WED 4 June Raining, later very misty and rainy Video part 1- as all of them taken at 1 frame per 30 secs and replayed at 3 fps.
Jim was packed and ready for trip home, via Vienna, London, Vancouver, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Melbourne, in each place Jim had friends or relatives to visit. We escorted him to the bus stop across a road and under the railway line, bus on time and away he went.
If the weather had been good we might have done some more sightseeing with T & M, however not much fun in the rain so opted for boating.
Slipped 11.00, got into lock almost immediately. The rivers Inn and Isl have joined the Danube, which is now a milky coffee colour. We are zipping along at 19km = 10 knots. Quite a lot of traffic, 2 big hotel boats. At 2nd lock no room for us so a long lunch wait. Heavy mist and rain.
Now in AUSTRIA. Video part 2
16.15ish moored in the Hafen at SCHLOGEN. Very nice, a Gasthof, hotel, shop, caravan site etc.
Weather clearing. 22€ per night.
THUR 5 Dull but dry
No fresh bread in shop and very little else either.
Slipped 10.30, long delays. Tide not flowing as fast as yesterday. Incredible wooded hills, meandering river, very wide in places. Small very neat and tidy settlements where the hills retreat from the river.
Forgot to say earlier that since Nurnburg hardly any roller bladers and no herons.
Passed through LINZ, Hitler’s favourite city and where Beethoven slept. Also centre of Austrian industry.
Finally found a dear little Hafen at STEYRIGG where we were warmly welcomed and had supper at the Hafen. Again showers and WC’s squeaky clean. Signed the visitors’ book using our ship’s stamp for the first time.
Sunset with the Royal Marine Band and T & M saluting.
FRI 6 Dull, some rain, cool wind. Bright later
Slipped 07.45, a 4 lock day and delays at each. 2 had floating bollards, always handy.
At GREIN the river narrows and current increases to 21 km through the water. Bill and Laurel said it was v. dangerous when they went through; again we have been so lucky.
We came alongside the town wall at MAUTHAUSEN to shop (another Auschwitz), difficult to imagine now as the town is peaceful and very attractive. We had to leave the men on board in case a ferry came along and wanted our space, which it did, it doesn’t do to incur their displeasure.
Hotel ships galore, encountered a new “Rose Line” with very garish paintings on bow.
We had hoped to moor on the river at SPITZ, again the guide said yes to a suitable berth, but no place for us; only hotel/ferry boats allowed nowadays.
We found a tiny hafen just below the town, the entrance was quite tricky, particularly in the fast current, much easier if you were coming upstream; we had to go downstream, turn up behind and into the wake of a fast going ferry and dive into the hafen, keeping a good lookout for the rock upstream and shallows on downstream to entrance! Very nice inside and all was peace and calm, though the pontoon was quite shaky and not very long.
Another newly built clubhouse by the members, well above the river with lovely marble stair treads (We couldn’t help feeling they must have been over ordered for another job!) Very friendly club members and interested in what we are doing, we were the first English people to visit. Excellent showers and loos.
The evening turned out to be lovely, so were able to eat on deck. Video of setting sun
The little local train with piercing whistle passes close by.
During the day we had tried to save a baby crow who was drowning in the lock, his parents distraught, but in spite of Mike and Tom’s best efforts with a net we couldn’t save him, however, we did manage to save a stranded fish caught on one of the bollards at the next lock!
SAT 7 Bright, overcast later. Heavy thunderstorm in evening.
Hotel ship Prinzessin Katherina came past, she is older than most and very elegant, wouldn’t mind cruising on her.
Good day, came through last lock until “Iron Gates” in Serbia/Romania. Very pretty countryside, lots of window boxes on houses. Arrived at the new marina just upstream of VIENNA. Shopped in the new shopping centre near the marina. Bought a new life jacket at chandlery, also some more courtesy flags. Decided to eat on board and visit Vienna tomorrow. Just got back in time before torrential rain, but towels soaked again.
Delightful fishermen’s huts, some on bank and some on stilts in the river, with huge nets arranged on poles; have a feeling they are now “very desirable residences”.
SUN 8 Sunny
Lazy early morning then train into Vienna for sightseeing. Beautiful, the buildings are quite “stern” unlike the largely medieval buildings we have been through up to now. St. Stephen’s Cathedral very impressive, quite dark as so many continental churches are.
Managed to find Cafe Diglas with chandeliers on Wollzeile 10 for coffee and cakes.
Our visit has coincided with the first match of Euro 08, Austria v Croatia, played at the stadium almost next to the marina, strangely hardly any noise - Croatia won 1:0. The city was awash with red/white check dressed Croatian fans and red Austrian fans, all very cheerful; our train back was packed with singing fans. The football rather took away the well ordered atmosphere of Vienna, don’t know what the good town burghers thought.
Mike and I had a bowl of soup lunch at Smutny on Elizabethstrasse; lovely green glazed tiles and a hunting room upstairs.
Went by train to Sophie’s “Gasometer” shopping centre, which was rather disappointing as it hasn’t been maintained well and so much rubbish around. ( Sophie middle daughter- chartered surveyor). We then went to Schonbrunn Palace, magnificent, with another hall of mirrors, painted ceilings etc. The garden has a huge laburnum arch and winter flowering jasmine hedge, which obviously wasn’t flowering now, also beautiful roses.
Back to boat before the trains became too crowded. Tom and Madeleine had enjoyed themselves too having been on a tour bus which took them all over the city.
Supper on board then drink at Marina where we were not too welcome by the Adidas corporate entertaining girls, though the Marina staff were delightful. Sudden downpour and we all had to go inside anyway.
Because the Marina building is the far side of the marina basin and no bridge, it is a long walk.
MON 9 Sunny and warm
Because of the long walk round to the showers, we moved the boat onto river alongside the building and went for showers in turn. 74€ for two nights.
Slipped 09.30 for a one lock day. Goodbye AUSTRIA, hello SLOVAKIA and BRATISLAVA.
Arrived at Milan’s Treff downstream from the city at about 14.00, where we had a warm welcome. This is where Bill and Laurel stayed and we were shown their entry in the visitor’s book in 1995 so obviously we had to sign the book also, again using our ship’s stamp.
Elderly taxi into city centre, definitely ex-communist though lots of new buildings and money coming in. Did a bit of exploring in the not very large old quarter, some lovely old buildings. Shopped in Tesco, another basement shop, and then off to Danube Hotel to meet Robert, the Legge’s au pair for Guy, whom we had met in Windermere. He is a lecturer at the university now and had been expecting to give us a guided tour of his city so was disappointed we couldn’t manage much as had got over excited shopping and had too many bags! However he came back to the boat in another excruciating taxi ride, for a lovely supper at Milan’s - a good evening. Robert was taking students out on a field trip next morning, which entailed a very early start for him so not a late evening. Still 120€ for 5 of us!
TUE 10 Sun, not a breath of wind Video
Breakfast with Milan, 3 eggs and bacon. Slipped 09.00. Immediately the river became a sort of huge lagoon, quite difficult to see marks; quite eerie. Soon it became canalised and because it hadn’t been built with any wave absorbing ramps the wash echoes from the walls and in adverse winds there can be big waves, we later found that our Dutch friends on Horizon had 2m waves on canal and 1m in the lock. Again lucky us.
No habitation within view, no frontier posts that we saw, though we did look for them, think they must have been demolished. We had a long wait at the 20m lock.
War damaged buildings all along this stretch of river particularly on rt/h side.
Now in SLOVAKIA
The country is joining the Euro in 2009, shops already taking euros or own currency.
A definite air of Communism around.
Arrived at KOMARNO, with no obvious place to moororizon had had a very ; after an abortive motor up the river Vah we came back to the ship harbour which didn’t look a likely spot either. However, after we had been turned away from one harbour, an English speaking motorboat owner came to the rescue telling us about Malo Marina at the top of the inlet. As usual without a echo sounder we went upstream very gingerly past a Depth notice saying 1 metre and the still working shipyard to find Malo Marina where we were given another rapturous welcome. Swapped T shirts, unfortunately theirs were bright yellow, not a good colour with our complexions! Wife and girls came on board after supper, somehow we all made ourselves understood and good practice for the girls as they are learning English at school.
WED 11 Sun Video
08.00 slipped after bacon and eggy bread. Hungary on rt bank, Slovakia on lt bank. Landscape becoming more hilly, villages close to bank. Channel swapping from bank to bank. Arrived at ESZTERGOM (Hungary) at 11.30. Just below the bridge we found a very little inlet, fast flowing and narrow.
We had to take down our mast to get under the next bridge before coming alongside with the help of Attila, Hafenmeister, sporting a piratical black beard, cheerful and very competent. Lunch on board after which we went ashore to explore but got caught in a very heavy thunderstorm, whilst sheltering managed to buy potting compost for my poor neglected Regensburg tomato plants.
The dumplings I had bought in Bratislava to have with sausages turned out to be filled with jam; however I scraped this off, sliced up the dumplings to fry and all was well.
At dusk we walked up to the Basilica, quite incredible, huge, in fact the largest building I have seen, the guidebooks are quite rude but we were very impressed. Esztergom is home to the Hungarian See so is important. The buildings below the Basilica are like those around the palace at Monaco.
All bars and cafes closing at 22.00.
THUR 12 Dull/bright, dry Video
Slipped 08.30. Had a tricky manoeuvre to turn around in the narrow inlet with a tide running fast, a large boat astern of us and some railings protruding into the channel! With Attila’s guidance and T & M on the lines, we managed well.
We spoke with a fluent Anglo/Irish speaking Hungarian who told us about a flotilla of 30 boats, with support ship, going down the Danube to the delta and back again in July. This we gather is to make a statement to the authorities of the potential of river cruising for private yachts.
On the riverside are huge houses/small chateau type, one with 12 satellite dishes, obviously divided into apartments.
Arr. BUDAPEST 12.00 at Marina Wiking, OKish. Showers cold and loos not good. Adjoining restaurant ship has good loos, washing machine but no showers. Lunch on board then off to sightsee. It’s a long walk up the marina and onto the road, then back along road to station/bus stops. Took a taxi up to the Cathedral and the old part of Buda. The Cathedral interior is entirely covered with painted patterns - Hungarian Art Nouveau, I’ve never seen anything like it before. Walked to Fishermen’s Bastion with incredible views of Buda and river. Ice cream, walk around, another drink and then off to find typical Hungarian food at A La Carte on Utca Iskola, very good and so filling.
Home on the train.
FRI 13 Dull but warm
I went back into town to shop at SPA and get money; this wasn’t easy as first ATM didn’t like my card, luckily the 2nd one did. Though the shop was well stocked I do find food shopping quite stressful especially when weighing fruit and vegetables which aren’t labelled and you have to press the appropriate symbol for price, my Hungarian not being good!!
Back to boat by train. Mike had been checking the situation in Serbia to make sure we can continue without paperwork, however only passports and boat papers required. More washing done.
Lunch on board then taxi to airport with T & M, very, very dreary route, quite depressing. Very sad to see them go.
The airport is quite nice, no shops but long queues at check-in. Here we said goodbye to T & M and hello to Emma, William and Adam who have come to stay during half-term. We mistakenly returned to the boat by public transport; strangely the very smart airport bus drops its passengers at the most disgusting railway station I have ever seen with dossers, drunks, druggies and all conditions and sizes of men and women, broken windows and rubbish everywhere. Eventually got back to boat, supper and bed. Adam particularly was very excited about all the nooks and crannies on board- secret hiding places all of them.
SAT 14 Sunny and warm Video
10.45 slipped and off back upstream to another Viking marina at SZENTENDRE set alongside woods and a good sized green area, good for football, much better for boys; the hafenmeister’s wife lent the boys a football. We had a long wait at the bridge whilst a construction barge moved out of our way. Lots of canoeists, “4’s” and speed boats. Another well kept little hafen with mass of window boxes filled with bright red geraniums.
We walked into town, about 15 mins. Very pretty and v. touristy. Stopped for a drink and to watch football on TV. We also watched a very large bride and her new husband parading through the town together with all their guests. Mike and I went to supermarket in the other direction, where we met 4 Australians who were renting a cottage on one of the islands, how idyllic.
Back at the hafen we met up with another Australian who is making a skateboard ramp on one of the pontoons, don’t know where it is destined for; apparently this is his business back home.
Good supper on board and then card games and an earlyish night.
SUN 15 Rain early, dries up but remains dullish, warm
My birthday. Emma had brought pressies from UK and Mike bought me a typical Hungarian dish decorated with fishes.
Emma, I and the boys went across on the very little and old ferry to Szentendre Island not far from our mooring. On the wait for ferry the boys found hundreds of very pale coloured snails, good fun to play with. The part of the island we went to was used as a graveyard for Trabants, tractors etc. The other side has a village, but we didn’t have time to walk that far.
Lunch at a Greek restaurant, the starters were very good but main courses poor. There are an abundance of beautifully decorated and clean ice cream parlours, so obviously had to buy one or two.
Went on a long hunt by bus to swimming pool, the first about 3km was very shut although the tourist board had said it was open. The second, which someone had raved about was open, the pool was good but the environs decidedly third world just like so much else around here. Couldn’t get over how many smooching elderly couples at pool!!
Buses on time and very helpful drivers.
Back at marina, William nearly fell into river whilst rescuing the football they had been lent.
MON 16 Sun Video
09.00 slipped in time to get through the bridge pontoon where it is being rebuilt.
William helmed a good way down stream, we went lower down than Wiking Marina so that we could show them some more of Budapest, also under Adam Clark’s magnificent chain bridge. It is a shame that whilst E etc have been with us, no barges have passed by so we haven’t been able to show them the size and speed we have had to cope with since leaving Nijmegen.
Back to Hafen for quick lunch and back to Budapest for sightseeing, then taxi to airport for Emma and boys. Whilst they were sightseeing I looked after the luggage at the same restaurant we had been to with Tom and Madeleine, to have a beer and nut/chocolate pancake.
I had to do more shopping - boring.
Poured with rain all night but no leaks! Finished changing oil and other useful jobs, washing/tidying/ refuelling and finally left circa 14.00 just as Ocean Paradise (Dutch boat, English owners) came in, we last saw them in Passau. They have a Weimaraner dog and a special landing stage for her.Not much river traffic. Found an old pontoon at ERCSI, not sure we were allowed here but luckily no one came in the middle of the night to turf us off. This is a small ferry village, 2 pubs. Beautiful Baroque church with large War Memorial 1914/18, 160 names on it, the whole village population can’t be more than 300.
Did some varnishing, after which it rained immediately.
Small boy was very keen to come on board.
Wash from passing traffic.
Rain, warm, cleared later. So no video.
Slipped 09.15 in pouring rain. I hurt my back getting on board, hope it doesn’t go as at Liege. Visibility limited, quite hard to spot marks, luckily very little barge traffic.
Hardly any wild life, 2 herons and 2 cormorants.
Several dredgers and ferries.
We saw the two canoeists camped by the water’s edge whom we had seen yesterday, I should think they are quite damp this morning.
Saw a second Bulgarian double barge carrying Willi Betz lorries from Germany and quite a few cars.
2 hotel boats nearly empty.
Much less debris in river than I expected.
Again places which were meant to have mooring facilities didn’t, however there are a few new ones.
Moored up at PAKS on pontoon belonging to Chabon. Quite a few sport boats in a little harbour, car ferry and a dear little thatched building housing the shower/loo and night watchman’s office shared with Mizi a tatty dog and Dodo a tame white duck.
Just going to varnish again when the heavens opened!
To get to town we had to cross a railway line, again, and a main road. A Tesco, Spa, Co-op and Supermarkt but no bars or restaurants that we could find.
Lovely cottage gardens, the irises are over but roses coming.
A fair number of barges moored along the river in a random fashion, business must be bad.
THUR 19 Hot all day Video
Woke up to a glorious sunny morning, water absolutely still and a mist rising - Chinese painting style.
The local boat in Hungary is the very simple punt, nowadays mostly driven by very quiet outboards, as they chug about these idyllic conditions for fishing in and out of the islets, or resting quietly under shady trees!
Last night we saw a boatload of men in fatigues carrying a huge net, wide mouth tailing off to narrow end. Alongside some of these punts are miniature boats with holes, assume they are holding tanks.
We may be passing through the Great Hungarian Plain but we are oblivious of it as the Danube here is bordered by a thick band of trees through which we have only occasional glimpses of outside life and some delightful summerhouses.
Lovely isolated small beaches reached only by boat, all very simple.
Stopped for Walls choc ices sold just behind an advert on a pontoon in the National Park where a small train of two carriages arrived taking people through the park. Also an old man with his two horse cart, don’t know whether he was really a local or there to add local interest.
Arrived at MOHACS, the customs post, where we had to tie to a hotel ship pontoon.
However neither the police nor customs knew what to do with us, so looked at our passports and took down details. Customs will come to inspect the boat in the morning.
Large Egrets and some unidentifiable ducks.
We weren’t sure whether the lad who demanded 20 euros for 1 hour or even 1 night was genuine, he probably was as he took us to an official looking office and we got a receipt.
On the Croatian side of the river we passed a few “don’t land” here Landmine notices.
FRI 20 Sun and warm all day. Very hot later Video
Woken at 06.45 by a similarly uniformed man as the lad last night, telling us the hotel boat was waiting for our pontoon - help. All ok and we went outboard of a small ferryboat. In all 5 cruise ships arrived within 3/4 hour to check through customs. From each ship went their purser carrying all passenger passports, which a poor police officer had to go through making notes, on an aged computer.
Customs decided they didn’t need to come on board.
Not much traffic. Egrets and cormorants.
Called in at the SERBIAN customs’ post, no problem. Paid 70 euros at BEZDAN (Batina on Croatian side). Moored up at pontoon and friendly police/customs officers came on board, again no problem and after 1 hour we left. Now not allowed to call into Croatian (rt hand) side of river or we will be charged again. Got our form stamped.
14.30 arr APATIN where they obviously have an enlightened Mayor and/or EU money to build a brand new marina, just below the communist police block!
The very helpful harbour meister speaks German and lives in a tiny, pretty, hut on the end of our jetty.
Mike biked into Apatin for money, beer and a haircut. The Americans on Cosmos Voyager, Brits Jacqueline and David and the Dutch Marieka and Jappi arrived and were very noisy swimming and hair washing in rather murky water at the other end of the marina. The law abiding Brits signed in at the Police Station, the American and Dutch didn’t want to and were given a serious telling off.
Brits and us went out to a very good restaurant on outskirts of town, after which we went into central Apatin which is v. attractive, wide tree lined streets, car free, shops, cafes, banks etc. and still very lively as Serbia were winning their football match.
David and Jacqueline have a very tatty sailing boat in which they have been travelling for years. He was born on Shelford Road, Cambridge and was art director for an advertising company. She is homespun and writes, we think.
One log we read said we would need a lift into Apatin as it was far away, it took us only 20 minutes to walk - this has been a problem all along- the information available has not been at all reliable.
SAT 21 Hot and sunny all day Video
Slipped 07.45, 10 mins after the Americans. We had a long day, some barge traffic, still no sign of life beyond the belt of trees on both sides of river.
We passed by VUKOVAR in Croatia which in Bill and Laurel’s day was a complete burnt out wreck, now there are still signs of war damage but the town has largely been rebuilt and appears to be a thriving port.
There are guard posts all along the Serbian side of river to check shipping does not cross to Croatia.
At end of day SERBIA on both sides of river. BACKA PALANKA 14.30, our first anchorage, at the end of a wide inlet, delightful, with happy Serbs playing on beach, fishing or sitting in the shade and lots of swimming. Cosmos Voyager and Jacqueline and David arrived too.
We launched our dinghy, which only took up a small amount of water.
Peaceful night and didn’t hear the nearby brewery silo machinery.
SUN 22 hot
Decided to stay for a 2nd day to do useful jobs, including the shower room. Cosmos Voyager and Brits up and left before we woke up!
A large number of young men wearing fatigues, war time stock in plentiful supply I imagine.
I baked my first loaf of bread this year with proper yeast, v. successful.
Easy on the water as no fresh supply for 4th day!
Shower room nearly ready. I varnished but 38c again not so good.
The Dutch arrived and we all had supper together at restaurant. A young boy was very keen to show us our fish alive in tank, but our supper came very soon after so don’t think we ate what we had seen.
MON 23 Hot, slight breeze. 38c later
Slipped 07.45. After a few km the landscape opened up and for the first time in two weeks we saw hills, vines, villages and cows by the river. Video
Arr. NOVI SAD circa 13.00. First marina had no suitable berths for us and the water was very shallow over the bar, the other boats all touched the bottom, we didn’t luckily. We ended up on the river on a rather rickety pontoon and no fresh water. Again very friendly hafenmeister and good club house/restaurant.About 20 mins walk into town, shopped at Mercata, a very new and spacious supermarket, for the first time I felt I was in the Balkans and not Europe. The meat counter definitely not for the faint hearted, brains, intestines, calves heads etc. We had calves tongues and lovely Turkish and Greek sweetmeats.
Mike insisted on buying a bright red/orange plastic tent as a sunshade - not quite sure about it!!
Drinks at bar with the Americans and then taxi into the old part of town across the river at PETROVARADIN, the construction of the fort is very similar to those at Sedan and Estergom. Part of the castle has been handed to artist’s workshops as in Florence. Supper at the restaurant.
The rowing club on whose pontoons we were tied has been given money to develop as they have two world class scullers who will be competing at the Bejing Olympics, I vaguely recognise their names having competed at Henley RR. Club mooring charge 1400 dinars at 120 to the pound.
The small beach nearby is absolutely packed, in fact in the evening there was steam rising.
The girls are mostly tall and very slim with fabulous tans and complexions.
Just down stream is a bombed bridge with a new, bigger and wider one rebuilt alongside.
TUES 24 Hot
Slipped 07.35. More open scenery again. Video
Great excitement today - we were held up for ages by a five barge convoy around a long r/h bend where overtaking is forbidden, when a German barge came up behind us, thought we had an engine problem and offered to take us alongside - at first we thought there was trouble in Belgrade (our German not being perfect!). Anyway very seamanlike we lashed ourselves to their side and continued for 3/4 hour at 17 knots, however decided this was too fast for elderly Eos, we didn’t want to open up any seams in the hull; very politely we had to say please can we be unleashed - a very good exercise anyway.
Very hard to find a mooring in BELGRADE, just SO many boats; there is a lot of money here. We did come to a perfect spot, however the lads on shore couldn’t get rid of the large numbers of branches and other debris and we didn’t want them caught in our propellers. Eventually we came to a privately owned pontoon “Marina Bond” very select with blue carpets where we were told we could stay for one night but generally it was only for the “Rich and Famous”; who better to occupy a berth! Next door a man on a large new motor yacht (not sure how famous but rich) came for an afternoon with his girl, she obviously didn’t suit as later she was sent unceremoniously back to shore.
Supper on board, then evening stroll around the area (Zemun), children’s fun fairs everywhere. “Police” pop concert down river, but it didn’t keep us awake.
The area is not wealthy, mainly communist apartment blocks and generally scruffy. However all people immensely cheerful and helpful.
WED 25 Hot again Video
Shopped first thing at a stall with long queues of knowledgeable ladies where one could pick ones own fruit, the first time since France - far less intimidating. Amongst several different fruit and veg I bought some tiny pears - yummy.
Slipped 09.50 and immediately met two SBS fast patrol boats and ribs on exercise, all personnel in black wet suits and balaclavas. Mike was convinced they were after us. Fascinating to watch them doing high speed boarding from boat to boat, also high speed picking up from the water; apparently there used to be many dislocated shoulders when men were heaved up from the water, nowadays hoops are used.
A fair amount of traffic, mainly multiple pusher barge convoys. Scenery open again, villages, hay making etc. In the haze quite difficult to pick out the marks.
Eventually moored alongside a huge old restaurant boat on the river at KOSTOLOC. Friendly owner at the village restaurant though we only stayed for a beer as we were eating on board. Two more policemen came for their dinner; I am sure we don’t see uniformed policemen tucking into dinner/lunch in public restaurants in England.
Americans on Cosmos Voyager came by and moored further up the river, I should think quite a problem with mosquitoes.
Lots of village children came down to swim and chat. As usual very interested that we came from Liverpool.
THURS 26 hot Video
Slipped 07.30. Flat calm, haze, fishermen and all sorts of birds.
Arrived at VELIKE GRADISTE to check out of SERBIA, which took about an hour and charged 30 euros to stop on pontoon and urged to buy duty free “special tonic water”which we did to get rid of the last remaining bits of Serbian money. Got our form stamped.
Checked into MOLDOVA VECHE in ROMANIA which took about 1.5 hours, the Americans in front of us took a little longer than us, but Don (owner) is quite bullish and doesn’t like being kept waiting. The other couple who have lived outside America most of their lives and are used to delays got quite cross with Don and told him to keep quiet. We were charged 12€.
The visibility after M. Veche was very difficult and we nearly went the wrong way around an island. Soon the river narrowed with spectacular scenery. I can well imagine Patrick Leigh Fermor travelling this way. (He has written two books of his journey from Rotterdam to the mouth of the Danube, which we have been reading en route, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water).
Anchored for the night opposite two distant houses, the only noise was from the frogs and occasional dogs.
FRI 27 Mist and cooler. Very close later. Video
Slipped 08.55 with nav lights and radar. Glorious scenery as we passed through the “Iron Gates”, monument to King Decebolus and the Trojans tablet. The river is narrow and meandering between huge cliffs; it used to be 70m lower before the building of dams and locks a) to subdue the river to make navigation particularly upstream more viable and b) to produce hydroelectricity. There are numerous tales of desperate attempts to navigate here.
Arrived at SIP and were asked to enter the Serbian lock as the Romanian one was out of action. The Americans had arrived an hour earlier than us but we both went in together after we had waited for only one hour. This is a double lock dropping 36m and 18 m, it is quite something to come out at the bottom of 36m to be faced immediately by another 18 m drop - hurray for floating bollards.
The surroundings on the Romanian side are becoming quite industrialised, but in spite of this we decided to stop at DROBETA TURNU-SEVERIN outboard of two old police launches and within sight on land of the customs/police station. We made our name and number with them and they eventually came to see us, but decided that as we had only recently been through a border control it was a waste of their time to do anything more. The lady customs officer had customised her uniform and was wearing silver wedge heel sandals and D & G bejewelled sunglasses. At each border and each new destination we have to produce up-to-date crew lists in triplicate, ship’s papers, insurance certificate, passports etc. We make sure all documentation is stamped with our ship’s stamp and it is lucky we have computer and printer on board. With difficulty and some delay the next morning we did manage to get an official paper allowing us through the rest of our trip. Officialdom seems to be getting more relaxed; reading other travellers’ logs as recently as two years ago they were still being held up for a day and Bill and Laurel often had to wait two or three days but they were travelling in the immediate aftermath of war in 1996/97. The fee for all of this was 1€, embodied in two pieces of paper- maybe it was 3€
There appears to have been a massive clean up of the really - old and dirty heavy industry, steel works, smelters, power stations etc. Several new installations in their place.
A large number of Ukrainian registered barges now.
The town is in the throes of renewal and in a year or two will be fine.
A concert just up the road was very noisy.
SAT 28 Hot Video
Mike emailed and I shopped at a Carrefour and lovely open fruit and veg market, a delight, most of the wares on sacks on the ground mostly manned by very thin rather tired women and a few men with not many teeth between them; I don’t suppose they were so old. Delicious blackberries, apricots, cherries, carrots, herbs, haricot beans.
It will be a great shame and waste of time if the EU decrees that the small holder/farmer is no longer allowed to sell his goods like this. This generation is never going to adopt big farming methods and their agriculture needs to be changed by slow degrees.
We assumed that the overgrown railway line between us and the town was for local traffic when suddenly the Bucarest/Timosoares Express came by, just as I was about to cross - lucky I stopped as a police car drew up next to me and I think I might have been hurled into gaol if I had gone across.
We were nearly in trouble as the owner of the inside old police boat wanted to move out and Mike was still emailing at the hotel. Also acquired another clearance permit.
We eventually set off into a stiff wind over water making for a very bumpy ride.
At the next lock we tied up on the waiting wall like good small boaties should, when the lock keeper biked to meet us as they wanted us in first; we were squeezed in front of 3 hotel boats, this is always scary as they want to be out and off very fast so we must be absolutely ready and no getting lines twisted etc.
On our exit the Ukrainian hotel ship was v. bolshy, came by far too close and too fast.
We anchored in a wonderful backwater, just a Romanian family on the riverbank and herds of livestock, goats, sheep or cattle, taken by turn to drink and cool and always with a herdsman.
Brilliant stars, you could almost touch them.
SUN 29 Hot Video
Woken at 05.15 by the enormous wash left by a pesky hotel boat going like the clappers - I hope the night time fishermen were OK. The fishing punts have changed shape slightly since we first encountered them in Hungary, now having canoe bows. It is an idyllic scene as one man rows or runs the engine whilst the other stands to deal with the netting and to attract the fish they make a hollow sound on the water with their hands, or some use a horn shape instrument. They stay out on the water for hours gently rocking under the trees. Red and yellow are favourite colours for shirts and big sunhats.
Weighed anchor 08.10. Not a breath of wind, a fair number of barges but very few Sunday boaters (these tend to be a pest, not caring where and when they change course etc.)
The river is like a large lake here. I am a little disappointed that the gorge was so short, from reading guide books I had imagined it would take at least a day to pass through.
Attempted to anchor twice but both choices too shallow, eventually found another behind an island out of the stream, opp DOLNI CIBAR. Not a sound other than fish leaping, birds, occasional fishermen and Mike with his wind up torch.
MON 30 Hot, perhaps slightly cooler Video
Weighed anchor 08.30. For two days the river has been very wide, slow and very calm, trees as usual on each bank, lots of islands, a result of being flooded in 198?? for the dams and h/e scheme. I imagine the Mississippi like this with mangroves instead of willows and poplars.
Not a soul until after lunch and then quite busy.
16.30 anchored behind another island near DRAGAS VOJVODA.
Had to cross a sandbank and down to 0.7 m under the keel. Again the guide books go on about the awful polluting industry on the Romanian bank, we have found very little, TURNU MAGURELE being an exception.
Just before CORABIA the river police took a video of us; at T Magurele they came back out to look at us but soon went home to their mother ship - don’t know what that was about.
Another brilliant anchorage opp DRAGAS VOJVODO. Again brilliant stars. If we don’t come into land soon we might lose the use of our legs!
TUE 1 JULY Hot Video
Another still day, but difficult navigating as the river channel keeps moving. In the end we followed a barge, which was going at a decent speed, all the way to GIURGIU, our stop for several days.
Saw a lone pelican on a sandbank.
Arr. GIURGIU around 15.30, no trouble with officials and were given a mooring on the new Harbour Master’s Office, still not occupied and the floating building finished over a year ago. I washed and scrubbed decks and cleaned cupboards and more varnishing.
Supper at restaurant just up the road, reasonably good, but waitresses v. po faced. I had carp steak in batter with dumplings and garlic sauce; Mike delicious mixed grill. With no English spoken and our Romanian not good we have no idea what we are ordering - all good fun.
2 Rosa Clebbs here. The night watchman, Daniel, insisted we sit down with him to watch the end of an American film.
The mooring turned out to be VERY bumpy, we won’t stay here for another night.
WED 2 Wind and warm
Prepare to move. We have been offered a berth inside the harbour - welcome to a third world rust heap of decaying ships. Out of nooks and crannies came a multitude of willing hands to help us get into a very tight space, our bows overhung the nearest hulk by about a metre, Mike’s ship handling brilliant and my rope work good too!! We are alongside another old restaurant ship where the “security” men live. The way to the road is across the next door ship, over its railings, across a skanky bridge over stale water inhabited by huge frogs, up the steep steps, past the dogs and dog kennels and old bones, along the top, under the wire and onto the road!!
Off to BUCAREST for the day by bus as train not running due to a fallen bridge. Along the way all the houses have their gable ends to the road to allow for long side gardens absolutely crammed with produce and flowers. Zinc or galvanised roofs, or bright pink/red simulated tiles in metal. Masses of roadside sellers of tomatoes and cherries, melons.
The bus stops near the underground and we went by new train to Pieta Romani and eventually found a hotel which gave us a town map, there being no tourist offices.
Mind the drips from the air conditioning units fixed precariously above. It is difficult to sightsee due to the need to check each footstep for very uneven paving stones, missing manhole covers etc.
There are some lovely buildings, the Athenaeum (concert hall), National Bank of Romania, National Gallery, however we didn’t have the energy to get to Ceausescu’s Parliament Building.
Mediocre sandwich lunch, later we had a beer in an umbrellaed square, the tables filled with bearded or not intellectuals.
The electricity/telephone wiring system is to be seen to be believed. All the street cleaners are women.
Small crowded bus return. On our return we found that the front edge of the steep steps down the bank had been whitened for our benefit, the undergrowth cleared, but the rabid or otherwise stray dogs are still around. In spite of this we have always felt quite safe.
A good day.
THURS 3 Hot
A really good workday - having the flat clean space adjacent we were able to cut out our kitchen galley carpet and actually get it laid. Someone wanted the old carpet and we managed to persuade our thin friend to take away some dead batteries for a small fee. We have hung our cabin’s curtain rails and pelmet and now have a clear rear shelf making our cabin a lot lighter.
Supper on board.
FRI 4 Hot, again. Wind and thunder, short shower later Video
Early walk to town for shopping and to meet Ann and Kevin Kinsella, who had flown into Bucharest the day before. Found a good small shop but no meat and veg so had to go by taxi to Intermarche on outskirts of town, leaving Ann in the taxi guarding our earlier purchases. I had only met Kevin once in Southsea and never Ann; we all got on as if we had known each other for years; Kevin, another RNR man, he and Mike had worked together in Portsmouth.
Back to boat, customs and police, 20 euros. Mark you it was 10€ a day, but only if you had a berth!
Slipped 12.30 for a short introductory day, anchored again behind an island. Supper and early night.
SAT 5 Hot and breezy Video
Slipped 08.15. Viz and marks difficult to locate.
Sand banks in all sorts of strange places, not at all as chart. Coming up a narrow unmarked channel to prospective anchorage, a pig rootling along the shore, but how will he get back as cliff about 3-4 metres high? 100’s of swallows and sand martins nest in tiny holes all along these cliffs.
Arrived 15.00 at OSTROV on Bulgarian side of river, small rural village with slipway and village rubbish tip - smouldering.
Saw first storks nesting on top of telephone pylon.
Across the water is the island whose other side was the bank of the channel up which we came earlier - 7 donkeys, horses, cows, dogs and all “talking”.
We launched the dingy into river, it had dried out rather and took up a lot of water, so the new hand pump to the rescue. Eventually when most of the water had dried up, Mike and Kevin rowed ashore for potatoes and beer; the current and wind quite strong for rowing back to ship.
K & A cooked supper, lovely.
The men, from the dredger moored upstream of us, left two dogs on guard - will they work the Monday morning shift I wonder.
SUN 6 Sun with breeze. Video
Weighed anchor 09.37. Didn’t find the pig so he has probably been killed for village lunch.
Very difficult navigating as most of the km marks on banks have disappeared together with shifting sands, however viz is better today.
Hardly any traffic. Occasional village, lots of Sunday folk enjoying a spot of fishing, swimming etc.
Have reached the end of our Danube journey as we have no time and also fear of lack of water depth, to go by way of the Danube Delta. Just the canal to Constanta. Apparently we arrive at the first lock and await enough people to travel in convoy to Constanta.I am really sad to leave our lovely river after 35 days travelling, though we spent nearer 45 on it, as even we had the occasional rest day!
Moored up against another rusting hulk, below nearly unused and partly decrepit newish police station. Pretty, youngish policewoman comes to inspect us and says all our paperwork is Ok, but later returns for more copies of this and that.
Small bar with fenced area for geese and ducklings and man asleep in the shade.
There is a railway bridge across the river close to us, but too low for boats with masts - we thought all the sailing boats put up their masts back upstream, so how do they manage?
Apparently seven boats have gone down within the last week.
Lots of horses and foals around, also horse drawn carts for work as well as pleasure (picnics).
MON 7 hot Video
Sea state 3+ Slipped 07.30 to get to lock in case there is a queue, however only a slight wait whilst Mike went to official office. Acquired a Master’s declaration form.
Into a decrepit lock, though the floating bollards did work. The Cernovoda canal is about 55-60 km long, quite interesting, initiated by Ceausescu and dug by forced labour, two memorials to those who died during construction; the last few km were through a deep cutting. I found it quite eerie and not a happy place, particularly as it is the last section of our Danube journey. We had to check in at last lock but hadn’t quite enough Romanian money to pay the dues, so Mike was taken by undercover policeman to supermarket and an ATM for extra. Into lock, and out again into a very busy harbour with VERY large ocean going merchant vessels; unfortunately we just couldn’t find the exit to harbour and for the first time in three years we felt very small in this company. The canal comes in on the dotted line and then you bimble up the coast, outside of the very long wall.
Eventually out onto the BLACK SEA, and up the coast to PORT TOMIS. Everyone moored “Mediterranean” style, ie stern to. However no room for us so came alongside a Greek owned “Marea”, a sailing fishing trawler (the owner was very proud of her, but she hadn’t been refurbished very well) The folk, and 2 puppies, on board proved to be useful when it came to dealing with officialdom.
We went off to explore - good, and to shop - hopeless again. The town has so many derelict buildings, though the port/harbour area is being redeveloped and an Ibis hotel has opened.
The Greek owner of our next door trawler has a Range Rover and I’ve seen one or two others in the town. This is the first harbour since Belgrade with luxury yachts.
We tried to get a drink at a harbour side bar, but no one would serve us so walked on. Supper on board. 83.56 ron / 23.17€ for the night. There were rules and crew lists and everything, so we filled in the paperwork. Computer and printer very useful. Ship Stamp- essential.