Budapest to Bucharest, Kiev, and Moscow travel blog

The Danube has had very low water levels this year, such that we were unable to sail into the Black Sea port of Constanta, our original destination for disembarkation. Instead, we berthed the next morning in Fetesti, Romania. From there, we drove by bus to Constanta and our first sight of the Black Sea. As we were leaving the village of Fetesti, I saw some older local women dressed in bright skirts, headscarves, and beads. I don’t know whether these women were Roma, aka Gypsies, but I do know that one minute later our Romanian guide, Zoran, started telling us that we would probably not see any Roma during our visit. I came to distrust trust anything Zoran said, as he consistently played with us and misled us with silly statements and confused dates and historical figures. Also, he never stopped talking.

Zoran aside, I found it difficult to learn much about the Roma, either from the guides or from my guide book. Their population in Romania was slaughtered by the Nazis in WWII, but there are something like 350,000 Roma still left in the country. The Romanian guides said the Roma do not want their children to be educated in Romanian schools or to otherwise assimilate into society. My Wikipedia research turned up a few facts and theories. Linguistically, their language points to northern India roots, from Rajasthan and the Punjab. In various groups, they entered Europe during the 6th - 10th centuries and were misnamed “Gypsies” because the Europeans thought they were from Egypt. Today, those who survived the Nazi purge are dispersed throughout Europe and live in a subculture, in poverty for the most part, and apart.

Again turning to my guidebook and Wikipedia for general history about Romania, I’ve learned that the Romans occupied Romania when they conquered the Dacia people under Trajan in 102 A.D. The Roman troops stationed in Romania assimilated with the local people for generations and, even though the troops were withdrawn 175 years later in the late 3rd century, the Roman language certainly took hold. Today, Romanian is the closest modern language to Latin, and a younger guide told us he had studied latin for 12 years in school.

On this day, our excursion took us to the lovely seaside town of Constanta at the mouth of the Danube River in the Black Sea. We started our walking tour on the seaside promenade, strolling to the abandoned, belle-epoch Casino from which we had a view of a vast shipyard. We continued to walk into town and saw various churches that Zoran pointed out. He claimed that Ovid lived here, and my guide book corroborated the fact that Ovid was exiled here from 443 BC until AD 17. There is a wonderful archaeological museum with Roman glass, jewelry, and statuary. My favorite was a coiled snake with a raised head of long, flowing hair.

We boarded our bus and drove a short distance to the beach town of Mamaia, where we had lunch at the Iaki Hotel. Afterwards, we walked to the beach and went wading in the Black Sea. Then we lounged on beach chairs until it was time for us to go back to the H.M.S. Treasure.

This was our farewell dinner on ship. All of the crew was introduced again, from the captain to the cabin staff. One favorite was the handsome maitre d’, a Gavin Newsom lookalike, who had spent one evening during the cruise showing us his father’s dairy farm in Serbia. He had names for all the cows: Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, and Brittany.

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