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Monday, 2 September 2013

A taste of Dobruja


Gura Portiţei was on my bucket list for ages… I didn’t want to wait any longer, so I headed there this last weekend. Despite leaving really late (7:00am), the road to Bucharest was clear; so was the Bucharest-Constanţa motorway and we were making a left turn to Ovidiu in less than 4 hours from our departure. Another hour went by and we were in Jurilovca, a charming little village that gave me a taste of the ancientness and peacefulness of the area.
Our delicious lunch at ‘Casa Lotca’ traditional Lipovan restaurant [+40735881525] (by the way, the pirozhki – fried buns stuffed with rice and raisins – were terrific) was followed by a short drive (7 km) to the ruins of Argamum, the Greco-Roman settlement located on a promontory projecting into Lake Razim. This was actually the first urban settlement [on the Romanian territory] mentioned in an ancient primary historical source by Hecataeus of Miletus (7th century BC) and the promontory it sits on – Cape Dolosman (3 km in length, with a maximum height of 29 m) – is actually the only rocky sea front of the Romanian sea coast.
Gura Portiţei
It was time to get to Gura Portiţei [possible by taking a boat ride over Lake Goloviţa: Jurilovca-Portiţa: 9:00am; 2:00pm; 6:00pm; Portiţa-Jurilovca: 12:00pm; 4:00pm; 8:00pm; return ticket: 60 lei; you may be approached by boat owners willing to get you to Portiţa faster than the official boat (the ride may take between 45’ and 1h40’) for the same price]. As I had been refused accommodation (minimum stay: 3 nights), camping on the beach – although claimed illegal by some, I’m still fuzzy on the rules – seemed a great idea. Indeed! Our tent ended up being the only one on the beach, so a very intense feeling of solitude grabbed a hold of me. I kept staring at the white sand beach, at the blue sky, and at the quiet sea and the only thing on my mind was an ‘activity’ I am not very familiar with: doing nothing (and I admit that I can’t go on with it for more than 24 hours!). Swimming in the sea, watching the seagulls, dinner on the beach… time flew by and it was suddenly morning, time to take in a glorious sunrise! A few extra hours of sleep and I was ready for breakfast by the sea and for my morning swim. A hydrobicycle ride followed, in a birdwatching attempt on Lake Goloviţa and the adjacent canals [price: 10 lei/hour; 30 lei/day]. There was just enough time for lunch and for catching the 4:00pm boat.
Enisala Fortress... simply amazing!
I felt good, extremely positive, and clearly energised and relaxed and I knew not that the best part of the trip was about to follow. I was dying to get to Enisala Fortress [opening times: 9am-5pm (Mon-Sun, in winter); 10am-6pm (Mon-Sun, in summer); admission fee: 3 lei (adults); 1 leu (students)], but time was of the essence (with home so far away and lots of work to do on Monday morning). However, the trees tunnelling the road seemed to be guiding us there and eager not to let the positive feelings get away. I saw it from afar, reigning over Lake Razim. As I got closer, I realised that it gave away a strong charm and a strong and positive vibe at the same time. ‘Stunning’, I thought to myself, ‘a mixture of French campagne, Scottish landforms, and Romanian simplicity’. Dating back to the second half of the 14th century, the fortress is still thought to have been built by the Genovese merchants, holding the interests and the money needed for the construction of such a strategic stronghold.
The journey to Braşov continued (despite finding it hard to leave Enisala Fortress behind) and I didn’t expect for the road to Hârşova to amaze me so! The rolling hills in colours ranging from shades of brown and red to an almost incredibly end-of-May green hosting the occasional cow and goat herds and one incredible and long sunset made it one of my most memorable experiences on the road in Romania! I was in love with this part of Dobruja, one I had never taken the time or given the chance to explore! What a shame, I might say! With curious and hospitable people, Oriental, Greek, and Roman influences unlost in the whirls of history, and a Mediterranean/ancient feel to it all, it is a part of Romania well worth discovering by the Romanian and foreign travellers alike!
After paying the bridge toll over the Danube (at Hârşova; 11 lei), we continued driving to Braşov via Urziceni and Ploieşti and managed to escape part of the usual crazy traffic from the seaside. And I felt and still feel so happy for things and events to have ended up as they did.       

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