The Iron Gates

05 June 2011 - This morning I could sleep in as we set sail on the Danube towards Vidin, Bulgaria. During the day we will sail through what is called "The Iron Gates". From its headwaters in Germany’s Black Forest, the Danube winds its way through ten European countries to drain into the Black Sea. For much of its course, the river moves lazily through wide valleys, but as it enters the border region between Romania and Serbia, its banks narrow into a series of high cliffs. Here, the river carved a passage through the lower Carpathian Mountains to its north and the Balkan Mountains to its south, creating a series of four steep gorges. These gorges are known as the Iron Gates.

The Iron Gates of the Danube River originally consisted of four narrow gorges and three wide basins spread over several miles of the river dividing Romania and Serbia. In the 1960s, a huge lock and dam was built to control the speed of the river and make navigating this section of the Danube River safer.  Today, the river flowing through the Iron Gates is peaceful, and it is 130 feet higher than prior to the dam and power station. The effect of the dam can be felt on the river for over 100 miles, and two locks, spread more than 50 miles apart, anchor each end of the Iron Gates. Over 23,000 citizens living along the river had to be resettled after the dam was complete.

Along the way we can see an interesting carving of a ruler high up on a massive rock, this is very impressive that this could have been done. We also got to go through some locks which is also very interesting as we are taken from one level to another and we see the ship go lower and lower with cement walls encircling us.....very unusual. The Great Kazan (kazan meaning "boiler") is the most famous and the most narrow gorge of the route: the river here narrows to 150 m and reaches a depth of up to 53 m (174 ft). East of this site the Roman emperor Trajan had the legendary bridge erected by Apollodorus of Damascus. Construction of the bridge ran from 103 through 105, preceding Trajan's conquest of Dacia. On the right bank a Roman plaque commemorates him. On the Romanian bank, at the Small Kazan, the likeness of Trajan's Dacian opponent Decebalus was carved in rock from 1994 through 2004.

Dinner this evening was great as usual. I had a Caesar salad, beef consomme and a roasted breast of Duck cooked in a red wine and orange sauce...stupendous! 

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