The Danube River is so pretty, it meanders through several countries, and looks so gentle. The next day it started to rain. And rain. And rain. It rained buckets and would stop for a few minutes, then rain some more.
It rained more in one day than it had in a month. And then it rained some more. The rain continued all week and flooding devastated many people.
Homes were washed away, railroad tracks were damaged, and people stayed home from work, watching the news of those effected and the expectation of more rain.
The Prime Minister looked haggard. He had been in office less than 2 months and was grieving the tragedy of losing his unborn child 2 weeks prior. This was the first crisis he needed to handle for his country and the first test of his leadership. I felt sorry for the guy.
The Prime Minister asked for 500 able-bodied people to volunteer to help fill sandbags and over 1000 people showed up. The country of Bosnia was even more overwhelmed. People from Serbia were helping the Bosnians and the joke was “let’s finish helping each other so we can go back to hating each other.” Both countries have little financial resources in the country’s coffers, partly due to previous corruption and because of economic sanctions in relation to war.
Most of these buildings are floating restaurants. It was going to be a while before the water receded so customers could eat at their establishment. I stayed with a family on the 3rd floor of an apartment building, near the top of a hill, so the rain did not effect us like it did others.
I got a lot of use from my raincoat, and explored the country.
It continued to rain, and I walked around with the hem of my pants always wet. Then it rained some more. It reminded me of a tropical storm as the rain came in waves. It would stop for a few minutes, I would be sweaty and overheated, remove my rain jacket, and then it would rain some more.
The rains lasted all week. Toward the end of the week, I decided to purchase some paints and paint my first canvas as a gift to my hosts.
Serbia is a poor country, and it was difficult to find a store that sold paints. I finally found one store, and they did not even have yellow paint- a primary color! It is amazing how much we take for granted. In the USA, a few paints, an 8×10 canvas and 1 fat and 2 skinny paintbrushes would have cost about $20. In Serbia, it was about $60. They just don’t have these kinds of things, people cannot afford it.
We felt bad for the people who had very little to begin with and everything they had accumulated in a lifetime was washed away. Many of them lived in houses made of stone, and everything inside was gone.
One week later…
The beautiful Danube River was overlaid with plastic . I saw tables and chairs, bedding float by. Anything that could float was carried along downstream. The current was as quick as a fast jog.
Houses were smashed into pieces by logs and other structures and the whole river was covered in a layer of debris, logs with branches of green leaves, high chairs, plastic lawn chairs, plastic bottles, everywhere. I wonder how thick was the debris that was all floating downstream to the ocean?
As I rode a bus through the country I could see remnants of the flooding, mud marks that were higher than me (5’4″), still flooded fields, ponds, and debris trash in tops of young trees.
Tall grasses were still laying against the ground where the water flowed over them. Many of the farmer’s fields were mud, and it looked about 10% of the fields survived.
Finally, the rain stopped and the sun peeked out.
The Serbs I met were wonderful people, and the country is pretty. Although they have very little in the way of material possessions, they were generous and caring.
The rain stopped, and people went on with their lives.