We set off from Novi Sad at around 9am bound for Belgrade. Straight away we passed under the bridges of Novi Sad, there are remains to be seen of those which were destroyed in 1999 by NATO. The rebuilding work is still in progress.
It was another hot day and the horseflies were bothering us again. The scenery was good, with a few interesting looking communities huddled along the riverbanks.
We began to approach Belgrade during the afternoon. The Restoran Vodenica is a family-run restaurant barge which has a reputation as a being a great place to tie up to. It is in the mouth of the river Sava which flows through Belgrade and into the Danube. It took us a little while to find it, and we were getting a bit concerned that it had closed down, but all was well. By 5pm, we had tied up securely, met the owner and his son, Neysha and George, who run the place together, had a glass of schnapps and settled in. Shortly afterwards, another sailing boat, Marianne, arrived. Onboard Marianne were Klaus and Klaus, who are undertaking the passage to the Black Sea having started in Stuttgart. They are doing the journey in stages, a couple of weeks whenever work and family commitments allow, leaving the boat somewhere secure in between times.
These were the first people we had met completing the whole trip and we had a great evening together, swapping stories over dinner. They were carrying on their journey the next day, having spent time sightseeing in Belgrade previously, whereas we were staying put for a few days.The next day, Sunday 2nd, was hot again. Being Brits, we are finding this quite a challenge. We left early, after waving off Klaus and Klaus, for a stroll around the fortress, breakfast in the park and then a look at the pedestrianised areas of the city. We also put in another stop on our tour of European markets and purchased a fly swat, possibly the best pound I’ve ever spent. We then scuttled back to the boat to hide in the shade doing nothing for the afternoon. The evening brought rain, which is much more to our taste, and we went out again. This time, we discovered the passenger boat dock and a couple of interesting churches.
When we arrived back at the restaurant, it was fairly quiet, but still open, so we ordered some Serbian white wine and were joined for a chat by Neysha (unlikely that this is the correct spelling), the owner. It was very interesting to hear him talk and share some of his thoughts and experiences. There are some significant cultural differences and we did not always see things the same way but it was a great end to the evening and gave us a lot to think about. Serbia seems to be a country caught between East and West, with a troubled and turbulent past, still bearing the scars.
We were blessed with overcast skies on Monday and able to spend a full day sightseeing. We purchased a 24 hour bus/tram pass so we could cover more ground. Unfortunately, the transport system is not quite so well developed as some cities, so it felt like we spent a large proportion of the day waiting at bus stops.In between times, we did manage to get to the Temple of St Sava. The inside is being refurbished, but the crypt is complete and lavishly decorated. It is a relatively modern temple and the crypt contains photographs and text commemorating Serbians who fought and died in WW1. Serbia lost over 50% of its male population during WW1. We then braved the buses again, and after a particularly crowded and unpleasant journey, arrived in Zemun. This is a lovely district of Belgrade and worth the effort. There is a tower to climb, which affords spectacular views across Belgrade. The bus ride back was better, and we had time to explore a bit more. We ate in the Restoran Vodenica, which I can highly recommend to anyone visiting Belgrade, had a lovely chat with George, made arrangements to sort out diesel in the morning and went off to bed.
There was no need to leave early the following morning, so we had a bit of a slow start. Cy went off with George in his car to get diesel and I did a bit of housekeeping – vacuuming and laundry to be precise. Departing before us in their beautiful river boat were Walter, with his friends Manfred and Ursula (Ursi). They are from Vienna and also travelling the Danube, staying in hotels/b+b’s along the way. We continue to catch up with them throughout the journey. Belgrade seemed to be quite a place for meeting fellow travellers.
As we had been welcomed with a glass of schnapps, Cy felt it fitting to offer a whiskey to our hosts before departing. I left the boys to it, and we eventually departed from Belgrade towards Smederevo just after midday.
The journey to Smederevo was delightful. No horsefly problems and deep, wide sections of river. According to our guide notes, Smederevo has lots of restaurant barges to tie to. Unfortunately, this no longer appears to be the case. Most looked to be closed, and had the appearance of being private dwellings. There were a couple that were possible tying up places, but one was full and the other didn’t really look suitable for Doris.
- There is a small-boat dock and we found a good place, with plenty of depth of water. We got chatting to Milan, who is a member of the boat club. He thought it would be OK for us to stay there, but needed to check with the club secretary. In the meantime, Walter and the crew arrived to the same dock. Milan came up trumps (thank you Milan) and not only were we allowed to stay for the night, there was no charge.
This was great news, so we headed to the clubhouse to spend the money on beer instead. We were joined by the guys from Vienna. It turns out that Walter has a lot of experience sailing in Greece and Turkey, so was able to share a few tips. Fortified by our beer, we headed to a supermarket to top up our provisions.
Wednesday 5th July was a bright, calm day and relatively cool in the morning. We left at around 9am. The temperature increased steadily and was very hot again in the afternoon. Dealing with temperatures consistently in excess of 30 degrees Celsius is not something that comes easily, and is incredibly draining. However, the Danube was spectacular. At around 12:30, we passed the village of Ram and its fortress. Shortly after, the Romanian border begins on the left bank, with the right still being Serbia. We reached the fortress at Golubac later in the afternoon. This is the entrance to the Iron Gates gorge section and we decided to stop for the day and enter the Iron Gates in the morning.
There is a tiny village in a little scoop of a bay immediately before entering the gorge, so we threw down the anchor for the night. It was beautiful.
I had a swim and we ate dinner whilst watching the sun set behind the fortress.
It was an idyllic evening. The night, however, turned out to be less so. I’ll leave that for the next instalment…..