The Iron Gate
Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
149Trip End Ongoing
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There was something of a cultural and linguistic gulf between me and the country-folk I passed, so I can't claim to have learned to understand and appreciate their way of life. It looks a lot like back-breaking toil in return for precious little worldly wealth and barely sufficient means to endure and breed. I'm not sure how content the younger generation are with this prospect.
On the roads, horses, donkeys, mules, cows and people could all be seen pulling carts loaded improbably high with corn (or sometimes cabbages). Apart from these carts there were locals on bicycles held together with rust and with wheels so buckled they're almost true and intermittent HGV and auto traffic. The traffic tended to rumble past without affecting me except, in the case of HGVs, to give me welcome boost with the draft they created. Sometimes people beeped as they passed, which aggravated me for about half a day before I noticed that almost every beep was accompanied by some gesture of encouragement or solidarity.
The highlights of this leg were Vince, Serbia and the Iron Gate Gorge, Serbia
I asked him about accomodation, and was immediately relieved of responsibility for my decisions.
-Wait a moment. Sit there. My colleague will come back in a moment, then I will take you to the place. It costs five euros.
His enthusiasm was faintly unnerving and his conversation quickly turned to his being poor, Serbia being poor and, the real kicker, how hard it is to get a visa for England. I've experienced this kind of angling before, my usual response being to feign niaivity while happening to mention something which demonstrates my ineligibility to invite foreigners to the UK
-Are you hungry?
-Erm... (cautiously) sure
-I am also alone in town, on business. Would you like to have dinner with me?
About ten different scenarious sprang into my mind, jostling for primacy, all of them suggesting that the wise response would be to politely decline. Just as quickly, however, three clear thoughts cut through the crowd:
1) Most people are mostly nice
2) I want to meet local, native people
3) HE MIGHT PAY FOR DINNER
So at half-eight I was picked up by a man named Dragon and driven to a hotel in the next town...
...where I'm sorry (for narrative reasons) and glad (for proper reasons) to say we had an excellent dinner of Danubian fish for which he did indeed pay and an interesting conversation about life in Serbia
-I HATE Montenegro! (said with real venom and feeling)
I was startled by this reaction, but also intrigued. I asked about the rest of former Yugoslavia.
-The Slovenians are ok. (this seems to be a universal rule- everyone in the world loves Slovenia and the Slovenians)
The Croats too escaped his ire, while Bosnians and Macedonians were almost as despised as the Montenegrans.
The Iron Gate Gorge is the stretch of the Danube which cuts through the mountains between Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria. There are photos. It was breathtaking. The afternoon after leaving Vince I stopped to investigate the museum at Lepinsky Vir, where evidence of one of the oldest European civilisations has been dug up by archeologists. It was only a small museum, taking about 45mins to see and read everything on offer- ideal for me and pretty interesting stuff- various pots, outlines of buildings and things the archeologists and anthropologists couldn't guess the use of dubbed 'of religious significance'. I reckon they were paper weights.