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5 Reasons why you should visit Dobrogea in Romania
Want to eat honeycomb? Tread where others haven’t, or simply leave behind the stresses of the modern world? Then Dobrogea is a good place to start exploring rural Romania.
1. Undiscovered territory
Rural Romania is like a place frozen in time and the Dobrogea region especially so. After we leave Constanţa, the regional capital of Dobrogea, behind us, highways turn into dirt roads. We regularly have to dodge donkey carts carrying people, harvest or cattle. Wooden houses, painted light blue, decorated with cheerful flower pots align the gravel roads that cut through the provincial villages.
Here, in Dobrogea, one rarely meets other foreign tourists.
2. Cultural diversity
The majority of the population in the Dobrogea region are Romanians, other important ethnic minorities are Russian Lipovans, Ukrainians, Turks, Tartars, Bulgarians, Roma, Macedonians and Armenians, all of whom have brought their own traditions and customs into the country.
Although most if the country’s population identifies as part of the Eastern Orthodox church, followers of different religions live peacefully together. You will find Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Protestants and Jews in Romania.
The country is a textbook example of a successful multicultural society, where traditions and customs of each other are honoured and kept alive over many generations. At the same time, the Romanian youth is highly educated, multilingual, ambitious and curious about the outside world.
3. Romanian cuisine
Hip and happening restaurants, cafes, and shops can be found in the most unexpected places. But even at the hippest pop-up restaurant, the food is cooked the old-fashioned way, ie homemade, freshly harvested from the land or sea. You will be served whole honeycombs, fish prepared on a wood fire and sun-touched vegetables. And not unimportantly, the coffee, as far as I am concerned a bare necessity of life, tastes excellent everywhere.
4. The landscape of Dobrogea
Dobrogea or Dobruja borders Ukraine on the north and Bulgaria on the south. The region has 245 kilometres of coastline.
Here you will find mountains, wetlands, forest and farmland. The Măcin Mountains have formed 300 to 400 million years ago and are the oldest mountains on the European continent alongside the Vosges in France and the Scottish Highlands, whereas the Danube Delta has only been formed ten thousand years ago.
The Delta is one of the most important wetlands in Europe: with 300 bird species, you will see pelicans, egrets, spoonbills, coots and sea eagles. Furthermore, the Delta sustains different species of fish like beluga, sturgeon, starlet, perch, pike and carp and no less than 1200 plant and tree species.
Constanţa is the capital of Dobruja and acts as a gateway to the region.
5. Attractions Dobrogea
In my humble opinion, the main attraction in this region is the Danube Delta. It is a true paradise for bird watchers. But I will write more about that next time. In this blog, I will concentrate on man-made attractions, as in Dobrogea you will find historical traces of different cultures. The region has been under Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, Mongol, Wallachian, Ottoman and communist rule.
Constanţa is the most important seaport of Romania, the capital of Constanța County and the largest city of Dobrogea. The city boasts several historic buildings.
The old casino is an iconic building from the beginning of the 20th century, in Art Nouveau style, overlooking the sea. Here the jet set of the time came together during their holiday on the Black Sea. Later, during World War I, the building served as a hospital. During the Communist period, a restaurant was housed in the building. Since the year 2000, it is closed due to the poor condition of the property.
Cathedral of Peter & Paul
The cathedral and cloister, with ruins of Tomis (the ancient name for Constanţa) in the foreground, is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Archbishop of Constanţa.
The church is located between Ovid’s square and the Black Sea opposite the Palace of the Archbishop. It was built between 1883-1885.
Carol I Mosque Mosque
The mosque (former Mahmudia Mosque) was built in 1910 by King Carol I is the seat of the Mufti, the spiritual leader of the 55,000 Muslims (originally Turks and Tatars) who live along the coast of the Dobrogea region. The building combines Byzantine and Romanian architectural elements, making it one of the most distinctive mosques in the area.
The centrepiece of the interior is a large Turkish carpet, a gift from Sultan Abdul Hamid. Woven in the Hereke Handicraft Center in Turkey, it is one of the largest carpets in Europe, weighing 1,080 pounds. In the photo below the carpet is rolled up.
The main attraction of the mosque is the 164 ft (50 m) minaret (tower) which offers a beautiful view of the old town and the harbour. Five times a day, the muezzin climbs 140 steps up to the top of the minaret to summon the faithful to prayer.
The square of Ovidius
The statue of Publius Ovidius Nas, a Roman poet, was designed by Ettore Ferrari in 1887. The statue gives its name to the square. Emperor Augustus banished Ovid from Rome to Tomis, the present Constanţa in the year 8 AD. He belongs together with Virgil, Horace, Propertius and Tibullus to the great poets of the Augustan period (source Wikipedia).
The statue stands in front of the archaeological museum of Constanţa.
Histria is the oldest city in the Romanian area. It started as a Greek colony at the mouth of the Danube (known as Ister in ancient Greek) on the west coast of the Black Sea. It was under Roman rule from the 1st to 3rd century AD. Invasions in the 7th century AD made it untenable and the city was abandoned.
In the village of Enisala, a fortress towers over the nearby lakes. The complex dates from the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century. It was built to control the merchant routes that ran through this region.
With three hexagonal towers, this is the only fortress of this type to be found throughout the Dobrogea region. The castle was first conquered by the Ottomans in 1388/1389 and reconquered in 1416/1417 after a brief Wallachian domination. Because of the new political situation and the silting up of supply routes that hindered trade, the fort gradually fell into disrepair and was finally abandoned around the end of the 15th century.
Arrive by air
When arriving by plane, it is the best option to fly to Bucharest. Do combine a few days city tripping in Bucharest with a trip to Dobrogea.
Click here for tours, online tickets, attractions and airport transfers in Bucharest. Blue Air, is the most important airline in Romania and also flies to Constanţa.
If you arrive at Bucharest airport and are looking for a taxi, walk to the 1st floor, where you will find a taxi ticket vending machine. You will then be allocated a numbered taxi, with the price per kilometre stated.
- Taxis in Bucharest are relatively cheap and metered.
- Public transport in the Dobrogea region is still in its infancy. If you do not want to be dependent on a tour operator, it is best to rent a car.
At the airports of Bucharest and Constanţa, you can rent a car from most international companies such as AVIS, Budget or Hertz.
In Bucharest, I stayed several times at the 4 **** Intercontinental Hotel. The price/quality ratio is really good. The hotel is in the city centre. The beds have luxurious (silk?) sheets, a rooftop pool and an extensive breakfast buffet. All rooms have spectacular views over the city.
To the north and south of Constanţa are several seaside resorts with hundreds of 2-3-4-5 * hotels. According to local sources, the most famous resort in Romania is Mamaia and the coolest is Vama Veche.
At only fifty kilometres from the Măcín mountains, you will find the most exclusive option is Green Village Resort.
Explore Dobrogea travel agency
For those who prefer an organized trip, Alex & Alina organize tailor-made fully-arranged trips. In addition, they will open their own small traditional-style guesthouse next summer (2019).
Health & Safety
- The food is generally good, fresh and delicious. Be careful when eating catfish. The catfish is the rat of the water and can cause food poisoning.
- It is recommended to drink water from bottles.
- The standards for road safety are different than in Western Europe. There is a lot of fast driving. Be vigilant at all times.
- Toilets still in some places are little more than a ‘hole in the ground’.
Although Romania does belong to the European Union, the country is not yet included in the Euro. The rate of the Romanian Lei is 22 cents (September 2018).
You can simply withdraw money from most ATMs with a European bank card.
The images hashtagged #ExploreDobrogea were taken by Dragos Asaftei.
The most important partners were Transmeteorit SRL, The Management Association of the Danube Delta Tourism Destination & Tulcea County Council.