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  • Had an exciting night woken by the engines vibrating and a lot of thumping of running down the corridor up to the bridge. We had grazed a sandbar because other shipping coming up river had blocked the channel. The captain had to get up and help get us back into a deeper channel after about an hour of reverse thrusts and other noisy engine work things settled down and we woke up in Guirgui Romania.

    Off to Bucharest for the day and it was fascinating. The hour long bus trip went past village markets and roadside stalls selling beasts that we think were pig. Going through these villages we saw gypsies travelling by horse and cart and people selling individual cloves of garlic trying to make a living.

    Bucharest was an interesting city with some very unique architecture. Some beautifully restored buildings set beside absolute shells or just wrecks. But the city had good feeling to it in lots of ways however the litter was everywhere along with broken footpaths and just lack of town maintenence. The mayor and deputy are both in jail on corruption charges. Had a coffee in the most amazing cafe ever, shame the coffee was so poor. Seeing pics. 3rd pic of me sitting in a small monastary from 300 odd years ago, not very old in the scope of things around these parts, but very serene.

    On the way home it was about 5pm and many old people were out sitting on the side of the road socializing and watching the traffic roll past on the 4 lane road fronting their homes. The old communist built tower blocks are amazing, mainly for the fact they are still standing and habitable.

    The guides we have had have been very interesting talking about their county. They are brutally honest. The history is real and in your face. We have seen balconies that Hitler ranted at the Austrians from, and where Ceausecsu tried to get the workers in Bucharest to continue to support him killing their families in the guise of nationalism. It takes these places a long time to recover from the excess of dictators.
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  • This is a series of narrow gorges collectively called the Iron Gates, as they acted as a natural barrier for invading forces over many centuries, and prevented navigation of the river until just 1972. Yugoslavia and Romania agreed to build a joint project dam and locks in the late 1950s, with work completed in '72. There are many small castles, churches and other signs of habitation along the upper parts of this region of the river, and several towns relocated above the water line as the dam in the photos raised the water level of the river allowing navigation past rapids that had previously prevented it.

    The locks take us down 72 metres in 2 stages, an interesting process when you are in a ship that is 135m long, though it can take 4 of that size at once (2×2). The dam was built almost in 2 halves with each side having a set of locks, and 6 turbines seperated by the spill gates to produce the same amount of power. Ships going up river used the Serbian locks, downriver the Romanian, but currently only the Romanian lock is working due to lack of repairs on the Serbian side.

    Once past the dam, the 2 sides of the river change dramatically. Romania is busy with traffic, mainly trucks, transporting the goods of the EU on EU funded highways, while the Serbian side is locked in another time frame. There are still observation towers along the Serb's side, a remnant of the recent war.

    There is always one thing in common though and that is the constant sight of men fishing along the river banks everywhere, whether it be between our ship and the wharf in Vukovar, the heavily littered banks of Belgrade or in Gypsy camps in the woods. Catfish and carp are common, and free food for many of these people where unemployment is high.

    We have passed into a new time zone, Eastern European time, so lost an hours sleep. Haven't seen much rugby since Prague, but keeping up with the scores. Hope those of you watching aren't losing too much sleep either. Not much interest in it from those on board really. Even though the ship has 20 or so tv channels I don't think anyone has time to watch anything.

    I have feigned some interest in the 2 big Aussies football finals this weekend and listened to various defences of ice hockey as a non-violent sport (what day is it today?)

    Photos today, the dam from the downriver side after going through the lock, view up river through the Iron Gate gorge, and a recent carved figure of an early folk hero who saved the locals from invading aliens.
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  • Crossed the border into Romania without a hitch. I went through a very quiet border crossing without any waiting at all. The border guards were so viligent I offered to take my helmet off, so they could make sure the passport was mine, but no need...stamped my passport and just waived me through.....didn't take my helmet off so couldn't even say it was my good looks or honest face.

    Stopped at a cute little town (Sinnicolai-Mare) and sat down for lunch, at the town square with the locsls, who ordered for me when they saw me struggling with the menu just how did they know I wanted a meat (beef?) skewer and a bottle of mineral water. Sat and ate with an older couple (well older than me) and we had a pleasant conversation (with plenty of miming) that I'm sure none of us understood.

    I stayed at the hotel Perla (damn good hotels are cheap in some parts of Europe). Perla by name and a Perla by nature, huge room with a sitting area/couch, minibar and a spa bath...yep I had a good long soak probably needed it, had a feeling I might have been a bit on the nose (ask me one day and I'll tell you how many days you can really go with one set of clothes).

    Tomorrow riding onto Craiova - still in Romania
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  • Most of the ride down from Timisoara was fairly flat, straight and predictable. Predictable that is until you come over a rise, around a corner and a beautiful lake, bordered by a cute little town) comes into view - not something I was expecting (see the pic below). Well, as it turns out, wasn't actually a lake, apparently that reasonably famous river, the DANUBE runs down this way!!! I took a pic of a statue at a pull-off on the river, the statue is kewl, but it also seems as if there are some in Europe welcoming of refugees 👍.

    Stayed at a Ramada in Craiova, I'm starting to enjoy the luxury.

    Beautiful city with the obligatory large square where the local families gather to eat and drink.......I think we could do with one at Eatons Hill.

    I'm off the Serbi
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  • The next day we rented a car via and drove to Brasov. As I am the designated European driver (don't worry, Ray has to drive wayyy more in Oz) it was my turn to drive.
    I was still tired and messed it up so we drove to Brasov using the back streets rather than the highway.
    We entertained ourselves by counting every single cabbage cart, and trust me there are LOADS.
    We then made our way to the first of Dracula's castles. Unfortunately Romanians don't really care about those horror stories so it was rather boring to visit.
    We still made the most of it and goofed around.
    Next stop was Brasov for some lunch and the gloom black church before we headed to the next castle. This one was much better but already closed, so we were only able to see it from the outside.
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  • We said goodbye to Belgrade and all of our wonderful friends there but we were sooo looking forward to the next stage of our adventure. We flew into Bucharest, Romania and met our guide Marin (arranged by our inn) at the airport. We immediately set out for Transylvania. He was so knowledgeable he had written his own guide book for Transylvania. As we drove through the beautiful Carpathian mountains, he told us about the unique history of Romania and the area of Transylvania. We stopped in Sinaia to visit the spectacular Peles Castle. It's very odd to find out that a lot of places in Transylvania have 3 names; one in Romanian, one in German and one in the local tongue. Talk about confusion. Glad we have a guide because we'd never find our way otherwise. We continued on until we came to the old town area of Brasov with its gothic Black Church and quaint center square. Finally, we arrived in Bran, the home of Bran Castle or otherwise known as Dracula's Castle. We were in awe of the view from our room. We overlook the castle and the idyllic village below the castle. The long day of traveling finally caught up with us as the sun set on the mountains above Bran Castle. Tomorrow we get to see it up close. We're just giddy with excitement. Or maybe it's just being slap happy from a lack of sleep.Read more

  • We started our day with a visit to Bran Castle aka Dracula's Castle. No self-respecting tourist could pass up that opportunity. However, being the type of tourist who gets really annoyed at masses of tourists, we chose to go as soon as it opened for the day. Lucky for us we were able to zip thru with very little fanfare, snap some photos, explore a secret passage & admire the view from the castle windows. We finished in time to find a sidewalk cafe just as the masses began to line up. High-fives all around! Seriously though, the castle grounds are beautiful and the interior is set up so you get a feeling of what it would be like to live there. We spent the remainder of our day walking around Bran & relaxing at our Inn. It is so amazing to see that in this day & age farmers are still working fields with old fashioned scythes and horses are pulling large wagons piled high with hay. It seems that in many ways a visit to Romania is like stepping back in time. What's up for tomorrow? After a quick stop at the Rasnov Citadel, we head back to Bucharest to catch a flight to Copenhagen where we began.Read more

  • The stairs leading to this abandoned salt mine seemed to go on forever. It was definitely worth the hike down though. Not everyday you get a chance to play ping pong, ride a ferris wheel and drift a row boat around a pond all while being a few hundred feet under ground.