Budapest is such a wonderful city, that we couldn’t resist spending the morning there and planned a lunchtime departure. The market hall was up first, via a circuitous tram route that I thought would be interesting. I was wrong, it was just long.
After purchasing some fruit and veg from one of the many stalls, we headed upstairs where there are a few street food stalls. For our breakfast we had what I think is called ‘lagosz’. Basically a large piece of deep fried bread lavishly covered with sour cream and cheese. It took just as long to try and remove the leftover grease from our hands and faces as it did to eat, but we were certainly not hungry any longer.
Next we headed towards the Parliament building. After hanging out in the square for I bit, we noticed a memorial to the events of 25th October 1956 and decided to go in. There is a recently installed exhibition in an underground chamber which acts as a memorial for those who lost their lives on that day when Russian tanks fired on a large gathering of civilians. However, events of that day are still poorly understood, so the Hungarian Government are encouraging anyone with memories or information to get in touch. The ‘Shoes on the Danube’ memorial is close by, so that was next. This is to remember people who were shot in 1944 on the bank of the Danube (mainly Jews) by a right wing militia group. They were made to remove their shoes first, hence the nature of the memorial. It is a deeply moving and thought provoking tribute.
It was time to return to Doris and get going. The usual pre-departure faff ensued and we left the Wiking Yacht Club, Budapest at around 1 pm. It took a little longer than expected as we hit a shallow patch and ran aground while trying to get off the mooring. Eventually we were in the main channel and driving Doris through Budapest. For me, this was a stand-out experience on the trip. So much of the city is along the waterfront on both sides of the river, the sights and views are amazing. Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch, the majority of the photos I took have been lost into the digital hinterland, never to return. Passing under the iconic Chain Bridge and past the Parliament are views which I will never forget, but am unable to show.
Once out of the city, we passed through the port and industrial area and then very quickly into swampy, rural scenery.
The intention was to spend the night at anchor, and we had a choice of two anchorages. One had been recommended by Attila, in Esztergom, and one by our pilot guide. We stuck our nose into the first one at 18:45, and decided with depth reading of 1.3m in the entrance, we didn’t want to risk further dropping levels and get stuck. Our experience of running aground in Budapest had revealed that our depth sounder doesn’t work brilliantly in shallow water and 1.3m seems to be its lowest reading. Erring on the side of caution seemed wise. We reached the second potential place 45 mins later and found the same situation. The decision was made to push on and try to find an alternative. Finally, just after 2030, and with daylight fading fast, we tied up to a pontoon belonging to a restaurant. There was plenty of depth and the pontoon was secure. The restaurant was deserted but another boat owner said it was fine to stay and showed us where the toilets and showers were.
Tuesday 27th dawned, and with it another early start. Away before 06:30, which meant getting underway in the cool of the early morning, and also before anyone arrived to collect a mooring fee (sheer coincidence…). There was now noticeably less traffic on the river; the amount of cruise ships was significantly less as many of the routes start/stop at Budapest. The river was also much broader. The major issue for the day was the plague of enormous horseflies, they seemed to be attracted to the boat. We were forced to close the canvas door in the end, despite the heat.
It was to be our last day in Hungary, with Mohacs being the last stop before crossing into Serbia. As we would be leaving the EU at this point, we needed to clear out through customs. We reached the customs dock towards the end of the afternoon. The main dock was taken by a passenger ship and there was also a barge on the large boat dock, but we found a space on the police dock and snuggled in there.
We headed ashore to complete the formalities. A very friendly receptionist explained that there had been a change in the rules, and if we completed the paperwork, we must leave Hungary immediately, rather than be allowed to stay overnight and leave in the morning. As a result, we decided to clear customs in the morning instead and headed to Mohacs (just a few hundred metres further downstream) to find a mooring for the night.
The usual visitors moorings are alongside a restaurant barge but when we tied up, we were advised that they were full. All the visiting boat spaces were taken and we could not stay where we were as they were private moorings. A bit of persistence was required but eventually the lovely chap made a couple of phone calls and it was arranged that we could tie to a boat further along. This turned out to be an old tug belonging to the ferry company. A charge was made and we were subjected to quite a long wait whilst a receipt was laboriously produced for us by the lady in the ferry ticket office. We didn’t really need a receipt, but in the battle of bureaucracy vs common sense, bureaucracy definitely won this round.
Once everything was sorted and we had finished off the daily logbook entries and given Doris a cursory tidy, we went out to spend our final forints. We were pleasantly surprised by Mohacs. There was a pedestrianised main street with a handful of bars and restaurants. What more could we want?
There was also one of the largest war memorials I’ve seen. An ice cream, beer and then dinner used up most of our leftover currency.
Next morning, we arrived at customs again. This time there was no space on the police dock, but the main was free, so we tied up at the far end. It was only afterwards that we realised getting off was not quite so easy…..
The receptionist on duty completed the paperwork which then needed to be signed off by various offices within the building, in order. First stop was the police, so we found the relevant office and gingerly knocked on the door. The door was flung open by a large policeman eating a large pastry who gestured to us to sit down and wait. We did not argue and meekly sat down and waited (have you ever been with Sarah while she’s meekly waiting? If only they knew…). It was evidently a three course breakfast as we waited quite a long time. Eventually the receptionist came to see what was happening and took us around the other offices and gather the rest of the signatures (water police, customs etc). Eventually, the police were ready to sign and stamp our form and we were good to go. On returning to the boat, we found a thin, sallow-looking fellow hanging around smoking. He conversationally introduced himself as the health inspector(!) and casually enquired if we had any pets. Not really sure what possessed me, but I began telling him about my deceased cat, Jim and how upset I was when he died. He expressed sympathy and pronounced us free to go.
We continued our journey downstream, crossing the border initially into Croatia and then Serbia and Croatia on opposite banks. Bezdan is the first customs port in Serbia and we arrived mid-morning. Customs do not have their own dock but there is an agents barge to tie to. We duly did and followed the agent to the customs house.
This was up some very steep, scary steps. These would be less steep and a little less scary if the water level were not so low but probably no safer.
We then proceeded to cross a large lawned area into what appeared to be a modern building. It looked less modern inside but the official was very nice and led us into his office.
He was incredibly friendly but a bit slow on the computer, so the various forms took a while. To pass the time, we were offered (and of course, accepted) a glass of home-made schnapps. Made by his ‘friend’. We chose not to enquire about the tax status of home-distilled spirits.
Once everything was complete, he advised us that we were to return to our boat and wait – he and a police officer would come and inspect our vessel. We rushed back and tidied up hurriedly, fretting about how to explain the composting toilet arrangements, including the sealed black buckets marked “Do not open” buried in the bottom of the deck locker. This was to be our first inspection, so a certain amount of anxiety is inevitable. Once again, we needn’t have worried. They just came to the dock to wave us off, wishing us a good stay in Serbia.
We pulled in for the night at the marina at Apatin. The facilities were fine, but you got the sense that all was not well and they may have been struggling a bit to maintain the business. We walked into town for a bit of a sniff around. The town was quite interesting and we got into an interesting conversation with a young man working in a hardware store. He told us a bit about the history of the town (which was a German enclave for many years) and some of the current problems within Serbia – he expressed the view that the government was very corrupt and this was the biggest issue within the country. We topped up groceries at a decent supermarket and enjoyed a beer before returning to Doris for the night.
Thursday is market day in Apatin, so we thought it would be interesting to go and see it before departing. It was a great experience, really bustling, with everything under the sun. Cy managed to get some hose, fittings and new crocs (rock n roll…) and I bought some bread for our lunch.
The hose and fittings were to help Cy set up some extra water storage capacity with a spare flexible tank, so while he was sorting that out, I headed off for diesel, getting soaked in a massive storm on the way back. With all this, we still managed to leave the marina at 10:30. It was a very pleasant stretch of river – wide, curving, with lots of islands and wooded banks. We saw eagles and egrets during the day. However, the horseflies were out in force again. We decided to stop at around 6pm. We found a corner in the river, well out of the channel and dropped anchor. Everything seemed fine but the current was more than we expected, so we decided not to risk the night there.
We continued on to the harbour in the town of Backa Palanka. There is a commercial port at the front of the harbour but room at the back to anchor out of the way. We were a bit nervous about it being shallow but figured if the barges could get out, so could we. The depth sounder was reading 1.3m, but a prod with the boat hook revealed that it was deeper than that (probably weed confusing the instruments). We passed a peaceful night there.
Doris managed to get out of the harbour OK the next morning and we arrived at the city of Novi Sad in the early afternoon.
There was space on a pontoon of one of the boat clubs for us, with plenty of depth.
It was incredibly hot, so we had no intention of walking into the main city until the evening. The city ‘beach’ was nearby though, and I thought it would be fun to have a look. It was packed with people enjoying a day out, we had a swim and ice cream. As soon as the temperature was bearable, we walked along the riverside path into town. On the way, we saw a procession of traditional musicians.
Novi Sad was heavily bombed by NATO in 1999, and bears the scars. The bridges have been rebuilt, but some of the remains are still visible. We saw a large photo display of the bridges before and after 1999.
Once we reached the city centre, we found there was an exhibition by the Serbian tourist board, showcasing different regions.
We walked around a bit, admiring the restored buildings.
We treated ourselves to dinner out and were glad we had; Cy found a great restaurant. After getting a taxi back, we finished the evening with a night cap at one of the ‘beach bars’.