Report no.52 Danube: Ruse to Vidin
22 April 2011 | Viden
Passage Report No. 52
Danube: Ruse to Vidin, Bulgaria
Mehmet Pasha, Ottoman mayor, envisaged Ruse as the “Vienna of the East.” The imposing, elaborate, decorative, 18th century architecture of the private and public buildings (onion tops reflect a later Russian invasion), squares, parks, tree lined streets and boulevards, in which chic, modern citizens live and promenade, evidence the dream.
Not all, however, merging to suburbia, the dull, decaying, suburban apartment blocks, grey, cement rendered, red roofed, cottages, decaying factories, belie the apparent prosperity.
Once, a major Danube port and shipbuilding centre, Ruse, in decay, awaits economic resurgence. The cities importance made it the residence of twelve ambassadors before Sofia (strategically inland away from Danubian border) was slated as the political capital.
This is a region where the winds of war ensured fathers had many sons. Elder promenaders store comparatively recent memories of the violent, at times glorious, past.
Skipper and Crew admire also other assets: the female beauty, the Orthodox, St. Dimitar Basarbovski’s rock monastery (outside town), the Ruse Art Gallery.
Sahula is rests at the Ruse Yacht Club (18 Euros per night – hot/cold shower, washing machine, no potable water, nearby service station fuel).
Members provide knowledge of the River: Barges must anchor at night unless they have at least two watch keepers (12 hours), Barges are best approached (no VHF) in the River for going alongside (Company offices and some barges charge a fee). Bulgarian barges moored in Ruse refused Crew’s overtures (Ukrainian is best).
City satiated, Sahula motors into the wide, flow of the River, Vidin (Bulgaria) bound
A Danubian “Battle of the Bulge” confronts Sahula, Upstream, the River website reports a 24cm river rise. Waters boil and Buoys lean to the faster flow.
River traffic increases after Ruse, including low, flat, River cruise ships. Multi-national barges have their navigation cabins on hydraulics for upstream, cross river bridges. A car carrier barge moves fast past.
“500” “600” markers pass requiring Chart book No. 2. (Of 8)
The River narrows at the bland, industrial, Svistova, facilitating the Danube crossing of many invaders: Roman, Byzantines, Turks, Russians and WWII German armies.
Skippers sketches record the tree lined bank’s spring golden colours.
Sahula’s anchorages favour alongside mid river sandbanks to avoid sunken tree trunks ripped from the eroding river banks.
Barometer drop heralds dark, stormy skies.
A yellow cloud of industrial pollution (Romanian fertilizer factory) engulfs the opposite Bulgarian heritage (Roman Emperor Tarzan’s fortress and Crusader, Turk battlefield) of Nikapol village.
Sahula passes by Somovit, Oriachova, Baikal, - immobile ports, silent, grey, red roofed, riverside villages.
First yacht, Austrian, outboard powered, waves heading downhill.
Mid-stream, sandbank current laps Sahula’s hull (650, 3m), night traffic (light glaring, fast, passenger ship, barges, police launch) pass into inky blackness...
Skipper removes Sahula’s green flashing anchor light, leaving the LED white light...
Red sunrise, calm, neat, peaceful Bulgarian hillside villages - Dolni Varin, Vadin Varin.
Night anchored and passing barges wave. A five barge wide pusher barge heads downstream. Commerce in continium.
Morning River, eternal flows, synergizes river moods to life. River colours luminesce – gold, browns vibrant greens, mirrored in flowing placid calms and brown, green, river swirls. White smoke, a yellow school bus, animals grazing, cormorants diving, birds flock, flying low, ducks amongst the rooted river bank – a new Danubian day of a village, a boat, a river.
Villages hide behind a dyke, on top, citizens promenade
Sahula surfs before a morning southerly – wind against current, on a clear, warm, summer day. Crew isn’t yet in board shorts –
trust takes time – later, on the surf ski, swimming.
Gravel takes the anchor (728, 4m), well clear of the shipping channel. Skipper buoys the anchor to assist if sunken trees.
Ruby red dusk painted river, “Sundowners” – Bulgarian cheese and chardonnay - another day.
River sides are distinct; Romanian – a low, flat, plain with reafforested banks; low Bulgarian hills, river beaches, resist the River’s flow. Neat villages dot the hills.
Islands of old forest – tall, proud, chaotic, sustainable, compare to the disciplined precision of anti-river plantings.
“Mountains, mountains” – Crew, the mountaineer, exclaims sighting the snow covered peaks of the Bulgarian Balkan Range. Post Viden, the River enters the “Iron Gates” gorges.
“River Countess” a, low slung, “spic,” river passenger ship, passengers waving, draws speedily alongside. Captain Jordan (VHF) advises to “press on,” the Hungarian Danube sector is “drying up with 1.5 -1.8 m likely.” “Winter snow-melt has gone down; rain is not forecast.” Sahula draws 1.5-1.7m.
His ship draws 1.5 m is enroute to Basel, Switzerland. Also Viden bound, an invitation is extended to Sahula’s crew to lecture passengers on Skipper’s travels and exchange River information. It is readily accepted.
Crew, “seal like” slips into the cold Danube. A fishing line (from Ruse) is clicking against the hull from the propeller. It must be removed. Hyperventilating, Crew dives successfully.
Sahula is moored alongside an ancient barge, now a Viden harbour pontoon. The Border Police and Harbourmaster meet.
Fuel, water and supplies, a tourist walk and onto Hells Gate Gorge to Belgarde, Serbia.
Next Report No. 53: Dining on the Captains Table, onto Belgrade.