Though locals consider Northern Dobrogea to be the least “Romanian” part of the country, ironically this is the area with the strongest evidence of Romania’s conspicuously proud connection to ancient Rome in the form of statues, busts, sarcophagi and other archaeological finds. Though in terms of modern days attractions, these remnants are overshadowed by the more conspicuous appeal of the natural wonders of the Danube Delta and beaches, clubs and resorts of the Black Sea coast. In all there’s 193.5km of the “litoral” to choose from and, apart from a few unfortunate spots, it’s all quite nice.
The cultural distance from the rest of Romania is easily explained by the unusually broad ethnic diversity in the area: Turkish, Tatar, Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Lippovani/Old Believer settlements are all in play here, giving the area a refreshing burst of multiculturalism and the traveler a gratifying selection of cuisine.
History and cultural uniqueness aside, marine life ultimately rules here, despite tenacious attempts by lunatics like Ceausescu to conquer nature. There’s the 65km stretch south of the flagship Black Sea resort Mamaia, where humans converge in beach resort towns for restorative pursuits such as sunshine and curative mud (which is promptly annulled hours later by gluttonous feasts and some of the wildest clubbing in the country). Once you’ve ingested all the high-impact fun you can handle, the calming and notably less opulent Danube Delta is waiting, providing daisy-chained, elated sighs for bird-lovers and seekers of solitude. Europe’s second-largest delta boasts remote fishing villages and stretches of relatively deserted beach, where the pelicans are abundant and the fish are nervous.
Dobrogea region was colonized first by the Greeks and then by the Romans, both of whom left behind much for visitors to admire. Northern Dobrogea became part of Romania in 1878, when a Russo-Romanian army ran the Turks out of the area. Southern Dobrogea was ceded to Bulgaria. Once Romanian flags flew over Dobrogea, it was quickly integrate with the rest of the country. A massive bridge was built over the Danube at Cernavoda (1895), which created a vital rail link between Constanta and the Bucharest. Soon the coast started to develop as a summer leisure destination; to this day, summer tourism is the backbone of the region’s economy and rabidly promoted by Romania’s tourism ministry, despite the fact that so-so facilities and skyrocketing prices have made much of the coast a poor value beach vacation. Romanians are increasingly crossing the border to enjoy better prices and cleaner beaches in Bulgaria.
My top five for Northern Dobrogea are:
• Sun, carouse your way from Mamaia to Vama Veche, near the Bulgarian border in the Black Sea resorts
• Safety pin your nose closed and wallow in stinky mud in Eforie Nord
• Check out remnants of ancient Rome in Histria
• Bow to the pelican, the true top of the food chain, in the Danube Delta
• Visit a tranquil delta fishing villages like Sfântu Gheorghe