-text and photos Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
design Florin Alexandru Stancu-

In December 2014
I wanted to cross the Danube River
and to imagine that I am a member of the suite of Iason from Greek mythology,
who had led the Argo Navis on the Black Sea to Georgia
to take the golden fleece of a magic ram,
and had returned on the Danube River.

I began my “expedition” right on
the Winter Solstice Day (Sunday, 21 December),
travelling from Bucharest to Braila under a morning sky
which promised a generous opening for the next week.

During the sunset of the same day
I lived the same hope (a future open sky)
in Braila’s Viziru District.

And on the morning of 22 December
the Sun powerfully rose!

So that before sunset,
I started through the city to the Danube River.

In 23 December
another strong sunrise…

And another beautiful dusk.

The “chosen” day was 24 December:
firstly, the sunrise...

Then I started to cross the Danube River,
thinking of the main heroes from Argo Navis.

Hercules or Perseus?
Who could my model be?
Now both of them are constellations,
So out of any Greek tragedy!

But the vision of the bank
and of the river (right where two of its branches fuse)
changed my thoughts.

In that zone, engineer Anghel Saligny (1854-1925)
made the first silos of reinforced concrete in the world.
And his passion before studying enginery
was… astronomy!

On this river, Admiral Vasile Urseanu (1848-1926)
led a fight ship during the independence war (1877-1878)
against the Ottoman Empire.
And after his retirement
he became the president of the first Romanian astronomical society
and made the first private astronomical observatory in Romania.

Both of them made these achievements during the reign
of Carol I of Hohenzollern (1866-1914),
who really encouraged astronomy.
Thus, on his time,
the first Romanian astronomical observatories were built
(the military one in 1895 and the state one in 1908),
the first regular astronomical magazine was launched
(Orion, edited by Victor Anestin in between 1907 and 1912)
and the first Romanian astronomical society was founded (1908).


My soul became a multi-personality,
Carol I - Urseanu - Saligny,
Floating with a Romanian ship
On the River of Astronomy.

Crossing the Danube River
I understood that in fact
I reproduced the royal route made by King Carol I in November 1878,
the first after the historical province of Dobrogea was restituted to Romania.

Thus, the Romanian king went from Bucharest to Braila,
passed under an improvised triumph arch,
and crossed the Danube River to a village named Ghecet by Ottomans
and renamed (New) Smardan by Romanians
(after the Bulgarian village where they obtained an impressive victory
over the Ottoman army).

This village was symbolically chosen
for the first step of King Carol in recovered Dobrogea
just because here, at the confluence of two Danubian branches,
a Romanian ship (“Swallow”)
destroyed an Ottoman guard ship in May 1877,
the first Romanian naval victory in the independence war.

But if King Carol went further to the town of Tulcea at that time,
I preferred only to walk through (New) Smardan
and to cross back the Danube River.

In Braila again
the sunset awaited me even in the Carol I park-boulevard,
and in the Viziru district, among the branches of a poplar tree,
right Sirius (down on the left)
and a few stars of Orion
(Rigel on the right, Betelgeuse and Bellatrix up).

In 25 December (the first Christmas Day)
I enjoyed the most beautiful sunrise of that week…

and I finished the day in the city with the sunset,
the Moon Sickle
and, again, Sirius and stars of Orion
(this time Rigel, two stars from the belt, and Bellatrix).

But in 26 December the weather became cloudy…

And in 27 December
a strong snow fall completely changed the scenery.

So that in 28 December I returned to Bucharest via Buzau,
while the Sun timidly appeared and disappeared for a few times,
as if he asked for apologizes regarding the bad, but correct weather.


Specially thanking my aunt and adoptive mother,
Vasilica Tudor,
who hosted me in Braila during those unforgettable days,
I have to end with a Romanian old wish for the New Year
(from Mehedinti County,
placed also on the bank of the Danube River),
applicable every year after the Christmas Days:

“Soare luminos
Şi un an frumos!”

“Have a luminous sun
And a beautiful year!”

© 2016 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)