Sfantu Gheorghe

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The ferry continues downstream from Murighiol, past Ivancea – one of the delta’s largest geese-nesting areas – to the fishing village Sfantu Gheorghe (sfan-tu ghee-or-gay), population 1,000.

First recorded in the mid-14th century by Visconti, one of my travel writing predecessors from Genoa, Italy, this village is known for it traditional cooking; but the black caviar for which the village is famed (it’s the only place in the delta where sturgeon are caught) is a delicacy reserved for religious feasts.

Each August, the village hosts what is probably the world’s most remote film festival. Check www.delta-resort.ro for info.

There are no tourist sights here; the town is the tourist site, hombre. Highlights include immersion in a traditional fishing village, pantomiming conversations with curious locals, listening to the frogs irritate the dogs at night and the 30-minute hike to the massive, nearly empty beach, where the Danube surges into the Black Sea. A few small markets serve the self-catering crowd. Otherwise, there’s limited food at the one bar in town. If you’re staying at a cazare or pensiune, you’ll doubtlessly be offered a home cooked meal and you should seize that opportunity.

There are no beach services apart from guys selling drinks out of coolers, but an increase in visitors in recent years means that it’s only a matter of time before some killjoy entrepreneur starts renting beach chairs. For now there’s just stretches of fine sand with city-stunned Romanians and tourists wandering around, dazzled by the silence.

Delta tours can be arranged with local fishermen, lasting 2-5 hours, including a visit to a massive pelican colony in a protected zone. With an English speaking guide, prices range from 50-250 lei (12-59 euros) per person. Prices drop for a non-English speaking guide. Ask around town where you see signs saying ‘plimbri cu barca‘. A good English speaking guide is Georgian Dumitru [Tel: +40 (0) 744 586 360].

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From the ferry dock, walk straight, past the main square, then head right, eastward. This will take you to Delfinul Camping and eventually the beach. Alternately hop on the tractor or one of the private cars that shuttles people to the beach throughout the day.

Also of note is the architecture of the well-tended homes here, most of which have Byzantine-influenced porches under ornamental arches.

The only note of disharmony here is another crime against nature perpetrated again by Ceausescu; north of Sfantu Gheorghe’s beach stands a gigantic metal aeolian windmill anecdotally said to the biggest of its kind on the planet (Ceausescu would settle for no less). However, in addition to being butt-ugly, in classic Ceausescu fashion, the thing worked for about two months before slowly recycling itself (i.e. rusting). More recently, it appears to be half dismatled, possibly by people scavanging for parts.

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