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Passage to Eastern Europe on the Viking Embla

Starting a new chapter

overcast 5 °C

This was my first trip since Heather and I parted ways after her summer trip to Vancouver. So after almost four years of happy adventures I had to, as they say, get on with my life.

And after reading about how great it is to cycle in Belgrade I decided to go there. My regular lunch companion Eric suggested we travel together, so we did. This caused a few funny situations. One being when we were told our hotel room had only one bed but which was soon enough changed to a room with two beds and a magnificent view of the parliament buildings in Budapest and the Danube.

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Some of my readers have asked for an explanation of the picture of the shoes. It is a Holocaust Memorial at the spot on the Danube where Hungarian "Nazis" killed Jews....men, women and children and dumped their bodies in the river.

One day I picked up Eric's passport by mistake and when I needed to exchange currency in a bank I simply acted as though it was mine. They examined the passport and me and after I signed Eric's name proceeded with the transaction. Eric is ethnically Chinese.

Our trip on the Danube was from Bucharest through five countries.....Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary. Apart from Serbia and Croatia which were in Yugoslavia the others were in the Soviet Bloc and all of them have now been admitted to the European Community. At this stage they still all have their own currencies. I won't attempt to explain their different histories but will give my impressions and a few highlights of our journey. Firstly they were all occupied for two or three centuries by the Ottomans and they were not all on the same side in the Second World War. Their progress since the advent of capitalism after the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia has been uneven. Unemployment is the single biggest problem and older people especially are having trouble adjusting. But tremendous efforts have been made to rebuild after the devastation of the Second World War and especially since the breakup of Yugoslavia and its brutal wars.

Highlights for me were:

Ceausescu's lavish "palace"(the only bigger building in the world is the Pentagon)

The rocks of Belogradshick in Vidin, Bulgaria

Cruising the Danube through the Iron Gate and through the huge lift locks.

The beautiful city of Belgrade and my cycle ride along the Danube

The amazing rebuilding of Vukavar, Croatia which suffered so much in the Serbia/Croatia war. Over eighty percent of it was destroyed.

And then last but not least we arrived in Budapest. It is a lovely city, but everywhere you are reminded about man's inhumanity to man. After Hungary attempted to change sides at the end of the Second Word War their people were subjected to the worst abuses by the Nazis and the Communists. The fact that it is such a welcoming, beautiful, tranquil place now is amazing.


Posted by douglasw 15:58 Archived in Romania

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