Romania: The Capidava Fortress, Gorges of Dobrogea and Corbu beach
January 1, 1970
Time will fix anything they say. In the most apprehensive sense I’ve always assumed that actually means time will change everything and it doesn’t matter what into because change is good. Change is evolution so just let it run its course.
There are many places I like to go to grab evolution by the tail, but for staring time right into the eye I decided to scout around Dobrogea this time, a region stuck between worlds, located between the limits of the Danube and the Black Sea. It includes the Danube Delta in Romania, as well as the Romanian Coast and part of the northern Bulgarian Coast. Throughout time the land in this region has seen major transformations of geographical and historical value, poking at you every step of the way.
Me and my adventurous buddies set out to conquer Dobrogea, its gorges, ruins and beaches bright and early on a Friday morning and hit our first checkpoint after a two hour drive from Bucharest. When we reached Capidava we were quite intrigued to find that the former Geto-Dacian center and subsequent Roman fortress was to be almost integrally restored, leaving behind a confused sense of old and new brutally mushed together. Traces of the original foundation were still visible however and the view was one of a kind. The defensive wall of the fortified settlement stretches all the way to the Danube shore, where we stopped by to feast on curry schnitzels and coleslaw.
The rockbed in areas around Dobrogea is known to have formed as long back as over 500 million years ago during the Precambrian (keywords here are oldest animal fossils, origin of eukaryotes, transition to oxygen atmoshphere, i.e. a really really long time ago!) and consists of green schist. On top, several impressive looking limestone formations popped out throughout the Jurassic, which have since been weathered into strange shapes that remain visible today. Dobrogea is also home to many rare animal and plant species. And a bunch of archaeological artifacts like tools and such (my bud actually found a sort of handle in the water which we got too excited about to take pictures of. As it later turned out the handle most probably belonged to an amphora L.E.: see picture). As records show, the region was inhabited and ruled by several communities from the Getics, to Greeks and nomands like the Scythians, to Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines and pretty much all the others that roamed the nearby lands at the time.
The Gorges of Dobrogea
The Gorges turned out to be 2 km long (bordering villages Târguşor and Cheia) and supposedly include 14 caves out of which two are quite notable (and touristy): Peştera Liliecilor and La Adam. Sadly the only hole that came to resemble a cave which we were able to depict had been turned into a public toilet. Ignoring that, we stopped trying to count them and decided to climb up one of those rocky hills instead, which once used to be part of a giant coral reef. The view from just a bit above the road level, where you couldn’t hear the manele anymore was well worth it. The massive boulders sometimes seemed to stare back at you like giant prehistoric guardians of the lands, often looking out towards the water, pointing to how it had dug its course with such delicate persistence down by the valley. Those rocks had seen and heard so much and there we were, with our two arms and legs.
Near to the Gorges of Dobrogea is the town of M. Kogălniceanu , where we decided to stay overnight. The city is mostly known for its airport, but there we also met a great deal of friendly people who made our visit out there all the more worthwhile. We grabbed some food at La Timona Pub & Grill which was delicious. They serve a huge variety of dishes including traditional steaks and pasta, as well as salads (with real salmon!) and lots of other yum stuff. We stayed at a former communist hotel which these days goes by the name of Adilaur, and which before ’98 used to host national airline TAROM employees, as the bodyguard at the entrance proudly informed. The place was truly creepy and it constantly seemed like it would collapse any second. Part of it already had. In a different kind of way than the Gorges, this place too acted like a kind of twisted portal, sucking us into a frozen notion of very distant previous times, that all lay conserved in the furniture, endless corridors, creased up doors and funny smelling interiors. I’m sure it would have been great fun to play hide and seek in there, but there was never time for games, no-no.
And that because there had to be time made for the beach! Now I’ve been meaning to get to Corbu for a very long time, but something somehow always seemed to turn up and stop me from it. This time I actually made it and all thanks to my awesome travel buds. Having lost our way with the GPS again and dragging a very obedient Seat Ibiza across extreme off road tracks more than was probably necessary (Google Maps, where were you?!), we made it fast out there. Geopolitical correctness would make Corbu a natural reservation where camping is theoretically forbidden. I will refer to it as a wild beach, although one that is not as wild as the nearby sister Vadu. It’s quiet and private, but there isn’t much shade around so I’m not sure about going in the summer. There aren’t many shops in the village, the whole area is quite small. Except for us there were maybe 10 other humans around when we arrived, including the mustached Jean-Pierre looking fellow who owns the fish bar there. He also rents tiny little 2 person huts to tourists for 60 lei (almost 4 euros) / night (yes, in total). We didn’t stay with him, but instead found a lady further up the street who gave us traditional breakfast for Orthodox Easter the next morning, on the house. We got painted eggs, drob and tons of onion.
A week should be just about alright for visiting most of the important attractions in Dobrogea (Romania). The circuit me and my fellow explorers agreed on was quite minimalist, but it was beautiful and compact enough for the 3 days we had together. On top of what’s already been said there are many other ruins left over from Greek colonies around the region, as well as some more funky looking caves and monasteries waiting to be discovered. The road is a beauty to drive on but the quality is pretty poor so be well prepared to cry out next to your clunkers.
Four days later I’m still flashing my shiny tan around the dark and wet streets of Bucharest, thinking about how I wish I were those stones from the Gorges. I had a great time there and hope you will too if you decide to check it out. And I strongly recommend you do!