People and Water

The Day When I Crossed the Danube
In the summer, near the very heart of the metropolis, on the city islands and powerful waters, real ”Belgrade Adventures” are waiting for us. Rafting underneath six bridges on the Sava, sailing around the War Island, entrance into the city on the Sava and Danube... Behind all this there are guys from organization ”Wild Serbia”, our old acquaintances from the of dangerous canyons of Serbia, and in front of everything there are you, who have not yet tried all this

Text and photographs: Dragana Barjaktarević

There is one different Belgrade. It does not have deafening noise, tiring crowds, red traffic lights, nervous passers-by and their worries. It lies leisurely in the greenery of the War Island, the blue waters of two rivers, shadows of bridges and looks of the passers-by from Belgrade quays: All problems sink there, disappearing in the depth, while wild geese, river flora carelessly float on the surface, together with the most persistent waste as an unfortunate witness of a successful night out. In such Belgrade, where urban element is still barely discernible tucked in nature that very few cities have, brave boys from organization ”Wild Serbia” gave an opportunity to their fellow citizens to like their city even more, and gave tourists a view that can hold the entire white capital.
Statistically, this is how it looks: ten two-seater kayaks – verified to be tumble-proof, twenty participants, with twenty safety vests and the same number of paddles, two tours, twenty four hours long, six bridges. If we ignore the numbers, what remains are well known images taken from a new angle – Belgrade from the frog perspective, view of the gigantic bridges instead of the view from them.
The precondition for participation in this small kayak regatta is not age, weight, fitness or skills, but only good will and a bit of courage. Possible fear disappears already with the first stroke of the paddle, because it is the ticket to the world of carelessness, agitated only with some small kicks of the Danube.
We talk to Ivan Nastić, the founder of this organization, on how to become an adventurer in the middle of the city.


How long have you been involved in adventure tourism in Serbia?
Five years ago we began organizing and conceptualizing the first adventure tours throughout Serbia. Currently we have about twenty programs behind us, which had not existed previously in our country – extreme sports, canyoning, alpinism, cave expeditions, survival races and some other challenges.

Two years ago you arrived in the capital also?
Belgrade offers plenty adventures. However, very little of it has been used – Belgrade dungeons, the Great War Island, many activities on water. Since the city is sailing on two rivers, we have decided to sail ourselves. We have organized the ”Belgrade Adventure”, but only after we gained experience with kayaking on some of the most beautiful rivers in Serbia. We organized the first recreational kayaking on the Drina and Uvac. When we tamed them, we went to the Danube and Sava. It was necessary to conceptualize interesting routes. We chose ”Kayaking around the War Island” and ”Six Bridges of the Sava”, because both were entertaining, but still contrasting, and so interesting to people of different profiles. Those who want can relax while sailing around the green heart of Belgrade. The others can see the city from a new angle, passing under numerous Belgrade bridges with different architecture and history.

Does that mean that these tours also have an educational purpose?
We are primarily focused on relaxation on water and recreation. Guides are here for safety and compliance with rules. We present the story about the Great War Island primarily to foreigners who come to visit our city.

Do you also organize some other programs in Belgrade?
In addition to these two standard offers, we have a shorter one, an hour long activity, ion which we go around the Horse Island, pass below Kalemegdan and come to the canal Veliki Galijaš. We also have two day-long excursions: entering Belgrade on the Danube and Sava.


Who are the most frequent kayakers?
So far we have had equal number of foreigners and local people. Foreigners most frequently come from the Netherlands, Great Britain and Scandinavia. Taking into account the climate in their countries, it is somehow logical during hot days in Belgrade. They need to cool down. There is nothing really here for professionals, unless they want to practice in recreational rubber kayaks. Therefore, the tours are tailored to beginners. We frequently have families with children older than six. And we have also had kayakers older than 75. Pace of the activities is slower, The Danube side of the island is so relaxing and peaceful that most participants take a short nap in the kayaks. They put their feet in the water, and rest their heads on the comfortable rubber part of the boat. Of course, the guide is awake and he is there to wake up those who drift too close or too far from the shore... Although we can also easily explain to those who want a more dynamic adventure how they can safely get really tired.

This year you will organize the ”Belgrade Adventure” again. Does it mean that there are many interested people?
There are enough of them. Participants apply every day. Sometimes we have small groups or just individuals, and sometimes more than twenty participants. The most beautiful thing is that every ”Adventure” is interesting in its way, so people often come back again to enjoy all over again.

And is there one that you could single out as especially interesting?
Last year, during the floods on the Danube, instead of going around the War Island, we crossed over it. It was surreal, half-sunk little houses, trees with only their tops protruding above the water... We felt as if we were in a vast jungle. We crossed over the island slowly, sailing between the treetops, and sunbathed in early April.

How can people buy a ticket for such a fairytale?
From the beginning we have cooperated with the Tourist Organization of Belgrade, and on their tourist stands it is possible to find our flyers and basic information about Belgrade kayak adventures. There is also our website: www.belgradeadventure.com and Facebook page.


Six Bridges of the Sava
The first tour leaves from the Sava Quay and moves toward Ušće, passing through the tunnel comprised of the Bridge on the Ada, New and Old Railway Bridge, Gazela, Old Sava Bridge and Branko’s Bridge, envied by those who are currently steaming in the armor of the public transportation and are looking for salivation exactly in the view of the water. Only the view is this time enriched with ten kayaks passing the tight strings of the Sava fishermen and night clubs in day light. The adventure ends on ”Barakuda” Raft, solid ground after two hours of wrestling with river currents.


Jungle in the Heart of Belgrade
From ”Barakuda”, led by the dynamics of the Danube, the second tour begins: ”Kayaking around the War Island – Jungle in the Heart of Belgrade”. Four hours filled with contrasts. This sail combines wild and urban, adrenalin and serenity, strenuous upstream and relaxed downstream, hot sun and fresh water continuously sprinkling from the paddle in the kayak. After four hours of paddling around the War Island and a short break at Lido Beach, the kayakers return to ”Barakuda” enriched by an experience that brings back meaning to life.


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