Tourist in Romania (english)

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The Scarisoara Cave or the Scarisoara Glacier – the largest ice cave in Romania, boasting over 3,000-year-old ice, is located in the Apuseni Mountains in Alba County, 16 km from the Scarisoara commune that also lent its name to this geological marvel. It currently pertains to the Garda de Sus village.


Declared a natural monument and a speleological reserve, the cave holds the world’s second largest underground glacier after the Dobsinska cave in Slovakia. Situated at an altitude of 1,150 meters, it is famous for housing inside a glacier with an area of over 5,000 sq. m. and an ice layer between 26 and 37 meters thick

The shape of the ice block changes frequently as in the warm season a layer a few centimeters thick melts at the base of glacier, but is restored every winter with a new layer on top of the glacier. Although the ice block has been there for over 3,000 years, it is in permanent evolution, morphing through a variety of spectacular images every few months. The entrance is guarded by the impressive “Ice seal,” that seemingly bares its teeth towards the cave ceiling.


The Scarisoara cave is part of the Ghetar-Ocoale-Dobresti karst system and formed during the glaciation, when the surrounding mountains were covered in snow and ice, having just one opening at the top, allowing air currents to flow between the above-ground and the cave and thus preserving the ice.


The date of the cave’s discovery is not known precisely, but Austrian geographer Adolf Schmidl, the one who made the first observations on it and the first to chart the cave, mentions it in 1863.


With a total length of 750 m of which 250 m fitted out for visitors, the cave is 110 m deep. The access to the glacier is made via some metal stairs anchored in the rocks, which facilitate the entry of visitors through a sinkhole (an opening, or cavity) with a diameter of 60 m and 48 m deep that connects with the Big Hall.


The actual entrance of the cave is at the base of the sinkhole, whence a 20-m long sloped ice wall descends and continues with a gallery (68 m) that runs downwards in a steep declivity to a depth of 105 meters where the Big Reserve of the cave lies. This gallery with ice trails and numerous concretions stretching at the maximum depth of the cave was called the ‘Maxim Pop’ Gallery. On the right side of the Big Hall ceiling is a steep ice slide ending in the hall suggestively called “The Church” because of its formations of ice stalagmites shaped like the silhouettes of saints, of lighted candles and even the Virgin Mary. This is a tourist area, while the rest is a Scientific Reserve with two distinct sections.


The Small Reserve is on the right side of the entrance to the cave, stretching at the foot of a 15-m high vertical ice wall. Here is the so-called Palace of Sanziana, decorated with beautiful concretions. The appearance of the cave totally changes beyond these sections, as concretions of great diversity and beauty take the place of ice, displaying an abundance of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, calcite draperies, cave corals, rimstones… To be seen here are ice stalagmites, some of which are permanent and others that melt in the summer but regenerate in a similar form in the winter months.


The Scarisoara Glacier, a site of extraordinary beauty at the heart of the Apuseni Mountains, is important for science, especially due to the complex of ice-induced phenomena it displays and to the general structure of the cave: morphogenesis and evolution of the ice formations, the layering of the ice massif etc.


The access sinkhole provides, through its varied flora that is differentiated by levels, an interesting and permanent research field for botanists. The
cave fauna is rather poor, the chief representatives being bats and ice-cave beetles, some 2-3 mm long (Pholeuon proserpinae glaciale). A skeleton of Rupicapra, the ancestor of today’s goat, was discovered in the Big Reserve.In 1938 the Scarisoara Cave was studied by great Romanian biologist, zoologist, speleologist and explorer Emil Racovita, who declared it a speleological reserve, the first in Romania.


Several legends are spun around the cave; one of them has it that in ancient times here lived a dragon whom the villagers called Solomat. The dragon would steal a beautiful girl from the village either in the night of New Year’s Eve, or in the night before the Maidens’ Fair on Mount Gaina, hiding them in an ice palace inside the cave the locals have never set their eyes on.


Another legend says that behind the limestone formation in the area known as “The Pines” there are two pools which are always filled with water. Whoever kneels before these pools, head uncovered, makes a wish and sips the water directly with his lips, will see his dream come true. Provided that one respects this “ritual” and does not disclose the wish to anyone for one year. AGERPRES

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“Purtata Fetelor de la Capalna” – the Capalna Girls’ Walking Line Dance – this unique and spectacular dance where the performers move slowly in spirals, sinuous lines and circles while uttering songs and verse dedicated to love, is an Alba County brand, specifically of the Tarnava Mica valley. It’s a dance well-known nationally, and beyond country borders as well.

Photo credit: (c) Mircea ROSCA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Three years ago international star Jay-Z even incorporated several bars of the Capalna Girls’ Walking Line Dance tune in his Murder to Excellence. Jay-Z sampled the Walking Dance tune he actually took over from the folklore-inspired song of Indiggo twins Mihaela and Gabriela Modorcea who are mentioned in the credits among the artists who helped make his piece.

Each village on the Tarnava Mica river has its specific Walking Line Dance and the best known of them is the dance of the Capalna de Jos — Jidvei commune, a village where Veta Biris, one of the most acclaimed folklore performers lives. Veta Biris also helped promote this dance at national level.

One can say this Walking Line Dance took Capalna de Jos — a village attested as early as in 1332 and inhabited exclusively by Romanian families, out of anonymity.

The origin and age of this dance are unknown, but definitely they go back to the Middle Ages; the lyrics are passed down orally from one generation to another and the girls learn the jerky rhythm steps from their mothers at the tender age of 4 or 5, says ethnographer Petruta Pop.

Proof of the age of this dance is also given by the fact that it has no instrumental accompaniment: the girls make their own melody line, Petruta Pop told AGERPRES.

“The Girls’ Walking Line Dance seems meant to demonstrate how, by means so simple, one can get strong effects, the dance creates a special atmosphere. The secret seems to rely in those unexpectedly eloquent breaks that suppress the monotony of an informal walk and also in the cry-out verses sung in chorus,” says Petruta Pop.

The dance performed on counterpoint was discovered a few decades ago by a primary school teacher named Stana, who had come from the south of the Carpathians, from the so-called Old Kingdom, having married headmaster of the Capalna school, Teodor Biris. She organized the village girls by age groups.

“Us, the gentry, as the village folks called those who had pursued higher education in various universities, had not noticed its beauty, although we participated regularly in the entertainment activities of the young people on Sundays and on holidays. Stana Biris, a woman with an artist’s sensitivity, had to come from some remote part of the country to discover and to show this dance to the world, as it is performed, with its special distinction,” notes a son of the village, Dr. Vasile Marcu in the monograph of the Jidvei commune published several years ago. Born in 1910, he mentioned that his grandmother too used to dance this line step.

Amazed by the beauty and purity of the interpretation, Stana Biris set the basis of the local folk dance ensemble and brought the Capalna girls out into the world, with this dance garnering a host of awards and distinctions at various festivals and competitions.

Now aged 71, Istina Purcel was also a member of the ensemble, just like her sisters and then her daughter, right from their teens. “I performed with the ensemble for ten years, until I got married,” she said.

She remembers the girls doing the dance every Sunday at the socializing venue in the barn in the village center where the young folks would gather.

“We had a teacher who had come here from near Bucharest, named Stana; she married in Capalna with Teodor Biris — grandparents of actor Silviu Biris. I invited her to come see the girls dance on Sundays in the barn. The mothers came too, they would not let the lasses go alone to the venue. First they danced the spinning dance — ‘Invartita’ and the ‘Hategana’. Both very brisk dances. During break time, while the boys would rest and chat, us girls would perform the ‘Purtata’. We would join hands and step on it. The barn had a wooden floor and one danced just as if on stage. There were other girls-only dances: ‘Drambolicul’ and ‘Purceii’. Mrs. Stana told us: If you can dance so beautifully and accurately, let’s show our performance to the world. Wherever we’ve been we have always landed the first spot,” the woman recalled for AGERPRES.

At first, the girls wore embroidered skirts. “In the beginning the suit was white and black. Then it was blue. When we started to travel outside the country, to add some pep, we sewed our skirts blue with metal thread,” Istina Purcel related.

She says that the school teacher also decided that the girls should wear during the dance a blue-embroidered hat. “When we danced in the barn it was hot and we didn’t have the hats on, we just hung them on the peg. Stana Biris made us wear the hat. Underneath one wears the kerchief tied tightly with a knot at the back of the head to keep the hair hidden. It must be black with blue, green or yellow flower prints. Not red. The hat sits on your head so that you can see the brim. That’s what Mrs. Biris used to tell us,” explained the woman.

Also Stana Biris decided that the length of the skirts should be mid-calf and the girls should wear heeled, embroidered shoes, which were custom-made in Sibiu and Tarnaveni.

“First one adjusts the step. It goes three steps back and then you start right foot first. You must always start the dance with the right foot. If you weren’t on the correct foot, you couldn’t follow the other girls, you would misstep and end up out of the group. At one point, the row breaks. When they separate, the first and the last girl put their hands on their hips. The other girls keep their right hand under the left hand of the girl in front,” said Istina Purcel.

Recruiting the girls starts in the second grade. The girls in the young age group have red-embroidered skirts, the middle-aged group from 10 to 15 have their costume embroidered with black, and the senior group — with blue.

According to Istina Purcel, Stana Biris managed the ensemble until around 1968, when she moved to Bucharest, after her children were admitted to college. Biology teacher Veronica Dan took over, followed by Cicuta Ignat — an offspring of the village, and then school teacher Maria Florea. The current instructor is Angela Fodor.

The group includes on average 30 unmarried girls; they proudly wear the skirt and blue apron, the blouse with zigzag seam stitching, the vest sewn with metal thread, a kerchief and hat adorned with a blue ribbon. On their feet they wear high-heeled shoes with decorative holes.

At the first glance, the Capalna Girls’ Walking Line Dance seems very simple. The girls just move daintily in choreographed spirals, lines and circles. Side by side, they keep tight to one another, with arms intertwined and walk in precise cadence singing their songs along.

The dance — rather a procession — goes smoothly, or changes quickly from left to right, forward or backward, swaying or tightly upheld, with often uneven phrases.

The first girl has a great responsibility. She is the one who sets the tone of the song and leads the string of girls. This position cannot be filled by just any girl, it must be someone who knows both the choreographic movements and the tune, says Petruta Pop.

Photo credit: (c) Mircea ROSCA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The lyrics of the ‘Purtata’ speak mainly about love.

Petruta Pop considers that this dance of the Capalna girls should be placed in direct relationship with the mystery of fertility. “The dance has elements that refer to a fertility rite. We could even consider this Girls’ Walking Line as a collective dance marking in archaic societies the end of the initiation period of a group of girls,” concludes Petruta Pop. AGERPRES

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Some millennia ago, between 3,000 and 1,600 BC, the Monteoru culture would be one of the most advanced civilisations of its times, with Monteoru inhabitants settled on hills, in ground houses made of earth and wood that had outbuildings such as workshops, kilns and holes for storing supplies.

Photo credit: (c) Archives of Buzau County Museum

The settlement of Sarata Monteoru, Buzau County, was discovered in 1895 by military architect Eduard Honzic, an amateur archaeologist, who was coordinating the construction of a health resort for Grigore Monteoru’s family. First systematic searches were conducted under the German occupation in 1917-1918 by German archaeologist Hubert Schmidt, a reserve commissioned officer of the German army, who invited over to Monteoru renowned German scientist Wilhelm Dorpfeld, who was looking for the vestiges of Mycenae in Greece. A great deal of the items discovered was moved to a museum in Berlin. The first Romanian diggings at Sarata Monteoru were conducted by Ion Andriesescu and Ion Nestor in 1926 and 1927. They were continued by Ion Nestor in 1937-1958. In 1990-2010, searches were resumed by famous archaeologist Eugenia Zaharia.

The communities of the Monteoru culture survived nearly 1,400 years, between 3,000 and 1,600 BC, with the apex of their development being reached between 2,200 and 1,800 BC. The Monteoru culture would cover the Curvature Carpathians, the south and some central parts of Moldavia, as well as the south-eastern parts of Transylvania. The most important sites of Buzau County where vestiges of the Monteoru culture have been studied are Sarata Monteoru, Naeni, Pietroasa Mica and Carlomanesti.

‘The villages of the Monteoru peoples were located up on the hills well protected naturally, enjoying wide visibility to the planes and also located immediately close to natural resources — stone, water, wood and salt. They were living in ground houses of a timber frame made of earth and wood. Inside the houses, there were fire hearths used for cooking and heating. Outside their houses, they would have outbuildings such as workshops, kilns and holes to store supplies,’ Director of the Buzau County Museum Sebastian Matei explains.

Archaeologists have discovered that cereals were the main plants cultivated by the Monteoru — wheat, barley, and millet, as well as vegetables such as spinach, beet and arrach. Animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs were farmed in the house. Hunting would play an important part in getting furs and food, with archaeological searches having unearthed many bones of boars, deer and hare. Most of the artefacts are pottery vessels decorated with geometrical motifs; the cups and funeral urns are real works of art. The Monteoru people were using stone, bone, horn and sometimes metal implements. Bronze was used especially for the manufacturing of weapons while adornments were made of gold and silver.

During the Monteoru culture, numerous objects from other parts of Europe started to emerge that are not specific of the culture, including weapons, saddlery items and adornments. In order to pay for the objects exchanged, the Monteoru people would process copper ores.

‘The most exploited deposits were the cooper ores, using an own technique imported as a result of exchanges with peoples from Transylvania. Copper ores would be melted at 1,000-1,200 degrees Celsius in kilns and cast in moulds. The people were very inventive as they would use interesting casting techniques such as the lost-wax casting,’ says the archaeologist of Buzau.

The lost-wax casting entailed the modelling in wax of an item, such as an axe, that would be covered in clay. After the moulded item was heated up, the wax would leak through an orifice through which the bronze would also be cast. That is how they made arrow tips, axes, sabres and ornaments. The funeral inventory is proof to the culture having been highly advanced. Along with ceramic recipients, also found were arrow tips, stone axes and ornaments such as bronze bracelets, kaolin and amber beads, bone rings, as well as looped earrings of gold and bronze.

The Monteoru people would inhume their dead in a crouch position in rectangular graves covered with stone. Instances have been found of holes dug in rocks and cases made of large stone slabs. A small proportion of the dead were cremated, without knowing the exact reasons. The funeral inventory comprised ceramic recipients along with weapons — arrow tips, stone axes; ornaments — bronze bracelets, kaolin and amber beads, stone rings, as well as looped earrings of gold and bronze. Although the Monteoru people created quite a civilisation for their times, there were other contemporary areas where development was even higher.

‘At the time, the Egyptian civilisation was much more advanced. In Egypt, there were cities with marvellous structures, whereas the peoples of the Monteoru culture would be living in villages built high on hills and in the mountains, but frequent exchanges and circulation over a large area helped them evolve and make constant progress,’ says Director of the Buzau County Museum Sebastian Matei.AGERPRES

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Some kilometres north of the village of Berca there are the mud volcanoes of Paclele Mari and Paclele Mici, both protected areas. Accessible today on a modernised road, the mud volcanoes are one of the most interesting natural monuments of Buzau County, the outcome of natural gas emissions from the local oil deposit.

Photo credit: (c) Paul BUCIUTA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

‘If you do not know and have not seen, let me tell you that this is the place where Devil built its cauldrons of boiling tar; muddy earth gurgles and boils, colder than the ice and blacker than the smog; then, out of gapping mouths, as wide as the entire valley where there is no draining, the mud jutes out, now as small as an ant, now as tall as an iris, and what’s more, at each of the dome’s mouth frothing mounds were built through which the Devil blabbers out the mud. Out of the abyss, down the hills, the dirty mud leaks out, parched and cracked by the sun, and the imbued earth is no place either for the knotgrass or for the thistle,’ writer Alexandru Odobescu (1834-1895) describes the area of the mud volcanoes in his ‘Pseudokinegetikos,’ a false hunting treatise.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The Mud Volcanoes is a mixed geological and botanic reserve divided in two communes: Berca and Scortoasa.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The Berca-Arbanasi anticline belongs to a very geologically active area that is crossed by various longitudinal and transversal faults that make the region looks like a labyrinth. Along the anticline, on the dislocation lines and in the points where the faults join the axis of the anticline, mud volcanoes are formed, for the first time scientifically recorded by Grigore Cobalcescu, the creator of Romania’s school of geology.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

‘Scientist Grigore Cobalcescu explained the genesis of the mud volcanoes as the outcome of the combination of underground waters and natural gas, which by expanding to the surface dissolve rocks, turning them into a muddy paste. Once reaching the surface, the mixture creates some cone shapes, wherefrom the name volcanoes,’ explains publicist Horia Baescu.

Photo credit: (c) Bogdan DUMITRESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

In the Berca area, there are three distinct groups of mud volcanoes: the mud volcanoes south of the anticline, 100 m east of the village; the mud volcanoes of northern Pacle, known as Paclele Mici, located on the plateau south of the Paclele Hill, at the border between the communes of Berca and Scortoasa, and a third group of mud volcanoes south of Beciu village, Scortoasa Commune, known as Paclele Mari. The outer structure on the plateau of the mud volcanoes is made up of clay and marl rich in salts. The plateaus are peppered by open cones and craters which sizes vary between some centimetres to some metres. Slightly inclined slopes are on the edges of the plateaus that were formed by flowing water erosion inside the volcanic mud that generates narrow trenches up to seven meters deep. On the Paclele Mici plateau, the cones of the main volcanoes have no relief, but instead they have craters of between two and five metres wide. Also on this plateau, there are secondary craters of smaller sizes that create subsequent cones. When there is abundant precipitation, the eruption of the local volcanoes increases, generating mud torrents that flow mainly to the southern part.

Photo credit: (c) Bogdan DUMITRESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

On the plateaus of the Mud Volcanoes made from mud accretion, saline efflorescence raises during drought times as a result of salt crystallisation following the evaporation of water from the mud spewed up during eruption. The almost Moon-like look of the mud plateau is very eerie because there is no vegetation and because of the whitish yellow colour of the dry mud resulting from polygonal shapes upon drying and especially because of the cones that dominate the plateau through which the erupting mud escapes. The apocalyptic landscape is completed by the continual blubbering of the craters. The areas where the mud volcanoes are highly active become in time deserted clay plateaus called ‘bad earths.’

Photo credit: (c) Bogdan DUMITRESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The Mud Volcanoes plateaus have more surprises, particularly for botanists. On the edges of the mud fields interesting halophytes, plants that grow in waters of high salinity, grow. Two endemic shrubs declared natural monuments have been developing here for a long time: the Nitre Bush (Nitraria schoberri) and the Halimione (Obione verrucifera). The local fauna includes two rare species: the scorpion and the termite. Highly important geologically and botanically, the Mud Volcanoes natural reserve has a high tourist potential because of its uniqueness. A similar geological formation is found in Georgia, near Baku.

Photo credit: (c) Bogdan BĂRBULESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The Moon-like area of Paclele Mari and Paclele Mici is visited by nearly 15,000-20,000 tourists a year, record figures from the previous years when the access way was impossible to travel. Dumitru Rosu, the custodian of the natural reserve, says the Moonlike landscape attracts tourists of all ages, but children are the most enchanted. Many video clips have been shot at the Mud Volcanoes. The natural plateau of the Mud Volcanoes has been the shooting place for tens of TV ads, video clips of famous singers, pictorials and artistic pictures as well as settings of famous movies. The custodian of the Mud Volcanoes natural reserve says he has witnessed many stars at work here surrounded by film crews. AGERPRES

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Tulcea is among the counties in Romania with one of the richest archeological heritage, but few sites are set up for tourist visitation.

Photo credit: (c) Luisiana BIGEA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The benefit of the lack of organization is the absence of an entry fee, an exception to this particularity being the medieval Citadel of Enisala, the most visited archeological site in Tulcea county. Near it, on the territory of Jurilovca commune, the citadel of Orgame/Argamum lies, the first town on Romania’s current territory. The archaeologically-important settlement was mentioned in a document in the 6th century BC, by Hecataeus of Miletus, and its history, which unfolded between the 7th century BC up until the 8th century AD, is still researched by archaeologists.

The importance of Tulcea’s archeological sites is emphasized by the fact that five of the ten Romania archeological sites that are part of “Danube Limes Brand” project’s object are in situated in northern Dobrogea. The project “Extension of the Danube Limes UNESCO World Heritage in the Lower Danube” envisages long-term and sustainable preservation of Limes sites through nominating new frontier section for World Heritage status in the Lower Danube countries and the promotion of inter-regional cooperation in developing, improving and presenting individual Limes sites.

Photo credit: (c) Luisiana BIGEA / AGERPRES PHOTO

The citadel of Aegyssus, identified and partially researched on Hora hill, is one of the citadels that make the object of the project. The first mention of the site, according to the Institute for Eco-Museological Research (ICEM), was done by Ovidius in 12 AD, when the fortress, already under Roman control, was besieged by the Geto-Dacians. The amphorae discovered in the site place the construction of the citadel at the end of the 4th century BC — early 3rd century BC. The importance of the city was highlighted by Ovidius who saw it as “the old citadel defended by strong walls, on the banks of the Danube, in a high place, hard to reach”. Between 1879 and 1899, the citadel saw the building of a monument dedicated to the heroes of the Romanian War of Independence (known in the English world as the Russo-Romanian-Turkish War of 1877), while in 1975 the County Museum of History and Archeology was opened to the public, offering visitors the possibility to know in greater detail the county’s heritage.

Photo credit: (c) Luisiana BIGEA / AGERPRES PHOTO

The Roman-Byzantine citadel of Noviodunum, another objective of the “Danube Limes Brand” project is situated near the town of Isaccea. It was here, in 2012, that ICEM archeologists discovered a Christian basilica, and in the previous year’s archeological digs — the best kept and largest kiln in Romania. Raised on an old Get settlement, the Roman and later on Byzantine citadel of Noviodunum had a military, strategic and economic role, the development of the settlement leading to the achievement of the “municipium” status at the end of the 2nd century AD. Noviodunum was the headquarters of some detachments of the legions stationed in Dobrogea and the main home of Roman fleet Classis Flavia Moesica that controlled the lower Danube and the northern and western coasts of the Black Sea. The citadel developed in stages, up until the Ottoman conquest of 1420, these stages being at times interrupted by attacks from the Pechenegs, Udi and Cumans in the 11th century AD, but also the Tatar attacks in the 13th century AD.

Photo credit: (c) Luisiana BIGEA / AGERPRES PHOTO

Another site that is eligible to enter UNESCO heritage list, the citadel of Dinogetia, is located in Jijila commune, near the road that links the cities of Tulcea and Galati, the citadel having in its vicinity a monastery dedicated to the “Life-giving Spring” (an Orthodox holiday celebrated in the first Friday after Easter, also called Bright Friday), the building of which, according to the spokesperson of the Tulcea Episcopate Niculai Felix began in 2004. “We know that in the perimeter of the citadel, in the first centuries, numerous Christians were martyred as the book “Bishop in Romania, in an epoch of national and religious conflict” signed by Roman-Catholic Bishop Raymund Netzhammer reminds us. There are also clues that besides the ones enumerated in the book, there would also be several others martyred here, like in the case of Noviodunum and the site of Halmyris”, said the spokesperson of the Tulcea Episcopate, priest Niculai Felix.

Dinogetia was a Geto-Dacian settlement, then a Roman fortress mentioned by Ptolemy, the interior of the citadel being host to several ceramic fragments unearthed that prove the existence of a Roman fortress at the site even before the reign of Diocletian (248 — 305 AD). Currently, the citadel is administered by the Romanian Academy.

Photo credit: (c) Luisiana BIGEA / AGERPRES PHOTO

In the citadel of Troesmis, situated on a stretch of land measuring 157 hectares near the village of Turcoaia, ICEM is conducting a non-invasive research project of the site. The monument, another possible candidate to the UNESCO heritage list, was first researched in the 1860’s following the initiative of France’s representative to the European Danube Commission, E. Engelhardt. “The methodology and technique of those times based on identifying and extracting inscriptions on the wall made it that extremely few carved inscriptions, descriptive and chronological in nature, see the light of day, 24 to 55 inscriptions being sampled from Troesmis”, said the Director of the County Directorate for Culture (DJC), Iulian Vizauer.

Photo credit: (c) Luisiana BIGEA / AGERPRES PHOTO

The cultural goods identified at that time are currently in France, while research at the archeological site were continued by the Romanian side in 1890, 1898, 1939 and 1977, and, according to official data, the site was along the years the target of higher-ups who wanted to transform the site in a rock quarry, or of people not knowing the site’s importance who took stones from the area to construct churches in the city of Braila, the village of Carcaliu in Tulcea or other municipal works in the area. A site included in the “Danube Limes Brand” projects, the Troesmis archeological complex, a monument of national and international importance, was one of the most important border crossings of the Roman Empire’s frontier in this part of Europe. According to the DJC, the first information on the existence of the Troesmis name came from Ovidius, in the context of troubles in 15 AD, however it cannot be determined if the name belonged to a Geto-Dacian fortification or to a village defended by an Odrysian garrison. At the end of Marcus Aurelius’ reign (161 — 180 AD), one of the settlements here reaches the rank of ‘municipium’ — the second highest rank a Roman city could gain, the highest being that of ‘colonia’. As such, the settlement had a high degree of self-government, while its citizens had a status that was close, but not equal, to that of full Roman citizens.

The citadel of Halmyris, near the Murighiol locality, situated on the banks of the Danube’s Sfantu Gheorghe Canal was inhabited by Geto-Dacians, according to ICEM, between the 6th and 5th centuries BC. At the beginning of the 2nd century AD, it became an important station for the Danube Fleet Classis Flavia Moesica, while two centuries later it became one of the 15 important cities of Scythia Minor province. One of the most important moments of this period is represented by the construction of the episcopal basilica during the reign of Constantine the Great.

In the autumn of 2001, under the altar of this monument a crypt was discovered, housing the human remains of martyrs Epictet and Astion, hidden away and protected until the raising of the basilica by Christians from the “sailors’ village”. Near the city, at the initiative of the Tomis Archbishopric, in 2005, works to raise a church dedicated to the saints began and is currently ongoing. “The church has always been connected with the nation, the history and the people in the midst of which it serves, and the foundation of a monastery is nothing more than a message of continuity, of spiritual perpetuation, of perpetuating values, history” said the spokesperson of the Tulcea Episcopate, priest Niculai Felix.

The other archaeological sites in Romania included in the “Danube Limes Brand” project are Drobeta, Sucidava-Celei, Axiopolis-Cernavoda, Capidava and Carsium-Harsova.

Over time, the cities and citadels of Tulcea county attracted the attention of specialists and tourists, but also of some diplomats. In 2013, the Ambassador of Belgium to Romania, Philippe Beke, visited the citadel of Ibida near the village of Slava Rusa and claimed that “Tulcea is one of the most sensational counties in what regards nature and historical heritage.”

Limes is the name of the fortified frontier of the former Roman Empire, that crossed, with some interruptions, almost the entirety of Europe, from the Nistru’s mouth at the Black Sea to Hadrian’s limes in modern day Scotland. The project “Danube Limes Brand” is coordinated by the University of Vienna (Austria), with representatives from Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia as partners. AGERPRES

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Many Romanian and foreign officials have visited the Danube Delta over time; many guests extolled it, but the local communities had to get along on their own over more than two decades, because there was no strategy to bring tangible benefits.

Photo credit: (c) AGERPRES ARCHIVE

More consistency in the development of settlements in the Delta could come from Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI), an area development instrument involving a strategy for a given territory, a set of feasible actions to achieve the strategy’s goals, and governance mechanisms to manage the investments.

It seems complicated, but it can merely turn into a story of simple folks, European commissioners, authorities, public servants, and strategies.

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos and his colleague in charge of Environment Janez Potocnik first mentioned this opportunity for the Danube Delta in September 2012, when they visited the Natural Reserve there and met authorities and NGOs. ‘The Danube Delta would be the perfect target for a multi-fund approach. All the financial and conceptual resources could merge into a local strategy devised by local authorities, so that Romania can negotiate such an approach with the European Union starting from 2014,’ Ciolos said in September 2012.

A couple of months later, Tulcea County officials started procedures with central authorities to create a dedicated fund for the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve; the following year, World Bank experts brought in this venture by the Ministry of Regional Development met the beneficiaries of the European financial instruments; based on a strategy, money should come from 2015 on. Currently, a taskforce of the Tulcea County Council works to determine the necessary investments in the communities within the Reserve; so far, authorities say, the estimate is 500 million euros.

One of the largest sums, 100 million euros, is necessary for the modernization of approximately 800 kilometres of roads inside and outside the communes, according to Tulcea County Council Chairman Horia Teodorescu.

Photo credit: (c) Radu TUTA / AGERPRES PHOTO

Authorities already have projects for 175 kilometres of these roads. Requests exceed 6.6 million euros for the asphalt communal roads, 12.7 million euros for gravel roads, and 20 million euros for unpaved ones. Plans also include the renovation of the culture houses and sports halls in rural areas and the thermal insulation of the education units.

According to statistics dating back in 1992, the proportion of higher education staff in the Danube Delta was 50 percent below the national average, due to poor housing conditions, unfit for the aspirations and needs of some professional categories. The deficit of qualified teachers, a situation acknowledged by competent authorities, resulted in low performances of elementary school pupils, hampering their access to secondary and higher education.

The lack of boarding facilities in Sulina, for instance, or the financial insecurity of some families, especially those with many children, and the long distances to school, often traveling in very difficult conditions are some of the explanations for the modest results obtained by pupils in national examinations.

Some private tour operators got involved in the community lives and provide for transportation of children to schools in Tulcea, the county seat; other associations have rehabilitated schools in the Delta, but such actions, while definitely welcome, are sporadic. Only a long-term strategy could improve the situation. ‘Dental care practices in schools within the Reserve, renovation of educational buildings, installing boilers — here are just a few things to do for schools in the Danube Delta to optimize the teaching process conditions and get kids to enjoy coming to school,’ General Inspector Dumitru Damian detailed to AGERPRES the priorities of the County Education Inspectorate in approaching ITI.

Environmental projects are equally important to authorities, considering the triple-protected status of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Human interventions over the second half of the 20th century have disregarded the evolution of natural ecosystems, thus contributing to the unbalance of the deltaic areas, including those where the so-called natural hydrological regime was preserved, according to Professor Petre Gastescu, a founding member of the Reserve. ‘Obviously, restoring the Danube Delta to its condition before 1950, even with the ecological reconstruction of several abandoned dike enclosures, is not feasible on medium-term; probably not even on long-term, due to dikes in Danube’s meadow land, now restricting the river’s flow. The Danube has no more space to breathe, pollutants are not confined within the meadows, and communities lack fishing and recreational sites,’ the scientist explained to AGERPRES.

Although meadow dikes have a durable impact on the Danube Delta, some steps to the restoration of enclosures undergoing ecological reconstruction are still necessary. Firstly, the water circulation system should be established throughout the Delta and the nearby lake complex. Professor Gastescu compares it with the preservation of the circulatory system of the human body, to ensure its vitality.
Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

In 2013, environmental authorities estimated the investments for renaturation within the Reserve to nearly 457 million euros.

‘Renaturation works are vital for the Danube Delta and we focus on them because, besides preserving biodiversity, they are also beneficial for human communities; the works result in the regeneration of flora and of the fishery resources. The necessary sum is huge, but to fit within the context of this financial instrument, we have selected works amounting to 195 million euros. So fare, renaturations have been carried out depending on funding from the state budget or from European funds.

We have recently signed a contract for the renaturation of Sontea-Fortuna and Matita Merhei complexes, worth 2.7 million euros. The sum might seem hefty, but it only helps solving precise problems; this is how things went to date, with works partially responding to special circumstances, for a limited time. An approach like the ITI, allowing us to manage 100 or 200 million euros funds, would make possible the renaturation of two or three complexes of the Reservation’, the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Governor Edward Bratfanof mentioned.

As regards healthcare, investments are all the more necessary as tourism is Delta’s main opportunity. Although 14 healthcare points with subsidized, free, and special programme drugs were inaugurated in the Reserve since 2004 and the authorities attending the inauguration event then promised a long-term strategy for the area, one could almost count the drugstores in the Delta on the fingers of one hand. Physicians face the same issues as pharmacists under contract with the Health Insurance House.

The County Council intends to build a multifunctional centre in Sulina, modernizing and installing equipment on 1600 square meters. The list goes on with the establishment of one dispensary and the rehabilitation of other four, and with the setup of three sanitary rooms and the renovation of three already in place. Purchasing adequate vehicles for physicians — off-road vehicles and boats with medical equipment — is another topic under consideration. ‘Infrastructure is vital, but one of the most important components of the health system is the medical staff. Therefore, we want an extended programme for the permanent training of all the personnel in this field, according to their specific qualifications; the programme should be adapted to its target area, namely the Danube Delta or the terrace area,’ the Tulcea County Council Chairman Horia Teodorescu declared.

Tulcea County Council Chairman, Horia Teodorescu
Photo credit: (c) Luisiana BIGEA/ AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Taking into account the dynamics of agriculture and the county specific, authorities think that the financial planning needed over 2014-2020 should focus on the modernization of farms, on encouraging youth to settle in rural areas, and on extensive investments in the infrastructure. The ITI programme should allocate 40 million euros to investments in tangible assets; some of it would go to the irrigation infrastructure vital for agriculture. Six million euros are directed to fruit growing. Overall, ITI is expected to get 180 million euros from the Ministry of Agriculture only.

The European financial instrument is not restricted to remote communes in the Danube Delta; it also covers the administrative and territorial units in its immediate vicinity, with a total of 34 communes and towns in Tulcea and Constanta counties benefitting from the incoming funds. ITI should start operating next year, and the projects aimed at communities within the Reserve would no longer compete with the ones of other counties. The success of a financial instrument that could turn Tulcea Conty into a model for Romania relies on the seriousness of the public servants involved in the strategy, on the steadfastness of county authorities, and on the correct understanding of the situation of people and of nature in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve.AGERPRES

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The great biodiversity of Macin Mountains, the oldest ones in Romania, and of the Danube Delta Biosphere reserve, the youngest European land, next to cultural variety make Tulcea County (eastern Romania) unique in the world.


Just like some crafts preserved in certain communities, the history of some traditions remains a mystery. One sure thing: they are pre-Christian; they have updated and survived throughout the historic ages. The celebrations of calendar events have turned into holidays for all the community members.

The Mosoaie (a name seemingly meaning ‘old women’) is a unique tradition in Romania, preserved in the village of Luncavita. Since 2013, it has been included in the Calendar of Romanian Village Holidays. Mosoaies’ cowbells are first heard on the night of December 6, St. Nicholas’ Day, kicking off the winter holidays. Wearing sheepskin coats with the fleece out, cowbells on their belts, and masks, the Mosoaie are accompanied by bands of carol singers; they reach every household, or those assigned to them, depending on the tradition of dividing the village into bands, according to the family, the clan, and the girlfriend of a member group. The feast culminates on Christmas Eve, when the Mosoaie pass through the whole village and climb on the central stage of Luncavita.

This is the most archaic Christian practice for locals, Luncavita Mayor Stefan Ilie mentions. The masks, the cowbell noise and the whip cracking are meant to cast out evil and misfortune who try to take over the old year’s end and contaminate the new year about to come.

On Christmas Day, Megleno Romanians in Cerna Village still use to ignite a big oak trunk, called the ‘botnic’, ‘Dedu Botnic’, ‘babnic’ or ‘but’, which is then left to slowly burn until the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated in January, when it pulled out from the fire, relates Dumitra Petrica, President of the Altona Association. The tradition symbolizes the rebirth of divinity; in the nearby village of Izvoarele, Greek locals used to climb on top of the Consul Hill to light a fire.

‘These customs are still practiced on a smaller scale, because tradition must be observed. The meaning is the same, even if nowadays fire is lit in the courtyard,’ the First Deputy President of the Greek Community of Tulcea County Petre Marinescu, a native of Izvoarele, told AGERPRES.

Christmas and New Year habits are found among all the populations, ethnographer Steluta Parau explains. Mask dances are preserved both among Romanians and Ukrainians — the ‘melanka.’

Wishing well with ‘sorcova’ — a decorated twig, used to gently hit the hosts, or pretend to, while singing specific songs, early on New Year Day — is practiced by Romanians, Ukrainians, and Aromanians alike. ‘I could mention some specifics of these traditions: Ukrainians carolling on Christmas Day, not on Christmas Eve, when they have ‘vecera’ [traditional supper]; or the absence of secular carols among the Lipovan [Russian ethnics in and around the Danube Delta],’ Parau details.

On the Baptism of Lord Day, tradition wants attending religious services and blessing horses; horse races follow in many Romanian villages. In Izvoarele, the Greek community has different customs; the Theophany marks a three-day celebration. After the divine service and the horse race, groups of young men led by the ‘dragoman’, the only married man in the group, visit the household of last years’ newlywed and sing songs with dedicated lyrics.

The day is called the Groom’s Bathing, reminding of the walk of the last year’s bridegroom from one well to another, until the carollers got a deal on their reward.

Next comes the Brides’ Day, when the godmothers are actually celebrated; the third day is the Old Women’s Day, dedicated to midwives. No one is allowed to offend women who drank too much on this day.

Lipovan Russians attach special significance to the day before the Easter Lent (equivalent to the Western Christian tradition of Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras), the ‘Maslenita’ or the Cheese Week, a secular celebration still held in northern Dobrogea as a merrymaking occasion.

According to Andrian Ampleev, Chairman of the Tulcea County Organization of the Lipovan Russian Community of Romania, the week begins with the meeting day; the second day is dedicated to fun; the third is the delicious day; feast day comes fourth; mother-in-law’s night ends the fifth day; sister-in-law’s night is sixths, and the week ends on Sunday, the forgiveness day. ‘The gifts offered over this week are full of significations and joy. For instance, if the mother-in-law is not happy about her son-in-law, she would not cooks special meals,’ Ampleev details.

Easter, Christmas and New Year are above all religious holidays for Lipovans. The community members go to church wearing traditional suits. The first day of each of these holidays is dedicated to family. The ‘starets’, Russian word for the paterfamilias, sits down first at the table. He is joined by the rest of the family, and then says grace. Like for other ethnic groups, some holiday meals have magic significations attached.

On the Saturday before Palm Sunday, Greeks in Izvoarele honor the tradition of ‘Lazarel’, meaning Little Lazarus. Female carollers lined up in age order wear blue or red velvet suits and white aprons with a ‘zunar’ — a metal belt; young girls also wear white headscarves decorated with silver flowers and rings.

Greek and Romanian language lyrics of the songs evoke Lazarus’s death; according to Tulcea County ethnographers, the ritual wailing are meant to ensure his resurrection in the form of flora. When the song is close to its end, the leader of the young girls group — the ‘buianci’—lays a napkin decorated with embroidered flowers on the host’s shoulder; when the carol is over, the host wishes the girls happy holidays and returns the napkin with a couple of bills folded in it. The girls then get fresh eggs for Easter and a sieve with a flour plate inside, to prepare cakes.

The ‘buianci’ throws the sieve in the courtyard, and the way it falls tells the host how the year will be — good, if the sieve is facing up, and less prosperous, if it felled face down.

Saint George’s Day, celebrated according to the ‘Old-Style’ (Julian calendar), is the day when last years’ new-borns are ritually stolen. The ‘kidnappers’ then bathe them in water with money — bidding them richness, and flowers — calling for nicely growing, and dress them in new clothes before returning them to their parents; the latter respond with presents to those who return their precious babies.

The ‘Kurban’ custom marks the end of the New Year holidays; each family sacrifices a lamb and invite friends and relative to taste the dishes prepared from it.

During the Easter Lent, on Saint Theodore’s Day, the village of Cerna had a Bulgarian tradition observed until 1940, when Romania and Bulgaria exchanged populations in Dobrogea (southeastern Romania; it includes Tulcea County) and the neighbouring province of Cadrilater (the Quadrilateral, sometimes called Southern Dobrogea — or Dobruja, in northeastern Bulgaria).

‘In 2013, in a folk festival in Nova Cerna (New Cerna) in Bulgaria, I have met relatives of people who lived in Cerna before World War II; they had fond memories of our places, and especially of the horse races back then. It was called the ‘Cosia’; it was held on Saint Theodore’s Day, on seven kilometres; the winners were awarded beehives, calves, sheep, horseshoes, or harnesses,’ the Altona Association President Dumitra Petrica recalls.

Therefore, the tradition was revived last year, after 73 years of interruption, with the support of the municipal authorities and of the Macin Mountains National Park Administration; Cerna became the host of folk events, local product fairs, and of the horse race, to be held at the beginning of each tourist season.

Aromanians, who call themselves ‘Armani’ or ‘Machidoni’, used to be ‘carvanari’, carrying precious freight in caravans from Constantinople to western Europe, or shepherds, living in the mountains from spring to autumn, says Sterica Fundulea, the president of this community in Tulcea County.

On the day of Saint Demetrius, patron of shepherds, Aromanians descended for winter to the Thessaly plain and around the Aegean Sea; the moment was marked by celebrations involving dances, songs, and various rituals.

‘One of the books dedicated to the Armanis’ way of living reads, ‘When they descended with their flocks from Xirulivad for winter, the whole plain used to echo with sheep bleating, with sheep bell sounds, and with barking of big, long-haired dogs.’ The passing of flocks itself was a savage opulence show, watched by town dwellers who got in the open to see Armanis’ sheep. As transhumance is no longer practiced in the Balkans, only the holiday remains, ‘ Fudulea recites.

The International Shepherd festival is held every year in May, in the village of Sarighiol de Deal; the town of Tulcea also hosts some folk shows of the festival. Exhibitions of specific items of the traditional trade accompany the event; guests are offered traditional food.

The ‘Hidrellez’ is a pre-Islamic holiday celebrated by Turkic people from immemorial times. For them, the 6th of May is the beginning of a new season — the summer; farmers get their animals out of the stables, which thei clean and smoke against the ‘evil eye.’ A couple of handfuls of what grains poured on the window sills on this day were supposed to bring abundant crops. Children used to rub themselves with garlic to keep bad dreams away. ‘Kalakay’ — small breads prepared by housewives the day before — are rolled down from a hill to forecast the fate of the years’ crops.

During the next morning, after the divine service, the housewives milk the cows and sheep, and pour the milk on the stable door sill to bring even more of abundance. The youth have to gather every flammable item and prepare a fire near the mosque. The village elder lights the fire after the service, and he is the first to jump through it for purification. Women jump last, when flames are down. Traditional ‘Kures’ Tatar wrestling follows. Girls sway on swings decorated with flowers; women go to cemeteries to honour the dead. The afternoon meal, served outdoors, gathers the whole family.

Irrespective of their populations, no matter how remote or promoted their communities are, all the ethnic minorities in Tulcea County preserve their traditions along the year and those related to the cycle of life; there are Rroma, Ukrainians, Germans, Turks, Lipovan Russians, Tatars, Serbs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Greeks, Italians, Jews, Poles, Armenians, Csangos, Macedonians, and Hungarians. The multicultural character in Dobrogea is visible in dwellings’ features, traditional suits, gastronomy, legends, dances, and songs.

‘A couple of years ago, we have organized a traditional event, the Carnavale, specific to the Italian community in Greci; a guest from Italy was deeply moved by songs he hadn’t heard since his childhood, when his grandmother used to sing to him,’ the Greci Italian Community President Sorin Vals recalls.

Artist Grigore Lese, after a documentary visit to remote villages in the terrace region of Tulcea County in 2007, told AGERPRES, ‘It was an extraordinary experience to meet six men of Caugagia singing traditional polyphonic songs. It is a valuable culture that could make us famous throughout Europe.’

These are just a few reasons for the authorities to host public events each year; for instance, the Children’s International Folklore Festival ‘The Golden Fish,’ hosted in Tulcea in August. It confirms once more the county’s fame of a miniature Europe. AGERPRES

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Learning to row and paddle since childhood, with the Danube and the Delta’s canals as their playground and food source somehow explains the 35 world and Olympic champions and vice champions of kayak and canoe sprinting born in Tulcea County (eastern Romania).


Other sports have their legends, too; in the past, Tulcea County has hosted many national and international athletic competitions. Stan Gheorghe’s book ‘Pages of Tulcea County sports history’ underlines the importance of the foundation of the European Commission of the Danube (CED) in 1856; it contributed to the development of sports in the region. According to this source, CED and the Romanian Royal Yacht Club organized what appears to be the first Romanian regatta in 1887 in Sulina, the easternmost town of Tulcea County, at one of the Danube’s mouths at the Black Sea. Seven years earlier, the town of Tulcea, the county seat and back then a free port, held extensive sailing and fishing rowing boat races and swimming contests across the Danube. Romania’s first long-distance swimming contest on the Danube was held in 1912 between Ghecet and Macin. Between 1952 and 1970 (with interruption between 1960 and 1968), the Very Long Distance Kayak and Canoe Race was held between Corabia (some 600 kilometres upstream) and Sulina. From 1975 through 1986 the town of Macin hosted international Greco-Roman wrestling events. Balkans’ boxing championship of 1977 was held in Tulcea; Romania got 7 champion titles. Tulcea also provided the venue for the 2005 qualification matches for the Men’s European Volleyball Championship and for the first international minifootbal matches of Romania, in 2011.

Tulcea County natives Dumitru Alexe and Simion Ismailciuc won the gold medals of the 1000 meters canoe sprint in 1956, in Melbourne. Vasile Daba, born in Jurilovca in 1956, was the first Romanian Olympic champion of kayak; the first to see his paddle break during the qualification race for an Olympic semifinal was Ivan Patzaichin of Mila 23. He went on with the shaft, crossed the line and went on to gold. When journalists asked him what he felt when the incident occurred, Patzaichin answered, ‘in a split second, I thought of Mila 23 and I decided to give my best to get to the finish line.’ His Olympic titles kept coming; he ended being champion 30 times at the Games and at World Championships, as recorded in the aforementioned book. Nicolae Fedosei faced the same problem. After finishing first with team Romania at the World Championships of Tampere (Finland) in 1983, his paddles began breaking one week before the next years’ competition. ‘The team’s carpenter reassured me saying he got a new lot of paddles. Then old Costica kept assembling two or three paddles a day; they broke upon the first start, and he began panicking about the chances that I break all the 20 pieces he got. After the first 15, he mounted a reinforced one, three or four hundred grams heavier, which I used for the race,’ sports reporter Ioan Eugen Diaconu quoted Fedosei in 2001.

Ivan Patzaichin is the only former champion of Tulcea involved in kayac and canoeing activities. After his retreat in 2010, he founded the Ivan Patzaichin — Mila 23 Association, linking his name to his native village in the Danube Delta. ‘I have always been and I still am very strongly bounded to the Delta, my birthplace, the place where I learned to row and paddle and where my respect for man and nature was built. I wish Rowmania [his brand for promoting ecological tourism] help the Delta become the queen of European ecological tourism as soon as possible. Therefore, most of our activities are dedicated to this region, to help communities identify the best solutions for developing local economy,’ Patzaichin said.


Another goal of his association is to involve children in athletic activities, all the more that the commune of Crisan alone gave 23 world and Olympic champions of rowing and paddling disciplines, then not a single Romanian champion for 15 years came from the Delta. Moreover, many locals now see rowing as humble work. This is the context for approaches in collaboration with the Tulcea County Council and the Municipality of Tulcea to set up the first Olympic canal for rowing competitions in Romania, which would also be the first ecological rowing canal in the world. It is planned on a length of 2,400 meters, 400 meters wide, on an area undergoing renaturation, near the town. It would be dedicated to professional athletes. Until works are completed, Delta’s visitors are invited each year between August 30 and September 1 to the International Rowing Boat Festival — Rowmania Fest, hosted by the town of Tulcea. It is a unique event in Eastern Europe and a platform for the recovery of rowing boat tradition, combining sports and open air activities with show and outdoor events.

Elena Fidatov Moruzov is a living legend of Tulcea athletics. World champion of half marathon with the Romanian team in Oslo (Norway) in 1994, and in Monbeliard (France) in 1995; European champion with Romania’s cross country team in Alnwich (UK) in 1994; her and her colleagues’ performances put Tulcea on the map of Romanian athletics. Another name in Romanian athletics, Ilie Floroiu, was born in 1951 in the village of Izvoarele; he competed for Farul Constanta club, defeating the best long-distance runners of his years; two of his national records, on 5,000 and 10,000 meters, set in 1978, still stand. Maybe the athletes of the Turcoaia chapter will beat them one day.

The sports history in Tulcea County would be incomplete without Dumitru Manea’s performances in Greco-Roman wrestling — bronze at the World Championships of Katowice (Poland) in 1972.

Team sports also made Tulcea County’s pride. The men’s volleyball team was among the favourites, playing the 1st division between 1975 and 1985. It returned in the top league in 1991 and stayed there until 1995, when coach Alexandru Stanciu retired. Its second comeback occurred in the 1999-2000 season, and Deltacons team became vice champion of Romania next year. In 2002-2003, the team was champion for the first time, a title it defended over the next season, when it also played the final of the Top Teams Cup, European club’s second high competition. Deltacons was the first men’s team to reach this level since the introduction of the Final Four tournament in the early 1990’s.


One of the most elegant fighters in the 1930’s boxing was Aurel Toma, styled ‘The Champions’ Nightmare’; he was born on July 30, 1911 in the town of Babadag, in Tulcea County. He was the first Romanian boxer to enter the ring of New York’s Madison Square Garden, and the only one to build himself a professional career in the United States. In 1938, he terminated the carer of Scotsman Benny Lynched, a world and European flyweight champion whom no one else had knocked out. Toma’s record in America — 19 wins, 9 losses, 4 draws — is unique among Romanian fighters. His name is now on the frontispiece of the sports hall of his native town; since 2013, Babadag holds an annual competition named after him, to honour his memory.

Other disciplines also achieved remarkable results on national level, with Tulcea County juniors honourably competing in domestic and international competition, though many of them are members of athletic clubs throughout Romania. An athlete’s performances equally require their own perseverance and best judgment, their teachers’ qualities, and training conditions. Many youths of Tulcea got what it takes to become great, but only time will tell how many of them will find the passion and wish to outdo their masters, adding to the sports’ — or other professions’ — legend.AGERPRES

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Out of the over 25,000 species of fish worldwide, some counting for more than 450 million years of age, 300 could be seen in Europe and 135 in the Danube Delta, part of which at the Danube Delta Ecotourist Museum Centre in Tulcea County (Eastern Romania).


As regards some species, a non-capturing ban is in force, yet one third of the total of the fish species with the Danube Delta according to the Tulcea authorities has been and still is economically capitalized through commercial fishing.

Even those we believe we know everything about and cannot offer big surprises do have specific particularities, according to the Teodor Buliga’s “Danube Delta” book.

The carp or Cyprinus carpio, the standard fish of the most spread vertebrate family in the world, is one of the fish species with a very sensitive hearing, therefore no fisherman should wonder when he doesn’t catch any carp if plodding on the banks or making strong noises in the boat. In addition, they are a weather changes’ proper flag, the Danube Delta’s experienced fishermen knowing that when the specimens of this species emerge a storm is about to come. In reality, the carp needs air to even pressure of its own body with the outside.

The crucian or Carassius vulgaris is one of the world’s two species of fish whose females need not spermatozoon exclusively from the crucian in order to reproduce themselves. It looks like the sperm of other species could start the division of the ovule resulting in a totally female’s population. The phenomenon is called gynogenesis and it generates specimens which borrow characteristics from other species, the hybrids between crucians and carp never being a rare thing. Moreover, the crucian specimens captured last 24 hours outside water considering the water temperature is low.

The perch or Perca fluviatilis, the most numerous species of the Danube Delta, seems to be the most greedy fish as well. Its favourite prey consists of small fish, and in the above-mentioned work the author mentions he found often perches swimming with fish as large as them hanging over their mouths!


The European catfish or Silurus glanis or the pond’s pig is the largest freshwater fish in Europe and among the largest 20 fish in the world. The catfish skin lacks scales, yet it’s very thick, as it is so resistant it could be used in leatherworking. Complex nerve endings are on its entire skin capable to identify any being close to it, the tiniest abnormalities of the water flow, and the alteration of the water’s chemical composition. The performing receptors are on its tail as well, and one moustache senses fine differences in the chemistry of the water against the other moustache. Of all the fish in Romania, except for the sturgeons, the catfish reaches the longest dimensions, yet the species is harder to find in the natural waters.

The pikeperch or Lucioperca, one of the most wanted fish in the Danube Delta, is big, round-eyed, glowing in the light due to a layer of cells which reflect the light, by amplifying it. This characteristic is also seen at mammals and about that there is a legend saying that the pikeperch has nocturnal vision. Unfortunately for the fishermen, several studies say the pikeperch is more active during daytime.

The pike or Esox lucius or Northern pike is one of the species until now never domesticated. Researchers have agreed that the sense of touch given by the numerous cutaneous nerve endings perceiving the aquatic environment vibrations is guilty for the attacks on prey. The maximum density of the sensors is recorded on its head, while preys are captured only if moving. This situation makes the pike one of the few species not yet domesticated. To note is that in the world of the pikes the cannibalism phenomenon is a fact that helps the species to balance its population hence there will never be an over-population of the specimens of this kind.


The small roach or Rutilus rutilus lives in large schools of fish, yet as it gets larger it becomes more lonely, gathering only when it reproduces or to winter. In the rivers, it is silver-coloured, rusty in the ponds and red-brown in the lakes. Its fins are bluish, and its life span is up to 100 years.

Six of the species reported in the Danube Delta come from other continents, as specialists call them allochthonous. So, the silver carp was brought from China at the beginning of the 18th century, and in Romania was for the first time reported in 1920, according to researcher Vasile Otel.


After 1970 in the Danube Delta the silver carp has emerged massively, as it currently holds 1st place in industrial fishing. Along with this species the sun perch or Lepomis appeared as it comes from North America and was brought to Europe at mid-20th century. The species related of Singer, Novac and Cosas were imported from China in 1960 and 1961 in order to populate some ponds, yet they’ve reached the natural environment next to a smaller species, the Pseudorasbora parva, imported accidentally. In 1984, a small species of the perch living in the Eastern area of the Black Sea has penetrated the Danube Delta, a numerous population existing in the Razim-Sinoie lakes’ complex.

Besides the economic interest of the professional fishermen and sportsmen, the fish resource is also the object of the researchers, the sturgeons being labeled since 1909 by Romanian scientist Grigore Antipa as the most interesting fish scientifically.

The fossil species of this family are known for over 200 million years, so that present day sturgeons are known as ”living fossils”. Currently all over the world some 26 species of sturgeons are known, six of which being reported in Romania as well at the beginning of the past century.

It seems that initially these species were of freshwater or estuary, but the long of the way as they were looking for food they have adapted the sea life where they spend most of their time. According to researchers, the fact that during the reproduction period the specimens of this family ascend some streams or rivers is the proof that sturgeons were freshwater species.

Since the beginning of the ?60s, the Acipenser sturio (sip) and Acipenser nudriventis (viza) used to be species very rare or even extinct, so that currently in Romania only four species of sturgeon could be seen: Huso huso (morun), Acipenser gueldenstaedti (nisetru), Acipenser stellatus (pastruga) and Acipenser ruthenus (cega).

Ever since 2006, the sturgeons’ capturing in Romania is banned for 10 years, the specialists being to decide if prohibition will last.

A special place in the sturgeons’ family is occupied by the albino sturgeons. Unlike their peers, the sturgeons of this kind are white, their eggs extremely valuable, as they are sold in golden small boxes. The price of a white caviar kilo surnamed ‘diamond’ reaches up to EUR 25,000, specimens of such species being seen by the Romanian researchers in the Danube. The albino sturgeons are very sensitive and never grow old, yet in captivity if all conditions created they have big chances to survive.

The species of the Danube Delta are a visitors’ attraction.AGERPRES

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Romania’s oldest stud farm, which enjoys worldwide recognition, is in Radauti – Suceava County, right at the entry of the town, near the Bogdana Monastery.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

In 1792, the Austrian government established the Radauti Stud under the name ‘Landesgestuetts — und Remontierungs Departement in der Bucowina zu Radautz’ / ‘The Country Stud and Army Remount Department of Radauti — Bucovina’, seeking to ensure a larger and higher quality equine riding stock.

For this purpose, the Austrian Armed Forces Ministry took on lease 9,810 hectares of land for the price of 12,275 guilders and 21 crowns. Mount Lucina, with approximately 4,800 hectares of pastures, located 100 kilometers from Radauti, added later to the landed assets as estate used for the breeding and selection of the robustly built, endurance suited Hutsul pony, and for keeping non-foaling mares and fillies in the alpine pastures. No filly that hadn’t put behind two years of alpine grazing was allowed for mating and breeding.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

After the stables were completed, 1,400 horses — broodmares, sires, public mating stallions, suckling foals, yearlings and service horses — where brought to the Radauti estate from Vascauti, and were later assigned to farms. In that time, the Radauti farm had 16 departments with the headquarters in Radauti, where horses were quartered according to race, gender and age.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The importance and significance of the Radauti Stud Farm also relies in the fact that apart from breeding services, it was the main supplier of horses for military duties and for other herds in Austria and Hungary. In 1860, the Radauti Stud was raising breeds and bloodstock lines such as Gidran, Furioso-Northstar, Siglavy, Maestoso, Nonius, Samhan, Anaze, Messrour, Abugress, El-Bedavi, Sachammar, Turchmen.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Three stallions are considered the founders of the equine bloodstock portfolio at Radauti: Berberino from Count Bethlen’s stud, and two English thoroughbreds, Hussein and Manachim from 1802. In 1826 the first Gidran and the first Siglavy stallions are introduced to the farm. In 1842 two Arabian stallions, Shagya and El-Bedavi, are brought from Mezohegyes and Babolna (Hungary), as well as the first English stallion, and in 1856 the Hutsul stud farm in Lucina is set up. In 1869, when the Austrian studs separate from those of the Hungarian Crown, the Radauti Stud is transferred alongside all the other studs in Austria under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture.

In 1914, with the threat of invasion looming, the breeding stock and the Austrian staff were evacuated to Austria.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The Romanian National Council comes into being in 1918, tasked with supporting the Romanian state and its interests over the territories of the former Austrian province. In this context, the Radauti-born engineer Ion Larionescu, a former cavalry officer in the Austrian Army, who was well in the know about the prosperity the Radauti Stud Farm, seeks the support of the Romanian National Council to identify and collect the equine breeding stock that had been moved to western Austria; as a result, the horses get back to Radauti in July 1919 and the stud is reorganized on the former department structure, under the management of Ion Larionescu.

The first studbooks are introduced in Radauti in 1924, and the Arabian Horse Breed Association comes into being, joining many private breeders, who were facilitated participation in exhibitions, mare registration for mating with public stallions, the recognition of the issue, veterinary assistance. The bloodlines bred in Radauti back then were Gazal, Siglavy-Bagdady I, Dahoman XIII and Shagya XV. In the period 1936-1941, descendants of the magnificent El-Sbaa (an Asil horse of the purest Arabian bloodline) and Beck join the Radauti Stud. The Arabian pool of Radauti is transferred in 1941 to Rusetu — Buzau County in exchange for the Gidran pool. The reason for this change was to provide for the Arabian horses natural conditions closer to those of the steppe. The Gidran breed is kept at Radauti until 1997-1998, when the entire population moves to the Tulucesti Stud — Galati County, and the Shagya Arabian returns to Radauti.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Currently, the Radauti Stud Farm counts 273 equines of which eight stallions, 71 dams, 45 public mating stallions, 103 young horses for bloodstock, seven horses for sport and leisure, 32 available for sale and seven work and duty horses.

As of 2002, under the Government’s Ordinance No. 139, the assets of the National Thoroughbred Horses Company SA were taken over by Romsilva.

Head of the Thoroughbred Horses Office of the Suceava Forestry Directorate Cristian Tomniuc considers this was a good move because funding horse studs had become an issue and huge debts had been piling up. Tomniuc said that no state subsidies are paid for horses aged zero to three years and a half, which can seriously affect the economic and financial condition of the stud, and implicitly its development. Cristian Tomniuc added that 12 horse bloodlines are currently bred and improved at the Radauti Stud, which has a very good gene pool.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

“The Radauti Stud is the oldest in Romania and one of the most famous and highly recognized worldwide. It has also hosted a recent international meeting of Shagya Arabian Breeders,” Tomniuc explained. He mentioned that horse races have been organized in Radauti since 2003-2004, and that since 2006 the Radauti Stud is included in the calendar of the Romanian Equestrian Federation, with such tournaments already having a tradition here.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The most decorated horse of the Radauti Stud is Zoltan, a Romanian Sporthorse who won a host of national and international titles; most recently, the five-year old placed on top of the ranking in several events of the Toscana Tour 2014 Equestrian Championships for Young Horses held in Arezzo, Italy, this April. AGERPRES

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