Cruising through Central Europe
As you may have noticed if you’ve ever looked at a map of Europe is the enormous number of rivers that crisscross its lands. One of the biggest (and most spectacular, for that matter) is the Danube.
It’s for long been dubbed the second longest river in Europe (after the Volga that only flows through the territory of the Russian Federation), running for almost 3000 km from Western to Eastern Europe and creating a source of living for peoples on its banks, as it has done for millenia. The Danube traverses 10 European countries: it’s source is in Germany, in the Black Forest mountain range, continuing its way through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before gently slipping into the Black Sea through its magnificent delta.
Cruises are frequently organized by tourism operators, the general starting points being Vienna or Budapest, ending in Sulina or Sf. Gheorghe, in the Danube Delta, in Romania. Conditions on these ships range from 3 stars to luxurious 5-start hotel boats, accommodating even the most pretentious type of guests.
Your next stop should be the Iron Gates (powerful name, isn’t it?) These are actually a series of gorges formed by the Danube when it meets the Carpathian Mountains. Located between Romania and Serbia, the Gates offer a splendid view of the river digging its way through the rocky labyrinth, but also numerous leisure possibilities: in recent years, a lot of hotels with swimming pools, jetties with speedboats and ski jets to hire, tennis courts and many others have opened in this area.
Finally, towards the end of your trip, one destination should not be missed: the Danube Delta. It’s probably the most impressive attraction along its course and one of the biggest wildlife areas in Europe. The sense of wilderness and peacefulness that it gives you (helped by, among others, the fact that there are almost no cars or roads in the Delta) is truly unique. Sulina or Sf. Gheorghe, situated at the very end of the Delta, are the places to be: they have enough tourism infrastructure to fit all tastes and they are located near the sea, so you can go to the beach.
And, to end, a few top tips: along your way, don’t try to feed any animals or pluck any plants – many of them are rare and tend to be very well protected by state authorities – so protected, that you might even go to jail; stop in as many places as possible along your way – while we’ve only talked about the main attractions, there is much more to see over the 3000 km of the Danube’s course; and do visit the lighthouse situated on a smudge of sand at the point where the Danube meets the Black Sea – the view is spectacular and you can literally see how new land is formed out of the sediments brought by the river. Enough for now: have a pleasant journey!