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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Day 23, April 13, Danube Sailing and The Iron Gates

Whew, I don't know about you, but I was getting tired as we neared the end of the European Sojourn.  It was great to have a day to sleep till 8, have a little later breakfast and just chill.  Time to sit on the upper deck, relax and enjoy the Blue Danube as it wound its way in the Carpathians.  April 13 was a total sailing day not docking until about 10 that night.  We crossed into another time zone losing another hour.  To this point the Danube has been generally somewhat wide and shallow.  For the very early part of the day the river remained about the same.

Small villages dotted the shoreline.  Locals fished and boated while ignoring the passing cruise boats.
The relaxed day meant even some of the crew were topside enjoying the beautiful, sunny morning. Since many of the crew called this area home you could see their pride as we enjoyed their homeland.  

One of the crew's mom drove a couple of hours just to be able to stand on the shore and wave as the boat passed. The mom and son were both on their cells talking to each other.  We all waved as the horn for the ship was sounded. Never did figure out which crew member it was.

We were in the area named the Iron Gate.  For several miles we had sailed through a series of much more narrow gorges. Most every one was on the observation areas for photos. The climate has changed with the narrowing of the gorge.  Winds pick up so jackets and scarves felt good.

The river began to widen a bit.  Just beyond a small riverside church the tallest rock sculpture comes into view.  The rock sculpture of Decebalus is a 42.9 m x 31.6 m.  It was started in 1994 to honor King Decebalus.

Per Wikipedia, "Under the face of Decebalus there is a Latin inscription which reads "DECEBALUS REX—DRAGAN FECIT" ("King Decebalus—Made by Drăgan"). The carving was placed opposite an ancient memorial plaque, carved in the rock on the Serbian side of the river facing Romania. The plaque, known as the Tabula Traiana, records the site of Trajan's Bridge and thus commemorates the final defeat of Decebalus by Trajan in 105, and the absorption of the Dacian kingdom into the Roman Empire. Drăgan wanted the Serbs to carve a giant head of a Roman Emperor, as if confronting Decebalus on the opposite side of the river, but the Serbs refused."

The Tabula Traiana was originally 50 meters lower. The original spot was flooded with the construction of a hydroelectric dam in late 1960s and the monument was moved just above the waterline.

Once we passed the king's sculpture the river is slightly wider.  The ship is about 14 miles from Iron Gates Dam and Locks.  Time for a little strolling on the walking course.  Gotta work up an appetite for lunch that is in only an hour or so.  Mid afternoon would be a Serbian tea so we made a few extra laps.  No need to let the goodies go to waste!

One more narrow gorge with the rocky cliffs and we begin seeing a few farms and vineyards.  In the photo with the bridge there were what appeared to be a couple of hay shocks.

After passing Orşova we came to the Iron Gates Dam.  Walking to the opposite side of the ship the dam came into view.
It takes a while to arrive at the locks so time was passed watching our new Canada acquaintances play shuffle board, gulls flying overhead and the scenery pass.

 The light picture (left) was taken just as we pulled into the first lock.  Another picture at the same zoom was made several minutes later.  Finally only the base of the lamppost was visible from the same vantage point.  Once the first lock lowering was complete, the ship moved to the #2 lock.  The process of water being pumped out was repeated.

Watching a ship being lowered in a lock is interesting the first several times. These were the 68th and 69th locks on this cruise.  We chose to return to the room and freshen for lunch so several of the following views were from our tidy little stateroom.

After going through the two locks we were on the bottom side of the 200 ft dam.  Conveniently located for dam workers (?) was a nicely appointed tavern.  We did not stop for a sample.  Instead we continued this day of cruising immediately sailing past Drobeta-Turnu Severin.  Like so many cities there were ruins of past regimes, Roman, Communist, Hapsburg.
Is this considered a flock of cranes?
Severin Medieval Fortress
Within 30 minutes of leaving the locks the landscape had changed again.  No more of the limestone sheer faced hills.  The land became more gently rolling hills. Still there are the onion topped churches in the villages.  Riverside homes are still to be seen.
 Now cattle graze among the ruins while a horse drawn wagon rumbles along the road.

A few moments later we saw a shepherd with his flock of goats.  We were later told these were cowboys, not shepherds.

The remainder of this day was filled with lunch, afternoon tea and just lounging in the shade top side.  Cameras were on chargers as were we.  Hope you enjoyed cruising with us on this day nearing the end of our European adventure.  The next day would be a chance to learn how to make a type bread and Hubby to visit some rock formations.
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