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Published: November 30th 2011
We had lingered a little too long in Romania. It was time to head back west. We had a vague idea of a destination – somewhere in Serbia – and knew that was to the west. What we didn’t know (but maybe should have) was that getting there was easier said than done. The problem was that, like stupid train lines in stupid cities, the Danube was in the way.
So, we drove along it. A lot. For a large part of the day we could see Serbia – green and Serbian looking – over the river. But couldn’t find a way to cross it. Surely, there would be a bridge or something somewhere. There was. You can drive across the top of the massive Iron Gate dam. But not if you get there too late. Then, there’s a ferry. Somewhere. Not sure where, exactly.
So we simply drove north following the Danube. And it was incredible. Built in the 60s by Tito’s Yugoslavia and Romania, the Iron Gate Dam was one of the biggest in the world at the time, and provided a massive boost in hydroelectric power for the communist states. And the
But how do we get there?
lake it and the subsequent Iron Gate II dam created stretches for miles and miles. Driving along the less than well maintained Romanian road in the late afternoon sun was something special – orange sunlight glinting off the water, far below the road in the Iron Gate gorge, past decaying communist era factories, dodging horses and potholes and getting out the way of maniac Romanians out for a quite evening’s entertainment.
We eventually found a border crossing, just a small out of the way affair on a bit of a back road, it actually proved a lucky thing. The bored Serbian border guards were extremely uninterested in bothering us in the slightest, and we breezed straight through.
The pace in Serbia was a little bit slower, on the roads at least. It was the end of a working day, and there were lots of relaxed looking folk sort of hanging about, chatting in groups after harvesting their corn and watermelons. The countryside was pretty, if not spectacular, and we decided to simply drive until we could find a place to stay. By this time we had been driving for almost 12 hours – setting
up a tent didn’t appeal.
On the outskirts of Belgrade we found a hotel – the Hotel Oasis. More expensive than we had hoped, in had the biggest bed I’ve ever seen. And an in house restaurant. On the menu was a hamburger. Somewhat confusingly, written next to it in brackets was “bread” for a dollar or so extra. I decided to skip the bread. What I got was a burger patty which actually covered the entire plate. With a salad on another plate. Breakfast was included the following morning, and the 6 different types of meat set us up well for the day of driving.
Having arrived in Serbia through a small border crossing, we had been unable to change our remaining Romanian Lei at the border. No worries, we thought, we’ll just do it here. No luck at the bank, not the exchange office, and we even drove to the airport. No dice. We were stuck with it for the time being. We then tried to buy some groceries at a supermarket called Metro but got kicked out – you have to be a member to buy things. With me muttering about
idiotic business models we decided that after one night we’d had enough of Serbia. We may come back one day, but now it was time for Bosnia.
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