The word Dunav, Danube comes from the Roman name Danubius, or the Old Greek, Danuvios, meaning the Zeus’s river (Zeus, the supreme god in Greek mythology), the river of life, the divine river.
The Danube is the largest European river besides the Volga (Russia). It is 2,850km long. Its course through Serbia is 587 km long. In Serbia, the two largest cities lie on the Danube banks – Belgrade and Novi Sad. The town of Smederevo is also on the Danube and it was the 15th century Serbian capital until the country fell under the Turkish rule.
The Danube is formed by the two small rivers flowing from the Black Forest (German: Schwarzwald) mountain range in Germany and goes to the Black Sea, creating a vast delta region in Romania and Ukraine. A curious fact is that the Danube is the only European river flowing from northwest to southeast. Today the Danube connects Serbia with central Europe. It flows through or creates borders of 10 states: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine.
For the most part of its long course it is a navigable river. Throughout history, the Danube brought to Serbia merchant ships, carrying goods from both East and West, but also warships, bringing invaders. When Belgrade was under siege, it was bombarded from its rivers. History also records great battles between the Austrians and the Turks, fought on the waters around Belgrade. In the First World War, Belgrade was bombarded from the Danube and the Sava by Austro-Hungarian warships – monitors. Today the Danube does not pose a threat any more but is a great tourist potential of Serbia as the most popular cruising river in the world.
In the times of the Roman Empire, for a long time the Danube was its northeast boundary. The famous Danube border was secured by the fortified military camps. In present Serbia we can find the remains of some well known camps: Cusum (Petrovaradin), Acumincum (Stari Slankamen), Taurunum (Zemun), Signidunum (Belgrade), Vincea (Vinča), Tricornium(Ritopek), Viminacium (Kostolac) and Pincum (near Veliko Gradište). The remains of the Roman fortifications, along with the Petrovaradin Fortress of Novi Sad and Kalemegdan of Belgrade, then the mediaeval fortresses of Smederevo, Ram and Golubac, together with the prehistoric sites of Vinča and Lepenski Vir – all make the Serbian course of the Danube of particular and special interest for tourists.
It may not be the river that inspires deep emotions in Serbs, as the Morava and the Drina do, but the Danube and its abundance have always evoked respect and attention.
Once there was plenty of fish in the river. Anglers and fishermen used to catch huge fish, sometimes up to several meters long. There are still anglers today, but fishing is not one of the most important industries. But still, there is enough fish in the river for the famous Danube fish soup and grilled fish, best eaten on the very bank, by the water.
There are also many beaches on its banks; the Danube is a major source of water; it generates power at the Djerdap Gorge power plant. Although there are not many bridges over the river, the powerful Danube has always remained of great significance for Serbia – more as a way of connecting people than as a border, which it often was.
Растао сам поред Дунава,
Поред добрих старих салаша.
Ловио сам шаране, испраћао бродове
И снивао дивне снове далеке.
Дунаве, Дунаве, крај тебе ми срце моје остаде.
Дунаве, Дунаве, крај тебе ми срце остаде.
Пловио сам белим лађама,
Морима и многим рекама,
Ал` ђердапске клисуре и дунавске обале
У срцу су само моме остале.
Када бих се опет родио,
Дунавом бих опет пловио,
Певао бих цурама, што расту крај Дунава
И махао белим лађама.
Текст староградске песме Дунаве, Дунаве