Danube Road Trip
The Road Trip Project is an initiative of the EU’s Regional and Urban Policy department of the European Commission which took eight young people on four routes across the continent in the spring and summer of 2018. Our two travellers, Susann and Kenneth, met locals, discovered countries along the Danube and shared their experiences with the online community. Between 23 June and 21 July, they travelled the length of the Danube from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, visiting a number of INTERREG Danube Transnational Programme (DTP) approved projects.
Kenneth and Susann arrived at the end of their journey, the Danube Delta in Romania. This area of marshes, lakes, channels, streams and floating reed islands is spread over 4,500 km2 and two countries and hosts an incredible diversity of plants and animals, many of which are extremely rare elsewhere in the EU. Joined by the very knowledgeable Daniel Petrescu for a boat ride in this UNESCO biosphere reserve, Kenneth and Susann spotted king fishers, pelicans, grey herons, white-tailed eagles, black cormorants and many others… The Delta hosts over 300 different species of birds.
T he Danube Road Trip started on 23 June at the source of the Danube at Donauschingen in the Black Forest, before moving on to Neuburg-Schrobenhausen on 29 June to promote a DANUBEparksCONNECTED initiative to restore and maintain a cohesive ecosystem. Participants from non-governmental organisations, fishermen, and many others spent the day on an island on the Danube, removing the remains of old buildings, other rubbish from the area. Afterwards, volunteers and organisers celebrated both the Danube and their work with a campfire and barbecue.
The two young travellers then moved on to Austria, showing a perfect sense of timing by arriving in the country on the eve of it taking over the “rotating” six-month presidency of the EU Council. After visiting an upcycling plant in Vienna, they travelled to Bad Vöslau in Lower Austria where they they took to the sky with Michael Doneus from the University of Vienna in a Cessna 172S Skyhawk to experience an iron-age archaeological heritage site from the air. The archaeological project is a finalist in the Regiostars Awards 2018, a yearly competition held by the European Commission that selects innovative projects funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Iron-Age-Danube project has so far brought 20 partners from five EU countries together.
Next stop was Slovakia, where our intrepid travellers took a boat trip along a restored side-arm of the Danube before moving on to Hungary. After finding a local guide and driving upriver from Budapest to the Danube Bend, they embarked on a cycle trip on the Eurovelo 6 cycle route. A short delay at the border and the young travellers had left the EU and entered Serbia where they partied at the Exit Festival at Novi Sad: the designated European Youth Capital for 2019.
On their way to Belgrade, Susann and Kenneth stopped in Obrenovac, which was devastated during the floods of the century in 2014. Speaking with people at the local school they discovered the magnitude of the disaster and also the support received from the EU to rebuild, and hopefully prevent such events occurring in the future. Next stop was Serbia’s capital Belgrade, where they visited the innovative ‘Open School’. Their host Mijat explained to them how the school was founded in 1993 during the conflict in the Balkans, mainly to provide a safe refuge for students.
The last week on the road began in Serbia, at the impressive castle fortress of Golubac, high above the Iron Gates gorge and the widest section of the Danube, before moving on to Bulgaria where they were welcomed with dance and art at the country’s biggest annual festival for young people, ‘The Bridge’, in the port town of Vidin. This is an event that is about building bridges and connecting people in all senses due to its location where a new bridge has been built over the Danube connecting the town with the Romanian town of Calafat. Bridges across the majestic Danube are very few and far between this far downstream.
Further downstream, in Tutrakan, our young travellers learnt all about what made the people of the region famous: fishing and boat building. Preserving this heritage and keeping the activities alive is vital for the future of the area, fisherman Rumen told Kenneth.
Across the river in Romania, our travellers entered the Danube Delta, where an amazing boat trip focussed on the region’s breath-taking wildlife. They got close to some very rare birds before visiting the Danube Delta Museum in Tulcea, where they got even closer to the river’s most famous fish and the most expensive creature in the world: the sturgeon, also known as the Danube dinosaur. The Beluga sturgeon’s caviar, sells for $20,000 per kilo in New York.
And then suddenly the trip was over. But what better way to celebrate the end of their odyssey than with a splash in the Black Sea! The traveller’s unique experiences will be featured in a road movie, and will serve as an online travel guide for Europe: off the beaten track.