National Geographic : 1965 Jul
Down the Danube by Canoe flashlight beams (page 77). A bearded shep herd named Zak visited our camp and was startled to hear the frogs thumping against the potlid that held them captive. We ex plained that we planned to have fried frogs' legs for dinner. The shepherd, bulgy in an ankle-length sheepskin coat, reappeared next day with a gift of sheep's milk and a big pot of cheese. KODACHROMEBY CHRISTOPHERG. KNIGHT (fl NATIONAl c n NcADUIPCnrirTV A woman who took a fancy to Chris led him into her cottage for a special delta treat-hot milk and melted sugar. Two local school teachers brought an offering of fried fish and chicory coffee. One of them finally set the record straight. "In this country," she said, "no one eats frogs' legs unless he is starving!" One day we rounded a bend just like a thousand others, and there was the Black Sea. At the timeless, dusty fishing village of Sfintu Gheorghe, our flotilla reassembled. We watched, fascinated, as the great sturgeon were brought in from the Black Sea. The fish obviously thrive in the puree of water and muck stirred up here as the river dumps 100 million tons of silt each year. Fishermen snag them on gangs of sharp hooks dragged over the shallows off the Danube mouth. New Hope Stirs in Danube Lands Trains of tarred, eight-oared boats are pulled in by tug every day from the fishing grounds. The catch maybe 50 sturgeon, many weighing 300 pounds or more. Perhaps only one fish out of twenty yields the roe that be comes caviar, but she may furnish a bushel. The fish themselves go to domestic market fresh, canned, or dried; some are exported. Coast guards probably kept us under watch ful scrutiny as we paddled into the Black Sea at sunrise on our last downriver day. Eight countries, 1,685 miles, 73 days on the "dustless road," as gypsies call the Danube. I recalled something Fritz Meznik had said to us in Vienna: "The old nationalism of each of the Danube countries is reasserting itself, as once-harsh control from the East is being relaxed." Our view from the Danube had shown us new hope, new vitality-and perhaps new frictions-among the countries of Eastern Europe, both free and Communist-controlled. I wondered. Would these lands ever unite in common peaceful purpose, as the waters that flow from them pool placidly at last in the wide Black Sea? THE END Piercing the saffron haze, the sun's white eye witnesses journey's end at the Black Sea. "It was more than just an exciting va cation," said Chris Knight. "It was a lesson in people. Despite political differences, folks all over the world are warm, friendly, and eager to help strangers."