By Nick Thorpe
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Extra info for The Danube: A Journey Upriver from the Black Sea to the Black Forest
17 Why a Romanian lass would feel homesick beside the Danube, and where the Turkish lad arrived from, remain hidden in the mists of time. Tulcea was always a town for people in transit. It looks out towards the sea, and back up the Danube. After four or five songs, the ladies are tiring, and one has lost her mobile phone. Soon the whole group is hunting high and low for it, and even the final chorus falls victim to the disappearance of new technology. Back in the small hotel in the harbour, I eat another perch then have an early night, lulled to sleep by the sound of waves lapping against the harbour and the cries of gulls.
The Turks governed Dobrogea for nearly five hundred years, and only lost their territories here in the 1870s. The remaining Turks have been transformed from rulers to an ethnographic oddity, but they have kept some of their treasures intact. A woman comes to the door and welcomes me inside like a prodigal son. A Turkish women’s group has gathered for their weekly singing session: Vezza Sadula, Sabis Mahmet and Sabiha Ali lead the troupe. Some of the songs they have learnt on their annual trips to the Turkish heartlands, which they perform at folk festivals.
And just as the Victorian explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke set out to find the sources of the Nile, why not try to rediscover the sources of the Danube? 14 Might not Europe be the ‘gift of the Danube’? Another reason for travelling up the river is political. During the many years I have lived in Budapest, within a stone’s throw of the Danube, I have witnessed the dismantling of the ugliest eyesore that marred the mental and physical horizon of the European continent: the mass of concrete and steel, of look-out towers and fortifications, known as the Iron Curtain.