Saturday, April 19, 2014

Vidin, Bulgaria

We arrived in Bulgaria in the evening.  Our ship docked at Vidin, one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria.  It was after dark, but the four of us took a short walk into the town.  There wasn't much to see at night and it was very quiet.

The town almost seemed deserted.  We were the only ones on the street.  Down one side street, we heard music and saw lights.  There was a small cafe where families were gathered and children were riding bikes out front.

The next day we saw Vidin in the daylight.

A monument from the Soviet era.

Our Program Director grew up in Bulgaria, and she led us on a tour of Vidin.  Then we wandered around on our own, and I took these photos.

We walked through a park…

A fence outside a school…

A playground that seemed to have been deserted:

The synagogue in Vidin.  It was built in 1894 and used until the 1950s when most of the town's Jews had left.  It was placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch in 2004.  Various efforts to restore it have failed; however, in 2013 Israel's ambassador to Bulgaria promised Israel's help to restore it.

This sculpture by the Bulgarian artist Andrey Nikolov is situated in the town square.  Called "the grieving warrior", it memorializes the victims of the Serbio-Bulgarian war in 1885.  It touched my heart.

The town of Vidin had a melancholy feeling for me.  Maybe it began that first evening when we walked in the dark and it was eerily quiet.  There weren't many people around during the day, either.  It seemed like a town that has been through a lot but is trying to get better.  The country of Bulgaria is now a member of NATO and the EU and is struggling to boost the standard of living.

Tomorrow I will share our visit to the town of Belogradchik, just a short distance from Vidin.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Through the Iron Gate

On Friday, April 4th our ship left Belgrade and sailed east during the night.  I loved sleeping on the ship, hearing the engines and feeling the slight vibration, knowing when I wake in the morning I will see a new place.

This a a photo I took early that morning as we approached the section of the Danube River called the Iron Gate, or more specifically the Iron Gate Gorge.  The river narrows here to 140 meters and reaches a depth of around 90 meters.  In this area the border between Serbia and Romania runs along the middle of the Danube.  As we sailed we saw Serbia and the Balkan Hills on the starboard side and Romania and the Carpathian Hills on the port side.

I got up early to take these photos.  The crew had suggested the night before that we might not want to  miss the scenery along this part of the river.  There was some new sight around every bend.

Remains of the 14th century Golubac Castle, on the Serbian side.

Villages along the Romanian side.

On the Romanian side, this statue was carved into the rock during 1994 to 2004.  It is the face of Decebalus, King of the Dacians.  The Dacians lived in this part of Romania during the first century BC and the second century AD.

At this point we are approaching the narrowest part of the gorge, where a large lock and dam complex was built between 1960 and 1971.  Most of the passengers on the ship came out to watch as we approached and went through the lock.

And onward we go… next stop, Bulgaria.