What do you do when life takes you by surprise? Do you open yourself and embrace the challenge? Do you shy away and rather stick to the familiar? How do you draw the line between adventure and insane risk?

Willows and water as far as you can see

Willows and water as far as you can see. Actually you can’t see because the photo is limited, but I can tell you that was everything I saw from that boat for a long time.

For many years I was literally afraid to visit the Danube Delta. Learning that it was a paradise for birds and insects made me never want to go there. I don’t like flying insects, except for butterflies. When I see more than two UFIs around me, I consider myself in a life threatening situation. I leave all common sense aside and fight for my life. This is why for such a long time I refused to get close to this paradise, one of the few places in Romania that aren’t too spoiled by civilization. UFIs are Unidentified Flying Insects, in case you were wondering. This irrational (?) fear is entomophobia and this is a quote from Wikipedia, which I’d love all my friends to read and remember:

Loved ones can often benefit from learning more about entomophobia and what they can do in helping a friend or relative overcome the condition.

Anyway, even if flying bugs give you chills down the spine, there’s no need to worry: there aren’t that many insects in the Danube Delta. If you go to Romania between June and October, it’s worth finding a few days to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site which is the Danube Delta.

It was a beautiful summer day, sunny and clear, not too warm, perfect for spending it outdoors. We left Bucharest very early in the morning. After about three hours of driving we got to Murighiol. That’s where the road ends and the land ends at the same time. That’s where we left our car and boarded on a small boat to get to our hotel. The boat followed the main water stream for a long while, then, at what I could call a “crossroad” of waters, it took a smaller canal, then another one, then another one, until I totally lost my sense of space.

Boat on the Danube river

Which way? Those boat drivers must have a sixth sense to be able to tell the right way.

Canals in the Danube Delta are like roads on solid land. There are lots of crossings and bifurcations, all reeds and willows looking very similar, so it’s very easy to get lost. Little boats are the equivalent of taxis, while bigger and slower boats can be assimilated to buses.

Small boat, big fun

Water taxi with no passengers or just a fun ride?

Danube Delta hotel

Hotels in the Danube Delta come with their private parking. For boats, of course!

The best way to visit the Danube Delta is with prior arrangements. Usually, hotels take care of your transportation on water and they organize fishing or bird watching trips.

Clouds and floating hotels

Clouds and floating hotels

Floating hotels

Getting closer to those floating hotels

Boat hotels

… and closer …

A few more steps to solid land

A few more steps to solid land

Water taxi parking

Water taxi parking

The Must-Have Ingredient for Awesome Fish Soup

Danube is Europe’s longest river. It measures 2,860 km (1,780 miles), it starts in Germany, in the Black Forest Mountains and then it flows through or follows the borders of nine more countries before joining the Black Sea: Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. Part of this river never joins the sea. That’s the part which ends up in the delicious fish soup made by local people. I don’t know if all of them actually use this water for cooking, but I’ve seen it once. I’ve seen it, I ate the soup and I’m still here to tell the story. However, I wasn’t very comfortable with it at the time. The water wasn’t even blue. It was muddy brown!

The huge cauldron with yummy fish soup

The huge cauldron with yummy fish soup

Anyway, the traditional fish soup starts with a nice wood fire and with a cauldron set on top of it. The cauldron is filled with water and veggies: tomatoes, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, chili peppers. When the vegetables are almost done, there comes the fish, previously cleaned and cut in big chunks. Locals believe a great soup calls for at least four different types of fish.

In about 20 minutes, the soup will be ready. Add salt and vinegar. Taste frequently until you are satisfied with the taste. Optionally you can add a little bit of oil. Remove from heat, sprinkle finely chopped parsley, cover and let the cauldron sit for 10-15 minutes.

How To Serve the Fish Soup “Lipovenesc” Style

“Lipovenesc” comes from Lipovans, a population of about 35,000 souls, most of them living in Dobrogea, the Romanian region which includes the Danube Delta. They have a particular way of serving the fish soup. When it’s ready, they remove the meat from the soup, set it on big plates and serve it with a garlic cream called mujdei. The soup itself comes as a second course and it is served together with mujdei, chili peppers and polenta. That exactly what we did with the food in these photos: had it “Lipovenesc” style. It was delicious!

Fish meal preparation

Fish meal preparation. The hosts were nice and let me sample some fish before the lunch was ready.

Fish head - hand comparison

Fish head – hand comparison. In case you didn’t know: yes, the heads go into the soup. Cleaning the fish means only removing the bowels and the scales. Heads are considered yummy.

Have you ever been to such a place where everything floats, even the land? Did you feel claustrophobic of powerless, knowing that the only way to leave is on a boat? Did you know that there are lots of people who live like that their entire life?

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