There is a single village on the Romanian seaside is called Sfantu Gheorghe, where you will encounter the synthesis of the Danube and Pontic interferences connected in such a subtle manner to the landscape in Dobrogea. Its main streets are parallel to the Danube course and they are all covered in sand.
There are three main characteristics which define the whole context: the river, the sea and the people. All of these are strongly connected due to the presence of water. It is everywhere: in every moment you spend on a boat, in the waddling way people walk, in all the fishing stories and, sometimes, in their eyes.
The tourist who gets here for the first time will initially be ….confused, by a space dominated by fluidity, by the acute lack of the equilibrium, by the distances expressed in hours, by an apparent monotony of the reed or the strange language of these “Lipovians”. It is now that he has made the first mistake, for nothing is more disturbing to the locals in Sfântu than to be called Lipovans. They will immediately tell you that they are Ukrainians, or ‘Haholi’, and… they care very much about their identity.
Sfantu Gheorghe is a village located at the mouth of the oldest arm of the Danube. The first cartographic record appears on the Atlas of Pietro Vesconte, in 1313.
At present days, the village has a population of 797 inhabitants, a decrease compared to the year of 2002, when 971 people were censored.
Christians on the old rite, the ‘haholi’ from Sfântu Gheorghe keep their holidays 13 days after the new calendar, or the Gregorian one. It is for this reason, that the most important celebration in the village will be held on the 6th of May, not on the 23rd of April. The church dedication day becomes a good opportunity for a family reunion, for those living away, in the city, to come back home and it’s a good way for the tourists to notice how strong the sense of collectivity is.
It is here that we could find in the past the most important sturgeon fishing brigades, and it’s also the place where large quantities of black caviar were obtained. All these are just memories today, and the fishermen nostalgically talk about the moments when they used to set their fishing settlements at Jolob, or at Cut and, sometimes, even as spread as the ‘Island Of The Snakes’. There was a clear distinction between the sea fishermen and those working on the Danube or on the lakes.
Another interesting thing is that no other settlement from ‘Balta’ is situated at a farther distance from the lakes. Up until the development of motorboats, the fishermen used to paddle long distances between the lakes, such as ‘Rosu’, ‘Roşuleţ’, ‘Puiu’, ‘Erenciuc’, ‘Zătoane’ or ‘Razelm’.
In each trip the tourist takes to the village, he has the opportunity to discover some fascinating stories having, as a main character, the fish.
Its story, especially that of the sturgeon, was always the center theme of the village. The amazing catches recorded here were passed from generation to generation, each family having its own memories. Mysterious characters, such as the dreadful Greek Iani Melano, can be rediscovered by tourists when they visit the church.
During your boat trips, you will discover a rich and diversified fauna on the nearby lakes. Migratory birds, aquatic birds and the presence of aquatic mammals along with the Delta flora and the tranquility of nature make up the scenery for a successful walk.
Sacalin Island has emerged in 1897 as a consequence of a high level of sand deposits. At present, the island is 22 km long, and it is often broken by winter storms. It is then when a gate is formed through which sea waters enter the lagoon.
The area between the island and the delta, with a salty water regime, is called the Sacalin Lake. It has the status of a fully protected area, the access is made only with the locals’ boats, in certain periods imposed by ARBDD (from June to September). In a space dominated by horizontality, the vertical dimension is represented by the birds’ world. And each visit will be an invitation to another water world, with which you can finally resonate.
The Wild Beach from Sfantu Gheorghe is the most beautiful in Romania, being not only the longest but also having the finest sand.
Its dunes are covered by sand and salty vegetation, and horses are a frequent presence of the coastal landscape. But, perhaps no other landscape is more hunted by tourists as the mouth of the Danube.
One of the largest river mouths in Europe, being completely untouched, without any protection piers or other constructions, it impresses you the most when you watch is form the Buival Head. And, as Jean Bart used to say, this is the place where the “old Danubius loses its waters and name into the sea and its river mouth in Sfantu Gheorghe represents not only the end of European civilization but also a portal to another world, marked by the mirage of the Pontic space.”
In a world of waters, where fishing is the main activity, the songs were present in the fishermen’s lives or were played by the women who were waiting for them at home.
The village choir awakens all these memories to life through its songs, and the image of the Danube and the Black Sea is the setup for everyday life in this part of the world. Listen to the Ukrainian song and an entire water world opens in front of your eyes.
Once you arrive in the ‘Hahol’ s lands do not forget to taste the local cuisine. The menu with the predominant fish dishes will make your holiday unforgettable!
In Sfântu Gheorghe, you can return to clear your mind, to lose yourself as Jean Bart used to say ”far into the wide, where the whitish streak of the Danube loses itself in the eternal blue of the sea. “ And the village located at the edge of the map can be the place where you can find yourself in order to have a brand new start.
Production was sponsored by:
Sfântu Gheorghe City Hall
A production by:
Nelstill Video Production