Running through or touching the borders of 10 European countries, the Danube River flows from the Black Forest in Germany and runs into the Black Sea. Covering a journey of 1,785 miles, the river is the second longest in Europe after the Volga River in Russia. Approximately 315,000 square miles make up the drainage area, and it continues to expand. Tributaries number about 300 of which 30 are navigable. The delta area is the second largest in the world and is still growing. At least 5,000 species of plants, birds and animals call the wetlands home. Fishing, once a primary industry has declined over the years. However, over 10 million people in Europe get their drinking water from the Danube.
As the river travels through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine and Romania, four European capital cities established their location near the water. Small towns and ancient villages from centuries ago located near the water’s edge.
Like other rivers, the Danube was a source of transportation for both man and products. Since early days, moving by water created a simpler way to travel as opposed to land. Like natural landmarks, armies choose a river route to navigate through Europe. However, armies were on the move and continued to their destination. Not so for traders who were known to sell their wares along the river. Here, they populated towns along its banks and sold tools, crafts, thoughts and ideas of other people. Traders brought news from other lands and were a source of information.
Hungary claims a large percentage of the Danube River’s total length (259 miles). Budapest, the beautiful capital city is often referred to as the “Queen of the Danube.” The city is divided into two separate towns. On the east bank is the historic “Buda” section and on the west bank is the more cosmopolitan “Pest” (pronounced “Pesht”).
It has been said that rivers can at the same time both divide and connect people. In the last decade, 10 new bridges span the Danube. In earlier times, water separated markets, commerce and people. Today, they are brought together by bridges. Green parks comprise space near the waterfront that is open to families walking with children or taking a dog for a daily stroll. Flowers and trees native to the area add to the beauty of the surroundings.
Perhaps it was Austrian Johann Strauss II, who in 1866-67 composed the music to “The Blue Danube” as the person responsible for making the river known to the world. Throughout the Viking trip, “The Blue Danube Waltz” fills the air. But if you expect to see a blue river, you will not find it here. Instead, the water is more of a green-gray shade.
If rivers could talk, imagine the tales that would come from those who have explored the Danube River.