The mighty Danube River, named by the Greek historian Herodotus "The King of the European Rivers,"
forms much of Romania's southern border, with Bulgaria. (map)
The Danube enters the territory of Romania at the famous Iron Gates (Portile de Fier)
and it ends its 670 mile journey through the country in the Black Sea.
Before meeting the Black Sea, the Danube forms one of the most spectacular wetlands in the world,
the Danube Delta - a unique 2,100-square-mile wildlife reserve - home to more than 300 species of birds and about 160 kinds of fish, both fresh and salt-water species.
Among the many sights near or along the Romanian section of the Danube River, worth visiting are: the ruins of the Roman bridge at Drobeta, Topolnita Cave, The Iron Gates Dam, the cities of Drobeta Turnu Severin, Orsova, Giurgiu, Oltenita, Braila, Galati and Tulcea. Bucharest, Romania's capital city, is only 40 miles north of the cities of Giurgiu (Romania) and Ruse (Bulgaria), both situated on the banks of the Danube.
Companies offering cruises on the Danube River to / from Romania include: Value World Tours, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Uniworld, Ama Waterways, Blue Danube Holidays, Avalon Waterways, Viking River Cruises, Grand Circle Travel
Sailing on the Danube, with privately owned boats, is allowed for the entire Romanian section of the river.
The only formalities required when sailing from Vienna, Budapest or Belgrade are: passport check and yacht/ boat technical inspection.
No inoculations are required, no visa for Americans, Canadians and citizens of the Europe Union countries.
There are two Danube Border Checking Points :
Orsova and Drobeta Turnu Severin (or Turnu Severin).
passport and yacht / boat proof of ownership & registration.
There is a yacht/ boat fee of $15.00 to $30.00
based on the size of the boat.
For further information please contact:
Orsova Danube River Authority, phone: + 4 0252 361.295 -
Drobeta Turnu Severin Danube River Authority,
phone: +4 0252 316.493
Best of the Balkans - Notes & Observations from Budapest to Bucharest
My idyllic mid-summer's riverboat cruise down the Danube, terminating at the Black Sea aboard the sparkling new Uniworld "River Countess" was a leisurely way to take in this part of Europe.
After a 12-year hiatus, Uniworld returns to its "routes" with a Hungary to Romania itinerary along the Danube. Interspersed with quaint towns and villages, this turbulent part of Eastern Europe is out from under the Communist grip as recently as the last decade. Millions of Americans can claim origin to this region of Europe.
From the outset, I expected our Budapest stopover to be brief (necessitated by the itinerary) but also somewhat rewarding.
As it turned out, the early afternoon arrival and the 30-minute drive from the airport to Pest where the Countess was docked was without fan-fare. Riverboats have the distinct advantage of tie-ing up in the heart of each city/village. So....tout-de-suite, I was out on the "Vaci Utca", a pedestrian only promenade leading to "Vorosmarty Square" and my intended destination the famous Salon de the Gerbeaud, a 19th century patisserie/rathskellar, always featured in articles extolling Budapest. It was well worth the stop to savor the excellent homemade ice cream, hand whipped crème topping and solo made waffle cones. The cost was minimal!
Back aboard the Countess all the cabins are virtually configured the same with excellent bedding, a sensational bathroom (especially considering its compactness), ample closet space (for 2 loaded with clothes), and adequate amenities. Uniworld prides itself on cleanliness and service, certainly their newest riverboats (4 in all) are worthy of 5 stars in all categories. The huge open-air top deck mimics the 3 below and features exemplary seating and the tranquility that one may look forward to on a riverboat cruise.
Ports of Call (rundown):
Day 1: leave the USA / your home-country
Day 2: arrive Budapest
Day 3: Kalocsa
Charming town of Kalocsa and a visit to the centre of Hungarian Paprika production (a multi-million dollar industry). Then onto a very popular and exciting horse show at a Hungarian ranch...passengers took it all in and gave it a "thumbs up"! Hungarian cowboys are still the main source of ranch & farm labor as mechanization has yet to come to eastern Europe. Back at dockside, a small shop with prepackaged paprika products and locally embroidered items (that's what they said) was inundated with cruisers purchasing well-priced gifts for family & friends.
Day 4: On the Danube
Customs stops in Mohacs, Hungary and Bezdon, Serbia ...a welcome respite before a full day tour in Belgrade. Very picturesque landscape along this wide stretch of the Danube prior to some very impressive locks.
Day 5: Belgrade
Points of interest here (at the confluence of the Danube & Sava Rivers) were Tito's Memorial and Saint Sava Cathedral, largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the world. A guide in this city is a real asset since the Hungarian & Serbian languages are some of the most difficult in the world. Housing still remains the pre-cast concrete "boxes" of Communist days. Visit the Bohemian Section....the cobbled streets are lined with flower bedecked restaurants and entry into this area is gate-secured. This is where you can sample exceptional regional food. Prince Michaell Promenade is traffic-free and lined with so-so shops.
Day 6: The Irongates & Vidin
Cruising through a picturesque region and exit the "Irongate", defined as a narrow Danube gorge between the Carpathian & Balkan Mountains, it forms a natural border between Serbia & Romania. After lunch, arrival in the ancient Bulgarian town of Vidin and a tour of the Baba Vidin Fortress, an imposing presence that dominates the town & river.
Day 7: Rousse-Veliko Tarnovo
Driving through tree-lined streets and a visit to the Pantheon, a contemporary mausoleum dedicated to the saviors of the region. The city was a natural fortress. We continue to the museum town of Arbanassi for a typical farm-house lunch...then a visit to Peter & Paul Monastery and shop for local handicrafts (not much) and back to Rousse for a walk-about, window-shopping, and return to our riverboat.
Day 8: Constanta
Constanta is Romania's 2nd largest and oldest city, the last port of call (before disembarking for a bus ride to Bucharest).
Everyone's excited about visiting this cultural centre and setting their feet in the Black Sea. The city tour included the Opera House, Cathedral of Peter & Paul and the Great Mosque before stopping off at the Riva Hotel in the Mamaia Area....a world-renowned resort-getaway. Swedes, Norwegians and Germans frequent as guests ifrom May until September. The beach scene offers innumerable older hotels with newer ones in various stages of construction. Existing hotels have a guest capacity of about 75,000. Colorful facades are a pleasant surprise and a welcome response to the bland box-like housing of Communist vintage. The highlight of this day was a rare visit to Murfatlar, one of Romania's prestigious vineyards ... where we were graciously entertained with a folkloric extravaganza, an appetizer plate and a wine tasting of 4 assorted varieties all in a cavernous wine cellar on the estate. Wines are generally cheaper and plentiful in local stores. The evening ended with a dinner & a walk-about in the in the port of Constanta.
Our final day of the cruise and a 3-hour drive through agricultural Romania.
This was the season of apricots, peaches, cherries....with villagers selling assorted seasonal produce along our bus route. Our destination, the capital city of Bucharest a stunning revelation with broad boulevards, exquisite historic buildings and parks wherever you look.
The dilapidated housing (again of Communist vintage) has left its mark on the city's architecture. Despite this...... the Opera House, the Medical School, the Parliament plus others to numerous to recall are all truly a feast for the eyes. Ceausescu's Palace was incredible......it is the 2nd largest building in the world and the construction of his "Champs Elysee" edifice consumed most of the country's gross national product for years.
Staying in centre city at the Intercontinental Hotel is the perfect choice. It retains its 5-star quality with lovely rooms, many amenities and low & behold ...one of the many casinos which came to Bucharest back in 1991.
Hours of operation vary with some taking US dollars while others only local currency.
Casinos generally offer complimentary food & beverage, and yes......
I did try my luck!
Bucharest is a "walkers" delight so my extended walking tour to "check out" shopping venues and prices was most pleasurable. I exchanged $100 US & got 400 Lei....."what a trip"!
I was also surprised to find Bucharest replete with "theme" restaurants, i.e. Dracula! I visited the "Count Dracula Club", the most unique of the lot inspired by the novel "Dracula", wandered through its assorted rooms and enjoyed a menu that ties the theme together.... and as they say, "you must go"!
Although the trip was never intended to be "a return to one's roots", I did make inquiry about the "hick town" my father left as a teenager... Dorohoi in Moldova, a region northeast of Bucharest near the Ukraine border.....now more or less a thriving small town "metropolis" with a population of about 35,000.
Romania turned out to be the most exciting country on this riverboat odyssey. You can sense the vibes, hard work, acceptance of Americans and the desire to have Americans re-visit their country as was the case in the pre-Communist era.
Map of Danube River
Map © Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.