When we left Macedonia our Croatian Harley friend told us to take a ride along the Danube on the border between Romania and Serbia. Here the River, over the last Millennium, carved a gap into the mountains and created, according to him, a wonderful and picturesque panorama. Kladovo serves as a gateway to this area and is used by many people as a stopover as well. Approaching town we saw the high rise hotel, Derdap, sticking out from the rest of the buildings.
Built on the banks of the River, the hotel is a multifunctional hotel that serves as a catch all for every kind of conceivable traveler and for groups as well. It is a hotel used for corporate meetings, for conventions, for functions such as weddings, etc. When we arrived, it was hosting the Serbian National Volleyball team plus another group I could not identify. We had people everywhere. Our bikes were parked in front of the building, away from foot traffic and we were told they would be safe there. Yet, while we had the bikes covered, they still seemed to be in the way. After some time, I saw cigarette ashes on the covers, some wet spots make clear that water was poured on them somehow; Carol’s bike was hit with a ball from the practicing Volleyball players who played in front of the main entrance and right next to the bikes. A pack of stray dogs used my front tire to mark their territory. It was a bit of mayhem. I felt we and our bikes were in the way. Not that things were intentionally done but we were out of our normal environment. I am not used to having a small band practice their Serbian music in front of the hotel. Some guys seemed intoxicated to me, dancing Serbian dances while holding a beer bottle in their hands. On the outside terrace young ‘business’ men neglected their dates or wives to close deals on their cell phone in loud, obnoxious voices. The young waiter, not just serving coffee or tea to the young women at the next table, but also getting a bit physical, touching and kissing and making out in general, to our amusement and certainly with the women’s consent.
Carol and I took a walk along the Danube River and watched, somewhat horrified, as young people swam in the River despite the obvious, non-sanitary condition of the water. The beaches were pebbled and yet people were lying on towels, sunbathing. A regular promenade had been built to make a section of the beach into a boardwalk. Not luxurious but not dilapidated yet, either.
The town of Kladovo itself had a small ‘Pedestrians Only’ area. Small shops had their doors wide open yet there was hardly a customer in sight. The sales personal sat outside, having a cigarette, drinking coffee, waiting for customers. I am not sure if the ambition of the townspeople was misadjusted or if the expected tourists did not show. The town was ready and I remembered a line from a movie; “If you build it they will come”. Well, here nobody came and the ones that did come did not come to visit the town. We ate dinner at the end of the row of open for business places without anyone else near us. We were the only people in this restaurant. The food was good and plentiful. It was a bit of a surreal experience. As darkness fell we moved into our room and worked on the blog, Carol called her mom, and we sorted our stuff in our luggage out and made ready for tomorrow’s early departure after breakfast. The Serbian Music in front of the hotel had stopped; the volley ball team no longer practiced their skills next to our bikes, the time was right to go to sleep. Unfortunately, the barking of a pack of wild dogs kept us awake most of the night.