Translation of the article:

Circumeuropa, the first sea-river expedition of a Romanian crew around Europe, will leave from Bega and will make stops in 15 former cultural capitals to promote Timișoara. 

“Timișoara, port to the North Sea” – is a statement that can become reality. After the resumption of navigation on the Bega canal, the only thing left to do is to build the border crossing with Serbia in 2023, the year Timișoara will be European Capital of Culture. From here it will be possible to travel by water anywhere: to Vienna, Budapest, along the Danube to the Black Sea, the Aegean, the Atlantic Ocean and even the North Sea. 

How Timisoara’s sails opened 

Repairs to the navigation infrastructure on the Bega canal now allow water travel between Timișoara and Serbia. Sailing upstream on the Tisza River takes you to Szeged (Hungary), and downstream the Tisza flows into the Danube. There are two routes here: from Titel (Serbia) you can take the Danube-Tisa-Danube canal to Banatska Palanka – Baziaș, and from there you can sail to the Black Sea; on the other hand, the Danube can take you directly to Belgrade, and from there to Novi Sad, Budapest, Bratislava or Vienna. By Danube you can reach the North Sea via Rotterdam. 

Timisoara’s old ship Pelican, also newly restored, will leave the country via a mobile border crossing point in April 2023. The Pelican will thus reopen international navigation on the Bega, which was closed in the late 1950s. A Romanian crew will board her to mark Timisoara’s festive moment with a sailing premiere. 

Around Europe 

Circumeuropa is the first sea-river expedition of a Romanian crew around Europe, initiated by Cristian Ilea, TVR Timișoara image director, who has been sailing for over two decades. Ilea is preparing the first tour of Europe on the water starting from Timisoara. 

“We want to remind the people of Timișoara that they have a water heritage that has been forgotten. We have a navigable canal that helped the economic development of Timisoara and Banat during the Austro-Hungarian period. We probably won’t be able to do freight transport on the Bega, but we will certainly be able to do tourism and we will only benefit. We want to promote Timisoara, accessible by water from anywhere in Europe, we want to promote the Bega canal, but we want to promote Timisoara as European Cultural Capital 2023. We can be an ideal ambassador, because we have more than 20 former capitals of culture, on the way,” said Cristian Ilea, who also founded the Wildlife Romania project, the first virtual zoo with wild animals in their environment.

Departure by Pelican, return by boat bought in Amsterdam

The Circumeuropa route starts on the Bega, in Timisoara. From there it will go to the Danube, then to the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel and the North Sea. Then again on the rivers: Rhine, Main, Danube, Tisa and finally Bega again. 

The expedition lasts around six months. It is scheduled to start around 15 April, with a return trip in late October – early November. There will be several ships sailing. The Pelican is just the first, and will take people as far as Baziaș (where the Danube enters Romania). 

“We will cross the border through a temporary crossing point. The border crossing will be ready by autumn 2023, so I’m aiming to open the border crossing at Otelec when we return. We start with the Pelican, because we could not have ignored this ship, it is a symbol for Timisoara. After the Pelican we will board another boat on the Danube. In the Black Sea we will board Ovidiu Bădina’s boat, a 57-foot sailing ship. We’ll sail it to the North Sea. In Amsterdam we want to buy an inland river boat and bring it to Timisoara”, said Cristian Ilea.

Crew of six on expedition

The Circumeuropa crew currently has six members. Besides the captain Cristian Iliea, there are Mihai Pătrașcu – image director at TVR, Cosmin Jitariuc – journalist at TVR Timișoara, biologist Oana Gavriliuc, Doru Creț – president of West Yacht Club and businessman Ovidiu Bădina. 

“The journalistic side of this project will consist of 12 episodes of 24 minutes each, a 90-minute documentary film, but also a lot of content on social media, live streaming, photos, filming, boat stories and coverage of cultural events that we will organize in the cities where we stop”, explained Cristian Ilea.

It will be an expensive expedition”

Five rivers, four seas, one ocean and five straits.The route of the exploration includes Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Malta, France, Spain, Portugal, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

“It will be an expensive expedition. That’s why we have opened the Circumeuropa platform for anyone who wants to help us, from donations to sponsorships. We are also waiting to submit a project to the City Hall’s Project Centre,” said Ilea.

The expedition will also have a scientific side, which is why a biologist will be part of the team. 

“We really want to know how healthy and clean the waters of Europe are. We will investigate the level of pollution, we will take samples from everywhere and we hope that at the end we will have a scientific treatise on the health of Europe’s inland waters,” added Ilea. 

The story started with Alegro

Cristian Ilea took up sailing 20 years ago, when his father Mihai Pătrașcu (one of the expedition members) built a boat.

“It was a boat built by Alexandru Pătrașcu, in a yard in Cluj, made of wood and covered in fibreglass. They called me on this boat, named Alegro. I proved then that yachting is not an exclusive sport for people with a lot of money. We are normal people who could afford to keep a sailing boat alive, with which we won regattas, it’s a dream that we carry on as long as we are healthy”, concluded Cristian Ilea.