HISTORY, BICYCLES AND NATURE

12th May 2015
Blue Week 2014, Bike Fest in Drobeta

Blue Week, festival that traditionally celebrates the international Danube Day, was for the forth time organized from 28th to July 5th 2014.

This time, visitors of the cross border event could enjoy in three Danube countries – Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, and four towns – Ruse, Drobeta Turnu Severin, Kladovo and Belgrade.

A couple of thousand people took part in a variety of sport events, visited exhibitions, fairs and info centres – all parts of “Do It For The Danube” activities: since we all benefit from the Danube, the idea is to return the favor to our river. Partners are therefore invited to implement one relevant activity that the Danube benefits from, with the active participation of tourists and visitors.

Thanks to attractive programme, many international travelers and bikers along Danube Bike Path (EuroVelo 6) arrived to take part at a series of events that covered themes of culture, nature and active tourism, cross border co-op, sustainable tourism and even biodiversity issues.

The events in Bulgarian town Ruse focused on three points: cleaning the Ruse Quay, free guided tours at Sexaginta Prista –  part of the Roman Emperors’ and Danube Wine Route (RER/DWR) which promotes cultural tourism in the lower part of the Danube, and Blue & Wine Expo which gathered wineries from ten wine regions.

Visitors enjoyed them all and actively participated, since all the activities were attractive and enabled them to both relax and learn more about the Danube. During the tour around ancient Sexaginta Prista,  they could experience the Roman way of life, by tasting wines and traditionally prepared food served by “Real Romans”, dressed in traditional clothes of those times.

As a contrast to that scenography, the venue for Blue&Wine Expo was Dohodno Zdanie –  an imposing Neoclassical edifice in the city centre, quite a fairytale-like decor, where wine producers could get to know their coleagues while the visitors tasted their wines, watched image movies and test their knowledge by participating in our Danube Quiz.

On the other hand, in Drobeta Turnu Severin and Kladovo, it was all about bicycles. A couple of hundred cyclists ride their bykes early in the morning, from Karataš Camp in Serbia, to Drobeta Turnu Severin in Romania – around twenty kilometres, across the state border, along a hilly terrain. Their Romanian hosts waited for them.

After the cyclists from two countries met, they took part in a mass city ride all around the town, which was quite an experience – specially having in mind that the streets of Drobeta Turnu Severin are wide and flat, just like they were made for cycling.

A few hours later, at a modern city square, visitors had the opportunity to enjoy choreographies performed by the youngest inhabitants of Drobeta Turnu Severin, BMX cycling performance, or an attractive raffle. They could also take tour around info centres, bike expo, photo exhibition, stands  where one could buy cycle gear of etno fashion.

Most of the visitors used the opportunity to “write a letter to a friend”, which meant that they wrote something to a virtual friend, somewhere along the Danube – the letters were put in a large bottle and procedeed further on. The idea of the Danube as a river that unites people living on its banks, was also promoted by the languages of the programme – which were both Romanian and Serbian at the same time.

The cyclists then made a return ride to Karataš Camp in Serbia, from where the day started and where it would end – at a party going on until the morning of the next day, with DJ and live music, cycle games and rides. Ride back to Karataš was probably the highlight of the day, since cyclists of all ages, sizes and experiences, all managed to ride together – along both banks of the river, and across the bridge that connects two countries, but at the same time represents the state border. It was an accomplishment for them of course, but it was also quite a happening for the people around the border at that time. Our cyclists were sort of an attraction, so many people stopped their car and watch them pass by.

A few days later, final event was organized on the Danube banks just below medieval Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade. At a DCC stand, visitors could take part in Danube quiz and win interesting prizes, enjoy a photo exhibition, and to inform about the river and its tourism potentials.

Thanks to a series of presentations, they had a chance to learn more about the Great War Island – an oasis in the centre of the city, which got its name because it was used as an invasion spot during a number of wars.

However, the activity that attracted most attention was kayaking/pedaling – a number of organized tours  where visitors drove kayaks around the Great War Island, by Danube beaches, and small river channals.

Those who were not afraid to take the paddle in their hands, that way took a unique, “river side view” of major Belgrade attractions, usually seen from the “land side”: famous Victor, statue that overlooks the confluence of Sava and Danube, as well as most of the city; Museum of Modern Art, landscapes of New Belgrade and Zemun, and, above all, walls and towers of Kalemegdan.

Belgrade event, as well as Blue Week festival 2014. ended with an exhibition and tasting of wines coming from twelve wine regions, all part of Danube Wine Route.

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