual waiting around for the excursion to actually get going, we were eventually speeding off along the Danube river. The trip turned out to be a great day and we were glad we opted for it rather than just going from Tulcea to Sulina. We stopped off at many of the lakes to look at the abundant birdlife, with the pelicans, cormorants and egrets being the stars, we headed down narrow channels and the scenery was really beautiful. We stopped for lunch at Mila 23, a small riverside village. We had brought a packed lunch so opted out of the fish lunch and took a stroll down the riverside walkway and enjoyed the peace and quiet as we ate our sandwiches.

After lunch it was back on the boat and Letea forest was our destination on the way to Sulina. We stopped in the small village and hopped on a truck for the ‘safari’. We headed inland into the forest reserve and after a short while we were invited to have a wander in the forest to look at the trees and the wild horses. It didn’t take long to track the nags down and it was nice to see them but hardly an African ‘safari’. The last leg of the boat trip saw us pass the town of Sulina and head out to where the Danube River meets the Black Sea. It was our first time seeing the coast in Romania and I guess it was cool to reach the end of the Danube, but it was just a lot of water really. We circled around a shipwreck of a cargo ship before heading back to Sulina. We had enjoyed our trip and were ready to get off in Sulina and go to our hotel. Erm, not so fast, we veered off the river down a channel, where are we going now? Seems the rest of the group wanted to go to the beach before heading back to Tulcea. So instead of dropping us off 100m away in the town we ended up miles away from town at the beach. We could wait 2 hours and get the boat to town or try and get a taxi. After 15 minutes waiting in the blazing 40 degree sun we finally flagged an empty taxi for the short hop to town.

We finally found our guesthouse after the taxi dropped us off in totally the wrong place. It was a lovely family run place and we have a basic room, but at least we had a small patio to sit out on in the lovely garden. The owners were really friendly and plied us with home-made wine while we relaxed after our journey. Emma was very grateful that we could do some washing as we must have been stinking after the trekking. The owners asked if we wanted to join the family meal that night, but seeing as how fish is the order of the day around here, and fussy Emma isn’t having that, we politely declined. Plus we wanted to explore the town and have a meal and drinks with a view of the river. We were only a few minutes from the waterfront and we headed down there for a mooch along the riverside. Sulina is a pleasant small town and there are quite a few restaurants along the front. We plumped for one and we enjoyed a lovely meal as the sun set on the Danube.

The delta is made up of 3 main channels and we wanted to explore more of the area after all the effort to get here so we booked another day trip. This time we were going to head to the southern channel and to the coastal village of Sfantu Gheorghe. After locating our boat we were off and this trip took us down some very narrow channels and then out over some huge lakes. Unfortunately the birdlife wasn’t as prolific here as the previous day, but it was still a very pleasant sojourn. We eventually pulled into the jetty at Sfantu Gheorghe just before lunch.

The group decided to spend around 3 hours here, most people just headed to the nearest seafood restaurant but being budget conscious we had our picnic once again. We were advised to take the path out to the beach. Ok, we’ll do that. Turned out to be a lovely stroll and we were the only ones heading in that direction. Everyone else was heading back from the beach for lunch. We eventually came to the beach, however there were still plenty of sun worshippers there. The were a couple of shacks selling food and drinks and a row of loungers. The beach stretched for a long way and the sand was quite white and the area clean. We found a secluded spot with a little bit of shade for our picnic. I had to stick my toes in the Black Sea but it wasn’t really black, a murky grey really and pretty chilly. I wasn’t too disappointed I didn’t have my swimmers with me. We walked back along the sandy track to have a beer and meet up with the others while we waited for the boat to take us back to Sulina.

We really enjoyed our trip to the delta but didn’t find the birdlife as impressive or as abundant as the guide books lead you to believe. It is a very scenic place and we would have stayed longer but everywhere at an affordable price was sold out. Only resorts at 500 lei plus were an option so it was time to hit the road, or rather river again.

As well as the slow ferries which take 4 hours there are direct fast boats that go direct from Sulina to Tulcea in only 1.5 hours, so we decided the extra 10 lei a ticket was going to be money well spent. We were soon back in Tulcea and we walked the short distance to the bus station and there was a minibus going to Constanta, right there, right then, we jumped on board. Transport never works like that. We were well pleased with ourselves as we headed out of Tulcea down the coast towards Constanta. The next leg of our summer European expedition was to swing into Bulgaria. Constanta is the main port city on the Romania coast and also a good place to get transport across the border into Bulgaria. So Constanta was where we were heading and thought we would have a night there to check it out.

The transport fairy had obviously had enough of us as we were dropped off in Constanta miles from the centre but there was kind taxi driver who took us to our hotel. We booked our accommodation based on it’s location next to the bus station for Bulgaria. Being near the bus station was it’s only redeeming factor as it was a dive in a rough part of time. Oh well , only a night. I went to said bus station to grab some tickets and luckily there was a bus going the next morning for Varna in Bulgaria, all good.

It was late afternoon by now so we walked into town to have a look around. The old town in Constanta is quite nice, not extensive and a lot of the buildings haven’t been restored but it was atmospheric and a  nice place for a stroll. There were loads of restaurants lining the narrow streets to grab a bite and a beer so we were happy. We also took a wander along the seafront promenade to have a look at the sea and to see the casino. I’d heard it was a fantastic old building that was stunning back in the day but now in rack and ruin. Well they are finally doing it up but unfortunately for us it was covered up. We will have to come back one day to see it unveiled. We headed back towards our hotel via a nice park and had an early night. We were off to Bulgaria in the morning.

 

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