Hello there and welcome back !
I just want to start this blog post by expressing my gratitude towards the opportunities that the coronavirus pandemic has sent my way. We are living through very difficult times and it is true that this coronavirus has drastically changed our normal way of life. And so, we had to adapt to the changes and get used to living with restrictions. (travel restrictions, social distancing, capacity restrictions in terms of restaurants, cinemas and so on and so forth.) However, let’s try to not only think about the negative aspects that the coronavirus pandemic brought, but rather try to see the positive things and the opportunities it created. In this sense, before this pandemic I was solely focused on international travel and the discovery of all the different cultures of the world. I was blindsided by the beauties of the world and never stoped to look at all the hidden gems my own country has to offer. Personally, I took for granted all the beauties of Romania because I always kept on telling myself that these places in my country are very easy to reach and discover. I remember I kept on telling myself ” I have all the time in the world to see my country – I can go anytime I want”. But Have I ever visited places in Romania ? No, I haven’t because that mindset I had always made me postpone my national travel plans. And so, this is one thing I am grateful that the coronavirus pushed me to do. Considering that I could not travel internationally (aside from my spontaneous trip to Greece in June – check the blog post about my first travel experience post-corona here : https://annascompass.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/a-spontaneous-trip-to-vourvourou-sithonia-greece/) this summer because of all the travel restrictions, I had to reorient and thus I decided to see my country.
Summer 2o2o was certainly different, scary, unexpected and challenging but it was also full of beautiful moments in breathtaking places from Romania. And for that, I am grateful ! Now let’s talk about my last trip before heading back to Amsterdam (after 6 months of being away ) for my third and last year of university.
- Where is Dobrogea ? What is special about it ?
I spent the last days of the summer in such a beautiful and historic region of Romania and that is – Dobrogea/. This region is situated between the Black Sea and the Danube Delta and has a very rich history/culture. It borders Ukraine in the north and Bulgaria in the south (as it has 245 km of coastline). The region has amazing sceneries and prides itself with acres of farmland, forests, the beautiful Danube Delta and even mountains. Dobrogea is home of the oldest mountains on the European continent – the Macin Mountains. They formed 300 to 400 million years ago but have eroded in time and thus nowadays can be mistaken for hills.
2. Dobrogea – a gateway to rural Romania
Dobrogea is formed of 4 major cities : Constanta (regional capital of Dobrogea), Tulcea , Medgidia and Mangalia. Apart from these major cities, there are also the seaside resorts :Mamaia, Costinesti, Vama Veche etc. and the rural villages. As soon as you leave the major cities and head into the heart of Dobrogea, the time seems to have stood still : horse charts can be easily spotted on the roads while the villages are filled with people working in agriculture and raising animals. Most of the houses are made out of wood or ‘chirpici’ (adobe in English) and painted in the same shade of blue. Locals gather in front of their houses and talk about their days while curious tourists admire their simple way of life from the passing cars.
3. Things to do in Dobrogea/ Local Attractions
Dobrogea is very diverse culture wise. The region is split between Romanians (the majority) and various minorities (Bulgarians, Russian Lipovans, turks, Macedonians, Armenians). Each minority has brought customs and traditions into the region which makes Dobrogea a true gem just waiting to be discovered.
A day trip to Gura Portitei
Gura Portitei is a small island only half an hour away(with a speed boat – it takes 1 and a half h to reach it by normal boat ) from Jurilovca. It is known for being the place where the Black Sea meets the Danube Delta. The main things to do there are going on the beach (there are both virgin beaches and beaches that have umbrellas and chairs), playing sports and chilling by the pool. I went on a long stroll around the island in search for impressive sea shells. There is only one restaurant there (but the food was very yummy!) and if you want to spend several days at Gura Portitei , you can even find accomodation even though most people only go there for a day trip.
Visit Dobrogea’s impressive citadels
During our trip, we went and visited 2 citadels : The Enisala Citadel and the Orgame-Argamum one. We wanted to also visit a third one – Histria but in the end, we did not go anymore.
The Enisala Citadel was built during the Middle Ages and is considered to be a monument of military architecture. The fortress looks over the canals that link the 2 nearby lakes to each other : The Babadag and Razim lakes. It is truly a place in Romania that is worth seeing!
The Orgame-Argamum is only an archeological site nowadays but it was the first human settlement (in documents). First, there were the greeks who lived there (hence the name Orgame), and then the romans followed and named it Argamum. I really liked walking around the ruins and imagining how it must have looked like when people lived there. Also the views from up there are TO DIE FOR!
We had a very nice accommodation which I truly loved and would recommend it to anyone who wishes to visit Dobrogea and experience its culture, cuisine and history. For the duration of our stay, we stayed at Suvenir din Dobrogea / Souvenir from Dobrogea (https://suvenirdindobrogea.ro/wp/) in a village called Visina (less than 5 km away from Jurilovca). The entire concept of the household was built around the idea mentioned above – to promote all the diverse minorities that have settled into Dobrogea along the years. And so, there are 5 rooms offered to tourists for accommodation and each of those rooms has a different theme and completely different decorations – NO ROOM IS THE SAME!. We stayed in the oriental room that had such realistic decor that it literally made me feel like I was living in a Turkish movie.
Plus, the host is a guide so she knows all about the history of the region and tells wonderful stories about Dobroge .On top of that, there were so many animals at this farm which makes it perfect for all animal lovers – from puppies to cats and adorable little kittens to rabbits, horses, chicken and even ponies. (There was a baby pony there when I went and it literally looked like a toy – it was so small and literally the cutest thing i have ever seen!).I would say that this accommodation is the best retreat if you wish to escape the busy city lifestyle for a couple of days.
The Danube Delta
The most important attraction is by far the Danube Delta– the largest and best preserved delta in Europe.The Danube Delta was created at the meet point between the waters of the Danube and the Black Sea and itis a UNESCO protected biospehere reserve whose beauty cannot be described into words. The Delta is built around 3 main channels/arms : Sg.Gheorghe,Sulina and Chilia and due to all its little lakes and canals it looks like a real-life maze. I would strongly recommend going on a boat tour through the Delta. The tours leave from Tulcea every day ( https://viziteazadelta.ro/excursii-delta-dunarii/excursii-tulcea/) and you can opt for either half a day trip – until Mila 23 or a one day trip and see all the most importat spots of the Delta. I went on the full day trip and loved it. The boat left around 9 am from Tulcea and returned around 8pm. It was a beautiful trip with breathtaking scenery – I got to see exquisite birds in their natural habitat (even pelicans which I had never seen before ) and amazing flora. I was the happiest to see different types of water lillies and even mini water lillies. I was not that happy about the huge mosquitos haha (My advice : if you do visit the Delta be prepared for mosquito bites around the clock – I still got bitten even though I had anti-mosquito products sprayed all over me).
The first stop over was at Mila 23 where we had a lovely homemade lunch made by some locals who were born and raised there. After a couple of hours we hoped on the boat again and set course to Padurea Letea (The Letea Forest) where we had a SAFARI ! in proper safari cars !!! How cool is that ? We even hoped off in the forest and observed the flora from up close and even spotted some wild horses . PS: The beauty of Letea and what this village is known for lies in the wild horses. There are over 3000 wild horses roaming around the forest and they can easily be spotted by tourists. It is incredible to think about the fact that a while back these horses were abandoned by villagers who could not look after them anymore. They slowly started to reproduce and the nowadays generations have never had any human contact – How crazy is that ?. After a couple of hours at Letea, we finally set course for the final destination of this trip which was at Sulina. We got to spend 2 hours at the beach and even go on an expedition on the beach until we stumbled across a military site (that looked very similar to the ones we see in all the movies and the warning signs that were there kinda scared me to be honest haha).
Interesting fact about the Danube Delta:
The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve has the third largest biodiversity in the world (over 5,500 flora and fauna species), exceeded only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador.
In terms of food, fish is the predominant dish – all sizes, shapes and tastes and extremely, extremely fresh fish (all the restaurants sell fish they caught in the same day). It is very hard for a non-fish eater to find something to eat and it was quite difficult for me as I do not like fish. However, I adapted quickly and am incredibly proud of myself as I ate fish almost every day!! And I LIKED IT!. (some of the yummy foods I ate can be seen below).
Overall, it was an amazing trip and I am very happy that I got to discover this part of my country too. This summer , as I have already said opened my eyes towards local tourism and I must say that I cannot wait for the next time I will have a chance to be in Romania for so long – I will definitely try and visit even more places and of course, share them all with you!