The Danube Isn't Blue

Tommaso Rada



The Danube is not blue anymore, it carries the history and the consequences of the human actions: communist regimes, violent revolutions and, particularly, industrial and agricultural exploitations. The Danube, an astonishing river that shapes the imaginary of the region, is the liquid metaphor of the changes taking place within the continent.

Romania and Bulgaria are the two countries with the highest number of kilometres on the Danube; they have been also the latest countries to join the European Union. But Brussels is far away from here, and Europe is still a place where to go to find a job or a sign of an unfinished road. Bulgaria and Romania are among the poorest countries in Europe. What does it means to be European here?

Behind the riverbanks of the Danube, time is frozen in a moment between the present and the 1989. The monuments celebrating the Communist Empire are still standing taken over by the vegetation. The factories that before the 1989 were running at full regime, are now falling apart, everything that could be re-used or sold has been stolen and now these huge buildings occupy the territory like the ruins of a post-apocalyptic time.

In the villages on the hills, in the valleys or in the grasslands the elders live passively, regretting the past that is gone forever, while younger people have already forgot their history, looking to Germany as the model country for Europe.

On the Black Sea, a new rich class spend their time in exclusive and expensive resorts, while in the countryside the farmers barely survive renting the fields to multinational companies; it is where there are the bridges that new business rise, these “free zone” areas are a paradise for factories and international enterprises: a different profitable tax regime with the advantage of cheap local labour.

On the Danube the first bridge built is still there. It was built by the Bulgarian and the Romanian regimes and it is called the Friendship Bridge, before the 1989 the police of the two countries was checking the movements of their own citizens, today they check the movement of migrants and refugees, but almost every week a border policeman is arrested for corruption. The perestroika ended an era, but corruption and inequality are again on the rise. Populist parties now occupy the political space left by the communist party; before, a regime imposed with soldiers and tanks, now it is the money (euros and dollars) that dictate the way in which the people are living and the territory is changing.

The borders are the periphery of the periphery, where contradictions become normality, Romania and Bulgaria are the periphery of the European Union, the Danube is the line that separate and unite this two similar and, yet, very different realities.

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  • Bulgaria, Nikopol. A view of Turno Magurele industrial area. Turno Magurele industries caused a massive pollution of the area

  • Romania, Giurgiu. A man working as security guard stand on a barrack in front of an abandoned factory that he watch

  • Romania, Cetate. A sculpture on the riverbanks of the Danube

  • Romania, Zimnicea. An unemployed man smell a local flower. Most of the people of city emigrate in other European countries to find a job. During the 1977 Romanian earthquake not many buildings have been destroyed. Most of the destruction was actually done after the natural disaster by bulldozer, being ordered by communist authorities, as a means to create a town from scratch on a new design.

  • Bulgaria, Bardaski Geran. A MIG plane uses as a monument in the main square of a village

  • Romania, Dobromir. Local Mufti. Dobromir is the only Romanian village with the 90% of muslin

  • Romania, Orsova. A communist style monument with a wrote welcoming refugees

  • Romania, Giurgiu. A border policemen check for illegal migrants

  • Romania, Constança. A young couple having some food near an abandoned military bunker

  • Romania, Calarasi. A Romanian family cross the Danube in a ferry

  • Romania, Techirghiol. Patients of a sanatorium

  • Romania, Ostrov. A sheppard with his ship. Farmering is becoming every year more difficult with low incomes and the increasing of the life costs

  • Romania, Tulcea. Constructions of a church. With the fall of the Communist system, religious believes increased and new churches have been built all around the country.

  • Romania, Techirghiol. A view of a sanatorium

  • Bulgaria, Kozloduj. The reactor of a nuclear plant

  • Bulgaria, Vidin. An unemployed man look at the Danube. Vidin has one of the higher unemployment rate of Bulgaria

  • Romania, Dabuleni. The Dabuleni desert is the only one in Europe; the desertification start because intensive agricultural exploitation

  • Romania, Tulcea. Fishermen get ready for their job. In the past all the economy fishing system was based on the sturgeon and its caviar, today in Romania the sturgeon fishing is forbidden to preserve the specie that is at risk. On the other side of the Danube delta, in Ukraine, the sturgeon fishing is allowed.

  • Romania, Vidin. Riverside of the Danube. Vidin is one of the poorest region of Bulgaria

  • Romania, Tulcea. Birds fly on a field