And so it came time gradually to leave Serbia. We had chosen to return to the Danube to follow its course around 130km eastwards towards and along the famous Iron Gates gorge or Đerdap canyon as it’s known on the Serbian side, and the border crossing to Romania at the Iron Gates dam. The massive dams and associated hydroelectric plants also include locks for shipping. The Danube is an important artery for shipping. The dams were a joint Romanian/Yugoslav project completed in the early seventies. Many villages and areas of historic importance were lost when the valley was flooded.
The river marks the border between the two countries and we followed it for miles, having joined the river road near Golubac where the reservoir expanse is at its widest. Shortly after Golubac we literally drove through its dramatic fortress.
As we drove on we came across the Lepinski Vir archaeological site. We had no information about it but decided to investigate. Half a kilometre’s walk along a very smart path lead us to a state-of-the-art museum. It looked a bit like a giant greenhouse and was as hot as one inside.
We still didn’t know quite what it was all about but were ushered into a screening room with the handful of other visitors and watched the film which thankfully had English sub-titles.
It was charming footage taken of the archaeological dig back in the mid-sixties and the discovery of this mesolithic village, prior to the valley being flooded. It showed the archaeologists at work and at play and conveyed the excitement of the unexpected discoveries – statues, pottery and ultimately the remains of the villagers themselves dating from 9500 to 7500 BC. It is one of the most important sites in south eastern Europe and shows that the area has been inhabited for a very long time.
The whole of the village remains were moved and reconstructed here – further up the bank above the river. It was beautifully done, you could walk around the entire dig that you’d just witnessed on screen, and then wander outside to see a reconstruction of one of the houses.
Good information and a fascinating building made this well worth a stop – and Adrian got another stylish t-shirt too.
Onwards down the Danube the scenery was a little less dramatic than we’d expected – no actual Iron Gates – some good cliffs, but my guess is that it was all more dramatic before the dam was built when the valley was deeper. As we approached the dam, with its accompanying hydro-electric paraphernalia, we got our passports ready. The road across the dam is the border crossing.
A week in Serbia, hardworking and honest in its rough edges, a country with the fewest tourists of all, a land feared and hated by its neighbours, but with some of the most friendly and kindest people – friends old and new – that we’ve met on our trip. Wars are about politicians, the people may vote differently or not get the choice at all, but suffer the consequences either way and life goes on.