Circumnavigation of the Black Sea, 2009
We entered the Danube Delta at 6 a.m. to take on the pilot in Romania's Sulina Channel. Already we could see pelicans and coots rafting in the lakes just north of the channel which bisects this immense biosphere reserve. Our local boat, the Europolis, was waiting alongside in Crisan to take us deep into the reserve via narrow channels. The waterways were quiet and idyllic, overhung with willow trees and bordered by sweeping stands of phragmites, the reeds used to thatch the small houses on the nearby farms. Egrets and herons were particularly abundant and often allowed close approach for photos. Sitting or standing comfortably on the top deck we spotted squacco herons and the unusual pygmy cormorant. A soaring black stork, probably on its way down from Siberia, was a particular highlight!
Returning to the ship, we began the three hour passage back down the channel to the open sea. While head bartender Christophe poured Russian vodka, we enjoyed the fruits of Pascal's trip to the market in Odessa. Pascal, our hotel director, had organized a caviar tasting for us in the lounge!
All in all we spent two days in Romania, with a visit the next morning to the archaeological site of Histria, the ruins of a Greek city out on the peninsula north of Constanta. We returned to Constanta in the afternoon to explore the Archaeological Museum and wander the bustling city. By evening we were ready to sample Romanian wines on board, accompanied by a folkloric performance featuring music and dancing from the various regions.
The last day of our Black Sea Odyssey found us in Varna, a seaside resort town on the Bulgarian coast. The History Museum here is wonderfully arranged and we had an exclusive early opening to see the exquisite exhibit of Thracian and Scythian gold from their permanent collection. A wonderful surprise was an a cappella choir serenading us in the museum with haunting, but beautiful ballads. After time in the museum we headed out on foot to explore the rest of Varna, stopping by the Assumption Cathedral in the center of town and then wandering the back streets to the extensive Roman Baths, complete with ancient furnace just along the edge of town overlooking the sea. Some of us chose to stay in town for a last chance to sample some typical Bulgarian cuisine.
By late afternoon we were off and away headed toward the Bosporus to finish our odyssey where we began, the fabled city once known as Constantinople, now Istanbul.