Spring Break Escape

Three OZB contributors share their experiences of the Danube Delta region when they each travelled there separately recently. Lucas McCallum went to New Complex Lebada, Jane Barnett went to Green Village and Douglas Williams went to Mila 23. Jane goes first with her experience of spring break escape.

One thing the past year has taught me is the importance of spending time outdoors in nature. When I moved to Romania last July, my real estate agent recommended Green Village, in Sfantu Gheorghe where the Danube Delta meets the Black Sea, ‘for whenever you just need to relax’, she said. So, as they were opening up for spring, I took advantage of one of their many deals.

The hour-long boat trip from Murighiol instantly plunged me into the experience, riding the canals alongside storks, cormorants and even the odd pelican. On arrival, nature continued in the sustainable, eco-friendly wooden buildings, designed in the local style to blend into the environment. Green Village is a large resort, offering a range of accommodation units and facilities, from restaurants serving local fish and organic produce grown in their gardens, to a cinema, spa, pool and various relaxation areas. In high season, there are numerous activities from a broad range of boat trips to fishing and cookery classes. Yet it manages to feel discreet and the service I would describe as attentive but low key and intuitive. Despite intending a little R&R, I actually ended up having to do some work. No matter, it actually proved to be the ideal spot and remote working is something Green Village are promoting on their website, along with a new quiet zone. The location is stunning and a must for nature lovers, with walks on a beach with more shells than I’ve ever seen in one place and also around the sleepy fishing town of Sfantu Gheorghe, navigating errant cows and always accompanied by one of the resort’s friendly dogs.

Batteries charged, it was time to leave. Well, it would have been if I’d been standing at the right pier, which I wasn’t! This is where I was truly impressed with the hospitality offered to me. Not only did they arrange another boat, but they also provided me with a complimentary lunch whilst I waited. The guest relations manager even accompanied me to the boat, although of course that may be because he suspected I didn’t want to leave at all!

 

Jane Barnett is Head of Arts at International School Bucharest. She moved to Romania from Switzerland in July, having taught internationally for the last 24 years. She is already a big fan of Romania!

Find out more about Green Village here:

https://www.greenvillage.ro/

 

Next up we have Douglas Williams, who’s adventure to the Delta meanders slightly from what was expected.

 

The Danube Delta is a truly amazing area of water, reeds, winds, birds, sky and strange trees. And peace. It’s unique and it’s very, very special – Europe’s Amazonia. There are huge tracts of nothingness: birdsong, expansive lakes, choked channels and twisty trees with hardly a soul for miles and miles. As a destination for nature lovers it takes some beating – with myriad bird species and of course featuring the inimitable pelican. There are even wild horses and jackals.

After this last year of being stuck in lockdowns the notion of escaping to the Delta is very appealing, it really feels like a frontier because it is geographically, ecologically and politically.

The main jumping off point for the Delta is the charmless town of Tulcea and Port Tulcea Aval. From there ferries take you down into the heart of the Delta. Parking at the port is 25 Ron/day. We used Pelicanul Express (book seats on their Facebook page) and we traveled down to Mila 23 a genuine, traditional Delta village slightly off the main Sulina drag. As beautiful as this area of the world is, it’s also clear that it’s economically depressed, the lack of tourists over this last 18 months hasn’t helped one bit.

The Delta’s potential as a powerful draw for tourists from around the world is there, the much needed revenue tourists could bring would transform the region. But it needs planning and it needs clever marketing. And certain standards need to be put in place. As you will read here there are some amazing places to stay in the Delta but there are also some not so amazing places. Where we stayed fell into the latter category. I won’t name the place suffice to say it’s by far the biggest place in Mila 23. And it’s not, strictly speaking, within Mila 23. The lessons I’ve drawn from this experience are more to do with Booking.com than with the Delta.

Check the dates of the reviews

Check the bad reviews

I would hate to think of people travelling from far afield, like from Western Europe, and having the experience that we had. They would return home and tell their friends not to bother with Romania. It was a comedy of niggly errors for the most part interspersed with some errors that were downright not ok and at an overall cost that was not even remotely good value. Fortunately there are alternatives in the Delta. The Romanian Ministry of Tourism would do well to set up a body that checks on places, not just in the Delta but nationwide, a body that ensures certain standards are adhered to. Internationally tourism makes up 10% of the global income, it’s a massive pie, and Romania should have her part of that pie. Ruthlessly ensuring more of the quality places like those that Lucas and Jane stayed and less like the one I stayed in will be vitally important in getting people to return and getting good word-of-mouth – marketing gold – from those who have stayed.

 

And finally we have Lucas McCallum, who had the luxury experience.

After parking the car in the hotel car park, in Murighiol, we hopped onto the designated boat, and navigated our way through the tranquil waters of the delta, passing through narrow passages and across large lakes, we arrived at the Lebada Luxury Resort 45 minute later.

We were pleasantly surprised with the hospitality, greeted with a hot towel and a glass of champagne, the porter helped us with the luggage to our cosy room with a balcony overlooking the river.

This was definitely the definition of luxury, with well-kept gardens and peacocks roaming the grounds. The rooms came with bathrobes and slippers, tea and coffee, even a TV. As soon as we unpacked, we donned the robes and headed straight for the spa. All of the resort’s facilities were at our disposal, with a gym, a swimming pool, Jacuzzi’s and even a sauna. Due to it being low season, we had the majority of these all to ourselves which was an extra bonus.

We dined at the restaurant and had a delectable feast accompanied by live music. The highlight was most definitely the breakfast. The resort understood well that it was the most important meal of the day, and did not fail to succeed. With a plethora of choices to choose, from fruit, yogurt and cereal to a pancake station, fresh juice, and a range of eggs and bacon, with even a leg of Serrano ham.

 

 

After breakfast we headed to the dock and were given a tour of the surrounding scenery. We saw a collection of swans, seagulls and cormorants, with the odd pelican here and there. We crossed the three great lakes and traversed through the twists and turns of the branching streams. With a forest of reeds and a canopy of strange looking trees adorning the riverbank, it was a spectacular ride through the waterways. Despite it being early spring there was still plenty of life on the river, I can only imagine how lush it would be in the months to come.

 

 

Find out more about Lebada Luxury Resort here:

https://www.newlebadaresort.com/en/

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