National Geographic : 1965 Jul
engines so strong that the craft planed swiftly across the water. Russian barges stood out in other ways. The deckhands of Austrian, Rumanian, and Yugoslav barges swabbed decks with mops, using water lifted from the river in buckets. Not Ivan: He used a high-pressure hose. The Russians even set themselves apart by their choice of music: Austrian deckhands would listen endlessly to radio-rendered rock 'n' roll. Serious classical music was the fare of Russian crews; it was piped over a public address system. Beyond the busy port cities of Braila and Galati, we pitched camp on a sand bar. Across the Danube lay the Soviet Union. We had no visas for Russia. Still, with that country just a river's width away.... "It would be a shame to travel this far and not even set foot on Soviet soil," Mike and I agreed. On the pretense of fishing, we paddled to the forbidden bank and stepped ashore with an odd tingle of excitement and guilt. Almost immediately we came to a broad, plowed path, where I almost stumbled across a wire. A trip wire? Had we come upon a mine field? We never found out. At that instant I 76 spotted a sentry slowly patrolling his beat! We had hardly returned to the Rumanian side, rejoining the others, when two Ruma nian army officers rowed up in a small boat. "That's Russia across the river," said one. "Is it really?" responded Fitz innocently. He unfolded our prewar map, drawn before Russia acquired the left bank of the Danube. Dave gave each officer a Ledyard Canoe Club pin, and they rowed off quite cheerfully. Birds Find Haven in Danube Delta Turning eastward now, the river soon split into three main channels: the Chilia (north ern), Sulina (middle), and Sfintu Gheorghe (southern) mouths of the Danube. At Tulcea, we separated into two groups. Two canoes took the Sulina channel, the dredged and straightened ship route (above). Fitz and Chris, Bruce and I headed down the Sfintu Gheorghe (St. George) channel, then scattered among reedy sloughs and lakes to look for birds. The Danube Delta is one of Europe's great est bird sanctuaries, clamorous with egrets, pelicans, flamingos, and herons during the breeding season. Pointing out nesting sites to casual tourists is a civil offense!