By the time I awoke at 0930 we were in Romanian waters. In fact, we had exited the Black Sea and were heading westward into one of the three main channels of the Danube River delta. The delta covers hundreds of square miles and has been designated a UNESCO biosphere. There is much ecological damage still to be repaired, as is the case with most of the world’s great rivers but there seem to have been changes in the right direction during the past two decades. The delta teems with birdlife. It lies halfway between than North Pole and the equator making it a major crossroad for migratory birds. Our winged friends put on delightful displays at every micro habitat within the delta.
The Sulina Channel ends at the town on Sulina on the Black Sea Coast. Our destination is Tulcea, an industrial city about 60 km. inland. Our ship, being large relative to the 100 meter wide channel, had to move slowly so as not to create a tsunami effect on the tiny homes that dotted sections of the channel. It took six hours to arrive at Tulcea, a dreary place with 100,000 inhabitants. Despite its faded, frayed look, there is a construction boom of sorts going on in the center of town and a broad promenade runs several hundred meters along the coast. To my eye, there are three architectural gems: the St. Nicholas Cathedral, the Educational Ministry building and the building housing the Natural History Museum.
You can see the entire center in two hours which includes ducking into a couple of small museums. The basement of the Natural History Museum has a series of aquariums displaying fish from the surrounding waters. The aquarium technology is primitive by any standard but the fish are well cared for and only a few have had to be transferred to bottles of formaldehyde.
After my long stay in the Ukraine, it is a joy to have street signs that are displayed in the Roman alphabet rather than in Cyrillic. Likewise, the supermarket and department stores have a more western feel to them. Though I don’t know a single word of Romanian yet, the words on signs mostly have Latin roots and most manage to communicate the nature of the enterprise.
The promenade is lined with piers for perhaps three dozen tour companies that provide boating tours to nearby delta swamps. The UNESCO Biosphere designation seems to have created a tourist boom for the region. We will travel on one of these craft for a few hours tomorrow morning before returning to the Black Sea for the final leg of the cruise to Nessebar, Bulgaria.