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down in the delta

Topping our admittedly short bucket list for our remaining months in Moldova was a visit to the Danube delta. The mighty river that courses through much of central Europe empties out into the Black Sea just south of the Romania-Ukraine border. The resulting estuary is a vast network of reed-lined canals that host 90 percent of Romania’s 390 bird species. 

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As the crow flies, the Danube delta is not far from Chisinau, but when factoring in the border crossing, a car ferry, and the motorboat to our final destination, the trip there proved a little trying. Munchkin squawked his displeasure when we jostled along the pothole-filled roads in the south of Moldova, some of which called to mind the African massage of our Kenyan safaris. And D worried that we might arrive too late to make our scheduled motorboat transfer. 

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Now that Munchkin is a bit older, keeping him happy on road trips has become exponentially more challenging than it was when we first began traveling with him. We brought half a dozen CDs with kids’ songs — half in Russian and half in English — but there were only two that he really liked (one in each language), and we listened to both more times than we care to count during the more than twelve hours we spent in the car to get there and back.

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After staying three nights at the Green Village resort in the very heart of the Danube delta, we came home with mixed reactions. The location is as beautiful as can be. The resort is situated in a little fishing village along one of the Danube’s streams. Birds flock to the river shore where the villas stand, and a twenty-minute walk brings one to a beach on the Black Sea. Munchkin loved the place. There was plenty of green space for him to roam and he had a fantastic time at the beach. Also, the resort had a kids’ room with toys and an outdoor swing set; our villa had a small pool, and there was a larger pool on the property; and there were lots of farm animals, which are a big hit with Munchkin.

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Unfortunately, the service — or rather, near complete lack thereof — dampened considerably our enthusiasm for Green Village. We reserved a family package and confirmed multiple times that there would be a crib in our room. Naturally, there was none when we arrived, and a visit to the reception seemed to result in more empty assurances. Fortunately, we brought a PeaPod tent with us and were in the process of putting Munchkin down for the night when a loud knock on the door startled our half-asleep toddler. Several hours late, the crib had finally arrived, accompanied by a brash housekeeper who kept shouting even after D explained about the sleepy child and asked her to keep her voice down.

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Then there was the lackluster resort restaurant that seemed incapable of keeping its posted hours. Our first night, dinner started an hour late. This might be a small inconvenience to some travelers, but it’s a pretty major one for those who have a small, hungry, exhausted child to mollify.

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Similarly, we nearly lost our wits trying to keep Munchkin happy while moored to the dock for half an hour in a small motor boat. We had scheduled an hour-long bird-watching excursion but the guide would not start the engine because he had been told there would be another family, which of course never materialized. We were ok with waiting 5-10 minutes, but surely it’s unreasonable to wait 30 minutes to start an hour-long tour. To compensate for the late departure, the boat driver zipped around the canals, which of course makes bird-watching more difficult, and ended the tour 15 minutes early. If we had not gone on a longer and much better excursion to a different part of the delta the previous day, we might have left the resort in a sour mood.

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Overall, we’re glad we went to the Danube delta, but we’re also glad that we kept our expectations for this trip appropriately in check.

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