TESTIMONY AND LEGEND
Deep as it has never been before, and wide as it has never been until now, the Danube river hides long forgotten mysteries in the depths of its water. Once the terror of the sailors, the savage river of the past is gliding now quietly like a “golden snake” among the Carpathian cliffs.
In the struggle between water and stone, to open the “iron gates” of the rocks of the Locva Mountains and the Almaj Mountains, the Danube is “simple, magnificent, and hefty. It does not fight with anger, but with grace, in thousands of shapes and colours“, as the Romanian scholar G. Vâlsan writes. [Meila M., 2012].
Rising just simply and magnificently from the middle of the water, Babacaia Rock, near Coronini, marks the entrance itself in the Danube Gorge.
This majestic and solitary “limestone spur” is the only witness of the cliffs that, in the not too distant past, was ominously coming out of the depths, piercing the water with a dizzying speed, and the penetration of the boats in the cauldrons with swirling whirlwinds, arising from Coronini -Alibeg to Ogradena-Orșova, was a real adventure. Many sailors had paid with their life for the courage to adventure into the wild strait of the Danube. Many times, on some particular sections, especially at the Danube Cauldrons, the boat was pulled to shore, and the passengers passed on the road to overcome the dangerous place. The sailors who first entered the Gorge were “baptized” (water-drenched) to be protected from the Danube’s traps. “Foaming waterfalls, dizzy whirlwinds, sharp cliffs disembowelling the bottom of the boats, swarms hidden beneath the waves, all made thousands of casualties. The sudden downfall stroke all the vessels that were coming from the top to the rock itself.” [Birou V., 1982]
Straight as a statue, Rock Babacaia, whose name in Turkish means “the rock of the father,” reminds tourists that for five centuries the Turks have been ruling in the south of the Danube. The two fortresses, St. Ladislau Citadel – on the Romanian shore and Golubać Citadel – on the Serbian shore, were connected by chains –barricade to it, so that no vessels entering the gorge would pass without paying customs fees.
Today, Babacaia Rock is a “symbol” for the tourism along the Danube Gorge not only grace to the “giant finger” made of cretaceous limestone, rising 7 meters above the water, but also grace to the legends and stories that have been woven about it and the two medieval fortresses.
One of the stories is linked to the name of the place. A Serbian prince, punishing his unfaithful wife, Golubana, chained her to the rock, saying “babo kaji se”, meaning “wife repent,” hence the name Babacaia.
Another story is related to the winds blowing near the Babacaia rock stronger than anywhere in the Gorge. It is the story of a Valach duke who, in old age, chained his wife to the rock because she no longer obeyed him. Ending her days in torment and weeping, the woman asked God to take her to heaven and make the wind blow even harder to remind people of the injustice she had suffered. The old woman drowned, and the duke bitterly regretted his deed, exclaiming, in Romanian, “Baba ca aia n-o sa mai am”, in English “I shall never have another wife like her” and thus the place was called “Babacaia”. Since then, the Coşava wind has been “mourning” and roaring stronger near the cliff, endangering the vessels on the water t the entrance in the gorge.
No one knows how long the rock has been there, only the legends connected to the two fortresses and the Babacaia Rock has survived to our times.
The legend of the Babacaia Rock
“At the time when the Golubać fortress was ruled by the Turks, and the fortress of St. Ladislau by the Christians, a young and handsome Christian man, the commander of the Coronini fortress, fell in love with a beautiful Serbian belly dancer of the Golubac Pasha’s harem. Announced by her that the pasha had gone hunting, the young Wallachian man crossed the Danube and kidnapped the beautiful odalisque. Returning safely to the Cula Fortress from Coronini, the young commander threw a party attended also by the soldiers from the citadel. But at dawn, when all were tired and fell asleep, the pasha with his men bursted suddenly into the unguarded fortress and killed all the soldiers, and the unfaithful odalisque and the young commander was chained to the Babacaia Rock in the midst of the waters of the Danube, and left there to die of hunger and thirst. Taking pity on their suffering, Allah turned them into stones. The biggest represents the Christian commander and the smallest the beautiful Serbian woman, who the young man holds tightly to his chest. “
That’s why, when the Coşava wind blows, it sounds like a shrieking the crying of the unlucky beautiful girl held by the improvident handsome young man.
The history of St. Ladislau Citadel of Coronini is closely linked to that of Golubać Citadel on the Serbian bank. In the fifteenth century, the Serbian Prince Stefan Lazarevici agreed with King Sigismund of Luxemburg of Hungary, by the agreement of 1403, that Durand Brancovic would be his successor, and the Hungarians would instead receive Belgrade, Macva and Golubać Fortress.
After the death of the Serbian prince in 1427, Belgrade and Macva were given to the Hungarian king Sigismund, but Golubać was not. Contrary to the agreement, it was sold to the Turks, with the help of Eremia, the commander of the fortification, for 12,000 guldens. Then the Hungarian king set out to conquer the city with firepower. He hired Lombard architects who, until the spring of 1428, had rebuilt the fortress of St. Ladislau from the top of the Cula hill, which he equipped afterwards with cannons. Also in the year 1428, King Sigismund crossed the Danube with 25,000 soldiers and for one month the Golubać fortress was surrounded by the Christian army. But at that critical moment, Sultan Murad comes to the rescue with his army, and the Turks defeat the Christians. King Sigismund is forced to make peace with the condition that the fortress remains in the hands of the Turks, and he can cross the Danube with his Christian army in peace. The Turks did not respect the agreement and attacked the Christians, killing many soldiers. The Hungarian king himself was very close to drowning in the Danube, being rescued and taken out of the water by Cecilia Roygonyi, the wife of Count Stephan Roygonyi, the commanding officer of Timisoara. After this battle, the Turks rebuilt the fortress, and the proof is the inscription in the Turkish language, remaining on the citadel for posterity, and from there they constantly attacked the Gorge.
Today, the Golubać Citadel, restored in most parts, is one of the tourist attractions of the Gorge on the Serbian shore. Seen from the Romanian bank, the fortress delights the tourists’ eyes with its laced profile rising slenderly on the limestone cliff. With its embattled towers and thick stone walls and burned tile, the Golubac Fortress preserves the romantic features of a fairytale castle. Looking at it from a distance, the medieval fortress, built on the place of the Roman citadel Vicus Cupae, gives the impression that it has its roots in the Danube. The 8 bevelled towers compete in beauty and grandeur with the limestone, and the connecting walls make it a unitary entity, so that the fortress can be defended from all sides. The upper tower is called “Şesir Cula”, which in Serbian means “The Hat of the Citadel”. The smallest tower is in the water and is distinguished by the orthogonal shape and its windows, like some “eyes of observation” of the entrance to the Danube Gorge. There used to be a Turkish bath here called “Aman” and a mosque, which is a Muslim worship place.
Since the middle Ages till the present, this architectonic monument in the shape of a “pigeon” was successively in the possession of the Hungarians, the Turks, the Habsburgs and the Serbs.
The current road from Serbia passes under the built arches of the fortress like through a small tunnel and connects the citadel with the locality bearing the same name, Golubać.
The legend of the name of the fortress says that in the upper tower of the citadel they imprisoned the beautiful Elena, the princess of Byzantium, where she grew up loving pigeons, enjoying their gentleness and beauty. This is why the name of the fortress was: Golubać Fortress (Pigeons’s Fortress).
From the St. Ladislau’s Citadel of Coronini, erected by the King of Hungary, Sigismund of Luxembourg, in 1428, in the present only a part of the tower can be seen. In that same place there was a Dacian fortress, taken over later by the Romans after the conquest of Dacia. Centuries ago, the medieval fortress was built in the place called “Cula”, whose ruins are still visible today and where a belvedere tower is soon to be reconstructed.
The legend of the Golubać Fortress
When the citadel was built, the Serbian prince Miroslav was living alone, leading his subjects wisely and kindly. Retired in the rooms of the fortress’s towers, the prince used to watch the celestial vault by night studying the stars. One day, a band of travelling singers and dancers arrived to the citadel, among whom, a beautiful girl was shining like a diamond, Golubana by her name, born on the sunny Dalmatian coast. The prince fell in love and married her, enjoying both peace and happiness. But their joy did not last long. Mosca, the twin sister of Golubana, envious and vindictive, decided to eliminate her, to take her place as a princess. Disguised as an old witch who offers cure for having beautiful children, she killed the young lady, putting poison in her food. Then she threw her body into a fountain and, taking advantage of their resemblance, she took over the throne next to prince Miroslav. Until one day, when a dove arrived to the castle, carrying a message in its beak, hat exposed the killer, showing the prince the place where his real wife’s body was thrown. Being discovered, the jealous sister turned into a Golubatz fly and, crossing the Danube, entered the Fly Hole Cave to avoid being captured by the men of the Serbian prince. Golubana’s body was buried with honour, and Prince Miroslav became a hermit on the Danube Gorge, living a secluded life and seeking comfort in contemplating the stars that reminded him of his lost wife’s eyes.
It is also believed that since then the “golumbs / pigeons” have nested on the walls of the fortress, and the word has been used not only in Serbian, but also in Hungarian, Turkish and German.
After Baziaş, you will see the most overwhelming sunset at Babacaia Rock.