While the flow of the Danube River into the Black Sea is done at an extremely slow pace and through its beautiful and pristine delta, the tumultuous crossing of the Carpathian Mountains is nothing like that.
Out of its 2860 kilometer (1777 miles) length, the last 1050 km. (652 mi.) flow through Romania. This last part of its journey start with The Iron Gates, where the Danube pierces through the Carpathian Mountains and the Balkan Hills. This gorge lies between Romania to the north and Serbia to the south. The first gorge it goes through called The Great Cazan.
The Great Cazan (cazan meaning “vat” or “cauldron”) is the most famous and the most narrow gorge of the whole route: the river here narrows to 150 m and reaches a depth of up to 53 m (174 ft). East of this site the Roman emperor Trajan had built the legendary bridge erected by Apollodorus of Damascus. Construction of the bridge ran from 103 through 105, preceding Trajan’s final conquest of Dacia.
On the right (Serbian) bank a Roman plaque commemorates him. On the Romanian bank, at the Small Cazan, the likeness of Trajan’s Dacian opponent Decebalus was carved in rock from 1994 through 2004.
We can also find here the Ponicova and Veterani Caves here, as well as the Mraconia Monastery and the renowned Iron Gates themselves. These are two hydroelectric dams built by the two neighboring countries in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The biggest loss however was the island of Ada Kaleh which was a Turkish exclave and was a free port, roughly 3 kilometers downstream from the city of Orsova. It measured 0.5 by 1.7 kilometers, but was lost when the dams were constructed.
The entire area can be explored on both sides of the river. There are many hiking paths along the way, as well as many boat and ferry rides up and down the Danube. Both Serbia and Romania have national parks in the area, protecting the natural habitat and the local fauna.