Tuesday, August 26, 2014


We had a complete day on the river heading to Serbia.  There are activities all day long to pass the time.  We went through Iron Gates I and II which are locks that opened the river for transport.  Then we proceeded down the gorge that was spectacular.  Several places along the Danube are actually canals dug to enable ships to travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea.  This trip completes for us that entire journey having traveled the western end from Amsterdam to Vienna in 2006.

Our day in Belgrade started at a gorgeous park, Kalemegdan, built around the old fortress.  This fortification was built and destroyed so many times that the building materials are a mixture of stone favored by the Turks and Austrian bricks.  It is very well preserved.  The park boasts tennis courts, basketball courts, a terrific view of the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers along with large trees, walkways, etc.  The Natural Museum of History is also located here.  The weather was perfect for a morning spent in the outdoors.

Our next stop was at Tito's Memorial.  He was the leader of the combined country of Yugoslavia which was formed by the many Slavic states into one country after WW II.  It lasted until the fall of the USSR in the early 90s.  I need to read up on him but he seems to have done better for his people under socialism than the others.  He used the combined resources and available manpower to rebuild the infrastructure of the country.  Instead of providing the bare minimum to the people, they were provided a decent lifestyle but were still wards of the state from a financial and freedom standpoint.  At his passing he was greatly honored by world leaders and his own people.  

Our guide who lived through this period said the condo he was allowed to purchase for about $2000 under socialism is now worth $65,000.  I guess he is a good example of making socialism and capitalism work for you.  We were told the average wage today is about $500 a month, a 40% tax rate plus a 20% VAT tax when you spend your money.  Serbia is not part of the EU and I assume that is due to their economy.  One American dollar equals 80 dinars and you purchase things in the tens of thousands.  I think our baby clothes purchase was 50,000 dinars!

Our last stop was at St. Sava's Cathedral.  This church is beautiful from the outside and we were there for the noon ringing of the bells.  Its construction was interrupted by WW II and taken up again in 1970.  The entire inside is concrete at this time and is to be covered totally in mosaics.  Since there are only donations to continue the work I think its completion ranks up there with the Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota as really never expected to be completed.  At least not in my lifetime. 

We returned to the ship for lunch and then rode the shuttle bus back into the city center to walk the pedestrian mall area.  We located a children's store and purchased three outfits for our cruise director's expected baby girl, Sophia.  She is due the last day of this cruise and everyone has their fingers crossed that he can complete the cruise and fly back to Bucharest before her arrival.

We only have wifi when we are in port or pass a larger city along the river, which doesn't last long, but I want to get as much as I can remember written down.  I have no way to download my camera to my I-Pad so the photos I have posted have been pulled from Kara's Facebook page.  Once I have them on my computer at home I will do a recap of the best photos with a brief description.

I think a blog may have posted out of sequence so be sure to look back to read both the Bucharest and Bulgaria posts.

Today we visit Croatia.

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