At Sail with Tauck

decebalus

Eleventh in a series

August 24 — The following day was spent navigating the narrow gorge called the Kazan Narrows, and then the “Iron Gates,” a two-mile-long series of steep, even skinnier gorges between the Carpathian and Balkan mountain ranges, where 60 percent of Europe’s bears live.

Approaching the gorge

Approaching the gorge

Imagine cliffs rising to 500 meters. Imagine rocky vertical spines winding down from mountain tops lost in mist. Imagine evergreen trees clinging impossibly to the slopes. Imagine a medieval fort on an isthmus of rock, then caves, then suddenly, tucked into the fold between two ridges, a giant head, like something from the age of Ozymandius, or perhaps Lord of the Rings.

The 100-foot-plus foot head is a massive monument to the second century Dacien King Decebalus. It’s the most recent installment of a 2,000 year old pissing war.

After the Roman emperor Trajan finished a bridge and road along the Serbian side in the early second century, a major feat of engineering and sweat, he was able to conquer ancient Dacia. Along the waterline, he erected a plaque to brag about it. He also demanded that the people on the opposite side of the river put up a statue glorifying his accomplishment. Which they refused to do. In 2004, a wealthy businessman completed the “Mt. Rushmore of Romania,” which glares across the river at Serbia. I wondered if Serbia would retaliate someday.

The ship then passed through the huge Djerdap Locks, which turned out to be jointly run and maintained by Romania on the north side of the Danube and Serbia on the south side. So there’s hope.

locks

At 9 p.m., one of the more memorable evenings of the trip was spent competing in teams for “Liar’s Club,” with the three tour directors — Emil, Hollie and Karel — competing to see who could trick the most audience members into believing their definition of 10 unfamiliar words, including “gallinipper,” “flatfoo,” “Frigg” and “incubus” (some real, some made up).

Carolyn, one of our members said: “I’m a mother. I know liars. I say just cut that baby in half. That King took way too much time deciding.” Our team of women took second place, beating our husbands’ team. That was all that mattered.

Next: Growing Up Under Communism

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