On a Donau cargo vessel

The ride from Tekija in Serbia to Turnu Severin in Romania and on with the ferry back over to Donau to Vidin is long, not only flat and in up to 40 degrees considerably sweaty. We decide to reward ourselves with a stay in a hotel and a days rest in Vidin on the next day. After that, we intend to take a tourist boat for a few kilometers. After all, we have seen the Donau from the shore now for more than 2000 kilometers and are ready to also be on it for a while. To our surprise, a good hotel bargain is found quickly - only a few footsteps away from the river - and before anything else we want to drink a beer on the shore of the Donau. By coincidence, a cargo ship is right there, some seamen drinking beer on deck. With little hope we decide to ask them where they go, and if down the river, whether they would take us onboard. Not 5 minutes after that we sit in the crews saloon having a beer and food served and the captain seems to say something like 'why not?'! They are sitting in Vidin due to troubles with the engines and will set sail the next morning towards Constanta. If all goes well the trip should take roughly 2.5 days. After more beer, more food and a lot of talk with the captain and crew - an entirely Serbian crew - we are told to be back early next morning. If customs should be fine with our plan then we shall be welcome!

And customs was fine with it! So we board ourselves and our bikes, and are heading down the river, free of charge and with 6 thousand tons of wheat around us. Two days rest on the Greifenstein, a 3500 Horsepower Donau cargo!

2 days we thought... after exactly a week we leave the Greifenstein again, and did not mind being delayed at all! How come? The first few hours of the first day went fine, however, Captn Jocka explains that there is very little water in the Donau right now. Towards the evening, we learn what that means as we are only able to push half of the cargo-containers through some passages. With all of them, we would be too wide... After scraping through sand several times even in this configuration, the decision is taken that we wait for better light the next morning. The night is spent on anker. So far so good, the next morning we get things done and are soon on the way again until...the second captn feels that he knows the way better than the buoys and tries his luck besides the official way. This time, its not only scraping, but a serious sit-down on a sand bank of both the Greifenstein and most of the containers: all together, after many hours of talking, phonecalls, brandies, beers and cigarettes, it takes over 2 days and 2 two other ships to clear the situation. Luckily, the captn is as calm as can be and everyone stays happy. Focus is put on superb serbian cooking, more sleeping and even more turkish coffee.

Besides everything else, spending this week with the Greifenstein's crew brought maybe the biggest surprises. Most have a stereotype of seamen, usually it's not the best: A reckless, rough, tough, nasty, drunk and dirty bunch, getting wild and wilder the longer they are away from ports and women. And here we are on the Greifenstein, the crew cooking fantastic serbian (and other) food at least 3 times per day, baking cakes, cleaning the ship and especially the toilet and shower in almost every free minute. And not one single pin-up girl on the whole vessel! We are stunned and have an unforgettable and interesting holiday on this ship. Of course at no costs, as the serbs are proud hosts that rather throw us into the river than accepting a single cent from us! We enjoy ourselves royally and feel a bit down as we leave these people - or already friends? - in the port of Constanta to keep on going towards the south to Istanbul.