Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Danube Delta

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Yeah, Dickens could very easily have been describing our trip to the Danube Delta. It was the May bank holiday weekend, and just like England, the weather was wonderfully sunny throughout the previous week, but come weekend, there seemed to be a thunderstorm in the offing.
Nevertheless, it takes stronger stuff than the presence of a few thunder clouds to throw us off our plans and we set off in the morning, stuffing the car boot with suitcases and miscellaneous junk.
It took us about five hours or so to reach our destination - the quaint village of Murighiol. Which is very close to the Delta but very, very far from anything else. Knowing the husband's penchant for looking up the places we visit on the net, doing his research and only then booking destinations, I was surprised to find his choice of accommodation. This wasn't the usual run of the mill service apartment. This was a proper family- run B & B (and by family run I mean we were literally living out of two spare rooms in the family house). Ah. Slightly surprised there. But the family were a very nice couple who between the two of then spoke exactly 3 words in English. Oh. Still, soldiering on, we decided we would make do with our smattering of Romanian and a whole lot of sign language and shrugs and grins.
On the bright side however, we discovered that the house owner himself was a boatman who would be happy to take us on the delta cruise. Perfect. We had just enough time to smother the kids with Mosquito cream and for me to grab my camera and off we went with our chappie in his boat.
The delta was beautiful, with the landscape and ecosystem changing every few kilometres.

The boatman told us he'd spotted a colony of Pelicans nesting that morning, so that's where we were headed. En route we spotted quite a few Cormorants:
The Cormorant in flight... its feathers... us the stink-eye

... and finally flying away in disgust.

shy things

Poetry in motion... this is the same swan captured in flight...

 and Egrets:

Finally, we spot the Pelican Colony and the Boat explodes into a frenzy of frantic clicking (we had another family accompanying us for the delta ride). I have to shamefacedly admit that we kind of Papp-ed the Pelicans. They (the Pelicans) seemed to take all this in their stride as they were near a marshy piece of land where there was such an abundance of frogs that we couldn't hear ourselves talk over the croaky din. Yup. Pelicans are the 'Anything-for-free-food' sorts of the bird kingdom.

That's the 'watch out! Too close!!' look
'Yes, there's only so much we can take before we decide to take off until the blooming tourists disappear!'
We also spotted a few other birds, some of which I could capture, some I couldn't. 
The Mallard

Seagulls adding to the cacophony

That's either a Tern or a Kingfisher. Not sure. 

The common tern

The Ferruginous Duck (or geese, as the boatman called it)
The Delta also had a lot of local colour, with the fishermen, the unique modes of transport and quaint cabins

All in all, a most productive three hours, I'd say. The kids of course, were famished by the end of the ride and were classing everything we spotted purely as 'Can or can we not we eat this'. Once we got off the boat, we set off in search of dinner.  Dinner wasn't as easy as it sounded in this village at the back of beyond. For the vegetarians, we had the wonderful option of mamaliga (with or without the Smantana) and Potatoes in various forms. Still. We were hungry enough to gobble it all down and even ask for seconds.
Once we got back, exhaustion got the better of us and all of us crashed out - but not before Arun was invited to sample the Palinka personally brewed by our host. A mere sniff of which, Arun assures me would have been enough to knock out a bull elephant in his prime. After having about 3 sips of the stuff, Arun made his polite excuses and weaved his way back to our room. Thank God we weren't intending to drive out anywhere early next morning.
Morning arrived and we realised that we have seen all there is to see in this little town of Murighiol and we made a snap decision to depart a day early to Bucharest. The kids were reluctantly pried away from their new best friends the Guest House's two dogs, Teddy and Oli. Oli was, erm, how shall a put it... quite amorous towards all things living and non-living and making things quite annoying for Teddy and very amusing for the grown-ups.
Oli and Teddy
 En route we would cover the archaeological ruins of the Halmyris monastery and probably stop for lunch at Tulcea.
Halmyris, like all on-going archaeological digs didn't have much to offer in terms of the site, but had plenty of history, both Greek and Roman. 
Pickwick was quite intrigued to learn that some of these structures could date back to 600 BC
 Tulcea was a much bigger town which housed the Danube delta Museum and Aquarium and had the kids really excited for the first time in this trip (Well that and the dogs at our guest house was the highlight of the trip for the kids). You know what else was great about Tulcea? Food! Stone baked Pizzas and fresh brewed coffee and Ice-creams! Yay! (Now you know why we never have camping trips. Not enough ice-cream shops!)
We also stopped on the way at Enisala, which is the site of a medieval fortress. The elder child and the husband had great fun clambering up and down the ruins, nearly giving the Mother-in-law a cardiac arrest.
The fortress. We didn't exactly have the best weather.

The view from the fortress. Would have been splendid on a clear day
The landscape of this country never ceases to amaze me, and this time we came across miles and miles of mustard fields and meadows. Beautiful.

Well, we got back home in time for dinner. And just in time for the miserable weather. Bloody brilliant. But at least we weren't stuck with Mamaliga and potatoes. Gah!