|the lock opens at Gabcikovo Slovakia|
Bratislava - Belgrade - Seged
Danube - Sava - Danube - Tisza
A two week trip down the Danube to Serbia, the freedom to make whatever I wanted as a way of documenting the trip and a chance to experience something new. I had an evening to decide and the words “It will change your life” from Robert, an Austrian boat fanatic I had just met bouncing around my head. I had crossed the channel on a ferry in 2004 when I first came to Slovakia and many years before that I took a ship from Dacha to Marmaris in Turkey, but neither could compare to travelling down Europe's second largest river, through three countries on a small boat.
Leaving the marina in Bratislava the skies darkened and rain spattered across the windscreen, after a few miles the wind picked up and the boat, due to its flat bottomed design started to thud heavily against the oncoming waves. We were going at full speed as we had limited time to reach the lock at Gabcikovo which would open only one more time that day and it was essential that we pass through in order to continue to our first planned port of call, the city of Gyor in Hungary.
Gabcikovo is the only lock on the Danube between Vienna and Budapest and the river at Baka on the approach is 131m above sea level, at some points the river is higher than the surrounding trees, giving way to strong winds and big waves. As we entered the lock waiting there were a Romanian freighter and a large tourist boat; a floating hotel with its engine running. All this combined to make dangerous conditions as our small boat was tossed around like a toy in the lock. After two failed attempts at trying to moor, we were slammed into the wall of the lock with such force that suddenly I realised our trip could end here, we were running out of time and space, the gate was closing and the water level would soon be changing by 19 meters. It all started to look like disaster when our luck changed and the captain of the Romanian ship shouted for us to pull alongside and throw up a rope. One last chance to turn the boat, I threw the rope, he caught it and we secured against the freighter, saved. It was only then I realised our small drama had played out to an audience of around 70 people gathered on the bridge that crossed the dam, Sunday entertainment for the locals and again those words echoing inside like a ghostly piano melody “this will change your life”.