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New Europe

Day Fifty-two: Sulina

Russia in Romania 
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Russia in Romania. In a back garden in the Danube Delta, Lipovani ladies enjoy a vodka and sing songs of the old country.
Michael Palin - New EuropeIf anywhere deserves to be called new Europe it is the Danube Delta, where 46 kilos of sediment are added to the continent every second. That's forty million tonnes every year. Europe's second-longest river (after the Volga) rises from three springs in the Black Forest of south-west Germany and ends in three channels pushed through 3,500 square miles of delta. The Danube winds between the Black Forest and the Black Sea through ten countries and covers 1,770 miles.

The middle channel of the Delta, the Bratul Sulina, is the one through which we entered Romania from the Black Sea yesterday night. It was a fierce introduction, with a wild sea whipped up by a fierce northerly wind doing everything to push us away. There was relief all round when we finally found the protection of the causeways.

We found accommodation close to the river, at the Casa Coral, a restaurant with a cramped little nest of rooms to one side, with two attentive dogs and a dining room door that is no match for the north wind. No sooner does anyone shut it than the wind flings it open again with a crash. The waitress has taken to locking it each time, which means the next customer to arrive has to hang onto their hat and bang loudly on the glass for attention.

There is a medal on the wall of the restaurant, set in an impressive black velvet box and struck in 2006 to celebrate 150 years of what must be one of the first, if not the first example of pan-European co-operation, a hundred years ahead of the EEC/EU. The European Commission of the Danube was set up by the British, French, Prussians and the other victors in the Crimean War to develop the Danube as an international waterway, and to protect against any takeover by the Russians.

As a result of the Commission's work the population of Sulina grew to 5,000 inhabitants, representing twenty-seven nationalities, and by the end of the nineteenth century it earned the unofficial name of Europolis.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Fifty-two: Sulina
  • Country/sea: Romania
  • Place: Sulina
  • Book page no: 131

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