The Danube

The Danube: A Cultural Guide

The Danube: a Cultural Guide follows the course of the River Danube from its source in the Black Forest to its delta on the Black Sea, describing the historical, political, literary, artistic, musical and cultural associations of each place through which the river passes.

The book was published in 2010 by Signal Books in their Landscapes of the Imaginations series. An American version was later published by Oxford University Press (USA).

The Danube
The whimsical architectural flourish known as the ‘Fishermen’s Bastion’ overlooking the Danube in Budapest.

The longest river in Western Europe – touching or passing through ten countries and four capital cities – the Danube rises amidst the beautiful woodland of Germany’s Black Forest and then runs south and east into the Balkans, threading its way through Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade, before cutting through the spectacular gorge known as the Iron Gates and then flowing over the flat plains that mark the Bulgarian-Romanian border; the river finally empties into the sea via a delta of branching, reed-lined channels that covers parts of both Romania and Ukraine.

My long experience of travelling in Eastern Europe attracted me to this project, along with the convenient “narrative” that travelling along a long river provides – with a clear beginning, middle and end to the story. Add to this that the scenery is often beautiful – especially around the Danube Bend in Hungary, and the Iron Gates in Romania – and the fact that the history of the regions through which the river flows has left a legacy that includes everything from Roman ruins and Habsburg palaces to busy ports and the devastation left by Yugoslavia’s tragic Civil War, and you have a classic river journey that is rich in both history and cultural associations.

More information about the book is available on Signal Books‘ website:  it can also be purchased from amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

Click Regensburg to read a section from the book, which covers a reach of the river in southern Germany, downstream from Regensburg.

The photographs I took during the research for the book – some of which were published in the book, though only in black and white – can be found in these galleries:

The Danube Gallery:

Part One: The Rising River – from the Black Forest to Passau

Part Two: The Blue Danube – from Passau to Bratislava

Part Three: Into the Balkans – from Bratislava to Belgrade

Part Four: Gorge, Plain and Delta – from Belgrade to the Black Sea