National Geographic : 1977 Oct
(Continuedfrom page 476) I sat and sipped, watched by two young men. One, who spoke a bit of English, eagerly accepted an American cigarette. He hoped to visit the United States. "But I have no money. I am not free." He made a gesture I saw more than once in Eastern Europe, crossing his wrists as if they were tied. Romania gained independence from Tur key in 1878, after the Russo-Turkish War. But, as Ahmet told me, a Turkish community existed on an island until the dam was built. "My father had a coffeehouse there. My mother never learned Romanian. She never needed to." I wandered the countryside downstream, my road flanked by sodden cornfields. I passed a cooperative's big new cattle barn. Men and women loaded a truck with tobacco. When I passed again later, a tractor was try ing to drag the truck from the mud. Fences dripped nets in a fishing village. Two armed soldiers strolled the main street. Fifty yards away, on the river's shingle, a woman washed clothes. Might I go down and talk to her? The soldiers shook their heads; I was as close to the Danube as I could go. I SAW NO PATROLS on the Bulgarian shore of the Danube, which is the border with Romania for 290 miles. But as I drove into Svishtov, a small port, martial music rose from the city square. Several hun dred troops stood before a speaker's platform decorated with photographs of Bulgarian and Soviet leaders-a reminder that Bulgaria is the U.S.S.R.'s best friend in Eastern Europe. Conscripts who had just completed basic training, the soldiers goose-stepped forward as drums rolled, each stopping at a table to sign an oath of allegiance. I remember that October day for another reason: The sun came out, glowing over farm tracts and villages where chrysanthemums and roses were blooming their last. The fog came back. On a dour morning as I drove near the river, a shepherd material ized. A little man of 68 years, seeming all the shorter in his gum boots, Matej Peshev blamed the weather on the river-warm water meeting cold air. "Sometimes we have a month in the fall when we don't see the sun," he said. "But I am out every day with my sheep and goats."