We spent four days during our vacation in the Iron Gates area. Two of the days were spent on driving tours on the Romanian and Serbian shores of the river. Here are a few impressions and photographs taken in these areas.

 

 

Our lodging place was the Steaua Dunarii (Danube Star) pension after Eselnita, on the shore of the Danube, about ten kilometers up the river from Orsova. The place is open since 2001, and is one of maybe ten or twenty such places in an area that could accomodate much more. The sitting is beautiful and we enjoyed unforgettable evenings on the balcony to the Danube, we admired the sunset and the sunrise over the river, and silence of the place. The restaurant is decent but not more, and boat trips on the Danube are offered at extra-cost.

 

 

 

 

The road on the Romanian shore spreads on more than 100 kilometers between Eselnita and Bazias, crossing the Moldova Noua area. The river bends and creates a chain of very picturesque gulfs. The water is calm and deep in an area of gorges which was once fast and dangerous, this is the result of the Iron Gates dam project built in the 60s and 70s by the Romania and former Yugoslavia. It’s an area of huge touristic potential which could rival with the lakes in Germany or North Italy or with the Balaton lake in Hungary. Unfortunately it is very little known, too little investment in hotels and tourist attraction was made, and the roads … oh, the roads … on the Romanian side the first 20-30 kilometers of shore road West of Eselnita are in the worst possible condition.

 

 

As in other places in Romania we could see on the side of the road abandoned industrial structures, the ruins of what the Communist propaganda called ‘the golden age’, remains of the process of forced industrialization of Romania during the Communist rule. Many of these industries had no real economic reason and could not resist the open market conditions after the fall of the Communism.

 

 

We also had that day our first experience of ‘eating Serbian’ on the beautiful terrace of a restaurant located in a villa in the hills near Moldova Noua. More about our culinary experiences during the trip in a future episode.

 

 

The landscape on the Serbian side where we crossed in another day is even more spectacular. The road on that side of the border is in excellent condition, it gets higher in some places which allows for spectacular views and photo opportunities. Places to sit, eat, rest, enjoy the landscape by road are much more frequent. I am sorry to say but the Serbian shore drive felt much more ‘European’ than the one of the Romanian side.

 

 

 

 

On the other hand there is very little development on this side as well. Actually the road between the crossing border point at the Iron Gates dam to Belgrade is scarcely populated, there are no more than three villages on the 50-60 kilometers we traveled near the river. Two points of interest are however very much worth a stop. One is the archeology museum that gathers the findings at Lepenski Vir site, a settlement that was covered by waters when the dam was built. The Yugoslavs created this museum in a spectacular structure near the Danube, and the remains of the civilization that was active between 5300 and 4800 BC where such preserved.

 

 

 

The other objective are the ruins of the Golubac fortress located in a strategic place on a bend of the Danube. First documented mention dates from the Middle Ages, mid 14th century, and successively the Romanian Transylvanians, Serbs, Hungarians, Turks and Austrians conquered and controlled the place. Today the highway passes under two of the porches of the fortress, the place is easily accessible and the visit is free of charge.