We had a lovely stay at the Hotel Danubia in the Silver Lake Resort. The resort is just outside of Veliko Gradište, The town is located about an hour east of Belgrade on the banks of the Danube, Dunav in Serbian. It is a new hotel and reasonably priced. We took our bikes and there are many great biking trails, perfect for kids. We rode to main plaza in Veliko Gradište twice. The town is quite poor and nothing spectacular, but the bike trail is safe, and there is a really nice park for kids. The Danube itself is quite wide and really fresh. It made me remember the summers on the lakes of Upper Michigan. We also did some swimming, frog catching, and eating some fresh perch. Today on the way home we stopped at the Ram Fortress and climbed around it a bit. Typical Serbia, no signs, no interpretive materials, just an old abandoned fort the kids could climb around. Awesome!!!!
I highly recommend a visit for a weekend get-a-way from Belgrade.
Last night we visited Lido Beach in Zemun. It is located on the northern tip of “Great War Island” (Veliko – big Ratno – war Ostrvo – island). The island is situated at the spot where the Danube River (Dunav in Serbian) splits into its tributary, the Sava River. The island gets its name from the numerous armies that use the island as a launching pad for attacks on the city. The Turks, Serbs, and Austro-Hungarians all used it and the Serbian Army still has a presence on the island today.
In the summer, the city of Belgrade, with the help from the Serbian army, they make a pontoon bridge from the island to the suburb of Zemun. I wanted to check it out so we took the family over last night. There is a small beach on the northern point of the island, called “Lido Beach,” named after the Lido sandbar in Venice, Italy. Of course it was a body of water, so I had to jump in. The kids took off their shoes and splashed in the water a bit. Ocean loved the sand. We will probably head back there sometime. It is much like Ada Ciganlija, but the currents are a bit faster. The island is also a big bird sanctuary so I should try to do some birdwatching.
There have been numerous attempts to develop the island. The Danube occasionally floods it in the spring, which is good for stopping people from putting hotels on it! It is a large green area in the city as you can see from the ariel view. It is supposed to be quite popular swimming beach and they do have a life guard, a couple of restaurants, and two volleyball nets.
While visiting the Golubac Castle, we stayed at the Silver Lake Hotel. The “Lake” is actually an extension of the Danube, or an “oxbow” in technical terms. Silver Lake is cut off from the Danube by a dam and the place is a popular holiday destination for Serbs. The hotel has seen better days and was probably built in the 1980’s during the communist era of Serbia. The staff was extremely friendly and despite the uncomfortable beds and foul-smelling tap water in the hotel, we really enjoyed our stay. The most important thing was the kids had a blast and that was the whole point of going.
We swam both Friday night and Saturday afternoon in the lake. We had a scare on Saturday morning. Nadia was applying sunscreen to Oliver and I was trying to catch a frog for Owen. Ocean happened to go into the water and slipped and went under the surface. Owen yelled immediately, warning me, and a I quickly pulled her out. It was a good lesson for us on taking three children to a body of water. An accident can happen so quickly and we need to be extra vigilant. Ocean was a bit scared, but quickly lived up to her name and went back into the water. It was extremely hot and the cool water of the Danube made it a pleasant day. I am always amazed at the fascination kids have with the water’s edge. They could have played there the entire day.
A resort is being developed there. It is like a gated community, with I assume most of the vacation cottages being built by Belgraders wanting a vacation home. There are several restaurants as well as a marina, tennis club, stores, etc. I read of plans to build newer hotels, which would be nice. There were many ads offering rooms and apartments for rent also.
The place reminded me of the lakes in Michigan as well as a bit of Ada Ciganlija, but without the crowds. I would go back, but perhaps renting a private apartment instead of going to the hotel. Some of the other highlights were catching frogs, a fantastic lunch at the Amici Restaurant, and the quiet escape from the city. Nadia went for a run and we discovered a bike trail that goes along the river and definitely worth coming back with bicycles on a weekend. The waiters at the restaurant loved our children and appreciated my learning of Serbian. I am actually starting to be able to communicate in Serbian!
Owen, Oliver and I on our triumphant return from climbing one of the ten towers of Golubac Castle. This is a 700 year+ castle located near the village of Golubac, Serbia on the banks of the Danube River. It is the start of the Đerdap National Park and one of the most beautiful places in Serbia.
The fortress is an amazing place! If the castle was in a western European nation, the place would be tightly controlled, with safety nets installed, an interpretive center built, etc. In Serbia, it is completely abandoned. There was one guy selling souvenirs near the castle, but they had nothing to do with the castle. There were no interpretive guides or accompanying museum. Basically, it is an old fort that we were free to explore. I took the boys and we climbed to one of the upper towers. The guys absolutely loved it! There was a slight trail leading up and we scrambled over the rocks and bushes to get to the base of a tower where a ladder hung down. We then climbed the ladder to get to the top. From there the trail wound around to another tower, but with a 6 and 4 year old, I thought it a bit too risky to go on.
I told the story about the castle to the boys. The fortress exchanged hands many times since it was built in the 1300’s. As with most castles, it is in a strategic position. The Danube narrows at this point so from the fort, one can control the flow of traffic down the Danube (Dunav in Serbian). The place was the scene of many battles between the Hungarians, Ottomans, and Serbians.
You can see the slight trail to the right of our car. It moves from right to left above the vehicle. There were two guys fishing from one of the flooded towers. A dam was built in the 1970’s that flooded the lower parts of the castle, and a road was built through the portcullis (seen just left of our car). A couple of cars stopped while we were there, but no one bothered to climb up. I thought the challenge and managing risk of the climb very good for the boys. I want to instil in the boys a sense of adventure and an enthusiasm for getting out into life and doing things. We will definitely return here, as the fortress is just an 1 and a half from our home in Belgrade.
The trip can be combined with a visit to the archeological site Lepenski Vir. Remains of an 7000 year old village were found with some fish-lipped statues. Unfortunately, the museum where they are housed was closed for reconstruction and we weren’t able to see it. We stayed at the Silver Lake Hotel which I will blog about later.
The trip gave me a greater appreciation for the Danube and the freedom of Serbia. What an opportunity to be able to scramble over an abandoned castle, just like explorers coming to it the first time. There were lots that we didn’t get to see and it begs a return visit. I would love to lead an reconstruction and excavation of the site. It would also be nice to make an accompanying web site with pictures and stories of the long history of the place.
The Danube compares to the Mississippi and I see why people have gone down its entire length. The river and its tributaries go through the heart of central Europe. The wildlife, views, and fresh water are something to be cherished.