In the rainy September morning, up and down the winding roads, we slowly traveled towards Romania so that at the very edge of Serbia where the Danube is the widest and magic is strongest, to visit a medieval castle that extends extensively on the slopes of the Carpathians, and proudly defies the tooth of time just above the Danube river.
After an hour’s drive from Belgrade, we arrived at the destination – an imposing fortress Golubacki grad. As the rain had begun to intensify fall, preventing us from walking to the entrance of the fortress, we moved to a small cafe that was perfectly arranged to satisfy every need of curious tourists sitting here to recover their energy and refresh. Whether it is to the zeal and commitment of employees, good project financing, or excellent management – only the entire Golubac Fortress area is full of cleanliness, pedancy and quality that would satisfy every foreign and domestic tourist’s needs.
The whole café glows with cleanliness, the air is incredibly fresh and refreshing – because of the wild nature that flows around this place, which due to the proximity of the Danube – and I get the impression that you can even “eat from the floor”. As the air pressure dropped out, the moisture with the changed intensity humidified the colorful greenery of the Carpathians that surrounded us, and gray clouds rocked and topped the top towers of the stone building in front of us, the whole ambience enchanted us and we headed towards the entrance to the fortress.
On the other side of the Danube, there was a glimpse of the steep whines of Romania. Strange, I thought, that only the blue river region is dividing us from the European Union. The remnants of the medieval town of Golubac are located on the right bank of the Danube, in the most unpopular place that represents the entrance to the Djerdap Gorge. The area of the fort belongs to the National Park Djerdap and within the natural reserve called Golubacki grad. The value of this reserve is reflected in the existence of very rare plant communities and species. Just before the beginning of the Djerdap gorge, the Danube is the widest in its entire course, and in the direction of the Romanian village of Koronina and the fortress, in the middle of the river, stand the rocks about 5 meters high. As we later heard, this rocks are known as “Baba-kaj”, which in Turkish means “repent”. For this rocks, as well as for the fortress itself, many legends are connected that speak of its name, life and death, love and war, throughout centuries.
Golubac is mentioned, for the first time in the historical sources, in 1335 as a Hungarian fortress. Although the city was founded before, it remained a mystery who, when and why, built it.
In the vicinity of the city, there are remains of the Starić, Vinkovci and Žuturbski culture, as well as the Roman Vicus Cupae, on both sides of the Danube, with traces of the ancient Roman road, Via Militaris, which ensured a good connection between the two fortresses.
As the latest research shows, this medieval fortress did not originate from the foundations of an ancient or early Byzantine fortification, nor was it related to mining. Its natural position is simply to ensure the safety and “soullessness” of the building on three sides – the high cliffs of Ridan protect it both from the south and east, and from the northern, whirly water sprawl of the Danube. This position, during the 14th and 15th centuries, helped Golubac to become a border town, a scene of turbulent military conflicts between Serbia, Hungary and Turkey. Whoever owned this city for centuries possessed power over the state border, and this building often changed its masters.
Although the day was gloomy and rainy, it added a certain amount of mysticism and gothic charms to the surrounding forest slopes. Everything was roaring from foreign tourists, and the whole scene merged into a mixture of Italian, Romanian, English and Turkish people. When we reached the entrance to the fortress, we were greeted by an unpleasant surprise. Namely, the fortress is closed to visitors, because the project of restoration of the castle and historical-archaeological research, in which the European Union has invested a lot, is still in progress. A bit disappointed, but charmed by the wild beauty of the entire area, we have nothing left but to stand still and admire the stone giants above us.
The friendly staff at the cafe near the fortress, advised us to visit the nearby monastery, Tumane.
Over the past years I have heard various stories about how cancer patients in this monastery found a miraculous and inexplicable healing for this wicked disease, as well as stories of the cordiality of hosts and monks who found their peace here. The Tuman Monastery is located nine kilometers away from Golubac, in the base of the Golubac Mountains, surrounded by forests, on the left bank of the Tuman River, which gives the shrine a special beauty and hides it from curious wanderer’s eyes. Five centuries after the death of the Saint Zosima, it is clear why the Holy Apostle has chosen for his lonely and prayerful life exactly such a place, hidden from people and completely perfect for prayerful pity. Ambient beauty with one, and spiritual peace on the other, and the presence of sacred places, this hidden monastery makes invaluable Serbian treasure, both in spiritual and cultural-historical terms.
Only a kilometer away from the monastery, deep in the dense and ancient forest, stands a well-known depiction of the Holy Zosima. In the wall os the depiction there are two small caves, connected by a narrow passage. He lived in one of them, and prayed in the other. Today, at the site of the “cell” where he used to pray, there is a small decorated chapel. There is also a miraculous source next to the statue of St. Zosim, and behind it stands a beautiful forest waterfall.
In addition to the monastery there is a small farm with animals who are in grace of the diligent, hard-working people who serve the monastery. Chubby donkeys, horses, ponies, peacocks, lambs, and even llamas have warmed our hearts and brought the sun to that gray, rainy, afternoon. After visiting the monastery, we moved to the inn to try the famous monastery wine and brandy produced by the monks. What is interesting is that there is no “menu” here, and none of the foods has a certain price, but each traveler can eat and drink as much as he wants, and leave as much money as he thinks he should leave, in accordance with his own conscience.
Pushed by the impressions, we said goodbye to our good hosts and the monastery, and hit the road to Golubac town. As we drank a good monastery wine, but we did not taste any of the foods, we were pretty much guided by our empty stomachs, so we parked near the best restaurant in Golubac. It is called „Zlatna Ribica“ wich means „golden fish“ translated in Serbian. This golden fish has not fulfilled three wishes for us, but it has fullfiled one – an excellent, homemade, hot and plentiful meal. I recommend that you try the wine house and chicken specialty called “ala Zlatna Ribica”. Except for the gastronomic pleasures, by sitting in this restaurant, you will also be able to enjoy in a beautiful ambience and view, as your eyes will be gazing at the wavy blue Danube and the blue sky that overwhelms it. I really had the feeling that I was sitting in the garden of a Mediterranean restaurant by the seashore,and not on the coast of the Danube river.
Happy and immersed, full of impressions, we went straight back to Belgrade, eager to move this exciting story to written words and make it closer to you.