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The Danube ( in English) is the longest river in the European Union and Europe's second longest river after the Volga.

The river originates in the Black Forestmarker in Germanymarker as the much smaller Brigachmarker and Bregmarker rivers which join at the German town Donaueschingenmarker, after which it is known as the Danube and flows eastwards for a distance of some 2850 km (1771 miles), passing through four Central and Eastern European capitals, before emptying into the Black Seamarker via the Danube Delta in Romaniamarker and Ukrainemarker.

Known to history as one of the long-standing frontiers of the Roman Empire, the river flows through—or forms a part of the borders of—ten countries: Germanymarker (7.5%), Austriamarker (10.3%), Slovakiamarker (5.8%), Hungarymarker (11.7%), Croatiamarker (4.5%), Serbiamarker (10.3%), Romaniamarker (28.9%), Bulgariamarker (5.2%), Moldovamarker (0,017%), and Ukrainemarker (3.8%).


The English language has, since the Norman conquest of England, used the French word Danube.In other languages, particularly those spoken in the locations which the river flows through:

One theory ultimately derives all these variations to the Celtic word *dānu, meaning "to flow". Other theories derive the name from an Indic root (cf. Danu that has contributed the names of all other major rivers emptying into the Black Sea, such as the Don, Donetsmarker, Dnieper and Dniestrmarker). Ancient Greek Istros was a borrowing from Thracian/Dacian meaning "strong, swift", akin to Sanskrit is.iras "swift", Ancient Greek (hierós) "strong, sacred".


Drainage basin

In addition to the Danubian countries, the drainage basin includes parts of nine more countries: Italymarker (0.15%), Polandmarker (0.09%), Switzerlandmarker (0.32%), the Czech Republicmarker (2.5%), Sloveniamarker (2.2%), Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker (4.8%), the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedoniamarker, and Albaniamarker (0.03%). The highest point of the drainage basin is the summit of Piz Berninamarker at the Italy–Switzerland border, .


The Danube's watershed extends into many other countries. Many Danubian tributaries are important rivers in their own right, navigable by barges and other shallow-draught boats. From its source to its outlet into the Black Sea, its main tributaries are (in order):
  1. Illermarker (entering at Ulmmarker)
  2. Lechmarker
  3. Naabmarker (entering at Regensburgmarker)
  4. Regenmarker (entering at Regensburgmarker)
  5. Isarmarker
  6. Innmarker (entering at Passaumarker)
  7. Ennsmarker
  8. Morava (entering near Devín Castlemarker)
  9. Leithamarker
  10. Váhmarker (entering at Komárnomarker)
  11. Hronmarker
  12. Ipeľ
  13. Siómarker
  14. Dráva
  15. Vukamarker
15. Tisa

16. Sava (entering at Belgrademarker)

17. Timiş (entering at Pancevomarker)

18. Great Moravamarker

19. Caraş

20. Jiu (entering at Bechetmarker)

21. Iskar

22. Olt (entering at Turnul Măgurele)

23. Vedea

24. Argeş (entering at Olteniţamarker)

25. Ialomiţa

26. Siret (entering near Galaţimarker)

27. Prut (entering near Galaţimarker)


Danube in Linz.

The Danube flows through the following countries and cities (ordered from source to mouth ):

The Danube flows through four capital cities (shown in bold), more than any other river in the world.



  • Upper Section: From spring to Devín Gatemarker. Danube remains a characteristic mountain river until Passaumarker, with average bottom gradient 0.0012%, from Passau to Devín Gate the gradient lessens to 0.0006%.
  • Middle Section: From Devín Gatemarker to Iron Gatemarker. The riverbed widens and the average bottom gradient becomes only 0.00006%.
  • Lower Section: From Iron Gate to Sulinamarker, with average gradient as little as 0.00003%.

Modern navigation

Danube is navigable by ocean ships from the Black Sea to Brăilamarker in Romaniamarker and by river ships to Kelheimmarker, Bavaria; smaller craft can navigate further upstream to Ulmmarker, in Germany. About 60 of its tributaries are also navigable.

Since the completion of the German Rhine–Main–Danube Canalmarker in 1992, the river has been part of a trans-European waterway from Rotterdammarker on the North Seamarker to Sulinamarker on the Black Sea (3500 km). In 1994 the Danube was declared one of ten Pan-European transport corridors, routes in Central and Eastern Europe that required major investment over the following ten to fifteen years. The amount of goods transported on the Danube increased to about 100 million tons in 1987. In 1999, transport on the river was made difficult by the NATOmarker bombing of three bridges in Serbia. The clearance of the debris was finished in 2002. The temporary pontoon bridge that hampered navigation was finally removed in 2005.

At the Iron Gatemarker, the Danube flows through a gorge that forms part of the boundary between Serbia and Romania; it contains the hydroelectric Iron Gate I dam, followed at about 60 km downstream (outside the gorge) by the Iron Gate ll dam. On 13 April 2006, a record peak discharge at Iron Gate Dam reached 15,400 m³/s.

There are three artificial waterways built on the Danube: the Danube–Tisa–Danube Canalmarker (DTD) in the Banat and Bačkamarker regions (Vojvodinamarker, northern province of Serbia); the 64 km Danube–Black Sea Canalmarker, between Cernavodămarker and Constanţamarker (Romania) finished in 1984, shortens the distance to the Black Sea by 400 km; the Rhine-Main-Danube Canalmarker (about 171 km), finished in 1992, linking the North Sea to the Black Sea.

The Danube delta

The Danube Delta has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. Its wetlands (on the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance) support vast flocks of migratory birds, including the endangered Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus). Rival canalization and drainage scheme threaten the delta: see Bastroe Channel.

International cooperation

Ecology and environment

The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) is an organization consisting of 14 member states (Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Montenegro and Ukraine) and the European Union. The commission, established in 1998, deals with the whole Danube River Basin, which includes tributaries and the groundwater resources. Its goal is to implement the Danube River Protection Convention by promoting and coordinating sustainable and equitable water management, including conservation, improvement and rational use of waters.


The Danube Commission is concerned with the maintenance and improvement of the river's navigation conditions. It was established in 1948 by seven countries bordering the river. Members include representatives from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and Serbia, It meets regularly twice a year. It also convenes groups of experts to consider items provided for in the commission's working plans.

The commission dates to the Paris Conferences of 1856 and 1921, which established for the first time an international regime to safeguard free navigation on the Danube.


the headwaters of the Danube are relatively small today, geologically, the Danube is much older than the Rhinemarker, with which its catchment area competes in today's southern Germany. This has a few interesting geological complications. Since the Rhine is the only river rising in the Alps mountains which flows north towards the North Sea, an invisible line beginning at Piz Lunghinmarker divides large parts of southern Germany, which is sometimes referred to as the European Watershedmarker.

However, before the last ice age in the Pleistocene, the Rhine started at the southwestern tip of the Black Forest, while the waters from the Alps that today feed the Rhine were carried east by the so-called Urdonau (original Danube). Parts of this ancient river's bed, which was much larger than today's Danube, can still be seen in (now waterless) canyons in today's landscape of the Swabian Albmarker. After the Upper Rhine valley had been eroded, most waters from the Alps changed their direction and began feeding the Rhine. Today's upper Danube is but a meek reflection of the ancient one.

Since the Swabian Albmarker is largely shaped of porous limestone, and since the Rhine's level is much lower than the Danube's, today subsurface rivers carry much water from the Danube to the Rhine. On many days in the summer, when the Danube carries little water, it completely oozes away noisily into these underground channels at two locations in the Swabian Alp, which are referred to as the Donauversickerung (Danube Sink). Most of this water resurfaces only 12 km south at the Aachtopfmarker, Germany's wellspring with the highest flow, an average of 8500 litres per second, north of Lake Constancemarker—thus feeding the Rhine. The European Water Divide thus in fact only applies for those waters that pass beyond this point, and only during the days of the year when the Danube carries enough water to survive the sink holes in the Donauversickerung.

Since this enormous amount of underground water erodes much of its surrounding limestone, it is estimated that the Danube upper course will one day disappear entirely in favor of the Rhine, an event called stream capturing.


The Danube basin was the site of some of the earliest human cultures. The Danubian Neolithic cultures include the Linear Pottery cultures of the mid-Danube basin. The third millennium BC Vučedol culturemarker (from the Vučedol site near Vukovarmarker, Croatiamarker) is famous for its ceramics. Many sites of the sixth-to-third millennium BC Vinča culture are sited along the Danube. The river was part of the Roman empire's Limes Germanicus. The Romans often used the river Danube as a border for their empire.

Ancient cultural perspectives of the lower Danube

Part of the Danubius or Istros river was also known as (together with the Black Sea) the Okeanos in ancient times, being called the Okeanos Potamos (Okeanos River). The lower Danube was also called the Keras Okeanoio (Gulf or Horn of Okeanos) in the Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodos (Argon. IV. 282). The lower Danube has a slow deep wide course, so it can be seen why it was considered as part of the Okeanos.

Both Homer (Odyss. XII. 1) and Hesiod (Theogonia, v.242. 959) in their theogonic legends exclusively refer to the lower Danube as the Okeanos Potamos, possibly due to it being remembered as the remnant of when the Pannonian and lower Danubian basins were under water .

At the end of the Okeanos Potamos, is the holy island of Alba (Leuke, Pytho Nisi, Isle of Snakes), sacred to the Pelasgian (and later, Greek) Apollo, greeting the sun rising in the east. Hecateus Abderitas refers to Apollo's island from the region of the Hyperboreans, in the Okeanos. It was on Leuke, in one version of his legend that the hero Achilles was buried (to this day, one of the mouths of the Danube is called Chilia). Old Romanian folk songs sing of a white monastery on a white island with nine priests.

Danube Bike Trail

The Danube Bike Trail (also called Danube Cycle Path or the Donauradweg) is a bicycle trail along the river.

The Danube Bike Trail (Donauradweg) is divided into four sections:
  1. Donaueschingenmarker-Passaumarker (559 km)
  2. Passaumarker-Viennamarker (340 km)
  3. Viennamarker-Budapestmarker (306 km)
  4. Budapestmarker-Black Seamarker (1670 km)


Drinking water

Along its path, the Danube is a source of drinking water for about ten million people. In Baden-Württembergmarker, Germany, almost thirty percent (as of 2004) of the water for the area between Stuttgartmarker, Bad Mergentheimmarker, Aalenmarker and Alb-Donau marker comes from purified water of the Danube. Other cities like Ulmmarker and Passaumarker also use some water from the Danube.

In Austria and Hungary, most water comes from ground and spring sources, and only in rare cases is water from the Danube used. Most states also find it too difficult to clean the water because of extensive pollution; only parts of Romania where the water is cleaner still use a lot of drinking water from the Danube.

Navigation and transport

As "Corridor VII" of the European Union, the Danube is an important transport route. Since the opening of the Rhine–Main–Danube Canalmarker, the river connects the Black Sea with the industrial centers of Western Europe and with the Port of Rotterdammarker. The waterway is designed for large scale inland vessels (110×11.45 m) but it can carry much larger vessels on most of its course. The Danube has been partly canalized in Germany (5 locks) and Austria (10 locks). Further proposals to build a number of new locks in order to improve navigation have not progressed, due in part to environmental concerns.

Downstream from the Freudenau river plant's locks in Vienna, canalization of the Danube was limited to the Gabčíkovo dammarker and locks near Bratislava and the two double Iron Gate locks in the border stretch of the Danube between Serbia and Romania. These locks have larger dimensions (similar to the locks in the Russian Volga river, some 300 by over 30 m). Downstream of the Iron Gate, the river is free flowing all the way to the Black Sea, a distance of more than 860 kilometres.

The Danube connects with the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal at Kelheim, and with the Wiener Donaukanal in Vienna. Apart from a couple of secondary navigable branches, the only major navigable rivers linked to the Danube are the Drava, Sava and Tisa. In Serbia, a canal network also connects to the river; the network, known as the Dunav-Tisa-Dunav canals, links sections downstream.


The importance of fishing on the Danube, which used to be critical in the Middle Ages, has declined dramatically. Some fishermen are still active at certain points on the river, and the Danube Delta still has an important industry.


Wachau Valley near Durnstein.
Important tourist and natural spots along the Danube include the Wachaumarker valley, the Nationalpark Donau-Auenmarker in Austria, Gemencmarker in Hungary, the Naturpark Obere Donaumarker in Germany, Kopački ritmarker in Croatia, Iron Gatemarker and Danube Delta in Romania, the Srebarna Nature Reservemarker in Bulgaria.

Important National Parks

Cultural significance

The Danube is mentioned in the title of a famous waltz by Austrian composer Johann Strauss, An der schönen, blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube). This piece was composed as Strauss was traveling down the Danube River. This piece is well known across the world and is also used widely as a lullaby.

Another famous waltz about the Danube is The Waves of the Danube ( ) by the Romanian composer Ion Ivanovici (1845–1902), and the work took the audience by storm when performed at the 1889 Paris Exposition.

Joe Zawinul wrote a symphony about the Danube called Stories of the Danube. It was performed for the first time at the 1993 Bruckner festival, at Linzmarker.

The Danube figures prominently in the Bulgarian National Anthem, as a symbolic representation of the country's natural beauty.

The German tradition of landscape painting, the Danube school, was developed in the Danube valley in the 16th century.

The most famous book describing the Danube might be Claudio Magris's masterpiece Danube (ISBN 1-86046-823-3).

The historical fiction Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel refers to the Danube as the Great Mother River.

The river is the subject of the film The Ister (official site here).

Parts of the German road movie Im Juli take place along the Danube.

Noted horror writer Algernon Blackwood's most famous short story, "The Willows" concerned a trip down the Danube.

See also


External links


International organizations

Individual cities or countries

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