Heading south from Babadag and Baia and turning left at Mihai Viteazul, you’ll pass through the village of Istria, jumping-off point for CETATEA HISTRIA (ruined city of Histria), with its shattered Greek temples to diverse deities, as well as Roman baths and other Romano-Byzantine edifices. The ruins cover a fairly small area, despite the fact that this was long the most important of the ancient Greek settlements along the coast. It was founded in 657 BC, though none of the remains dates from before 300 BC. Histria’s decline began soon after that, but it was inhabited until early in the seventh century AD, when the port was smothered in silt and the town abandoned after attacks by Avar-Slavic tribes.

The museum, in an ugly glass building next to the entrance, holds an exceptional hoard of Greek and Roman finds, the first of which were unearthed in 1914 by the eminent historian Vasile Pârvan; prominent among the display are dozens of pillars, altars and funereal stones (stelae), some beautifully sculpted marble friezes with reliefs of Greek deities (Apollo, Poseidon, Aphrodite and so on), superb Roman Corinthian capitals, terracotta statuettes and ceramics.

Another very good reason to head out this way if you have wheels is for the birdlife; this bleak but beautiful wilderness is one of Europe’s best areas for birdwatching, with more than two hundred species making an appearance in the winter months.

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