The Danube’s Iron Gates
Sunday, July 10, 2016
A field of high-voltage power cables are crackling above my head. It sounds like a cross between a bad Frankenstein movie (“It’s Alive!”) and a bowl of Rice Crispies. Snap, crackle, pop. It’s extremely audible, and almost disconcerting. I’m hesitant to turn on my camera for fear of zapping myself, but eventually I relent and power it up anyway: I want to see us enter the largest locks the Danube has to offer.
Viking River Cruises’ Viking Embla pulled in to this field of electrically-charged wonder around breakfast time. The cables are part of the massive Djerdap Power Station – a quadruple-lock hydroelectric dam structure that serves as the gateway to the Danube’s famous Iron Gates that is the subject of our day of scenic cruising, done in Viking’s own inimitable style.
That buzzing noise I heard from the high-voltage power cables as Viking Embla sailed under them and into the lock? That’s called corona discharge, and it generally occurs when temperatures are high and moisture is burning off the transmission lines. That makes sense: at 8:00 a.m., the mercury had already climbed ten degrees to 25°C.
Along the banks of the Danube are signs with numbers painted on them. These are kilometre markers. The Danube technically starts at Kilometre 0, near Sulina, Romania’s easternmost city. Moving west, the Danube continues on until Kilometre 2415: Kelheim, Germany, which is just northwest of the town of Regensburg. From there, river cruise ships enter the Main-Danube Canal to continue their journey to Nuremberg and points further afar.