Between September 20-24, 1917, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany made a trip to the Romanian territories occupied by the Central Powers. The German sovereign avoided the capital of Romania. During this visit, the German sovereign met with King Ferdinand of Bulgaria in the Romanian port city of Cernavodă.
Wilhelm II began his journey in Romania with a symbolic stop: Curtea de Argeş. In this city, the first capital of medieval Wallachia, the Kaiser visited the tomb of the first king of Romania, Carol I, who remained loyal to his native country (Germany) until his death. From here, avoiding Bucharest altogether, the German sovereign headed for Giurgiu, a port at the Danube located 60 kilometres south of the capital of Romania, where he boarded a ship that led him to Cernavodă.
The Kaiser’s journey on the Danube was described in the Romanian pro-German newspaper the Bucharest Gazette, in an issue published on September 26, 1917: “September 21- This day brought with it a lot of military reports, culminating in the meeting between the Emperor of Germany and the King of Bulgaria. Early in the morning, the emperor, accompanied by Field Marshal von Mackensen and his suite, boarded a ready-made steamer in Giurgiu and immediately set off. In the light of a sun-drenched day, the magnificent and melancholic Danubian plains of Wallachia and Dobrogea opened up in front of the emperor’s eyes- territories for which the victorious armies of Field Marshal von Mackensen fought one year ago. The Emperor asked him to explain once more how the battles unfolded, and requested details near Rahova and Tutrakan on the fighting that took place. During breaks, the emperor worked on the ship with the State Chiefs of Staff and the Chiefs of Cabinet. At 5 o’clock he saw the Cernavodă bridge and soon His Majesty’s ship went past the beautiful Austro-Hungarian monitors, which, besides the Austro-Hungarian flags, had also raised German pavilions, and whose crews welcomed the Emperor’s arrival with thunderous cheers”.
The meeting with the Bulgarian monarch at Cernavodă
As the Gazette of Bucharest announced, Wilhelm II’s Danube journey “culminated in the meeting between the Emperor of Germany and the King of Bulgaria” on September 21, 1917. The meeting of the two sovereigns took place on the Kaiser’s ship, anchored in the Cernavodă harbour, and was described by the Gazette of Bucharest on September 26: “The ship entered the port of Cernavodă, where King Ferdinand of Bulgaria was already waiting for him with his two sons. The imposing stature of the King of Bulgaria was revealed as he stood upright- he met the German monarch’s gaze from afar. The vessel was then anchored. In a few steps, the emperor crosses the deck, and the two allied sovereigns cordially greeted each other, in joyous reunion. The Bulgarian princes and some gentlemen in their suite also welcomed the emperor. He headed with the King of Bulgaria, with whom he was immediately immersed in conversation, towards the square, where a beautiful surprise awaited him. Here, the troops welcomed them to the powerful tunes of the Bulgarian national anthem «Shumi Maritsa», in their grey uniforms and helmets. These are German policemen, whom you would find everywhere in Central Europe, therefore here in Cernavodă as well. The Emperor, accompanied by the King of Bulgaria, reviewed the troops, who were now playing the German anthem and passed by the Emperor in march, as orderly and as beautiful as not even an active regiment of young boys could. Truly, your heart swells with joy and gratitude at the sight of these men who, as in the West, now fulfil their holy duty in the east to the homeland and the emperor. The King of Bulgaria with his two sons accompanied the emperor along the Cernavodă Bridge- 13 km long- then the two sovereigns parted ways as two men who know that both their cause and that of their peoples are one and the same, that they have for all time only one way on which they will walk together unshaken and determined”.
From Cernavodă, Wilhelm II headed to Focșani, where the German troops were on the front. Later, Kaiser visited the salt mines in Slănic and the oil wells in Câmpina. The last stop of the German sovereign in Romania was the city of Sinaia, where he visited Peleș Castle, the summer residence of the royal family of Romania, occupied by the German troops in autumn 1916. After a night spent in the train at Sinaia, he left on 24 September 1917 in his car to Predeal, where he left Romania’s occupied territory.
Ștefania Ciubotaru, Vizita împăratului Wilhelm al II-lea la Curtea de Argeș [The visit of Emperor Wilhelm II at Curtea de Argeș], in “Historia”, no. 88, April 2009.
Ion Cristoiu, Vizita împăratului Germaniei, Wilhelm al II-lea, în România ocupată [The visit of Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, in occupied Romania], in “Historia”, no. 189, October 2017.
Alexandru Tzigara-Samurcaș, Memorii (1910-1918) [Memories (1941-1918)], vol. II, Bucharest, “Grai și suflet- Cultura națională” Publishing House, 1999.
Translated by Laurențiu Dumitru Dologa