Every year, the River Danube dumps forty million tonnes of alluvium into the Danube Delta (Delta Dunării), the youngest, least stable landscape in Europe, abutting the oldest, the heavily eroded Hercynian hills immediately south. Near Tulcea, the river splits into three branches (named after their respective ports, Chilia, Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe), dividing the Delta into more than 4000 square kilometres of reeds and marsh, half of which is flooded in spring and autumn. The grinduri, tongues of accumulated silt supporting oak trees, willows and poplars, account for the five percent of the Delta that remains permanently above the water. The distinction between these and the plauri (floating reed islands) is a fine one, since flooding continually splits, merges and often destroys these patches of land, making any detailed map of the delta outdated almost as soon as it’s drawn. Although fishing communities have lived here for centuries, it’s an inhospitable environment for humans: a Siberian wind howls all winter long, while in summer the area is inundated with mosquitoes. If you just want to take a trip down to the sea and back, Sfântu Gheorghe is probably the best choice; it’s prettier than Sulina, has a more tranquil beach, and is within easy reach of several good birdwatching spots. Sulina is more crowded and built-up, but richer in historical associations.

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