For centuries Danube, the second largest river in Europe has both divided and unified Europe. The river has acted as a natural border between countries and empires. The numerous fortresses on its banks testify its turbulent history but today, this mighty river connects people rather than divides them. While the Danube flows through ten countries, it exhibits its amoebic personality in Serbia – widest (5.5km), narrowest (150m) and deepest (93m). The legend-shrouded eastern region of Serbia is largely off the grid and unknown to most tourists; however, the entire section of the Danube in Serbia is navigable and is a great way to explore the historical, archaeological, gastronomic and cultural side of the region.
Danube River Cruise, Djerdap National Park, Serbia
Exploring the Danube in Serbia is like visiting an open-air museum – ancient fortresses, prehistoric archaeological ruins, timeless cities, spectacular national parks, mega hydropower plants, ancestral wine cellars and arresting natural formations bejewel the meandering river. This scintillating scenery is best admired from the water. Adventure spots that dot the river provide an additional incentive to thrill-seekers.
To understand the river closely and deeply, I went on a three-day excursion from
Belgrade to Kladovo and back. One day was reserved on the cruise and the other two days were a road trip along the River Danube. During the whole trip, I discovered attractions ranging from the sacred to the subterraneous.
Cruising the Danube from Belgrade to Kladovo
Boarding the Danube River Cruise from Belgrade, Serbia
At 7:30 am, I boarded the
Aquastar Maxim Cruiser from Belgrade. As I crossed the Belgrade Fortress, Smederevo appeared, where Morava and Danube rivers meet creating the widest point of the Danube (5.5 km).
Shedding more light on the historical relevance of the place my travel guide
Sara Damnjanović Stanišić said,
Owing to its strategic location, Smederevo was chosen as a site for building a medieval military Fortress in the 15th century to protect the Hungarian empire from Ottoman attacks. The Smederevo Fortress aka Ram fortress was built on a steep slope surrounded by water on three sides and was defended by 25 towers. For a brief period, it even became the capital of the erstwhile Hungarian Empire when Belgrade fell into the hands of Turks.
Our cruise passed through the 15th century gigantic
Golubac Fortress, where we entered the Djerdap National Park, also known as the Iron Gate. It is the longest (100 Km) and the deepest gorge (93m) in Europe and was almost unnavigable till the construction of two dams in 1971.
Danube River Cruise, Golubac Fortress, National Park Djerdap, Serbia
The Iron Gates hydroelectric project was a joint project of then Communist Romania on the north bank and Communist Yugoslavia on the south. It was both a remarkable feat of engineering and a tragedy for local inhabitants. As the water level rose to 100ft higher, the adjoining villages, all the buildings on the legendary Turkish fortress island of Ada Kaleh and many undiscovered archaeological sites sank beneath the waters forever. The town of Orsova, once a key port for the passenger steamships, was also destroyed by the new lake.
Danube River Cruise, Golubac Fortress, Serbia
As we sailed closer to Koldova, we crossed an area peppered with monasteries, a 55m high and 25m wide rock sculpture of the Dacian King,
Decebalus and Tabula Traiana where the Roman Emperor Trajan left a permanent imprint on the rock. After a 9.5-hour cruise, we arrived at Tekija from where a short bus transfer took us to Kladovo.
Danube River Cruise, Mraconia Orthodox monastery, Romania, Serbia
Danube River Cruise- Decebalus rock carving, National Park Djerdap, East Serbia
Sunset on the banks of River Danube in Koldova, Serbia