Sitting in a guest house in the heart of the Danube Delta, eating a delicious fish stew made with pike while a group of ethnic Russians performed a folk song-and-dance routine, was a memorable experience which illustrated the diverse charms of Romania.

A flock of pelicans landing in the lagoon outside the window completed the picture and showed why the Danube Delta is regarded as one of the wonders of the natural world.

The Russians who cooked the meal and served the tables as well as performing are members of just one of the 17 ethnic groups who live in the Delta. Known as Lipovans they fled persecution in Russia more than 300 years ago when they refused to accept changes in the Orthodox Church.

These “Old Believers” found sanctuary in the Delta, then part of the Ottoman Empire, where they lived in harmony with their Turkish Muslim and Romanian Orthodox neighbours ever since.

The trip to the Delta was the highlight of a visit to Romania by a group of journalists invited for a briefing on that country’s presidency of the EU next year.

Far from the political hurly burly of Bucharest, where there is an ongoing standoff between President Klaus Iohannis and the Social Democrat government, we were joined for lunch in the Delta by minister for tourism Bogdan Gheorghe Trif.


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