We arrived near dusk, partly due to the fact that Romania had just changed to daylight saving time here, but I doubt that’s what they call it. As the sky was turning grey and the winds picked up, Rebecca and I found a small restaurant on the second floor of a row of businesses near the newer part of downtown Tulcea, facing the docks along the Danube. We each had some hot chocolate to warm up as we waited for a response from our AirBnB host, Lucian.
Woody called our Airbnb host, Lucian, and he met us to give us the keys and show us the apartment. He brought his daughter–about ten, I think–with an amazingly thick, long braid.
His place is in one of those Communist-era buildings, the apartments has been done up nicely, though. The furnishings are inexpensive but adequate. After Lucian left, we unpacked and had bread, cheese, apples, and the red pepper spread that we bought along the way for dinner.
We didn’t get up until about nine the next morning; the window shades kept the room dark. It had rained in the night. I made poached eggs–I didn’t see oil available. We ate and then went out to see what the town was like.
Tulchea is in the Delta on a bay, though our host calls it a lake. You can see it has lots of industry on the edges of town. There are shipyards and factories and an aluminum plant. Lucian said his dad was relocated here in the 60’s to work in the aluminum factory. The downtown has some ugly hotels and lots of docks for tour boats (and other boats) but most of them are moored now for the off season.
Looking for something to do, we found an “aquarium,” first–it had some exhibits of flora and fauna that exist here, but it was a bit hard to read–even though most of it was translated into English, there was poor lighting. They did have an aquarium on the bottom floor with fish of the region as well as tropical fish in another exhibit, and one with a few sad sharks.
From there, we went to an art museum. There were some of the same artists that we had seen in Iaşi–impressionists that have similar styles to Van Gogh. They also had some lovely Turkish art, I liked the weavings and rugs best.
We had a chance to drive around and get our bearings. West of town, we explored a little village near the Danube. It is amazing the places that ALF, our Volkswagen Golf, has taken us!
“ALF,” as we began to call it, has taken a beating! Good thing it’s an older car. We don’t feel so bad about going on rough roads and in bad weather.
We decided to look for the dock where we’ll meet our boat Saturday. It was cold and windy along the bay–so after we found the place, we decided to go for lunch. We went in to a restaurant that had a nice view of the bay but was a bit dark and resembled a pub. There was a table of men that reminded me of Woody’s ROMEO club, (Retired Old Men Eating Out). They were very animated in all their discussions.
The ROMEO Club of Tulcea
After lunch we headed back to our place but stopped for groceries. I wanted some milk and cereal. Back at the place we rested then drove out to a small town west of Tulcea because our host recommended it. It is a small village overlooking the estuary of the Danube. We drove down a steep hill to the water, past a nice summer house near the water and onto a sheep track. We stopped and sure enough, 50-60 sheep came our way. We turned the car around (splattering mud all over my car door) and headed back up and home.
We waited for Lucian to call. He was planning to take us out to dinner with his family. His wife, Mihaila and daughter joined us and we drove out of town to a lovely restaurant that looked over a lake. The sun was just setting and the light was magnificent. I had a salad and Woody had carp.
Lucian and his family took us out for dinner.
They suggested that we go to meet his mother, Parciva tomorrow. We will meet them at the tiny historic town of Enisala. She speaks Spanish because she lived in Spain for eight years. Lucian drove us home and we turned in early.
A Day at Enisala
A late start the next day, but then we had no deeds to do until 2pm. We left the house and drove towards Luciana’s mother’s house in Enisala, closer to the Black Sea–The Delta is so huge that we are still about 50-60 miles from the open Sea. I had no idea.
We drove through brown landscape that had windmills atop small hills–were we in Rio Vista? Eventually, we got to the town. Just past it, on a tall hillside, is a fortress from he 13th Century, so we drove up to see it. We parked the car and walked up. A cute little dog followed us all the way up. I would have a hard time living there with all the semi-ferrel dogs.
This group of dogs was very friendly but would not approach us and they were not in good health. The fortress has a commanding view of the landscape around it. A large lagoon and several lakes were below us. I couldn’t figure out what advantage the place had as a lookout until later, Lucian told us that the landscape has changed because of all the sediment from the Danube–what used to be lagoons are now lakes and what used to be open water are now lagoons.
The rocky hilltop and ruins at the fort made for a forlorn setting and I had flashes of images of what it must have been like to be garrisoned here with maybe 20 other men 700 years ago. What was their life like?
From there we headed into the village where we parked the car at a church and walked over to the ethnographic museum. Evidently that was one good thing under Ceausescu. His government wanted to save memories of the past, so many towns have their own museums with tools and clothes of the time.
This one was charming–it had furnished house with all the handmade linens, bit it also had a huge building that housed a large collection of tools, butter churns, honey pots, spindles, balances, donkey carts–lots of cool things to see. The woman who led us around was very helpful though spoke no English. It was good practice for us. Woody did well.
Lucian told us about how the world has changed so much for them after the revolution in 1989. He saw it as both a blessing and a challenge. Everyone suddenly had lots of freedom, but no resources to exercise those freedoms. The borders were open for a time, but soon, it became very expensive to try to leave the country, and now the cost of living is so much more expensive that it seems impossible to move.
His mother moved to Spain for eight years after her husband died to work as a care giver. She worked for a woman doing child care during the day and for an elderly couple doing elder care in the evening. She came back with some savings and is now runing her own AirBnB here at this house, offering an experience of a traditional Romanian stay with meals during the summers. But it these kinds of things that we have to do to make a living nowadays, he told me.
Another typical house–a separate kitchen–chickens next to it, and the main house where she served us a generous meal. She had made an egg cheese dish with dill and pickles of various kinds and bread–then she brought out a paella with shrimp. (She had learned to make it in Spain.) Woody said it was delicious.
We went out and looked at the garden. When we came back, there was a cake on the table. Her son had brought it for her birthday.
We talked for a bit longer and it was time for us to head back. We said our goodbyes and Lucian walked us back to he car. That’s when we remembered the mud on the car. Lucian got some water and a brush from the shed and Woody and Lucian washed it off.
We drove to the town Sarichioi that was right on the lake Razim. We walked down a jetty in the water. Fishing boats were just coming in and the sun was getting lower so it made for pretty scenery. We drove back into Tulcea with slanting sunlight to our left. It made for a scenic drive, too.
We were stuffed from the late lunch so we didn’t bother with dinner, just read and wrote and turned in early.
Our day on the Delta
On Saturday, we left the apartment at 9:30, found a free space to park and walked to the boat dock for our cruise that Woody had booked, (based on a recommendation from our guide book.) Although we were well before 10am, we were the last two to arrive, so we left from he dock a bit early. It was a smaller boat than I thought. and it was loud and smelly. We sped across the bay into a channel of the delta.
Small trees and shrubs grew along the banks. Men on shore cast lines, fishing for carp, pike, and catfish, we were told. There was trash everywhere and seagulls. We headed farther in the delta, how you find your way through the maze of waterways is beyond me–Woody showed me that all the waterways showed up on his GPS–amazing.
The trees got bigger (or maybe they just were too far in to be cut down). They were old, gnarly willows with roots reaching down into the water. They looked like they had faces on them sometimes, and you could even imagine Ent-like creatures.
There was less garbage here and there were fewer fishermen. These that were here had full camps with tents and boats moored nearby. They looked lived-in.
Our pilot helped me pull up the plastic window screen so I could see better, and it was a warm enough day that the wind on my face was pleasant.
The ride was pretty between banks of green, yellow and burnt orange plants, zooming up still, green water.
We saw some mallards, and one egret right away. But the driver didn’t slow down much until we got farther in. We pulled up at one lagoon where, on the far side you cloud see a couple hundred birds they were too far for me to tell what they were, and the driver didn’t speak English. I think they were pelicans.
It was the wrong time of year, but I had hoped it would have been better than it was. the birds we did see, we never motored too close to. I had thought that when we would stop for lunch, it would be in a quiet kind of preserve where we could walk to see some. How many birds do you expect to see plowing noisily through the water? I was disappointed with the bird watching–so I decided just to enjoy the day.
One of the few birds we saw
We stopped for lunch on an inhabited island or peninsula where there were several establishments to feed tourists. They all had fish dishes. I had fried cheese and French fries and tomatoes.
stop for lunch
We all got back in the boat and motored back to the into larger water ways where larger boats go and zoomed back to the town. All in all, it was a fine trip, and I even spotted a kingfisher as we whizzed by it. I think if I listed the birds, it would sea gulls, mallards, small egrets, two large herons, pelicans, cormorants, one kind of hawk high in the air, and my kingfisher.
At one point, we hit some shallow passageways. Our pilot assured us that we were not stuck in the mud, but we all did have to move forward to free the boat and get going again.
We got back to the dock about three and drove back to the apartment. At about five pm, we headed out again, this time for a walk along the water. We followed a path that goes clear around the lake close to our place, past a playground and a big bicycle (like the one in Davis) and lots of people out for a stroll.
We came to a restaurant on a small island so we decided to eat there, looking over the lake. I had a celery schnitzel–interesting but not my favorite. I also had and”Oriental Salad” but nothing oriental about it–boiled potatoes, red bell peppers, olives and a hard boiled egg. What?
We went for a walk on the evening after the afternoon delta cruise. It was of our last day in Tulcea. The weather was calm and the temperature had warmed up quite nicely. We discovered that what we thought was the Danube was actually an enclosed bay. We walked around the bay and ended up at a nice restaurant that overlooked the water.
On the way home, the sun was setting and it was a great way to end our stay in Tulcea. We were grateful to Lucian and his family for welcoming us into their homes and treating us much more that renters in their apartment. We exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch and see one another somehow, and I hope that it’s not just one of those idle wishes. Maybe their daughter will come for a visit or exchange program sometime. Who knows.
Lucian met us for a cup of coffee in the morning. He had us meet at an old train station near the docks. There was something wistful about his attitude. I felt that he was doing all he could for his family, his wife, daughter, mother and grandmother. The country was moving forward, he had a good job, and was making investments and working to give opportunities to his daughter to have a better life. As I looked out over the wind-swept bay, I noticed a bird, one that had not yet migrated yet, taking off in the breeze. And I thought of Lucian.