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Tuesday, 22 August, 2000, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Danube protester swims on
Danube swimmer Martin Strel
Martin Strel aims to beat the world record
BBC central Europe reporter Nick Thorpe

A Slovenian man has become the first person to swim the entire length of the River Danube.

Forty-five-year-old Martin Strel was trying to raise awareness of environmental issues, but he now plans to swim on in an attempt to break the world record.

Click here for a map of the River Danube

Mr Strel set out from the German town of Donaueschingen, close to the source of the Danube in the Black Forest, on the 25 June.

He has now arrived, 56 days later, in the Romanian Black Sea port of Sulina.

A former professional guitarist, Mr Strel swam the 2,860km (1,773 miles) of the Danube as an ambassador for the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

Gesture of solidarity

In interviews given along the way, he said he was swimming for peace, friendship and clean rivers.

Danube swimmers
Foreign Minister Roman (left) takes the plunge
He also hoped to highlight the plight of the River Danube in particular, still blocked by debris from the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia last year, and further harmed by a cyanide spill in Romania earlier this year.

At one point in the journey, the Romanian foreign minister, Petre Roman, joined him for several kilometres in what he said was a gesture of solidarity with Mr Strel's aims.

World record

But the Slovenian swimmer's journey is not quite over.

In a bid to defeat the world record for marathon swimming, held by an American who swam the 2,910km-long Mississippi River, Martin Strel now intends to swim along a stretch of the Danube Black Sea canal.

He is accompanied on his journey by his 18-year-old son in a canoe.



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15 Aug 00 | Europe
Minister takes the Danube plunge
10 Jul 00 | Europe
Hungary seeks pollution damages
27 Mar 00 | Europe
New bridge over the Danube
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