Sylvie Nickels, writer
One big river .....
In fact, our border crossings through Eastern Europe all held an element of the unexpected. Some days later as we paddled into Hungary, the officer mimed his anxiety as to whether we were carrying weapons and we mimed our reassurance that we were not. All the same he studied our very open canoe at length, possibly concerned that we were somehow concealing a stowaway. At the border with former Yugoslavia, they were particularly friendly but completely omitted to explain that from now on we should report to the p9lice every time we landed as the river was, for several stretches, an international border. We were only 'discovered' at Kladovo, beyond the Kazan Gorge, when the immigration officer was enraged, threatening to end our journey. Next evening he bought us drinks at our hotel; strange but likeable these Slavs.
Along the border between Bulgaria and Romania we kept rigidly to the Bulgarian side and were showered with fish and water melon by local fishermen. As our completion of the river through Romania was delayed as we did not yet have their authority, the canoe was loaded on to a Bulgarian bus to go to the station for the journey back to Ulm. The following year we returned, canoe on car roof to Romania and paddled that section - very peaceful. A fisherman took us the final few hundred metres to where sand dunes separated us from the Black Sea. We stood looking out over it. For the fisherman it was just another day. For us it meant a huge sense of achievement.
We returned home to a surge of fundamentalism in Iran and the American hostage crisis. Life on the Danube may have had its uncomfortable moments, but it had felt a good deal less complicated.
One of our first locks in Germany
Sharing a camp site with a Hungarian fisherman
Laundry, Danube style
the Kazan Gorge, former Yugoslavia
Loading the canoe on to a Bulgarian bus for the return to England
About a year after our return from the Danube, George said, "What about having a go at the Mississippi?" This time it took us a couple of years to organise, including contacting the tourist organisations of the ten States involved and arranging the loan of a canoe. Most of the States were exceedingly discouraging, but they didn't know George.