The Danube - In German: Donau from earlier Danuvius, Celtic *danu, meaning "to flow, run", Slovak and Polish Dunaj, Hungarian Duna, Romanian Dunarea,
Old Norse Duná, Turkish Tuna, ancient Greek Istros, Croatian Dunav, Serbian ?????/Dunav, Bulgarian ?????, Ukrainian ?????) is the longest river in the
European Union and Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It originates in the Black Forest in Germany as the much smaller Brigach and Breg
rivers which join at the eponymously named German town Donaueschingen, after which it is known as the Danube and flows eastwards for a distance of
some 2850 km (1771 miles), passing through several Central and Eastern European capitals, before emptying into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in
Romania and Ukraine.
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:
Germany (7.5%), Austria (10.3%), Slovakia (5.8%), Hungary (11.7%), Croatia (4.5%), Serbia (10.3%), Romania (28.9%), Bulgaria (5.2%), Moldova (1.7%), and
In addition, the drainage basin includes parts of nine more countries: Italy (0.15%), Poland (0.09%), Switzerland (0.32%), Czech Republic (2.6%),
Slovenia (2.2%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (4.8%), Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, and Albania (0.03%).
The English language has, since the Norman invasion, used the French word Danube. In other languages, particularly those spoken in the countries the river flows through:
- Czech, Polish and Slovak: Dunaj
- German: Donau
- Hungarian: Duna
- Slovenian: Donava
- Croatian: Dunav
- Serbian and Bulgarian (Cyrillic only on the latter): Dunav/????? (Dunaiiro)
- Romanian: Dunare, Dunarea
- Russian and Ukrainian: ???á? (Dunay)
- Latin: Danubius, Danuvius, Ister
- Ancient Greek: Istros
- Turkish: Tuna
- Local Yiddish: Duner - ????? or Tin'e - ????
One theory ultimately derives all these variations from the Celtic word *danu, meaning "to flow", and its exact equivalent is found in the Welsh name
of the river Donwy. Other theories derive the name from an Iranic root that has contributed the names of all other major rivers emptying into the
Black Sea, such as the Don, Donets, Dnieper and Dniestr. See the discussion section on this.
Ancient Greek Istros was a borrowing from Thracian meaning "strong, swift", akin to Sanskrit is.iras "swift", Greek ierós "strong, sacred".
The Danube River reaches into ten other countries. Some Danubian tributaries are important rivers in their own right, navigable by barges and
river boats of shallow draught. Ordered from source to mouth, the main tributaries are:
Iller - Lech - Regen (entering at Regensburg) - Isar (entering just beyond Deggendorf) - Inn (entering at Passau) - Enns - Morava (entering near
Devín Castle) - Leitha - Váh (entering at Komárno) - Hron - Ipel - Sió - Dráva - Vuka - Tisza - Sava (entering at Belgrade) - Timis - Velika Morava -
Caras - Jiu - Iskar - Olt - Vedea - Arges - Ialomita - Siret - Prut
The Danube is navigable by ocean ships from the Black Sea to Braila in Romania and by river ships to Kelheim, Bavaria; smaller craft can
navigate further upstream to Ulm, in Germany. About 60 of its tributaries are also navigable.
Since the completion of the German Rhine–Main–Danube Canal in 1992, the river has been part of a trans-European waterway from Rotterdam
on the North Sea to Sulina 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 NATO 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 Gate, 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 2006-04-13, a record peak discharge at
Iron Gate Dam reached 15,400 mł/s.
There are three artificial waterways built on the Danube: the Danube–Tisa–Danube Canal (DTD) in the Banat and Backa regions (Vojvodina,
northern province of Serbia); the 64 km Danube–Black Sea Canal, between Cernavoda and Constanta (Romania) finished in 1984, shortens the
distance to the Black Sea by 400 km; the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal (about 171 km), finished in 1992, linking the North Sea to the Black Sea.
Although the headwaters of the Danube are relatively small today, geologically, the Danube is much older than the Rhine, 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 divides large parts of southern Germany, which is sometimes referred to as the
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 Alb. 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 Alb 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 Aachtopf, Germany's wellspring with the highest flow, an average of 8500 litres per second,
north of Lake Constance — 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 Vucedol culture (from the Vucedol site near Vukovar, Croatia) is famous for its ceramics. Many sites of
the sixth-to-third millennium BC Vinca culture are sited along the Danube. The river was part of the Roman empire's Limes Germanicus.
Of importance for the Danube is also the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). The ICPDR is an international
organisation consisting of 13 member states (Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia,
Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine) and the European Union. ICPDR, established in 1998, deals not only with the Danube itself, but with the whole
Danube River Basin, which also includes its tributaries and the groundwater resources. The goal of the ICPDR is to implement the Danube River
Protection Convention, promoting and coordinating sustainable and equitable water management, including conservation, improvement and rational
use of waters for the benefit of the Danube River Basin countries and their people. The Romans often used the river Danube as a border for their
Along its path, the Danube is a source of drinking water for about ten million people. In Baden-Württemberg, Germany, almost thirty percent
(as of 2004) of the water for the area between Stuttgart, Bad Mergentheim, Aalen and Alb-Donau (district) comes from purified water of the Danube.
Other cities like Ulm and Passau 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.
As "Corridor VII" of the European Union, the Danube is an important transport route. Since the opening of the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, the river
connects the Black Sea with the industrial centers of Western Europe and with the Port of Rotterdam. 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
Downstream from the Freudenau river plant's locks in Vienna, canalization of the Danube was limited to the Gabcíkovo dam 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 kilometers.
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 Tisza. In Serbia, a canal network also connects to the river;
the network, known as the Dunav-Tisa-Dunav canals, links sections downstream.
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 (Romanian: Valurile Dunarii) 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 Linz.
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 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.
In the PC Space Simulator Freelancer the battle cruiser Donau is destroyed during the first cutscene.
In the Star Trek universe, a class of spacecraft was named after the Danube.