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With a boat on the Amazon, a picnic in the Maldives

The fishermen in ‎Bulgaria’s Nikopol on the Danube attract tourists

Photo: Veneta Nikolova, BNR

A motorboat ride on the Danube, watching rare species of birds, visiting ‎uninhabited islands, having a picnic in the wild or simply sunbathing on the ‎beach – Bulgaria’s small town of Nikopol has established itself as a destination ‎for adventure tourism. When spring approaches, the town starts bustling with ‎visitors. Bulgarians, and more and more often Romanian tourists, come ‎for the biggest local attraction – a boat trip around the Nikopol ‎archipelago. The experience is saturated with many emotions, and its ‎organizers are the fishermen from the Amur-Nikopol association

‎"This year's season started very early, we ourselves did not expect such great ‎interest," аdmits Biser Georgiev, chairman of the association. He says that the ‎first boat ride already took place at the beginning of March and that in just a ‎month there were dozens of people who wanted to join the adventure. ‎

‎"We don't have a weekend without requests," says Biser Georgiev and adds:‎

‎"This is already our third season. Every year, the number of tourists increases ‎and we are glad that in this way we are helping the municipality and the local ‎business, so that the town develops as a tourist destination. These boat rides are ‎starting to become popular as a form of tourism also abroad. Last year we had a ‎group of 20 people from Israel. This year we expect guests from Israel again, as ‎well as a large group of 50 Italians. They have signed up for a river trip. They ‎want us to take them along the Danube all the way to the town of Oryahovo - ‎it's a journey of 80 km..."‎

Biser Georgiev, chairman of the Amur-Nikopol Association
While the motorboat is ploughing the water, flocks of birds are circling above ‎the tourists. Some of them nest in the nearby Persina Nature Park. This year, a ‎pair of white-tailed eagles - a very rare species – has settled on Lakut Island. ‎

In the summer, when the level of the Danube falls, wonderful beaches can be ‎found on the islands. The most visited is Katunara beach, known among ‎the locals as the Maldives, because of the wide beach with sand as fine as ‎stardust. In the spring, when the river level is high, another attraction is offered ‎‎- a river trip to the Amazon on the “cherry waters”, which coincides with ‎the cherry picking season:‎

‎"When the water is higher, we move along the Bulgarian coast near a strip of ‎wicker or willows. If there is a way to cross, we go to the so-called Amazon. ‎We enter some narrow channels, like the Amazon River, with overhanging ‎trees, sharp turns are made and it is very beautiful there. The place is ‎overgrown with a kind of willow trees, we call it rakitak. There is also ‎amorpha fruticosa (indigo bush) – more characteristic of countries like China. ‎Years ago, this plant was not growing there. It is a honey plant that blooms ‎with purple flowers,"  explains Biser Georgiev.‎

The fishermen from the association are great organizers, boat captains and ‎captivating guides. They will tell you all about the birds that fly around, the ‎fish, the islands and the fickle temper of the Danube. And they will take you to ‎the rock church St. Stephen dating back to the 10th century, which offers a ‎breathtaking view of the river. ‎

Watch the short video report of our boat trip around the Nikopol Archipelago, ‎St. Stephen's Rock Church and Persin Island (video is in Bulgarian).

But there is one attraction that everyone looks forward to - the picnic by the ‎river:‎

‎"It's a picnic, fishing, fish soup cooked on site, fish baked on site. Therefore, a ‎request is made in advance so that there is time for the drinks to cool down - ‎whether it will be white wine or brandy... There is also another option. As long ‎as they wish, we stay for the tourists to bathe and go to the beach and then we ‎take them home," says Biser Georgiev.‎

‎‎‎In addition to the fish soup, which is a trademark of Nikopol fishermen, the ‎menu also includes white barbel on a skewer, baked and fried grass carp, caviar ‎buns, homemade bread and quince brandy. Biser says that there were cases ‎when their clients did not want to leave the islands, and several German ‎women stayed overnight alone on one of them.

 Tourists led by Bulgarian tour ‎operators who organize excursions with environmental protection causes are ‎also included in the river trips to the Nikopol Archipelago. 

Also contributing ‎to the promotion of Nikopol are the jet and motor boat competitions organized ‎by the municipality as well as the annual festival "Danube - People, Nature and ‎Traditions", which shows the livelihood, cuisine and lifestyle of the population ‎of the riverside town.‎

Read also:
Photos and video: Veneta Nikolova

Translated and published by Rositsa Petkova
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