A Taste Of Summer In Karatas
By the River Danube, in Serbia
I have had the opportunity to visit Karatas, on a couple of occasions, to spend a week at a summer sport camp. This tiny village is on the banks of the river Danube, in a peaceful area in Serbia, close to the Iron Gate dam and the Derjap National park.
Remember when teacher used to give us the story title "What I did last Summer"? I never felt that I had anything interesting enough to write about... Many years too late to satisfy any homework requirement, but hopefully interesting enough for you to take a look, this is my story!
All the photos in this article are my own. This one shows the strange contrast of a river beach in Kladovo, Serbia, and across the Danube, an industrial area on the Romanian side. It really is a beach - people do swim in the river, and sunbathe on the shore.
Please contact me first, if you want to use any of my photos.
The Journey to Karatas Sport Camp
It was sunny and very hot when we arrived at Belgrade airport. Walking out of the cool airport terminal, into the midday sun, was like walking into an oven. Fortunately, we were met at the airport, and didn't have to make the four hour trip to Karatas by bus. The first couple of hours of the journey were interesting enough as I had never been to Serbia before. We passed though Belgrade, and some fairly ordinary countryside.
...we reached the Danube, and it was stunning! The sun was shining, and the blue sky enhanced the color of the water beautifully.
Of course, I knew it was a big river. Big enough to sustain little cruise ships...
The Danube is the second longest river in Europe, after the Volga. Flowing from Donaueschingen in the German Black Forest all the way to the Black Sea, it is classified as an international waterway. The Danube is 1785 miles long, that's 2872Â km for European readers. It passes through four capital cities of Central Europe: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. It also acts as a border for or passes through ten countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Bulgaria.
The river is navigable by river ships from Kelhein, Bavaria, and by ocean ships from Braila, Romania, through to the Black Sea. Imagine taking a cruise along the river, through historic capitals and beautiful countryside...
Cycling the Danube
If a cruise is too leisurely, or too pricey for you, there's always the trusty bicycle! Cycling in a wonderful way to get fit, plus you can enjoy the scenery at your own pace.
The Danube Cycle way is a popular holiday route in central Europe. In 20 manageable one day stages, this book describes the route from Donaueschingen in Germany through to Budapest in Hungary, passing through 1350km of beautiful scenery and interesting places. The guide includes daily maps, and information about reasonably-priced accommodation.
Useful Guides for that Cruise...
It's a great idea to do a bit of research before heading off on a trip. Having some idea of what you want to see and where you want to go will save time (and possible arguments) when you are there.
Vienna Day By Day introduces the city, and its must-see places, including walks that will appeal to families, coffee-lovers, romantics, arts and arvhitectural fans and music lovers. It also covers outdoor trips to Stadtpark, The Danube, Schonbrunn and more.
Fodor's guide to Prague and Budapest is packed with essential information about walking tours to ruined castles, gothic churches, baroque palaces, jazz clubs, folk dancing, and much more.
Get Fit on Two Wheels
I know that when I cycle regularly I feel a lot fitter, and can regulate my weight more easily. It's also quicker to cycle to my job than to sit in the traffic...
Comfortable bike, designed for women, and fitted with swept-back upright handlebar and padded saddle. The 21 speed bike has an aluminum city frame, SR Suntour suspension fork, SR Suntour alloy crank, Shimano rear derailleur and Promax alloy linear pull brakes.
Men's 14 speed commuter road bike, with aluminum drop bar frame, Schwinn road fork, dual pivot road brakes and Schwinn padded saddle.
Karatas Sport Camp
The camp sits alone, isolated from any large villages or towns, close to the Iron Gate dam. Originally, it provided basic accommodation for the workers who built and maintained the dam. Later, it was a camp for 'Tito's Pioneers', a place where youngsters, aged 7 to 15 years, could go to take part in work for the state.
The accommodation is in dormitory blocks with shared facilities and cabins divided into rooms with basic 'ensuite facilities'. Not luxury, but quite adequate. A few rooms even have air-conditioning!
The camp itself is well-laid out, with tree-lined paths and shady corners. It is now a sportscamp, with playing fields, tennis courts, gymnasiums and a swimming pool.
A Video of Karatas Sport Camp
This was my reason to be in Karatas. I was invited by the Serbian Savate Federation to take part in their summer sport camp for young savateurs. The camp was 10 days long, with two or three training sessions each day. The young people attending get a concentrated opportunity to train with the top coaches in the country, to take part in grade tests to check their progress, and to improve their general fitness with a choice of sporting activities and fun in the pool.
The World Youth Championships of Savate Boxe Francaise will be held in Karatas in July 2013.
More about Savate
This book has been around a while - in fact, it is considered a classic!
See a champion in action!
Canne in the sunshine
I was invited to introduce the sport of Canne de Combat to the camp. After a short demo, with Morgan, another instructor from my club, Cambridge Academy of Martial Arts, we recruited a group of young people who were interested in learning Canne. We found a shady spot on camp to give a few lessons. It was a great pleasure to train outside in the warm air and sunshine.
A Reminder of the Camp Origins
The Diana Fortress
Across the road from the Sports Camp at Karatas, it is possible to visit the Diana Fortress, which is on the Republic of Serbia's list of Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance.
Built in 100-101AD, during the reign of the Roman Emporer Trajan, it was a Roman castrum, or military defensive position. It overlooks the Danube, from a strategic location. It was modified, with additional towers, at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century. The fortress was damaged by invading Huns in the middle of the 4th century, and rebuilt by the Roman Emperor Justinian in 530AD. marble and bronze sculptures have been found at the site, along with a sacrificial necropolis. Finds of everyday tools are evidence that there was also a civilian settlement within the walls.
Derjap, the Iron Gate and the Dam
The photo shows the view of the Danube and the hydroelectric power plant from the Diana Fortress.
The Derdap National Park, 640 square kilometres in area, lies next to the Danube, on the Serbian side. It stretches from the Golubac fortress to the dam, near Sip. The natural beauty of the Derdap Gorge, the famous Iron Gate of the Carpathian mountains, is the parks main attraction. The gorge, which is 100 kilometers long, forms part of the boundary between Serbia and Romania. It is a compound river valley made up of four gorges, separated by ravines. In parts, it is very deep - at Kazan, the cliffs are 300 metres high, while at Gospodin vir, the river is 82 metres deep!
As well as the natural beauty of the mountains, river and forest reserves, the national park has many cultural attractions:
Lepenski Vir, an 8,000 year old archaeological site showing traces of settlements and the life of Neolithic man
Diana Roman fortress, near Kladovo
and the remnants of the bridge and road built during the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan
At the Iron Gate, the Danube passes through a dam - the Derdap hydroelectric power was finished in 1972, and was reputed to be the fourth-largest in the world at the time. Many residents of the nearby town of Kladovo are employed there.
Kladovo is a small town on the banks of the Danube, just downstream from the Iron Gate. It has hotels and restaurants for the tourists visiting the Derdap National Park and the hydroelectric power plant. There is beach, and we did see people swimming, although the Danube is quite polluted by international standards.
My photo is of the monument, erected in to 2005, and dedicated to 1200 Jewish refugees, who landed here in 1939, and later perished in camps of the German occupation.
We passed through this dramatic fortress on our journeys to and from Karatas. The main road literally passes through the gates!
The fortress (in Serbian: Golubacki grad) was actually a fortified medieval town. It stands above the bank of the Danube River, about 4Â kilometers downstream from the modern town of Golubac. It is believed to have been built during the 14th century, and has ten towers around three compounds. Built on the site of a Roman settlement, this fortified town had a tumultuous history. Many battles were fought over it during the middle ages because of its key position on the Danube. The Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary fought over it many times and, until 1867, it passed often between Turks, Hungarians, Serbs and Austrians.
It is now a peaceful and popular tourist attraction, and a sightseeing point on Danube boat tours.