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Culture and History – Shaped by Danube Water

The Danube Basin includes the territories of 19 countries and is home to 83 million people with a wide range of cultures, languages and historical backgrounds. The river unifies, flows through and forms borders and natural links for ten countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine. In addition, the drainage basin includes parts of nine more countries: Italy, Poland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia and Albania.

The Danube Basin was the site of some of the earliest human cultures. The Danubian Neolithic cultures include the third millennium B.C.E. Vucedol culture, which is famous for its ceramics. Also, many sites of the sixth-to-third millennium B.C.E. Vinca culture are sited along the Danube.

Over the millennia, the Danube Basin has hosted diverse customs, dialects and economies. The river has been used by traders as well as soldiers for the purpose of transportation. But the river was also one of the longest-standing frontiers of the Roman Empire. For 500 years the Limes Germanicus formed a northern border between the Noricum province of the Roman Empire and the territory of the Germanic ‘barbarians’ tribes.

The footprints of the Habsburg and Turkish empires can still be found today and deep-rooted traditions are still very much alive. Many important historic events are connected to the river, such as the epic Song of the Nibelungs from around 1200 AD. The river was used as means of transportation by the crusaders and was the site of the military battle between the Habsburg emperors and Napoleon in 1809 near the Danube floodplains east of Vienna.

The Children of the Danube

The past stays forever out of reach, but its effects can still be changed and more than anything else, the future of the Danube lies in the hands of the children who will learn about the need to protect the Danube in order to protect their own future. A variety of programs and collaborations with schools, organisations and sponsors was started in order to introduce children to the importance of the Danube

Danube Day

Inspiring the next generation of Danube users to act on behalf of their rivers is a cornerstone of Danube Day. Celebrations stretch across the region on June 29th every year, to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Danube River Protection Convention in 1994, a convention that all the countries along the Danube have signed. Hundreds of thousands of children in 13 countries attend hundreds of events every year, involving them in creative and thought-provoking activities. International ministerial events, conferences, awareness-raising festivities, river clean-ups and fun, hip youth gatherings produce a day of celebration that entertains and educates. The basin-wide festival inspires change and makes a real difference to the future of the rivers and the people who rely on them.

The Blue Danube

Not only does the Danube serve both the human and the natural world in very practical as well as entertaining ways, it is in itself a work of art and source of inspiration to many artists, writers, composers and poets throughout the centuries.

The Blue Danube is the common English title of “An der schönen blauen Donau”, a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, composed in 1866. The unofficial Austrian national anthem has been one of the most consistently popular pieces of music in the classical repertoire.

The “sparkling Danube” is also featured prominently in the current Bulgarian National Anthem “Mila Rodino”, as a symbolic representation for the country's natural beauty.

Famous Jazz musician 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 in Linz.

German poet Friedrich Hölderlin called the Danube "a refreshing, melodious river, sometimes foaming with high spirits, at other times dreaming serenely”.

Jules Verne's novel “The Danube Pilot” from 1908 depicts the adventures of a fisherman as he travels down the river.

In the Star Trek universe, the Danube-class runabout is a type of starship used by the Federation Starfleet.

And even the British Army let itself be inspired by the famous river, naming its first nuclear weapon the “Blue Danube”.