Stara Palanka to Brnjika and the Iron Gates


Two calendar months since we started our journey and over two thousand miles of pedalling have taken us to the start of the Iron Gates, the series of gorges that the Dunav has carved through the Carpathian mountain range.

Our day started very early at our lovely wild camping spot as it got light. Having woken up with the day we had breakfast and packed up our tent after waiting it to dry in the morning air after the night’s rain.

Making a slight detour into a nearby village we bought provisions for lunch then cycled the 4km or so to the ferry. We were keen to get there early since the ferry only runs every 3 hours.

Julien and Blondie's Hase tandem plus trailer
Julien and Blondie’s Hase tandem plus trailer

Also waiting for the ferry were Wolfgang and Madelaine, a retired German couple on their solo bikes travelling to the Black Sea and a young French couple on their Hase tandem plus trailer, Julien and Blondie. They had started from the beginning of the EV6 cycle route in France at St. Lazare and were planning to reach the end at the Black Sea, then, like us, head for Turkey, Greece and Italy.

The ferry duly arrived at 9.30 with a novel way of landing by dropping the ramp as the ferry approached the bank and the momentum digging the ramp into the gravel shore to form a small mound which was shovelled smooth to help vehicles disembark.

The ferry men told us the ferry would leave at 10.15 so we spent the time swapping travellers’ tales with our pedalling companions in a mixture of English, French and German.

The ferry consisted of a platform with an elderly but powerful small tugboat strapped to its side, and we soon reached the other bank at Ram, with its imposing castle that was built by the Ottomans when they invaded these parts in the 17th Century.

The Ottoman castle built in 16th Century then left as a shell when it was comprehensively desroyed inside by the Austrian Hapsburg empire as they repelled the turks.
The Ottoman castle at Ram, built in 16th Century then left as a shell when it was comprehensively desroyed inside by the forces of the Austrian Hapsburg empire as they repelled the turks.

A steep climb took us out of the village up on to a plateau with extensive views of farmland.

Coming back down a steep hill we then travelled at river level to reach Golubac where we enquired as to the possibilities of a boat excursion through one or two of the gorges at the small tourist office office…. no joy since they only dealt with accommodation and said they didn’t know of any excursions from the town. Then we stopped by a small river cruiser moored up and were reading the notices in Serbian to try and understand what it all meant when the skipper came off the boat and explained in broken english that if there were more than 60 people then the excursion would go…. so with only 2 of us, no go….

20160601_155139On we travelled, noticing the high mountains encroaching onto the river forming the beginnings of the series of gorges that form the Iron Gates.

A little further on we reached Golubacki Grad, a spectacular castle built on the steep slope down to the river which was originally built by the Hungarians in 1335 to defend their territory, but changing hands over the centuries between Serbs, Ottomans and the Austrian Hapsburgs. The castle was being extensively refurbished by the Serbian Government along with another tunnel being constructed for improving the road access. Interestingly, a notice informed us the works were being partly funded by the EU, even though Serbia is not within the EU.

Golubacki Grad castle.
Golubacki Grad castle.

Although it was clad in scaffolding for the most part it was impressive nevertheless with the road passing through two thick stone walls.

Before the big dam was built downstream and caused the river level to rise and flood the lower part of the castle, the original road passed through the massive gates that were the original entry to the castle.

It was here we met up again with Tobias and Katrina, a young German couple we met back Croatia at a campsite near a nature reserve who had given up their jobs to go travelling in their VW minivan.

IMG_20160602_102019Passing through the castle walls, we then travelled on a fairly level riverside road. We passed quite a few hamlets and isolated houses here and there with little fields with cone-shaped haystacks on them. This seems to be a common way of building them in these parts.

We also noticed lots of collections of beehives…. something we have seen quite often as we passed through Serbia, with local honey often being available in shops and roadside stalls.20160601_163945

Travelling along a decent riverside road we reached a campsite mentioned in our guide book whose presence, and the fact that it was open, was confirmed by a local who stopped to admire our tandem whilst we were having lunch.

Our riverside campsite near Brnjica.
Our riverside campsite near Brnjica.

And there at the campsite we met Tobias and Katrina again parked up on the campsite on the rivershore.




Nerd’s Corner

Stara Palanca to Brnjica : 38 miles.

Total distance travelled so far: 2120 miles.

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