The Eastern Danube Region is spread across 470 kilometres of Europe’s second longest river, the Danube, and is the shared border between Romanian and Bulgaria. A region of heritage, traditional lifestyles and history it has its own experiences waiting to be discovered – from the claustrophobic narrowness of the Iron Gates (Portile de Fier) Gorge to the diversity of Dobrogea.
The Iron Gates (Portile de Fier) Natural Park is situated on the border between Romania and Serbia. An extremely diverse reservation, it hosts 1600 different species of florae and 5200 of fauna, 26 of which can only be found in Romania. The Eastern Danube region also hosts a lot of other reservations and natural parks: The Starmina forest in Mehedinti; Ciuperceni-Desa, east of Calafat, which hosts the nest of over 150 different birds and Iezerul Calarasi, where one can discover rare species of birds like the black stork, pelicans, wild gooses and the ibis. On one of narrow turns the Danube takes to escape the mountains one of the walls hosts a huge bas-relief of Decebal (the last king of Dacia) 55 meters in height.
One of the more important city-ports, Drobeta Turnu Severin, is situated right after the Iron Gates Gorge. An old city which still hosts the ruin of the bridge once built for the roman emperor that conquered the lands north of the river, it hosts the Iron Gates Gorge Museum (which shows a complete model of the bridge mentioned earlier).
Ruse, the main entry-port for goods brought by Danube from Central Europe since the 19th century, also has one of the first railroads built in Europe (in 1866) and was central, at its time, for the modernization of Bulgaria (the first shipyard was built here, along with the establishment of the first private bank and the first cinema).
The cave monasteries from the “Ruseski Lom” natural park, 20 in number, are situated just 20 kilometres from Ruse. In the same park bird-watchers will be happy to discover black storks, Egyptian eagles and mountain vultures. Built during the 12th century they are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list along with the Royal Necropolis in Sveshtari village (built in the 3rd century B.C.) one of the most wonderful and rare examples of Thracian architecture. For those with an adventurous spirit hitchhiking and canoeing tours are also available during spring and summer.
Then come the cities of Oltenita and Tutrakan, on the southern shore. Oltenita hosts the Gumelnita civilization museum, which contains archaeological findings from a nearby 6000 years old settlement. Turakan has been one the main centres for Danube fishing – it has kept its fishing village and the old “fish market” so it is a prime destinations for those who want to try the tastes of the region.
Corabia (Romanian for “The Ship”) is a small port with a roman history, its main attractions being the Sucidava fort ruins (which can be visited) and the Archaeology Museum that exhibits a fine collection of roman ceramics.
The Rocks of Belogradcik are a unique natural phenomenon. At a height of around 200 meters, they were sculpted by nature for more than 200 million years in red conglomerate rocks and tell the stories of the Stoned Madonna, of the Rider and the Monks. Bicycle tours are available, along with climbing and cave spelunking all near one of the few well maintained ottoman forts in the Danube basin.
Another trait that stems of the traditional lifestyle is the quality of the wine. Wineries at Belogradcik, Oriahovo, Pleven, Svishtov and Ruse are happily admitting visitors and the only Wine Museum in Bulgaria is in Pleven.
Dobrogea is where the Danube makes its final dash towards the sea. A bountiful and diverse region, it is home to most of the Black Sea resorts on the western Shore, including Albena. Along with the resorts, Cape Kaliakra and the roman fort there are worth a trip, as does the castle at Balcic and its Botanical Garden.
Going north we find one of the most important Black Sea ports – Constanta. Founded as a Greek polis, it is one of Romania most vibrant cities thanks to its cultural heritage, its commercial strength and as a tourism hub for Romanian and foreign tourists vacationing in the nearby sea resorts (the most important of which is Mamaia). Long known for balneal treatment the resorts, spread evenly towards the land border with Bulgaria are beacon of leisure and adventure on the sea shore.