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On The Black Sea Coast

Mamaia, Romania

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Mamaia is the one of the jewels of Romania's Black Sea Riviera. Lying around eight miles north east of Constanta, it's a set on a long, narrow strip of beach, between the Black Sea and Lake Siutghiol. It's unashamedly a resort, with few permanent residents and a perfect destination for fun-loving, sun-loving cruisers. It's also the best place in Romania for watersports. The amenities are uniformly excellent, being either brand new, or recently renovated as the Black Sea area has been discovered by westerners.

The Romanians are very proud of Mamaia's natural attractions, boasting of the ozone-scented sea breezes, the mineral rich waters, warm sea and fine golden sand. You'll see Mamaia described as a centre for aero heliotherapy and wave therapy. Roughly translated this means that sun-bathing by the sea or splashing around in the warm seawaters counts as therapy. Bring it on! A stopover in Mamaia is all about relaxation and having fun. The star attraction when you disembark is obviously going to be that golden sand - the beach stretches the entire length of the resort, so there's plenty of space for everyone. Wherever you are on the beach there'll be many food stands and cafés selling seafood, Romanian snacks, beers and ice cream. It gets less crowded further north, but there are also fewer facilities.

The Mamaia Holiday Village is an attractive development. The gardens are lavishly planted and there are bars and nightclubs galore - not for nothing is Mamaia known as Romania's party central and the destination of choice for vacationers. If sunbathing begins to pall, head for one of the amusement parks, perfect your mini-golfing skills or head for one of the bowling alleys. There's even an open air theatre and in September the resort plays host to Romania's Festival of Popular Music.

The huge Aqualand park which opened in 2003 will be first choice for any families with children and plenty of adults too, with a dolphinarium and lots of rides and other watery fun.

The resort aims to showcase the best of Romania for the cruiser's benefit. The Holiday Village offers a choice of more than thirty restaurants built in the various styles of Romania's different regions. Each restaurant offers specialties of that region's cuisine, so you get a gourmet's tour of the country without leaving the resort. There are plenty of international dining choices too. Pizzas are particularly popular, try the 'flying house' of Pizza Bueno for an extra ration of the famous fresh air with fabulous fresh pizzas, just don't expect your carefully coiffed hair to survive the experience!

If you're ready for some serious action after all the fairground fun of the amusement parks check out some of the great watersports on offer. You've even a choice of fresh or saltwater, with Lake Suitghiol and the sea on either side of the 500-yard wide strip of the resort. You can hire windsurf boards, rowing boats or even a full-sized yacht. Adrenalin junkies will find plenty of opportunities for waterskiing, power boating and jet-skiing.

Feeling guilty about all this hedonism? There's an art gallery near the Hotel Perla to give you a shot of culture. You could also take a boat out to Ovidiu Island on Lake Suitghiol and admire the tomb of the guy the island’s named after – the Roman poet Ovid. Boat tours and jet-skiing are available from the island too. The famous Insula Ovidiu restaurant is worth a visit. Seafood gets top billing on the menu. If you're feeling homesick, you might like to know that you can enjoy soft-shell white Chesapeake clams even in Mamaia. They were brought over on a boat by accident in 1960, and thrived, outdoing the local species.

If you need an alternative to beach life the Histria Citadel is bound to be top of the list. Histria, about twenty-five miles north of Mamaia, is Romania's oldest town. It was founded by Greek merchants in 657BC and as a centre for commerce quickly outdid nearby Constanta. Unfortunately the harbor became silted and the town itself was buried in the sand until the ruins were rediscovered in 1914. If you've seen Pompeii you'll know what to expect. If you haven't then the walls, baths and paved roads at the Archaeological Complex will be a revelation. The Museum at the entrance to the site displays relics found at the site, exhibits, including some fine terracottas and stellae are all labeled in English. You can wander the original streets of this fortified city and see the Christian basilica built from the stones of an old Greek amphitheatre, in the 'sacred zone' you can see the recently uncovered remains of a Greek temple thought to have been built in 6BC. Even the ancient Greeks clearly appreciated the health-giving properties of the Black Sea waters as there are also the remains of an extensive thermal baths complex.

Mamaia elevates beach-bumming to an art form - make the most it.

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