The Danube is the second longest river in Europe behind the Volga and the only major European river to flow from West to East. It takes its source in the Black Forest Mountains of Germany, and empties after 2850 km (1770 mi) in the Black Sea on the Romanian coast. Along its way, the Danube flows through nine countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine) and drains an area slightly larger than 817,000 km2 (315,000 sq mi) over more than a dozen countries. The river is navigable by ocean vessels to Braila, Romania, and by river craft up to Ulm, Germany. About 60 of its 300 tributaries are navigable as well; the principal ones are Inn, Morava, Drava, Tisza, Sava, and Prut. Among the important cities on the river, three are national capitals: Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary), and Belgrade (Serbia).
The waters of the Danube have served as a vital commercial highway between nations for centuries.
The river is of great economic importance to the nine countries that border it. They use the river in various ways. Freight transport, hydroelectricity, water supplies, irrigation, and fishing are all found on the Danube.
The most important use of the Danube is the movement of freight. The major ports include all the cities mentioned earlier. Industrial supplies as well as agricultural products are brought from the Balkans to the inner lands or downstream from Germany to the Black Sea. In the second half of the 20th century navigation has been improved. In some places the river bed has been enlarged and deepened, but more importantly, the construction of a series of canals along the Danube has helped river traffic increase considerably. The two major canals are the Danube-Black Sea Canal and the Main-Danube Canal. The...