Traveling to Romania

History, Nature, Places, People.

Dobrogea – The Land of Contrasts

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Dobrogea is a region that never ceases to amaze me. It has an inner attraction hardly to be identified from a first perspective. One can find dull and boring this place almost flat with endless miles of arid steppe fields and traversed by frozen winter winds. Important is to change the perspective and to“carve” deeper to find its beauty.

The region is like a square bordered by water at three sides, Danube and the Black Sea, in a total contrast with its dry climate and the inside river system, poor and scarce. The main feature of the landscape (with the exception of the northern territory) is a plateau gently sloping down towards the Black Sea. This plateau includes the oldest rocks from the Romanian territory, 1,5-2 billion years green schists, pointing out another contrasting proximity with the newest territory of Romania, the 12,000 years old Danube Delta.

peisaj_dobrogeaTherefore, the land is the result of a long geologic evolution, under an active tectonic activity that conclusion in a multitude of land features: platforms/plateaus, tectonic depressions, contact type valleys, limestone elements, fragmented volcanic ridges, and so other.

The southern and central parts are generally similar: almost flat and fragmented by beautiful deep valleys carved mainly in limestone and covered by a thick layer of loess, up to 20m. Interesting to mention here Cheia Gorge (Gura Dobrogei), formed in a warm sea with coral and atoll formations. Moving to North, the geological complexity changed the land perspective on the vertical. GabrielG@Panoramio copyImpressive hills modeled by the differential erosion dominate the flattened pediments, the remnants of originally Hercynian 4000m heights Macin Mountains, now barely over 400m attracting the visitors with their lunar aspect. The steppe shrub is replaced by steppe forests that hide exotic wonders like Mediterranean and Tropical species.

In addition, Dobrogea captivates with the particular species of flora and fauna, due to its geographical situation and proximity of the sea; it represents the western extension of few of the Asian steppe species (plants and birds), together with tropical and Mediterranean fauna and plant species – the last ones were brought mainly by birds along the Via Pontica migratory way in which Dobrogea is comprised.

This land was inhabited since the ancient times. Besides the material proofs from the various Ages, the rise and development of big Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Genovese settlements is worth mentioning. Ruins of Roman fortrScythia_Minor_map copyesses can be found at almost equal distance (one day walk) along the Danube at west and north; big urban settlements were developed by the sea, being established by Greek merchants starting with 7th BC: Histria – the oldest attested urban area from Romania, Tomis (the actual Constanta) and Callatis (the actual Mangalia). The power of the Roman Empire is also present through the monumental Tropaeum Traiani, from Adamclisi village, erected in 109 AD to glorify the winning Trajan Emperor against the Dacians. More recently, one can find remnants of the Genovese times by visiting Enisala citadel (late 13th century) build at the shore of Razelm lake.

Dobrogea is considered one of the cradles of Christian life in Europe, St. Andrew’s cave and first proofs of martyrdom (St. Epictet’s and St. Astion’s graves) being discovered here. Stone caves from the Byzantine times reflects the richness of the monastic life in this territory.

Several centuries of Otoman domination have marked Drobrogea by demographic and topographic means, majority of the villages still having Turkish names, eg. Denistepe (Black Hill), Babadag (Father of Mountains). The coming of the Russian communities of Lipovans in 18th century, along with others are completing this demographic variety that totals around 20 ethnic groups living in harmony nowadays. Each one keeps its tradition and customs unaltered and offers amazing life and culinary experiences to the visitors.

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