A Black Sea

The Black Sea. I’m in now. I sailed for 230 nautical miles, more or less 420 km. I was rather worried, this sea seems even blackest than I thought: Waves, sudden thunderstorms, traffic.

I’m in Sozopol, a wooden and rocky castle built over a bay that provides a safe port for sailors from centuries. The safest harbour of the Pontus Eusinus. But why is this sea called Black?

The Turkish gave it this name, in contrast to the “White Sea” aka the Mediterranean. As a matter of fact, the Aegean Sea is often white because of foam and rollers. But why Black? I can’t find an acceptable explanation yet. Its colour is blue.*

The water, from Constanta to here, is transparent. In Sozopol you can see deep under water for four metres. Going south even deepest.

So why? I believe “black” is in the mind of men who love to fright their siblings. As many sailors very well know, the most dangerous sea is that where you are at the moment. And the locals tell that, despite you have sailed across the Northern Forland (Great Britain’s hell, 7000 wrecks in a few miles) and the English Channel with its current, it’s nothing compared to the danger of this coast… (more…)


Sweet exile

I write sitting on a nice sofa, in this beautiful Café Mozaic that smells of past although it’s placed in a modern building. A soprano sax lightly dances between cultures, while the muezzin softly calls the prayers from the minaret. Outside, I can see the heavy shape of the archaeological museum, Cuban houses ruined but still lived-in, empty roman sepulchres, gravestones, antiquarians laying on their bronzes, sweet and polite straw dogs. The wind blows strong. And homesick Ovid looks to the sea. In front od him, they’ve built a “Spizzico” pizzeria. I could die here, now, for this imperfectly perfect beauty.

Constanta already won my heart. How many hearts should I own to withstand this journey? When I think to the complaints and to the boredom of many travel companions, I wonder how it’s possible not to fall in love of this ever changing world. And smile.

Would it be just ignorance? Ignorance to me is a strange animal, it hangs on your back like a cat and never lets you go. (more…)


What I love and what I hate

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. (more…)


A matter of chance

Cernavoda: Black water. A former Roman outpost, has become sadly famous for the death channel digged from here to Constanta. One of the many channels built upon order of Ceausescu, to cut 300 km of Danube that turns north before bending east again in Black Sea. Cernavoda – Chernobyl, same black root. Also in Cernavoda there is a nuclear plant.

With all that energy did they need nuclear power too?

In a boiling hot bar, I see a hairy waitress and many men proudly showing their belly: A place so ugly that’s nearly touching. Only the stray dogs bring some gentleness in this sunny square, full of gross people who loudly accelerate and brake. I don’t judge anyone but this place is horrible.

I just hope to get away as soon as possible. However a very kind gentleman has told us where we could moor and another one, Rado (a Viking who’s chosen this no-place to live on a barge), allows us to stay.

But what am i doing here? First of all, the Danube is flowing under me: I’ve arrived here by rowing, sailing and, last but not least, a lift from Captain Florian. By the way we’ve covered 4.200 km from Wargrave, UK, in April 2010.

And here, shortly, I’ll be joined by Nicola and Tommaso. In the four and a half hour waiting, I watch the barges manoeuvreing, the oldest Danube’s iron bridge (1895), the hairs of the hairy woman and the bellies of the big-bellied men. (more…)


Aboard the Leviathan

We get moving for a walk around Kladovo, after a disturbed night because of a few hooligans who had fun by throwing rocks to the boats. I discover an archaeology museum, small but rich of important stones, telling the story of the Traianea road that here, between Kladovo and Dobreta, displayed the longest bridge in history for a long time. It was designed by no less than Apollodorus of Damascus, one of the first Archistars. I wonder if some of nowadays archistars will shine in history for as long as him.

At the police station everything goes well because of Miletin who knows everyone. I hug him and set off in the Dunav that, after a few metres, becomes Dunarea. We’re in Romania as we approach Dobreta Turnu Severin, three names for just one city.

We have tu fullfill entrance forms as if we were accessing another extra UE country, but the police very kindly tells us that this is the procedure if you come from Serbia. One of these days I’ll die by laughs (as said by Bernard Motessier who was allergic like me to human borders).

Costel, a nice guy who takes care of big ships docking, allow us to moor next to his barge. It’ll be vital. Along with Mario, young policeman, we get to the city center and eat an Italian-Romanian pizza at Café Barcelona. In the teeth of local food that I try to eat as much as I can. I love pizza, I’d live by pizza.

Mario tells me about life here. He’s worked in Orvieto but came back. Here, the wages are lower but the life quality much better. I’d take a sleep but it gets cloudy: A thunderstorm is falling upon us, so I take shelter in the barge. Costell sees me and asks me to get in. I sleep a while over a sofa, then Anna end Leon make their appearance too. Outside, wind gusts of 40 knots, full-screen waves and thunderbolts. (more…)




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