Saturday August 13: Golubac Serbia
We have just docked in Serbia.
The theme for this morning seems to have been boating. We had set our alarm for 6:30, and when we got up, we could see the dam ahead of us. We threw on some clothes, and hurried up on deck. The next few hours were cycling through two sequential locks. Things move very slowly during this process. Amy had seen some of going through a previous set of locks right after I went to bed last night.
I watched the whole process in the first of the two locks, but after we started repeating the process in the second one, I went down and grabbed my usual breakfast. I was done in time to see the end of the process.
Interestingly, they used two different types of lock door. The first/lowest one was the "normal" pair of hinged doors that pivoted around a vertical axis. The middle and upper doors, however, slid straight down to open. I wonder if this was because they would have had to dig a deep hole below the river to get the bottom door to lower.
Then we sailed through the "Iron Gates", a steep-walled gorge, which was somewhat reminiscent of fjords. There we saw a large face carved in the rock. It was described as one of the largest rock sculptures in the world, but I kept thinking that it was significantly smaller than Mount Rushmore.
A few times pleasure boats cut across our bow, which earned them a blast of the ship's horn. The first time it went off was rather startling.
Then just before lunch, we docked at Serbia. It was interesting watching the process. They had a pair of “wing bridges” on each side, so that the pilot could control the bow and stern thrusters while looking straight down along the ship's side to see how far we were from the dock.
We actually docked alongside an old ship that was moored there as a floating dock. It was interesting to see them throwing and then securing the lines.
Now it is time for lunch, and then I'm going on an afternoon hike (in the Djerdap National Park). It should be interesting, as there is a chance of rain, and I've been feeling a few drops as I've been typing this.
After lunch, I went off on the "hike". I would describe it as a mellow stroll. It was along a dirt road, and was essentially level. It took us out to an overlook, where we had a good view of the river. We waited there a while, and we watched the boat sail past.
We saw this structure that was basically a frame filled with segments of rotting logs. The guide explained that insects would live in the rotting logs, and then insect eating birds would come to eat the insects. So this was a “bird feeder”.
Then we stopped for a little food tasting, and strong Serbian spirit. I think its name translates to honey brandy, or something like that, but you could use it to strip paint. I think it was 47% alcohol. I would take literally a drop on my tongue, and it would burn. I didn't much care for it.
Then we took the bus to the Golubac fortress, where the boat was docked. We had a tour up to the third level of one of the towers. This was basically going up a modern metal stair, then up some old stone steps, sometimes with a railing, sometimes with a chain, and for one short section, neither.
We were warned not to attempt it if we had problems with heights. A few people elected to stay at the bottom. We lost two or three more halfway up--they elected to stop and return to the bottom. Of course, I was going to the top if it killed me.
I found out later that there were three difficulty levels. The bottom (first level) was "easy". Our route was "medium". There was another path which led up the hillside and along the curtain wall, that was "difficult". I think you needed a guide for that one, with a group of no more than 4 people.
After the tour, we had the chance to wander around (on the first level) by ourselves, but I was scheduled for a 6:00 tour of the first level with Amy that started in 10 minutes. In hindsight, I should have blown off that tour and just wandered around by myself.
But Amy was scheduled for that tour, so I hurried back to the boat and found Amy. She was waiting for me, handed me my ticket, but said that she wasn't going. So I hurried back and joined the group C tour.
In hindsight that was a mistake. I should have bailed and just explored on my own. Instead, I heard a somewhat interesting spiel, which by the time it ended, left me only about 15 minutes to run around to the various open towers before I needed to be back on the ship.
On the plus side, I did see a pair of falconer’s (and their birds) as they returned apparently from some demonstration.
When I got back to the boat, I found Amy was in a rather bad shape. The thousand dollar question is whether she has Covid or not. I think that only time will tell.
Dinner was a Balkan-themed smorgasbord. The evening talk was a somewhat campy performance by the director as Vlad the impaler, talking about the history of Vlad, and then the history of Dracula.
Tomorrow, we should be docked at Belgrade, where we'll spend the day. I really hope that Amy will be up for at least some of the activities we signed up for there.