The Iron Gate (Romanian: Portile de Fier) is a gorge on the Danube River. It forms part of the boundary between Serbia and Romania. In the broad sense it encompasses a route of 134 km; in the narrow sense it only encompasses the last barrier on this route, just beyond the Romanian city of Orsova, that contains a hydroelectric dam.
The gorge lies between Romania in the north and Serbia in the south. At this point, the river separates the southern Carpathian Mountains from the northwestern foothills of the Balkan Mountains. The Romanian name, Portile de Fier, literally means "Iron Gates" and is indeed used to name the entire range of gorges. An alternative Romanian name for the last part of the route is Clisura Dunarii, "Danube Gorge".
The Gorges The first narrowing of the Danube lies beyond the (Romanian) isle of Moldova Veche and is known as the Golubac gorge.
It is 14.5 km long and 230 m wide at the narrowest point. At its head, there is a medieval fort at Golubac, on the Serbian bank.
Through the valley of Ljupovska is reached the second gorge, Gospodin Vir, which is 15 km long and narrows to 220 m.
The cliffs scale to 500 m and are the most difficult to reach here from land. The broader Donji Milanovac forms the connection with the Great and Small Kazan gorge, which have a combined length of 19 km.
The Orsova valley is the last broad section before the river reaches the plains of Wallachia at the last gorge, the Sip gorge (see gallery below).
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The Great Kazan ("kazan" meaning "kettle") is the most famous and the most narrow gorge of the route: the river here narrows to 150 m and reaches a depth of up to 53 m. It was at this site that the Roman emperor Trajan had the legendary suspension bridge erected by Apollodorus of Damascus. Construction of the bridge ran from 103 through 105, preceding Trajan's conquest of Dacia. On the right bank a Roman plaque commemorates him. On the Romanian bank at the Small Kazan the likeness of Trajan's Dacian opponent Decebalus is carved in rock (see gallery below).
Significantly older treasures have been unearthed in the geographically less spectacular gorge of Gospodin Vir: in the 1960s the archaeological survey Lepenski Vir was unearthed, the most significant in Southeast Europe. The sandstone statues from the early neolithic are particularly splendid. Along with the other surveys that can be found in the Iron Gate, it indicates that the region has been inhabited for a very long time.
The riverbed rocks and the associated rapids made the gorge valley an infamous passage in shipping. In German, the passage is still known as the Kataraktenstrecke, even though the cataracts are no more. Near the actual Iron Gate the Prigrada rock was the most important obstacle till 1896: the river widened considerably here and the water level was consequently low. Upstream, the Greben rock near the Kazan gorge was notorious.
In 1831 a plan had already been drafted to make the passage navigable, at the initiative of the Hungarian politician István Széchenyi. Finally Gabor Baross, Hungary's "Iron Minister", completed the financing for this project.
In 1890, beyond Orsova, rocks were cleared by explosion over a two km stretch to create an 80 m wide and 3 m deep channel. A spur of the Greben Mountains was removed across a length of over 2 km. Here, a depth of 2 m sufficed. On 17 September 1896, the Sip Channel thus created (named after the Serbian village on the right bank) was inaugurated by the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph, the Romanian king Carol I, and the Serbian king Alexander Obrenovich.
The results of these efforts were slightly disappointing. The currents in the channel were so strong that, until 1973, ships had to be dragged upstream by locomotive. The Iron Gate thus remained an obstacle of note.
The construction of the joint Romanian-Yugoslavian megaproject that would finally tame the river commenced in 1964. In 1972 the Iron Gate Dam was opened, along with two hydroelectic power stations and two sluices.
The construction of this dam gave the valley of the Danube below Belgrade the nature of a reservoir, and additionally caused a 35 m rise in the water level of the river near the dam. The old Orsova, the Danube island Ada Kaleh and at least five other villages, totalling a population of 17,000, had to make way. People were relocated, but the settlements have been lost forever to the Danube.
The dam's construction had a major impact on the environment as well—for example, the spawning routes of several species of sturgeon were permanently interrupted.
That said, the flora and fauna, as well as the geomorphological, archeological and cultural historical artefacts of the Iron Gate have been under protection from both nations since the construction of the dam. In Serbia and Montenegro by the Ðerdap National Park (since 1974, 636.08 km²) and in Romania by the Portile de Fier National Park (since 2001, 1,156.55 km²). (Text source: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)
Town of Orsova, St. Ana Monastery, and Villages of Eibenthal and Bigar
Orsova is a port city on the left bank of the Danube River. It is located in the county of Mehedinti and is an integral part of the Portile de Fier Parcul National, Iron gates National Park. In the territory of the town there was a Roman settlement Dierna Municipium (Dacia Province) The first mention of the settlement is from the 12th century. The settlement was in Temes County of the Kingdom of Hungary. It was under Turkish rule during the period 1524-1718. During 1718-1872 it was part of the Military Borderlands.
St. Ana Monastery St. Ana Monastery is situated high on “Mosului Hill” above the Town of Orsova.
Journalist Pamfil Secicaru who fought here in WWI founded St. Ana Monastery.
He expressed his gratitude to God for remaining alive after being buried alive on this very place after a bomb explosion. The monastery was built in the style of wooden churches, between 1936-1939.
The church is located in the middle of the monastery and the cells of the nuns are on the sides. The inner paintings were covered during the year of communism. In the years of the dictatorship, the monastery was in turn a sanatorium for tuberculosis then a vacation camp for children and a tourist basis, whereas the church itself was a bar for a couple of years then a motel reception. The monastery was beatified in 1990 and restored between 1993-1997.
Villages of Eibenthal and Bigar
<<< Eibenthal Czech in Romania ... There are six Czech-speaking villages in the Bigar region of the Romanian Banat, numbering a few hundreds of speakers of Czech.
The Banat and Transylvania in Romania have been a melting pot of multiple languages and ethnic groups in the past centuries.