Friday, July 06, 2007

Lepinski Vir and Djerdap Gorge

Stefanović Family Pension
As this was an ethno tour, we stayed at the homes of people. This was a great way to meet local people, eat authentic food, and find lodging in areas not often served by hotels. This family had been doing this for several years already. Their property was on a high hill overlooking the Danube. Across the river one could see Romania. A cool breeze provided welcome relief from the heat that would increase over the days. Fat chickens roamed free and goats were in pens. Fruit trees including cherries, plums, pears, and apples dotted the landscape, including the steep slope. After a mandatory shot glass of home-made rakija with honey and tall glass of elderberry juice (also domestic) we toured through the lawn full of imaginative sculptures created by the always barefoot husband from driftwood, stumps, and branches. Lunch, attractively presented including rose petals scattered on the outdoor table, included corn bread, local cheeses including goat cheese with herbs, breaded vegetables, wild mushrooms delicately seasoned, soup, and meat.

Later that afternoon, we went for a walk within Đerdap National Park nicknamed the “Roof of the World”. Emerging from the wooded area was a high meadow from which one had an excellent view of the four gorges in the area. Dotting the hill of low-growing plants were plants from which St. John’s Wort and another plant locally known for its kidney medicinal value. On the walk, we also visited an old lady tending her goats and sheep. After learning (she only spoke Romanian) that we wanted to take some photos, she desperately tried to get her goats to cooperate for some poses with her. We learned that she lived in a cottage without water or electricity and that her daughter, who left 30 years earlier, has yet to return. We also encountered an old man nearing 90 years of age (although he didn’t look nearly that old) tending a couple of cows.

Back at the pension after the walk and Lepinski Vir, we met a trio of bikers – a father, teenage son, and younger niece. They were traveling along the Danube, documenting its beauty and diversity. This was the first time I saw people in Serbia camping out in a tent. Just as we sat down for supper, the lights went out. It might have been a good thing we couldn’t see too well, as the main dish was sarmica – prepared from boiled lamb liver and lungs. In addition to the Kačamak made from corn paste, the meal was once again tasty. Stars were plentiful and only a few lights from distant tiny villages dotted the landscape.

Lepinski Vir

A short distance away from the Stefanović farm was the archaeological site of Lepinski Vir. This site was discovered during archaeological explorations (1965-70) that proceeded the building of two dams on the Danube. At this time they found traces of a Neolithic culture dating between 8000 and 4500 BC, a complex culture perhaps one of the most advanced in all of prehistoric Europe. About a dozen settlements of the same culture have since been found, with evidence of trapezoidal huts, small sanctuaries and fireplaces in homes, and elaborate cemeteries. Stone figures of humans with large eyes and fish-like mouths (likely idols of hunters and fishermen who depended on the Danube) were found, along with jewelry, tools made of bone and stone, and tablets carved with letter-like symbols. The small museum contained some replicas of the most valuable artifacts, which are now in Belgrade’s National Museum. The site was located under a tiled weathered roof with fiberglass sides. Besides being hot, the structure made it too dark to see much, particularly since the roped areas were very limited. The poorly funded structure did this important site a great disservice.

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