IRON GATES GORGE AND DJERDAP NATIONAL PARK
The municipality of Kladovo is a real treasure trove of natural heritage and wealth. Kladovo will introduce you to a magical world of unreal beauty and natural wonders. The Djerdap region has always been a natural and strategic place of great importance, as evidenced by numerous cultural monuments and relics as old as 2000 years. The Danube, cutting its way through the high and steep cliffs of the Carpathian Mountains long time ago, made the river navigation almost impossible. Powerful water forces, rapids, vortices in the Djerdap region created numerous troubles and unprecedented shipwrecks. Today, with the construction of the hydroelectric power plants, the river was tamed, but as a result of the water level rising many settlements, villages and historical remains were lost forever under the waters. But, beyond all, this 150 km long part of the river still passes through spectacular landscapes, miraculously splitting and connecting the two banks, changing its width under the magnificent rocky cliffs of the largest and most picturesque gorge in Europe.
IRON GATES GORGE AND DJERDAP NATIONAL PARK
The Iron Gates Gorge is the biggest and longest in Europe, with a total length of 100km. On the Danube sector of the gorge, there are four narrowed parts - gorges, which are separated by appropriate extensions - valleys. Gorges and valleys on the Danube alternate in the following order: Golubac gorge, Ljupovska valley, Gospodjin vir gorge, Valley of Donji Milanovac, Big and small boilers gorge, Orsova valley and Sip valley, known also by the Djerdap name.
In the western part of the Kladovo municipality, on an area of about 64 hectares lies the Djerdap National Park, the biggest in Serbia, characterized by a rich ecosystem and specific flora and fauna and extremely valuable historical treasures dating from prehistoric times. Djerdap National Park is the area with the largest and oldest water holes in Europe and the site of the largest natural and archeological museum in Europe having the biggest biodiversity within one ecosystem. It is one of the most beautiful geographical areas in Europe, with exceptional opportunities for several types of tourism, from hunting to fishing (respecting the rules of conduct and laws of Djerdap National Park) to hiking, biking, bird watching and more.
Across the Danube, on the Romanian side, there is to be found the natural park Portile de Fier. On the way to the Black Sea the Danube created the Djerdap gorge, a natural border between Serbia and Romania. Due to its magnificent appearance, romanians call it “Parcul Natural Portile de Fier” which means “Iron Gate”, while the name “Djerdap” comes from the persian word “girdap” which means whirlpool or vortex.
Certainly, the most beautiful and exciting sector of the entire Danube encompases the 19 km long landscape of the boilers, a place of magical lookouts and breathtaking beauty. This is where the Danube is at its narrowest (140m) and at its deepest (90m). Before the building of the HPP “Djerdap I” in the deep whirlpools of the boilers, cod and sturgeon coming all the way from the Black Sea, spawned their eggs. The caviar was used for the production of the famous Kladovo caviar, a worldwide renowned speciality. After completion, the HPP “Djerdap I” and “Djerdap 2” dams cut the paths to the natural hatcheries leading to an almost complete disappearance of cod and sturgeon. Unfortunately, the Kladovo caviar ceased to exist.
In the heart of the Danube`s Gorge, under Mali Strpce it is to be found a natural picnic area known as Haiducka Vodenica. The site where necropolises from the mesolithic and iron age were found during archeological excavations, as well as fortification remains of the late antique period is a frequent gathering place of locals and tourists, especially fans of sport fishing and camping activities.
REMAINS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
The great rise of ancient times in the area of today's territory of the municipality of Kladovo is evidenced by the wealth of monuments and remnants of the Roman past in the wars of conquest that the Romans began in the late first century.
During his conquer quests on Dacians (ancestors of today`s Romania), Roman emperor Trajan built in 103 AD his road (via Traiana) through the Iron Gate`s Gorge all the way to the place where he order the construction of the bridge over Danube (Trajan`s bridge). Honoring the success of the roman empire and Trajan himself, a written plaque carrying two winged spirits was carved to be known as Trajan`s Plaque. The plaque represents and worships the greatness of emperor Trajan. Carved on the plaque stays written for eternity: “EMPEROR CAESAR SON OF THE DIVINE NERVA, NERVA TRAJAN, THE AUGUSTUS, GERMANICUS, PONTIFEX MAXIMUS, INVESTED FOR THE FOURTH TIME AS TRIBUNE, FATHER OF FATHERLAND, CONSUL FOR THE THIRD TIME, EXCAVATING MOUNTAIN ROCKS AND USING WOOD BEAMS HAS MADE THIS ROAD”
From the original six lines, there are only four lines readable left, confirming Trajan`s effort to build the road along the Danube. After the construction of the HPP “Djerdap I” the road was flooded, and the decision to lift the plaque by 50 m was made. Today, the board is visible exclusively from the Danube, more precisely from the boats and speedboats that float through that place.
This magnificent monument of Roman architecture and marble at that time, Trajan`s bridge, built in just two years (between 103 and 105 AD) represents the architectural marvel of the famous architect Apollodorus of Damascus. Trajan`s bridge had an imposing height (1.500,00 roman feets or 45 m) and a length 1.133,90 m with portals connecting the two opposite shores of the Roman provinces: Upper Moesia (today Kladovo) and the newly formed Dacia (the territory of today`s Romania). Shortly after the bridge construction was finished, Emperor Trajan forced his legions and crossed the bridge conquering Dacia. Serving as defense camps, the strongholds of Pontes and Drobeta were built at the same time as the bridge.
The bridge had a total of 32 pillars, and the first and last pillar had a bronze statue of Trajan. During the middle of the last century, the head of one statue was found and handed over for safekeeping to a museum in Belgrade. The remains of 16 pillars were located in 1932 and half a century later another 12 pillars, while 4 were probably carried away by the Danube`s water in the meantime. Trajan's successor, Hadrian, ordered the destruction of the bridge because it was believed that the barbarian tribes could use it to penetrate from Eastern Europe. The remains of Trajan's bridge are located near the village Kostol and it is the best-preserved part of a supporting pillar having 5m height and 3.5 m width.
Diana is a military fortification with a port, built on a plateau of a high rocky shore known as Karatash near the village Novi Sip, 2 km downstream of HPP “Djerdap I”. The early earth-wood construction is related to the arrival of the first formations on the Danube at the beginning of the 1st century. The stone fortification was built during Emperor Trajan's building activity. For six centuries, Diana represented a significant economic center, taking into consideration it`s harbour and pier. The name Diana originates from the sanctuary dedicated to the Roman goddess of hunting, and a marble sculpture representing the goddess is exhibited in the Djerdap Museum. Inside the fortification an arc construction was founded, military barracks and other buildings while in the center the remains of a principle with a portico.
Remains of a significant civilian settlement were also found around the fortification, named Zanes according to Byzantine sources. On the shore, temples dedicated to the god Neptune were found, as well as a a temple with a stone altar dedicated to Jupiter Dolichen. These are exhibited in the Djerdap Archeological Museum.
Transdierna is a fortress in Tekija that played an important role during the Roman-Dacian wars (late 1st century, begin 2nd century). It was built in 104AD with the following dimensions: 100m x 84m. Archeological excavations led to the discovery of castle remains as well as many personal belongings of the soldiers and residents (money, buttons, earrings, weapons…), remains that speak of the high living standard of the roman soldiers at the border and the elevated social and economic conditions that prevailed at the Moesia border.
Egeta represents the remains of a Roman fortification in Brza Palanka, which, due to its geographical position, was perceived as strategic point of great military importance. It was a stronghold with three military camps and a civilian settlement. A small sanctuary was discovered in one of the castles, in which four sculptures and the head of Jupiter Dolichen were found (late 2nd century, beginning 3rd century). Egeta did not experience the fate of other roman cities when barbarians crossed the Danube, so its fortifications remained and were rebuilt even after te Roman Empire collapsed.
REMAININGS OF THE TURKISH EMPIRE - FETISLAM FORTRESS
It is said that the Djerdap Gorge begins with a fortress (Golubac fortress) and also end with one. Immediately at the entrance in Kladovo, about 300 m west from the center of Kladovo, you will find the magnificent Fetislan Fortress (in translation “Victory of Islam”), fortress built after the Turks conquered these parts of Serbia. It was built in a strategic point from where the Turks could easily control the navigation on the Danube. Fetislam consists of 2 parts: the great fortress and the small city within it. The small town was an artillery base protected by circular towers and was built in 1524 during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificient. The current form of the Fetislam Fortress was given in 19th century during the campaign of Mahmud II, whose marble slabs, in honor of the sultan, were placed on the gates leading to the fortress. The fortress had 3 gates which were decorated with testimonial inscriptions. In its turbulent history, the fortress has often changed its owners.
Fetislam is one of the six Serbian fortresses (Belgrade, Smederevo, Sabac, Uzice, Soko and Kladovo) which were handed over to the Serbs on April 26, 1867, this leading to the Turks definitely leaving these lands. The day is marked in Kladovo as the day of the municipality, and the fortress became a cultural and historical monument, a favorite place for walking, recreation and organizing of various sport event and activities. The fortress includes an open amphitheater and sports center with a complex of fields for small and large sports.
The island of Ada Kaleh represented an important strategic fortification on the Danube during the Roman Empire. It was located only a few km upstream from the current dam of HPP “Djerdap I” and was 1,750 m long and 500 m wide. During its turbulent history, the island changed its owners, the Turks being the last inhabitants. The Muslim population maintained its customs and culture on the island. They were involved in the production and manufacture of ratluk, roses, tobacco, matches, olives and figs. With the construction of the HPP “Djerdap I” in 1971, the island was sunk, the Turks relocated to their homeland while the fortress was moved on the Romanian island of Simian situated downstream from the Trajan`s Bridge remains.
During Karadjordjevic`s time, Ada Kaleh represented an important administrative center on the Danube. The island is recorded in Serbian history as a place of special importance, because here in 1804, during the first Serbian uprising, four dahija (renegaded janissaries) were captured and executed.
Prior to the construction of the dam, the Djerdap Gorge, a dramatic natural landscape, was the most dangerous place for boat navigation on the entire Danube. Difficult navigation conditions, at that time, were regulated by a specific system of guidance and control of river traffic in the form of balloon signal stations. The system of six signal stations on both banks of the Danube served as a single traffic light, a raised balloon being the sign that the ships can freely pass while a lowered balloon was the sign that the captains have to wait the boats coming from the opposite direction.
Today, two so-called “balloon stations” are still preserved having the role of monumental infrastructural heritage, being under the protection of the Institute for the protection of cultural monuments. The “balloon station Pena” served as an art studio for the local artist Radisav Trkulja, while the former “balloon station Varnica” was renovated and works as a restaurant welcoming tourist eager to taste the refined local specialties.
The Blederija waterfall is an exceptional natural attraction near the village of Reka, 15 km away from Kladovo. The Blederija River springs at 190 meters above sea level and flows to the southeast. The water, falling vertically in a shape of water curtain from a height of 7m into a bigren tub, has a turquoise color. On the side of the big waterfall, there is another smaller one, which disappears during the summer when the river reduces its capacity, but it is always present in the spring when the river reaches a speed of about several hundred meters per second. Above the waterfall, at about 2 km away on the right side, there are thermal springs with a water temperature of about 17 C. An interesting fact for this area is that an antique roman road shortcut passed through this area from Porec, through Miroc to the Danube all they way to Kljuc, this shortcut being used until Trajan carved his way through the Djerdap Gorge. In addition in the village of Reka there is still a water mill in function.
The road leading to the waterfall is partly tarmac, partly macadam, adequately marked for tourists. The site is very attractive and a favorite picnic spot for locals, as well as domestic and foreign tourists.
The fishing site Mala Vrbica, belonging to the village of Mala Vrbica, was placed under the protection of the IBA since 2000 and represents one of the most important and richest places in this part of Serbia from this point of view. The fishing area “Mala Vrbica” comprises of 2000 ha and the presents a steppe type landscape. In the immediate vicinity are Kladovo and the Danube river, as well as hills of wood and sand with sparse vegetation. A part of the once large wetland complex has been preserved, while the rest has been turned into a pond. Due to the construction of HPP “Djerdap II”, spacious marshes were formed between the riverbank and the flooded Danube islands.
This aquatic habitat is of special importance for the bird fauna - for nesting, migration and wintering of birds on the Danube, in the still waters of the Kostol Plato. The two species that make this area important are the white-tailed tern and the beekeeper. So far, 110 species of birds have been recorded, of which about 60 are nesting birds. The site is accessible to visitors, and this area is especially suitable for the development of tourist activities that include bird watching.
HYDROELECTRIC POWER PLANT DJERDAP
From Emperor Trajan`s to the present days, more precisely until 1964, no bolder and more extensive works have been undertaken on the banks of Danube than those started by the Yugoslavian and Romanian builders at that time. The hydroelectric power plant and navigation system “Djerdap I” was built in cooperation with the neighboring Republic of Romania and since 1972 has been producing a significant part of electricity for the needs of our country.
The largest hydrological construction on the Danube, with a total length of 1,278 m, is completely symmetrical and designed so that each country benefits from the same amount of space which is maintained and used in agreement with the conventions of construction and operation. Each side has one power plant, ship`s floodgate and seven overflow fields out of a total of fourteen, as many as there are in the common overflow dam. The border between the two countries is at the midpoint of the dam. The two power plants are connected, so that in case of need, the power plant unit on the Serbian side can deliver electricity to the Romanian one and vice versa.
HPP “Djerdap I” is a monumental building, which, in addition to its basic role - electricity production, regulates river traffic on the Danube through a system of locks. It represents the border crossing and connects the Republic of Serbia and Romania.
On the Kladovo municipality`s tourist map, the energetical giant represents an exceptional and unique attraction for tourist visits and tours.
If you did not have the chance to visit Kladovo until now we warmly invite you to visit this amazing city and the beautiful surroundings.