Among the numerous travel destinations in the Danube Delta, the village Mila 23 with approximately 450 villagers has a special charm. This is the place that best mirrors the characteristics of a typical Lipovan village from the Danube Delta. During the last years, the village has developed dramatically from a touristic point of view, thanks to its very favourable position, which is in the very centre of the Danube Delta.
The story of the founding of village Mila 23 is lost in times that we do not know much about. Very close to this village, in the place called Taraschina, archaeological excavations made in cooperation with archaeologists from France have brought to light artefacts dating back from the time of Gumelnita culture, more exactly from the period 4,400-4,300 b.C. After they have been subjected to rigorous research, the artefacts found have shown that the main occupation of the inhabitants of the area was agriculture and in parallel livestock farming. Practically, as a result of archaeological discoveries, it has been proven that these areas have been continuously inhabited, in spite of the fact that the Danube Delta is the youngest portion of Romanian land.
Before the Sulina canal was dug and arranged for navigation, Mila 23 had been a very important point for navigation, a halting place for the boats and ships on their way between Sulina and Tulcea. The name of the village comes from the waterway marking of the mile 23, which is the distance from Sulina (mile 0) to here. During a time when boats were propelled by paddles, Mila 23 was halfway between Tulcea and Sulina and it represented the distance on which one would row an entire day so most of the boats coming from or going to Tulcea would stop for a night in this place.
In the past, before the “platform” was built, which is a part of land that was elevated after the great floods in 1970 and 1974, the village was made up of hamlets that were scattered along the Sulina branch or other canals. The area located precisely on the bank that is opposite to the present location of the village was called “Fantana Dulce” (Sweet Fountain) and the largest settlement with the most houses was located downstream from the junction with the Eracle canal, on both banks of Sulina branch.
After 1980, given that during the years 1968 – 1980 important Delta surfaces in the area Pardina – Stipoc had been drained and fishermen in these areas had remained with no fishing spots to use, they took refuge in the area of Mila 23 and built houses near those of the flood victims and the former dwellers of this part of the village, on the artificially elevated platform. This is how the former centres of small villages were forgotten and the village got a new place on the right bank of the Old Danube.
Almost all old houses in this village are of Lipovan origin and they are built from natural materials and painted in the traditional Lipovan colours, which are white and a typical shade of light blue. Churchgoers claim that this shade comes from the colour of the sky and it symbolises closeness to God, while locals believe that this colour is an appropriate defence against mosquitoes, which presumably do not stand such shade of blue.
Villagers are among the most skilled fishermen in the Danube Delta and the way they row is another fame of the inhabitants of this village. This fame developed with the help of several locals up to the level of international recognition. Most of the canoe and kayak athletes who brought Romania an impressive number of Olympic medals, as well as world and European contest medals, come from Mila 23, a place they left during the ’60s. Ivan Patzaichin is the most famous among those who were taken from their fishing boats by kayak and canoe coaches from Bucharest and became after a short while invincible champions. Apart from Patzaichin, there were also the canoeist Serghei Covaliov and the kayak female athletes Agafia Buhaev and Culina Popov. These great sportspeople have close relatives in the village Mila 23, which tell the tourists arriving here on holiday fascinating stories from the childhood of these great sportspeople. Unfortunately, during the last years, many modern buildings have failed to fall in line with the local traditional architecture features and they spoil the charm of this wonderful place. The great advantage of local tourism is that by the investments obtained, a running water network was created for household use and all houses in the village benefit from it.
At present, the village has accommodation places ranging from 2 to 4 stars, as many locals changed their business from fishing to tourism. The inflow of tourists willing to discover the magic of Danube Delta is ever higher, in a village away from the traffic noise of cities, a village with people who are different from those you know, peaceful and free from urban stress.
The team of cooks who take part in the annual cooking contests “D’ale Gurii Dunarii” won the first place two years in a row. Apart from them, there are also two Lipovan choirs in the village, Sinicika and Rusalka, which participate frequently in contests and festivals.
The convenient location of this place allows the tourists to visit a great part of the Danube Delta. Trips can be made to the Caraorman area, crossing through Crisan, in the area of Fortuna lake, coming out of Mila 23 on Sontea canal, in Matita – Merhei area, entering from Eracle – Lopatna, in the complex made up of the lakes Trei Iezere, Radacinos, Bogdaproste or in the area of Stipoc ridge, where St. Atanasie monastery is located or sightseeing trips can be made to Letea Forest.
The large number of animals living in this area make Mila 23 a “target” for tourists that are interested to see birds and other animals, birdwatchers and nature photographs. The pelican colony in the area Rosca – Buhaiova, which is close to the village offers grandiose shows, with large squadrons of pelicans flying over the village and its surroundings.
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