Have you ever thought that 10 European countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) and 4 state capitals (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade) can have one and the same thing in common? Well, it is true! There is one thing that brings all these places together. It is a character who has influenced the lives of local people, it has sheltered them from dangers or represented a source of living, it has brought new visitors or inspired people to develop new technologies. Did you guess? It is the only European river which flows from west to east and the second longest river in Europe: the Danube.
The Danube has had an important role for Romanians since antiquity, as it represented the front line in the battles with the Ottoman Empire, and even nowadays it is an important geographical element which defines Romanians’ national identity. When crossing Romania, the Danube river has a length of 1075 km, constituting the border with Serbia, Bulgaria and, in a small matter, the border with Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Moreover, it is an important source of hydropower, tourism, and it also became an important means of naval transport, especially for commercial purposes, after the construction of Rhine-Main-Danube Canal which connects the North Sea with the Black Sea and the Rotterdam port with the Constanța port.
But one of the most representative aspects of the Danube river for Romanians is the Danube Delta. Situated in the South-East of Romania, the Danube Delta is one of the largest in Europe and it was formed at the fusion of the Danube river with the Black Sea. As it is very well preserved, the Delta has been part of the UNESCO world heritage since 1991 and it is also classified as a national biosphere reserve and a national natural park, according to the standards of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
The surreal feeling of the scenery in the Danube Delta is mostly given by the fact that it looks like a place that has not been touched by technology and humankind. The nature here shelters thousands of bird species and tens of fresh water fish species. To sum it up, it is the heaven of vegetation and fauna specific to this climate, a heaven that was built by nature itself not mankind. The Delta has a small and scattered population, due to the large areas covered by water, and it hosts mostly some minorities such as Lipovans, Ukrainians and Greeks. In the summer time the population triples as there are many tourists coming to the reserve.
Besides the exploration of the willow and aspen forests, the long boat rides on the lakes and marshes of the Delta while gazing at the pelicans or the wild horses herds, there are many interesting events organized in the reserve during the summer, such as the Anonimul International Independent Film Festival.
All in all, the Danube Delta is one of a kind in the whole world whereas the Danube river has been for centuries and still is a national symbol for Romanians, being more than just a geographical element. It is a way of life that unites Romania from west to east and brings life to the places it crosses.