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Translation of the article:

Circumeuropa – first Romanian river-sea expedition

Based on the argument that a boat departing from Timisoara is the ideal ambassador for a cultural capital, and the fact that the city is also accessible from the water, Cristian Ilea from Timisoara is proposing an expedition around Europe by water, departing from Timisoara. “Circumeuropa” will be the first sea-river expedition around Europe by a Romanian crew and is scheduled to take place in 2023. The “Wild Watch” association is the organizer of this voyage, whose perspective includes both the scientific dimension – through research into the level of pollution of the waters through which the crew will sail – and the cultural dimension through sailing and performances in more than 15 of Europe’s current and former cultural capitals.

Specifically, Captain Cristian Ilea and his team have set themselves the goal of leaving Timisoara on a boat on the Bega Canal and traveling to 15 current and former European Capitals of Culture. The Circumeuropa cruise is scheduled to start in Romania in mid-April next year and will take six to eight months, crossing five fresh waters, five salt waters and five straits as well as countries such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Malta, France, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

The project will be developed on four levels: sailing, ecology, culture and journalism. The challenges are as follows: To promote sailing among young people, to make the cultural program of Timisoara 2023 and the artists of Timisoara known in Europe, to promote the Bega waterway and the city of Timisoara as a port on the North Sea or the Black Sea, and to investigate the pollution level of the navigated waters. The expedition will also be documented in detail. A documentary film series is to be produced and broadcast by the Romanian public television station TVR. 

Documentary film and environmental research

The Circumeuropa crew currently consists of six members, three of whom are journalists. In addition to captain Cristian Ilea, Mihai Pătrașcu – also an image director at TVR, Cosmin Jitariuc – a journalist at TVR Timisoara, biologist Oana Gavriliuc, Doru Creț – chairman of the West Yacht Club Timisoara and businessman Ovidiu Bădina are also involved.

The journalistic part of the project will consist of twelve episodes of 24 minutes each, a 90-minute documentary film and other content such as photos, film footage, boat stories and reports on cultural events that will take place in the cities where the expedition crew will stop.

The cultural component consists of promoting the cultural program of the European Capital of Culture Timisoara along the way and even inviting some artists on board. The expedition is also intended to show how healthy European waters are. “We will examine the level of pollution, take samples everywhere and hope to end up with a scientific report on the state of Europe’s inland waters,” adds Ilea.

Sailing: Only a sport for rich people?

The Timisoara-based picture director at the public television station in Timisoara has been an enthusiastic sailor for 20 years. “I have Allegro to thank for that,” says the man. The history of the Allegro sailing boat is impressive, especially as the boat was built by Alexandru Pătrașcu, the father of Circumeuropa crew member Mihai Pătrașcu, more than 20 years ago in a yard in Cluj-Napoca. 

“My friend Mihai invited me to sail with him and so this passion was awakened in me and I set out to prove that sailing is not an exclusive sport for rich people. We are ordinary people who can still afford to keep a sailing boat alive that we have won regattas with. Alexandru Pătrașcu’s dream was to sail on the Nile with Allegro. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see it, but now we want to take his dream further,” says Cristian Ilea with determination.  

His plan sounds both challenging and ambitious. “We also want to remind the people of Timisoara that they have a hydrological heritage that has been forgotten. We have a navigable canal that promoted the economic development of Timisoara and Banat in the Austro-Hungarian period. 

We will probably no longer be able to transport goods on the Bega, but we will certainly be able to operate tourism, and we can only benefit from that. We want to promote Timisoara as a city that can be reached by water from anywhere in Europe, we want to promote the Bega Canal, but we also want to promote the city as European Capital of Culture 2023. We can be an ideal ambassador because we have more than 20 cities, former Capitals of Culture, on our way,” says Ilea.

The “Pelican” kicks off the expedition

The Bega Canal has been used by small boats again for several years – from the vaporetti of the Timisoara public transport company to private boats that take tourists on trips on the Bega. The historic ship “Pelicanul” has also recently returned to the Bega. 

“The soul of the Bega could not be missing from our expedition. We are delighted to announce that the Pelican ship will be sailing from Timisoara on the first leg of the SEA 2023 Circumeurope,” says Cristian Ilea. For more than 20 years, the ship was part of the cityscape of Timisoara on the banks of the Bega River in the city center in the immediate vicinity of the Orthodox Cathedral. The little ship had not sailed for years when it was anchored rusting on the bank and fell victim to a fire in 2012. The “Pelicanul” shipwreck has now been overhauled in recent years, relaunched this year and currently serves as a tourist attraction, offering round trips on the Bega. 

“The old Pelican ship, which has just been restored, will leave the country in April 2023 via a mobile border crossing point with Serbia. The Pelican will thus resume international shipping on the Bega, which was discontinued at the end of the 1950s. A Romanian crew will be on board to celebrate the festive moment in Timisoara with a sailing premiere,” Cristian Ilea recently announced on Facebook.

Sailing: just a sport for rich people?

The Timisoara picture director at the public television station in Timisoara has been an enthusiastic sailor for 20 years. “I have Allegro to thank for that,” says the man. The history of the Allegro sailboat is impressive, especially since the boat was built by Alexandru Pătrașcu, the father of Mihai Pătrașcu, a member of the Circumeuropa crew, more than 20 years ago in a yard in Cluj-Napoca.

“My friend Mihai invited me to go sailing and this passion was awakened in me and I set out to prove that sailing is not an exclusive sport for rich people. We are normal people who can still afford to keep a sailboat with which we have won regattas alive. Alexandru Pătrașcu’s dream was to sail on the Nile with Allegro. “Unfortunately, he was no longer able to experience that, but now we want to carry his dream forward,” says Cristian Ilea resolutely.

His project sounds both challenging and demanding. “We also want to remind the people of Timisoara that they have a hydrological heritage that has been forgotten. We have a navigable canal that promoted the economic development of Timisoara and Banat during the Austro-Hungarian period.

We will probably no longer carry out freight traffic on the Bega, but we will certainly be able to do tourism and we will only benefit from that. We want to promote Timisoara, that the city is accessible by water from anywhere in Europe, we want to promote the Bega Canal, but we also want to promote the city as European Capital of Culture 2023. We can be an ideal ambassador because we have more than 20 cities, former Capitals of Culture, on our way,” says Ilea.

The “Pelican” marks the start of the expedition

The Bega Canal has been used by small ships again for several years – from the Vaporetti of the Timișoara local transport company to private boats that take trips on the Bega for tourists. The historic ship “Pelicanul” has recently been sailing on the Bega again.

“The soul of the Bega could not be missing from our expedition. We are pleased to announce that the departure from Timișoara, in the first stage of the SEA 2023 Circumeuropa, will be carried out by the Pelikan ship,” said Cristian Ilea. The ship was part of the cityscape of Timișoara for more than 20 years on the Bega bank in the city center in the immediate vicinity of the Orthodox Cathedral. The ship had not been able to sail for years when it lay anchored rustily on the bank and fell victim to a fire in 2012. The Pelicanul shipwreck has now undergone a major overhaul in recent years, was relaunched this year and currently serves as a tourist attraction by offering cruises on the Bega.

“The old Pelican ship, which has just been restored, will leave the country in April 2023 through a mobile border crossing point with Serbia. The Pelican will thus resume international shipping on the Bega, which was discontinued in the late 1950s. A Romanian crew will board to celebrate the festive moment in Timișoara with a sailing premiere,” Cristian Ilea recently announced on Facebook.

Human-nature relationship promoted

After graduating from the Bucharest Film Academy in 2008, Cristian Ilea attended a training course on filming wild animals in South Africa.

A few years later, the cameraman and documentary filmmaker founded the “Wildlife Romania” project – the first virtual zoological garden with wild animals outdoors. For almost a decade you have been able to get an insight into the everyday life of some storks on the homepage wildliferomania.com. In 2013, a web camera was installed on a stork’s nest in Mercydorf/Carani as a pilot project. Then a second camera was added to a stork’s nest in the Banat village of Gertjanosch/Cărpiniș. The background is the idea of ​​bringing people and nature closer together and, above all, reminding people “that they are not alone in this world, that they share this habitat called ‘earth’ with millions of other living beings, who have the same right to a clean environment,” says Cristian Ilea.

The “Wildlife Romania” project is now supported by fans and has enjoyed great success for years. Web cameras have also been installed at other strategic locations and wild animals and birds can be observed via live stream.

The initiator Cristian Ilea also needs support for the “Circumeuropa” project. “This will be an expensive expedition,” he says. The exploration route covers over 15 European countries and will cross five rivers, four seas, one ocean and five straits.

“The Circumeuropa platform is open to anyone who wants to help us, from donations to partnerships. We are also waiting to submit a project to the Project Center of the Town Hall as we will promote the city from a cultural point of view,” concludes the expedition captain Cristian Ilea.