>Travel Pictures



On a glorious spring Sunday, I decided to drive south to the entrance of Djerdap National Park, where the Iron Gates flank the Danube as it runs between Serbia and Romania. I had no plans to drive into the gorge itself, but I really wanted to see the famous ruins of Golubac castle. As I headed along the highway and then through the agricultural backroads, I was treated to the sights of Serbia waking up after the winter.

Old farmers passed each other in the streets and talked about the season to come.

Shocks of corn stood bundled in the fields.

Fruit trees were ablaze with flowers, even while the hillsides still stood grimly bare. 

And men sat in makeshift boats on tiny ponds to try their luck at fishing. 

But after rounding countless bends along the Danube, I came face to face with the castle: an immense fortification that had once guarded the flow of traffic on the river. 

The fortifications themselves date from at least 1355, and the strategic chokepoint has been battled over constantly in its history. The Turks, Austrians, Hungarians, and Serbs each held the highlands at one time or another.

The present-day road cuts right through a section of the wall along the river bank, providing a dramatic look up at the hills above.

Today, the river level is much higher than in the past (due to the construction of a dam) and many of the lower buildings are flooded over. 

Scaling those heights took some guts. There are no steps, rails, or walkway to follow - just a muddy, slippery footpath scrambling up the steep hillside (with a ladder welded in place at one juncture). It was what I'd expected Ohrid to be - just an overgrown wild mountainside. 

I was kind of glad that Susan and the kids weren't there: they would've loved it and she would've hated it. It was a crazy wild landscape, with enough steep cliff fall possibilities to keep everyone nervous. Coupled with the fact that the wind came roaring down the gorge - and literally nearly blew me off my feet several times - it was certainly a dangerous place for kids to clambor around. But they would've wanted to!

After climbing around the rocks for a while, I took a stroll along the deserted waterfront. It was late afternoon and the moon was just peeking over the edge of the ramparts. It was fun to 'play' a little bit too - and I caught 2 frogs and a lizard just to remind myself that I still could!

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