Saint from the Danube Delta
Patrick Henry Reardon on Saint John Cassian
Among the world's natural boundaries, few have exercised greater political significance over the centuries than the Danube River. This second-largest waterway of Europe (after the Volga), taking its rise in the Black Forest in southwestern Germany, meanders in a mainly easterly direction toward the Black Sea some 1,750 miles away, its volume constantly augmented by some 300 tributary streams. Thus, it separated the classical Mediterranean lands of the lower Balkans from the more migratory peoples to the north. Indeed, the Roman Empire regarded the Danube as its northern border. Today it partially forms the national boundaries separating Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania.
Besides separating them, however, the Danube has also served to unite various peoples of Europe. Once it becomes navigable at Ulm, this vital traffic artery links together such important cities as Regensburg (where one may still cross it on the oldest stone bridge in Europe), Passau, Linz, Vienna, Bratislava, Esztergom, Budapest, Belgrade, Galati and Izmail. Thus, the Danube's place in history is secure and pervasive. As a traditional conduit for both commerce and culture, it stands second to no other river in the world.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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