After a few days in Braila it’s time to set off. In the morning I’m so tired. Sticking hot, more than 40 degrees, thousands of biting gnats, fishermen turning on their loudy outboards at 4 in the morning, people shouting and waves. Sleeping in the cities is always hard. Even my stomach is not well.
I receive an sms saying that I have to be in Tulcea by this evening. It’s 101 km away! Assuming to get the help of a very strong wind it might be possible, but right now we have a southerly headwind slowing me down and on top of that I don’t feel at my best.
Anyway, let’s try.
After 3 km I even get stopped by the police for a control. Kind and professional, no problem at all. I decide that the only way to get in Tulcea in time is by getting towed by Serena. I don’t like it but I don’t have any other option since Mrs Viorica, the president of Arbdd (meaning Administration of the Biosphere of Danube Delta) comes from Budapest to grant me an interview.
The journey by motor is easy but boring and loud. Everything is so dull thanks to this wonderful object that burns and produces movement. Wonderful and dangerous. Laziness in ambush. Speed is the most overrated thing in the world. Anyway, I thank the little 4 ph overboard, and after 11 hours of traveling we’re in Tulcea.
Scorching sunset. In the meantime, same nice Danube, lots of green, the awful Galati’s waterfront, the shipyards bough by Dutch, a science-fictional supremacist factory on the hill, 470 metres of Moldova, hills and beautiful Ukraine with the port of Reni. We don’t enter in Ukraine since we’re told that the custom procedures are quite long: I hate borders.
I can’t stand anymore officers checking if I’m really me, useless papers, gates.
The delta is not far, the water is greener and clearer. You can tell that here there’s more respect. It’s a natural reserve and, as everything should be, it’s a world heritage site. Unesco placed its mark over it.
In Tulcea, we’re waited by the friendly screams of captain Aurie, Norman and Nina, the kayakers met in Braila. Nina is not well, she’s got a flu possibly caused by a heatstroke and Norman towed her, lying on the kayak, for 50 km. That’s love!
We’re guest of the Arbdd’s flagship: Cabin with toilet and air conditioning! We didn’t expect such a luxury. I greet the governor who’s coming from Bucarest and has waited for us, and the shop captain who’s making dinner.
Mamaliga (maize flour pie), pest (fish), beer, palinka and coffee. The captain, for uncanny reasons, speaks to us in Russian, so we don’t understand a single word. But we communicate nevertheless, maybe not quite the easy way. We would love to go sleeping, while he would keep drinking. We agree on a trade-off: A last beer on a man-made island placed on a lake within the city and then we can hit the hay.
What I love about Romania is: People, true flavours, colours, paved roads, traditional music, cars drawn by horses, sweet stray dogs, Lipovans, gipsy kids before they get ruined by their parents and by the gold of “respectable” people, Dunarea. What I hate is: Dull international music in the bars, loudness of music, rudeness of people driving motor boats (90%), corrupt politicians (their faces often speak by themselves), fishermen littering trash in the river, people littering everything to the ground, too many cars.
Tulcea will embrace me with all of this, but I still don’t know it. Very soon, Paolo and Nicola come. This crazy documentary always look like about being canceled, but still keeps going with no resources other than talent and passion. Now even my two waterproof video cameras are abandoning me. I still have my smartphone. Not longer than 20 years ago I would have been taken for mad by saying that a documentary was going to be filmed with a mobile phone.
The Danube delta is huge. As human stupidity, even if the latter might be endless: How is it possible to allow full-speed boat crossing in such a fragile environment, even in the smallest canals? It’s like visiting the Uffizi on a Scooter. Many organizations are taking care about it and there are a few fully protected areas. However they’re missing resources and money. And are under attack of the usual trash tourism that’s butchering nature. I can feel the impotence of Arbdd: The money coming from tourist are stronger. Mrs Viorica is too good to stay. Mediocrity reigns supreme.
An organization doing its best, which is not much. Little quarrels between colleagues, hierarchies, bureaucracy. The clerks earn 150-250 euro per month and the cost of life is close to Western Europe standards. There are no incentives. I’ve met people working quite a lot and believing in what they do, like Petru. A huge work on an huge area. The world outside is different.
This is a cheap world, in the hands of ignorant people who didn’t have the chance to learn. Kept in ignorance by aristocrats, rich and the church. The wisdom of the shepherd and the fisherman vanished by loudness, stupid meaningless tattoos, nonsense shouts. An hypertrophic and tattooed world, over aesthetic and loud, basing all its communication over seduction and deception to create false needs. As false love. Not by chance, the father of classic cosmogony decided that the parents of Eros (love) were Poros (ploy) and Penia (poverty). When you have very little money you have to rely on marrying a rich person to give your life a twist.
Anything springing from such parents is bound to make troubles. The light guys from malomarketing, of induced needs: Just careless criminals. This Romania looks too Italian, as Italy looks too American. It’s the misery behind the corner that makes us alike, and the bad communication. The true communication is fluid as water, humble, clear and pure, doesn’t need tricks. It’s not Fanta. The true love, Agape, is communication. Fair.
This Romania is beautiful away from the cities, that are on the bleak average that you can see everywhere there is television, very important here too. In the whole Tulcea I can’t find a silent bar, where I can listen to my thought. Where you can quietly talk. To me, the bar is a perfect outlook. I read like in the wrinkles of the faces, more or less worn by life. At least I try.
How many things this journey is teaching me! Like two Lithuanian friends, Saulius and Ruta. I meet them sailing toward the black sea, on their small sailboat.
They come from the Hawaii: Saulius managed to sail all the way to the Black Sea on his own, without motor or electricity. It took him three years. They’re nice and simple. And healthy, nearly 50 but looking like kids. Full of energy, wisdom and generosity.
Ponytail, born in Mila 23 (mile 23) a Lipovan village 23 miles away from the Black Sea where everyone uses the boat. Like Victor Dragoi, who has built the hulls for the houseboats that, in Crisan, will shelter the Canotke for a slow and healthy tourism.
Victor was a precious friend to me. I’ve been guest in his house where I have taken a rest. He gave me lots of help, such as giving shelter to Paolo’s boat, Serena, after Anna and Leon’s departure. They’ve come back to Italy since the money have finished. Thanks for their great work and to bear me.
Victor keeps helping me like a brother and I really hope that his small houseboat business, where he works with his dad, might be successful (www.signumdelta.ro).
The delta is a place that deserves this attention and the tourist structures that are being built, are a real threat. Much better small and well built houseboat that can be towed away in winter.
Thanks to Jenica, a researcher who completed a few very important projects around the world, I’ve understood the richness of the flora and fauna of the delta. Fascinating.
As Sfantu Gheorghe and its choirs of Ukrainian women waiting for their fishermen to come back home. I’ve been there three days, enough to get charmed. One of the few places left in Europe where the streets are made of sand and you can only get there by boat.
Free horses and cows, on the road. Lipovans, Ukrainians and pelicans.
Too much to tell, too nice. Too many “awesome” but this is our journey, as written by an English friend.
The straw dogs greet me by waving their tail, while the resident bark… Have you noticed?
Probably someone feels the likeness.