19 Sep 2006

mehedinti: orsova

although i initially planned to go to Timisoara and see what plai festival was all about, i ended up spending the last weekend in Orsova, a small town situated on the Danube (where Cerna river meets the Danube, actually), some 25 km from Severin. Though extremely short, the time i spent there was great, since it gave me the opportunity not only to enjoy amazing landscapes, but also to talk to some of the locals and listen to their accounts of Ada Kaleh.
The locals are very friendly, despite the fact that the vast majority is unemployed. In fact, the intense lack of workplaces has determined most younger people to go either abroad to work, or go to Timisoara or Drobeta Turnu Severin for a change. Which means that the actual population of Orsova is a bit older and living a hard life, better said, trying and working hard to make a living. However, the crime rate is not at all high, as a friend of mine told me he'd expect it to be, and you can actually feel safe enough on the streets, even at night. The town is very quiet and relaxing, and seems almost deserted.
Another major problem in Orsova is the lack of a central heating system inside the city, which means that people gather and chop wood all day long. Even those living in blocks of flats.
There's almost no evidence of tourism in the city, despite its great views and potential. The one hotel in the center of the city - Dierna (its name coming from the Roman name of the initial castrum) - is deserted, and although it's got a sign that says "renovation", people say they haven't seen or heard any move inside recently. Some say it was bought by an insurance company, who didn't do anything with it.
The people i talked to resented Orsova being considered as part of Oltenia, and spoke really badly about those living in Oltenia in general. They liked to say, instead, that Orsova is part of Banat and were more than happy to tell me the entire story of their youth, deeply connected to Ada Kaleh. In fact, i noticed a similar attitude when i was in Suceava county. Those people couldn't stand being called Moldavians, and kept on repeating that they live in Bukovina, and have nothing to do with Moldovia.
The Ada Kaleh stories were indeed impressive, just like fairy tales of a fantasy land. Ada Kaleh was a small fortress island, populated by Turks, and situated on the Danube about 3 km away from Orsova. Apparently its whereabouts and sights were breathtaking, just like the quality and beauty of the products manufactured and sold on the island. People remember in great pain the moment when that small paradise, as they call it, was highjacked and disappeared in the Danube, as a consequence of the decision to build the Iron Gates hydroplant. But they also remember with great pleasure how they went to the bazaar or to dance on the island, and to taste the wonderful turkish lokum and other turkish delights, to lose themselves in the combination of charming smells on the island. One of the ladies was somewhat revolted: she doesn't know where young people have fun and enjoy life nowadays and how, cause she's sure she hasn't seen or heard anything like Ada Kaleh lately.

The more i was told, and the more i read about it, the more fascinated i become. And i can hardly wait to go back there and listen to other stories, maybe this time i'll also play with my camera a bit and bring back some videos with the people.


chiuhan adrian said...

it's very interesting the story u present about Ada Kaleh.I never heard about it.But i'm sure u will continue ur trip and give us more details about the lost island.

diana said...

i hope so :)