Lost in the Danube
1966 A Cold War Journey before the waters rose at the Iron Gate
Old Orsova in 1966

Orsova today is a Romanian town of about ten thousand people. The present town is new and overlooks the broad mouth of the Cerna river flowing into the Danube 955 kms up-river from the Black Sea and about 12 km from the Iron Gate l dam. The Danube gorges begin in earnest just up-river.

The main industry is shipbuilding and the shipyard, revitalised in 1991 is impressive. But the original Orsova had a history dating back to before Roman times. From a small beginning the town grew in importance and may even have been a Roman 'customs post - gathering taxes from river traffic.

One fascinating claim to fame was that the Hungarian Holy Crown of St Stephen and jewels were hidden, buried near the town between 1848 and 1853. I do not need to expand as the story is on the web. More important to Orsova is that Old Orsova and its history is now under 35 m of water.

In 1966 the Cerna river was narrow and the broad mouth seen today is simply a flooded valley. When I was there with September Tide a long quayside faced the Danube and like other visitors it was the starting point for getting to Ada Kaleh just 5 kms downstream. Old maps even show Ada Kaleh as 'Orsova Island'. Modern maps do not even show where the island's historic remains are submerged.

I have very few pictures of Old Orsova and very few of Baile Herculane a Roman spa 22 kms away up the Cerna river. In 1966 we were on Ada Kaleh or in the shipyard repairing gears on September Tide, here below - moored against the quay facing the Danube. Tony Morrison

Remember these photos wer taken in 1966 when acar were rare and horse drawn carts were still being used. This is on a broad street parellel with the river. A guard is standing by September Tide and we needed special passes and an interpreter before we could leave leave the ship
The traditional dress with decorated bodices and head-covering caught my eye and it seemed to be normal and not just to please the few visitors
This was the grandest building close to the quayside. The roof is decorated with a ship and I wonder if it this was the regional Headquarters of the Danube Commission - the body presiding over river traffic. The number on the small plaque beside the door says 1868. Lovett Fielding Edwards in his book Danube Stream says the Danube Commission was here in the 1930's
Here is some of the statuary on ths elegant building. I wonder if it has survived
Younger people were dressed for the 1960's
The Greek-Romanian Orthodox church. It can be seen on old postcards from the town - or on the website of the Alexis Project
A beautifully painted image of Saint Nicholas - Sf Jerah Nicholae , a much revered saint of this region
A most curious building with an extraordinary decoration. If this is survived I would like to know more of its history

Baile Herculane

Baile Herculane at 75 m above the New Orsova was safe from inundation This little town, now a favored health spa has a history going back before Roman times. Legends say that the mythical hero Hercules visted the place and six statues depicting him have been found. One replica stands in his honour at the head of this square . When I was there in 1966 the average visitor was Romanian or from other Communist eastern bloc countries and several large hotels were built for them. Many of the principal buildings and baths are from its heyday in the nineteenth century when vistors arrived by steam rail or boat to Orsova

The central square and walk 
The Cerna bridge
The statue of Hercules - 1874
The Cerna bridge
The 'Cerna' Thermal baths. A 19th C spa bathing pool - the warm waters contain minerals including sulphur, sodium and magnesium and are reckoned as helpful for rheumatism, arthritis and general well-being
The Cerna Hotel built in the 1930's
And by the fountain - we talked via our interpreter

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