A couple relaxing in Eforie, Romania, in 1959.
A century ago, Romania's coastline was a holiday destination dotted with architectural gems that was dubbed Europe's "Silver Coast." After World War II, the coastline gradually dropped off foreign tourist itineraries, even as neighboring Bulgaria's seaside grew increasingly popular.
A beach at Costinesti, Romania.
In the summer of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic decimated tourism numbers, around 1.5 million foreign tourists headed to Bulgaria's Black Sea coastline. In contrast, just 44,000 foreign guests opted for Romania's white sand beaches in the same year.
A shipwreck off the coast of Costinesti.
Traian Badulescu, a Romanian tourism consultant, believes the low profile of his country's beaches has been a result of a lack of quality investment and a failure of marketing.
A view over Romania's Mamaia coastline at sunrise.
"Bulgarians and Turks have the ease of resorts close to beaches and the all-inclusive hotel system,' Badulescu told RFE/RL. 'The Greeks have their landscapes, myths, the water, and countless islands."
Romania, he says, "never promoted itself. The coast has never had an identity, at least when it comes to marketing to foreign tourists."
Two men pose for a picture on the seaside at Constanta in 1937 with the city's famous coastal casino in the background.
Badulescu believes the most compelling potential symbol for Romania's coast should be the casino building in Constanța, which once drew royal guests and wealthy gamblers to Romania's Black Sea. The casino, which opened in 1910, has endured a difficult life of neglect and mismanagement and is currently wrapped in scaffolding.
The central staircase inside the Constanta Casino photographed in May 2018.
'It is a spectacular building that is now undergoing renovation,' Badulescu says. 'Of course, after the renovation is complete, the casino in Constanța can be an emblem of the coast, a point of attraction.'
Queen Mary's Palace in Balchik, Bulgaria.
A stark illustration of the lack of investment in Romania's coastline are two palaces built by the Romanian royal family on the beaches of today's Bulgaria and Romania, both built in the 1920s. Today, the palace in Balchik, Bulgaria (above), is an architectural treasure that draws tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Queen Mary's Palace in Mamaia, Romania.
Just over 100 kilometers to the north of Balchik, in the Romanian resort of Mamaia, the palace pictured above was once an elegant echo of the Balchik property but today stands largely ruined.
A man paints a lounge chair in Navodari, Romania.
Badulescu points out that Bulgaria has a slightly lengthier summer season than Romania, and its swimmable coastline is nearly three times longer, but says Romania's beaches are simply waiting to be discovered.
"The Romanian coast, at least in recent years, has developed a lot and offers many attractions that just haven't been promoted," he says.
Written by Amos Chapple based on a report by Marian Pavalasc
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036