Ada Kaleh was a small island on the Danube populated mostly by Turks that was submerged during the construction of the Iron Gates hydroelectric plant in 1970. The island was about 3 km downstream from Orşova and measured 1750 by 450 metres. The isle of Ada Kaleh is probably the most evocative victim of the Iron Gate dam's construction. A Turkish exclave, it had a mosque and numerous twisting alleys, and was known as a free port and a smuggler's nest.
Text above adapted from Wikipedia.
Paper on Ada Kaleh
Written by Dorel Bondoc, expert on Archaeology
from Oltenia Museum, Craiova, RomaniaSome of the following text and graphics has been adapted from the paper written by Dr Dorel Bondoc in Proceedings of the XIXth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies edited by Zsolt Visy, University of Pécs 2005
Dr Dorel Bondoc
Muzeul Olteniei, Craiova
poziţia actuală: muzeograf
Ada-Kaleh island (Fig. 1) had lain in the middle of the Danube, before it was covered by the waters of the river, downstream the Iron Gates, at a distance of 4 km south-east from Dierna (Orsova) and 18 km from Drobeta (Tumu-Severin). In the region, the climate is mild, wet in winter and hot in summer. The mediterranean influence allowed the adaptation of some exotic species of plants and animals.
This paper is meant to describe, as far as the available knowledge allows it, a historical and archaeological monument, which was lost for good. Ada-Kaleh island was 1.750 km long and 400-500 m wide and lay in Mehedinti county, Romania.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the island was occupied by Turks, who intuited its remarkable strategical importance for the development of the river trade on the Danube, after the exit from Kazan region. In 1718, as a result of the treaty from Passarowitz (Pojarevat), the northern Serbia, Banat and Oltenia became possessions of the Austrians, as was also the case of Ada-Kaleh island which bore the name New Orsova then.
The Austrians built a strong fortification of "Vauban" type (Fig. 2) on the island. In 1739, after the treaty from Belgrad, Austria returned Serbia and Oltenia to Turkey. As a result the island was occupied again by Turks, who gave it the name Ada-Kaleh, which may be translated as "the island of the fortress." The toponym can also be found in the documents of that time as: Ada Kale, Ada Cale, Adakaleh, Ada Kaleh or Adacale.
The efforts of the Austrians to retrieve the island between 1789-1790, were unsuccessful. After 1829, together with the treaty from Adrianopol, the Romanian States obtained many facilities such as: administrative autonomy, free trade, rulers appointed for their life time, etc. Therefore, the strategical importance of the island diminished considerably after applying the stipulations of the treaty. At the Peace Congress in Berlin (1878), the situation of the island wasn't raised for discussion during the negotiations, it was actually forgotten, continuing to be an isolated possession of Turkey. On the 22nd November 1885, the island was declared open and from now on, the military functions of the island were ended. This was the situation of the island until 1919, when it was returned to Romania, under the right of self-determination of the inhabitants. The situation was registered by the treaty from Trianon (1920) and it was admitted by Turkey only in 1923, as part of the treaty of Lausanne.
After 1923, the island became a touristic paradise. The ruined fortifications, the occupations and customs ofthe natives, very interesting from the ethnographical point of view, the exoticism of the climate, fauna and flora were interesting sights for visitors and local tourism was developing. The economic situation flourished as never before, especially after 1931, when the former king of Romania, Carol II, visited the island and the inhabitants were given many privileges.
At the end of the 1960s and at the beginning of the 1970s, the governments of Romania and Yugoslavia decided to start the construction of a lake for the Iron Gates I hydro-electric plant. In 1971, as a consequence, when the project was put into practice, Ada-Kaleh island was covered by the waters of the Danube as the water-level rose. Parts of the Austrian and Turkish monuments from the island which could be saved were moved to the island Ostrovul Simian, thanks to the academician C.S. Nocolaescu-Plopsor and the architect Adriana Mihai. These consisted of part of the walls of the fortress, two gates and some Turkish monuments. The inhabitants were moved to other places according to the Decision 2147/1967 of the Council of Ministers of Romania, according to the Decree 1008/1967.
The problem of the existence of a Roman fortification on Ada-Kaleh island was raised for discussion by the Serbian archaeologist Vladimir Kondic. Quoting the count Marsigli, Kondic presumed that there was a square fortification of quadriburgium type with circular minarets in the corners. On the island, there might have been two minarets for observation and signaling.
Vladimir Kondic, who identified Ada_Kaleh Island with ducepratum, which translates as "Commander's Pastures" (dux = commander, pratum = pasture) and he thinks that Ada-Kaleh island could have been useful for this purpose during the 4th century and also in the 6th century. His opinion was received cautiously by Milutin Garasanin, who thought that the identification Ada-Kaleh with Ducepratum and Sip with Caput Bovis were the only credible way to adapt Procopius's notes to the field situation for this sector of the Danube. The Byzantine historian wrote that after Novae, there came the fortresses Cantabaza, Smornes, Campses, Tanata, Zernes, and Ducepratu, and then he added: on the other bank there were built completely, many fortresses. Against the identification Ducepratum with Ada-Kaleh, there can be invoked the fact that the toponym (locality name) Ducepratum with its etymology (the Commander's Pastures) can't be placed on an island, but rather on one of the banks of the Danube.
There are more details in some topographic materials from the modern age. Thus, a map from the 18th century: Plan de l'Ysle de Orsova et de la fortification situee sur le Danuve... drawn by Joseph Deharo, Viscount of Lincourt, presents an Austrian fortification of "Vauban" type on Ada-Kaleh island. At present, the map is at the Museum of Archaeology in Istanbul, inv. 5842. Inside the Austrian fortification, there is a structure in the shape of a quadriburgium with rhomboidal comer minarets (Fig. 3). When I used this information for the first time, I was not sure of its Roman origin. The rhomboidal shape of the comer minarets suggests that it might be a structure which is a part of the Austrian fortification. Anyway, rhomboidal minarets are not unusual in the Roman age; there are similar constructions at Transdierna, in Dacia Ripensis, today Tekija, in Serbia.
The fortifying of the places on Ada-Kaleh island and Orsova was registered by F. von Reilly on the map Karte von dem Osmanischen Reiche in Europa, from 1796. This map might have been taken again under the same name by F. L. Gusefeld in 1802. Both maps present distinctly the fortifications from Ada-Kaleh island (= New Orschova) and Orsova (= Alt Orschova). It can't be specified if they were Roman or mediaeval constructions.
Meanwhile, new information has become available. Recently, a map drawn in 1744, by Avon von Bellavich, at 1: 68.000 has been commented upon. The title of the map is Plan des gegen das Turkische Gebeit ausgestellen Banatischen Cordons mittelst welchen die bereits vorhandene gut-und Brauchbahre alte, dann die neu zu errichten antragede Wachlehaltnussen als Chardaquen, Wachthauser, Erd-und Ruhr-Hutten nach ihrer verschiendenen Bau-Arth mit distinguierten Farben aufgezeichnet seynd. At present, the map is at the War Archives in Vienna. The area of Orsova contains also a draft of the Austrian fortification of "Vauban" type from Ada-Kaleh island (Fig. 4); the island is named here with the old title Insel Orsova. As in the case of Joseph Deharo's map, discussed above, inside the Austrian fortification, there can be clearly noticed a quadriburgium with corner minarets, protruded out of the enclosure. Unlike Joseph Deharo's map, on the one drawn by Avon von Bellavich, the corner minarets are almost round. The difference can't be explained.
The raising of the Austrian fortifications of "Vauban" type on older ruins, actually over the Roman foundation is not an unusual fact, this situation having been recorded in other places (see for example, the situation from Alba Iulia, where over the walls of the Roman camp Apulum there was raised a fortification of "Vauban" type; it is also the case at Singidunum camp and that of the fortification from Pancevo and from Sapaja island, which were superposed by Austrian fortifications of the same type).
In order to support the existence of a Roman fortification on Ada-Kaleh island, there can be invoked another topographic source. This is a military map (Fig. 5), made by the Topographic Board of the Ministry of Defence of Romania (R.S.R.) in 1962, at the time when the island hadn't been flooded yet and no archaeological excavations had been made. The map presents a rectangular fortification (probable size: 25Ox2OO metres) divided north-south and east-west by cardo and decumanus maximus. All these indicate a Roman camp. From the middle of the eastern side of the fortification, where probably there was a gate, there started a road to the eastern extremity of the island. In this point, the map shows a circular construction; these might be the ruins of a minaret for observation and/or signaling.
Among the topographic sources quoted above, there is an discrepancy concerning the shape of the Roman fortification on Ada-Kaleh island. On the one hand, the Austrian map by Avon von Bellavich registers a fortification of quadriburgium type, dated probably from the Late Roman period. On the other hand, the military map drawn by the Topographic Board of the Ministry of Defence of Romania (R.S.R.) in 1962, presents a construction which seems to be a Roman camp from the 2nd - 3rd centuries. For the time being, this discrepancy can't be explained and there isn't any reason to suspect the information given by the two maps of inaccuracy
Near the island, there are the mouths of the rivers Bahna and Cema. From the strategical point of view, it is clear that Ducepratum-Ada-Kaleh could block or signal the penetration of any barbarian invaders through these forts. Through this fortified place, there also could be ensured the security and control of the navigation on the Danube. The identification of a signaling minaret on the eastern extremity of the island is justified for this purpose.
The period of when the fortification from Ada-Kaleh island was built cannot be specified. The military map made by the Topographic Board of the Ministry of Defence of Romania (R.S.R.) in 1962 indicates a Roman camp from 2nd - 3rd centuries. The plans from the Austrian maps show a quadriburgium from the Late Roman period. A coin from Constantinus the Great's time, discovered in 1967, dated at 306-307, might indicate the existence of the fortification in this emperor's time. Anyway, if it had borne the name Ducepratum, then the fortification would have been restored during the period Anastasius-Justinian, as Procopius registered it among the military buildings raised or restored during this period.
Nowadays, Ada-Kaleh island is under the waters of the Danube. In 1845, when the Romanian scholar August Treboniu Laurian visited the island, he didn't notice any ancient traces; the only explanation seems to be that, at the time, the fortification was completly destroyed by the construction of the Austrian fortification and then by the construction of the Turkish buildings. The archaeological excavations from 1967-1968 support this assertion. Excepting a coin from the 41h century discovered in the filling modern stratum, no other Roman traces have been found on the island. This lack raises a serious problem. This could be explained by the fact that the Roman traces could have been cleared up from the island or partly used for the mediaeval and modern constructions. It is well known that in many cases, the Austrians dynamited and blew up the old foundations (this method was put into practice at Cenad, on the island of Sapaja, etc.). It is possible that on Ada-Kaleh island, the Austrians might have done the same and the Roman traces were destroyed.
There is also another remark. During the archaeological excavations from 1967-1968, it was found that, in order to raise the floor level inside the Austrian fortress, there was brought, "a large amount of earth, brought, it seems, entirely from one or both banks of the Danube, laid among the walls and then levelled." I haven't proposed myself to find by all means explanations for the lack of Roman traces but the ones enumerated above can be objective causes of this problem. On the other hand, examining the published plan of the excavation, it can be noticed that they were just tests meant to point out the Austrian fortress (Fig. 2). The results of the previous excavations from the 1965-1966 led by N. Constantinescu haven't been published yet. As shown from the available published plans, a large part of the area has remainded unexplored. All these make me think that the archaeological secrets of Ada-Kaleh island have not been revealed completely.
Anyway, Ada Kaleh island represented throughout its entire history a very important strategic point in the area of the Iron Gates. The idea of the need for a Roman fortification here comes naturally from its location in the middle of the Danube, which allows for the easy crossing of the river. Therefore, a barbarian invasion through this ford was difficult to avoid. There are analogies for this fact in the case of the islands Ostrovo, Sapaja, Ostrovul Banului and Ostrovul Mare, where the Romans built strong fortifications. Not least, for this discussion it is very illustrative to note the interdiction imposed on the Sarmatians by the emperor Marcus Aurelius, interdicting the barbarians' access to the islands on the Danube.
Henri Meirov writes:
"Ada Kalessi" is the correct name in Turkish, meaning "the island of the fortress" using the possessive form. "Ada Kale" means "island fortress".
Before 1739 the island was known as "Ada Kalessi", and there was a fortress on the island before the Austrians.
Ada Kaleh island, on the Danube.
Date: between 1890 and 1905
Source: Original image: Photochrom print (color photo lithograph)
Reproduction number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-09518 from Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Photochrom Prints Collection US-LibraryOfCongress-BookLogo.svg
This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division under the digital ID ppmsc.09518
Author: (not named)
Permission: (Reusing this file):"Photographs in this collection were published before 1923 and are therefore in the public domain."
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Many of the following photos are from an un-named CD of low resolution Ada Kaleh photographs, without text accompanying them, a source which I shall refer to as "Ada Kaleh CD". I have enhanced them as much as I can, but I would be very pleased to get better scans of the photographs.
Ada Kaleh, an island in the middle of the Danube, just downstream from Orsova. The strategical importance of the Danube defile, which linked the city of Belgrade to Vidin - its source of supply, made the Austrians build on the island facing Orsova a fortress that was named Ada-Kaleh.
The works were started in 1691, resumed in 1717 and completed in 1737. The strongholds of Ada-Kaleh and Tekis, by their position on the Danube, made up the so-called 'Gibraltar of the Ottoman Empire'.
The island of Ada Kaleh was flooded by the Portile de Fier (Iron Gates) dam. The dam flooded the area by 1971 to an altitude of 69.5 m above sea level. Part of the fortress was proposed to be re-erected on the Simian Island, downstream of the new dam.
Photo and text: The Iron Gate Atlas
Ada Kaleh (Turkish for "Island Fortress") was a small island on the Danube populated by Turks that was submerged during the building of the Iron Gates hydro plant. The island was about 3 km downstream from Orşova and measured 1.7 km by 400- 500 m.
Text below from:
Ada Kaleh, Insula Scufundată
...de Petre Dogaru
Numai cei mai în vârstă îşi amintesc, poate, de farmecul inegalabil al petecului de pământ terasat şi de arşiţa soarelui, de trandafiri, gutui, leandri uriaşi, smochini şi viţă-de-vie, situat pe Dunăre, la circa trei kilometri în aval de Orşova. Ostrovul, care a cunoscut alternanţa vremurilor de război şi de pace, a fost rebotezat de ocupanţii turci, în 1788, Ada Kaleh, ceea ce se traduce drept 'Fortăreaţa Insulei' sau 'Cetatea Insulei'. În 1971, turnul minaretului geamiei, locul de rugăciune a celor aproximativ 1000 de musulmani vorbitori de română, a căzut spulberat de dinamită, pentru a face loc apelor supraînălţate din cauza construirii barajului Hidrocentralei Porţile de Fier, vedeta, un covor imens cu motive orientale (15x9 m) şi o greutate de 480 kg, dar al sultanului Abdul Hamid al II-lea (1876-1909), umplându-se de praf. A căzut sub privirile uimite ale bătrânelor care încă mai purtau feregea şi chioşcul frumos de la intrarea în geamie, unde credincioşii mulsulmani îşi spălau ritual mâinile şi picioarele, aceştia luând în cea mai mare parte calea Turciei, iar o mână de oameni pe cea a Orşovei, a Turnului Severin etc. Ada Kaleh a dus sub ape multe regrete, dar şi multe secrete, ce merită să fie scoase la lumină.
1912 hand coloured photograph of the mosque and its garden, showing the dry moat and the stone walls on the side of the ramp leading to the gate at Ada Kaleh, as well as the new Minaret, although the pagoda has not been built yet.
Expediţiile lui Hercule, ale argonauţilor şi ale barbarilor
Ada Kaleh s-a format din depozitele de prundiş cu nisip amestecat cu mâl cărate de Crena şi Dunăre peste blocurile stâncoase de la bază, având 1750 metri lungime şi 400-500 lăţime, cam aceleaşi dimensiuni fiind menţionate cu 2500 de ani mai înainte de părintele istoriei, Herodot, despre insula numită pe atunci Cyraunis. Izolată în mijlocul bătrânului Danubiu şi înconjurată de amfiteatrul munţilor Alion şi Damoglet, insula inspira multă linişte. Datorită rolului strategic de trecere dintr-un bazin hidrografic al Dunării în altul, de la linişte la război nu a fost decât un pas. Grecii antici numeau insula Continusa, adică patria măslinului sălbatic, un astfel de arbust fiind luat de aici de Hercule ca să-l transporte în templul tatălui său, Jupiter. Poetul Ovidiu menţionează însă că Hercule, după ce a cucerit ţara uriaşului Geryon şi a fraţilor săi, de pe insulă, le-a luat învinşilor faimoasele cirezi de boi. În poemele epocii doriene, insula, denumită Continusa, este prezentată ca un tărâm fermecător, de unde cei 15 fraţi Argonauţi au adus în patrie olivul simbolic. Prin apropierea insulei vor intra în secolul I romanii în Dacia şi, mai târziu, hoardele vizigoţilor, ostrogoţilor şi hunilor, urmaţi de revărsarea slavilor.
Tunelurile de sub Dunăre, secretul neelucidat
Iancu de Hunedoara a ordonat ridicarea primelor fortificaţii pe insula măslinilor în 1444 pentru a o apăra de expansiunea turcilor, dar după dispariţia regatului ungar la 1526, otomanii au devenit stăpânii zonei peste un secol şi jumătate. Pentru a face faţă confruntărilor cu austriecii, otomanii au adus, în 1716, 4000 de lucrători din Ţara Românească să ridice fortificaţii pe insulă. Inutil, deoarece, în anul următor, armatele prinţului Eugeniu de Savoia ocupă insula, denumită pe hărţile vremii Carolina. Prinţul a hotărât ridicarea unei puternice fortificaţii în stilul cunoscut după numele arhitectului Vauban, fortăreaţa fiind prevăzută în colţuri cu bastioane, legate de două redute extreme prin galerii subterane. Neobositul călător M.T. Romano menţionează că, în perioada interbelică, se vedeau încă pe malul sârbesc al Dunării, urmele unde răspundeau tunelurile. Romano mai dezvăluie că, după spusele localnicilor, o altă galerie comunica cu malul românesc, concluzionând că o astfel de lucrare trebuie să fi ridicat multe dificultăţi. Cert este că zidurile cetăţii, cu o grosime maximă de 25 de metri, au rezistat, în 1737, timp de 69 de zile, la două asedii turceşti. În 1810, pe ziduri, pentru scurtă vreme, au fost ridicate steagurile ruseşti ale batalionului de panduri condus de Tudor Vladimirescu. Prin înţelegerile dintre Poartă, care stăpânea insula Ada Kaleh după Tratatul de la Berlin (1878), şi Viena, puterea protectoare, populaţia turcească insulară – cu o constituţie vionică şi înaltă ca statură – au primit privilegii importante, printre care cel de a importa orice fel de mărfuri, în orice cantitate, fără nici o taxă vamală, situaţie ce a durat până în 1918. Fortăreaţa şi cazematele încep să se surpe treptat, după ce, în 1885, prin decretarea de către Austro-Ungaria a statutului insulei Ada Kaleh drept 'garnizoană deschisă', autorităţile au retras tot ce au considerat recuperabil din fortificaţii. Astfel că, acestea nu au jucat niciun rol când, la 19 august 1916, două companii româneşti au ocupat vremelnic insula. Prin Tratatul de Pace semnat de Bucureşti cu Turcia în 1923, Ada Kaleh cu ruinele ei impozante de cetate au revenit României, aceste ruine fiind înghiţite definitiv de ape prin inundarea artificială a insulei în anii ’70, iar proiectul ceauşist de reconstruire a vechii cetăţi pe ostrovul Şimian, la 5 km, în aval pe Dunăre, de Tr. Severin, nu a fost dus la bun sfârşit. Urme ale civilizaţiei insulare se mai găsesc la muzeul Regiunii Porţile de Fier.
Mischin Baba, prinţul cu însuşiri paranormale
G. Lungulescu scria în 'Universul' din 13.08.1932 despre minunile ultimului prinţ Samanid din vechea dinastie de Uzbec, care, în 1786, a renunţat de bunăvoie la tron, plecând din Buhara, după cum i se ceruse în vis, pe insula socotită sfântă de la Dunăre. Prinţul Mischin Baba, foarte credincios şi învăţat, a ajuns după multe peripeţii în Ada Kaleh, stabilindu-se în hrubele cetăţii unde a dus un trai foarte modest. A rămas în memoria localnicilor prin faptele sale paranormale, printre care redarea sănătăţii fiului caimacamului, Osman Bey, bolnav de nervi, şi umplerea butoaielor goale cu vin dintr-o cârciumă, printr-o simplă atingere. A decedat la cârsta de 95 de ani, fiind îngropat la dorinţa sa expresă în solul nisipos din insulă, mormântul său devenind loc de pelerinaj pentru credincioşii din întreaga lume musulmană. Mormântul său, ca şi o parte a cimitirului musulman cu cea mai veche piatră de la 1963, a fost strămutat cu prilejul lucrărilor hidroenergetice amintite pe ostrovul Şimian.
Carol al II-lea a băut la 'Moka' o cafea 'la nisip'
Hogea, preotul musulman şi cu atribuţii de învăţător, H. Uzeyir, i-a relatat ziaristului G. Lungulescu că Sfântul Baba l-a sfătuit în vis pe Ibrahim Ali, cel mai netot om din Ada Kaleh, care râdea tot timpul, că, în a patra zi a lunii mai a anului 1931, va veni în insulă mai marele ţării, care va reda locuitorilor musulmani privilegiile pierdute. Visul s-a adeverit cu exactitate, Carol al II-lea vizitând inopinat insula, însoţit de primul-ministru N. Iorga. Regele a ascultat într-o stare de bună dispoziţie, păsurile insularilor în timp ce sorbea tacticos dintr-o cafea făcută 'la nisip' din ceaşca din care băuse pe vremuri tatăl său, Ferdinand I. În anii ’80, după miezul nopţii, la restaurantul 'Popasul Căprioarelor' din Neptun un bătrân cu fes roşu, pe numele Papa Ali, oferea dintr-o cafetieră spectaculoasă clienţilor spre vânzare o excelentă cafea preparată în nisipul fierbinte. Carol al II-lea le-a declarat solemn oficialităţilor insulei că localinicilor li se vor reda privilegiile, ceea ce s-a materializat prin scutirea de vamă pentru tutun străin, zahăr autohton, băuturi spirtoase, obiecte de suvenir etc., în anumite limite. Deoarece pământul este impropriu agriculturii, majoritatea locuitorilor se îndeletniceau cu comerţul, centrul de rezistenţă fiind bazarul oriental şi uliţele din jur presărate cu cafenele şi două restaurante ce erau ticsite de clienţi, mai ales după ce Ada Kaleh a fost declarată, în 1932, staţiune climaterică. Circa 40.000-50.000 de turişti români şi străini poposeau anual în insulă atraşi de pitorescul locului, de vestitul rahat cu alune turceşti lokum, de halviţă, acadele, dulceaţă de smochine şi trandafiri, sau de inegalabila băutură răcoritoare braga, obţinută, printr-o reşetă secretă, se pare, prin fermentarea fasolei în apă. La Orşova, mai există o doamnă care vinde bragă preparată după reţeta kalehiană.
Casa regală britanică prefera ţigarete 'made in Romania'
În urma vizitei pe insulă a primului ministru A. Averescu, în 1921, şi cu concursul deputatului T. Ioanid, s-a înfiinţat pe Ada Kaleh, în 1927, o fabrică de ţigări sub egida Regiei Monopolurilor Statului, care a absorbit vreo 120 de lucrători. În perioada interbelică, a luat avânt fabricarea ţigărilor de foi, care concurau vestitele havane cubaneze, pe care tradiţia le atribuie ca rulate pe pulpă de fecioară. În atelierele RMS din Ada Kaleh se produceau şi ţigarete fine, prteferate de unii membri ai casei regale britanice şi de regele Carol al II-lea, un înrăit fumător. Cele mai scumpe ţigarete de acest tip se numeau 'Cabinet', înlocuite, în anii '50, de regimul dejist cu fabricarea meiocrelor 'Carpaţi'.
Ada Kaleh island submerged... by Peter Dogaru
(English translation Don Hitchcock)
Only the older ones remember, perhaps, the matchless charm of patches of terraced land and the heat of the sun, the rose bushes, quince and fig trees and the grapevines, situated on an island in the river, about three kilometres downstream of Orsova. The island, which has seen alternating times of war and peace, was renamed by the Turkish occupiers in 1788, Ada Kaleh, which translates as "Island Fortress" or "City Island". In 1971, the minaret, a place of worship of the approximately 1 000 Romanian-speaking Muslims, fell shattered by dynamite, to accommodate the rising waters of the Iron Gates hydroelectric dam construction. The centrepiece of the mosque was a huge carpet of oriental motifs (15 x 9 m) and weighing 480 kg, donated by the Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909). At the entrance to the mosque was a kiosk, where Muslim believers ritually washed their hands and feet, most having come by way of Turkey as well as a handful of people from Orsova, the Turnu Severin, etc.The flooding of Ada Kaleh resulted in many regrets. and many secrets were covered by the water, which deserve to be brought to light.
Photographs of the inside of the Mosque. Note the chandeliers, the staircase (to a pulpit?), and the famous carpet of the Ada Kaleh Mosque, made in Hereche Handicraft Centre, Turkey. The carpet has been located in the Constanţa mosque since 1965 and was brought from Ada-Kaleh island in 1965 as Sultan Abdul Hamid's donation.
The man in the photograph is reading from the Koran on his lap.
The right hand photograph is dated 1937.
Deliveries of Hercules, the Argonauts and the barbarian
Ada Kaleh formed from deposits of gravel mixed with sand and silt from the Danube over rocky blocks forming the base, and was 1750 meters long and 400-500 wide, about the same size as those of 2 500 years before the father of history, Herodotus, on the island then called Cyraunis. Isolated in the middle of an old Danube amphitheater surrounded by mountains, the island gave a feeling of peace to many. Given the strategic role of a crossing from one side of the Danube river basin to the other, from peace to war was only a step. The ancient Greeks called the island Continusa, namely wild olive country, such as the bushes taken from here by Hercules to carry to the house of his father, Jupiter. The poet Ovid mentions, however, that Hercules, after having beaten the giant Geryon and his brothers, found on the island a famous herd of oxen. In the poems of the Dorian era, the island, then called Continusa, is presented as a delightful land, where the Argonauts brought 15 brothers to an iconic olive country. But around the island will enter in the first century, Romans in Dacia and, later, hordes of Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Huns, followed by the outpouring of Slavs.
Tunnels under the Danube, the secret Unsolved
Hunyadi ordered the raising of the first fortifications on the island of olive trees in 1444 to defend the expansion of the Turks, but after the disappearance of the Hungarian kingdom in 1526, the Ottomans became masters of the area over a century and a half. To face confrontation with the Austrians, the Ottomans brought in 1716, 4 000 Romanian workers from the country to build the fortifications on the island. Unnecessarily, perhaps, because the next year the armies of Prince Eugene of Savoy occupied the island, called Carolina on maps of the time. The Prince decided to raise a strong fortification in the style known by the name of the architect Vauban. The fortress was laid with towers in the corners, linked by two redoubts and underground galleries. The tireless traveler M.T. Romano states that, in the interwar period there could still be seen from the banks of the Serbian side of the Danube, traces of the tunnels. Roman reveals that in May, according to locals, another gallery communicated with the Romanian side, concluding that such work must have raised many difficulties. It is clear that the city walls, with a maximum thickness of 25 meters, have resisted, in 1737, for 69 days, the two Turkish sieges. In 1810, the walls, briefly, Russian flags were raised by the battalion led by Tudor Vladimirescu. The arrangements between the Porte, who ruled Ada Kaleh by the Treaty of Berlin (1878), and Vienna, the protecting power, the Turkish population island - with a constitution that Vion and high stature - have received important privileges, including the importation of any type of goods in any quantity, without any customs duty, a situation which lasted until 1918.
The fortress and pillboxes gradually begin to collapse until, in 1885, by decree of the Austro-Hungarian empire that Ada Kaleh had a status of "open garrison", the authorities withdrew all items considered recoverable from the fortifications. So they played no role when, on August 19, 1916, two Romanian companies temporarily occupied the island. By the Bucharest Peace Treaty signed with Turkey in 1923, Ada Kaleh with its imposing ruins of the city returned to Romania, these ruins were finally swallowed by flood waters in the '70s, and Ceausescu's project to rebuild the old city on Simian island, 5 km, downstream from Turnu Severin, was not brought to a conclusion. Traces of the island civilization still exist in the Iron Gates Regional Museum.
Mischin Baba, Prince of psychic qualities
G. Lungulescu wrote in "Universe" of 13.08.1932 about the wonders of the last prince of ancient Samanid, the Uzbek dynasty, which, in 1786, voluntarily renounced the throne, leaving Bukhara as being asked in the dream, the island considered the holy river. Prince Mischin Baba, very faithful and learned, came after many adventures in Ada Kaleh, settling in the city where he led a very modest life. He remained in the memory of locals as someone who had paranormal powers, including returning to health the Caimacam son, Osman Bey, a neurotic, and filling an empty barrel of wine in a tavern, with a simple touch. He died at 95 years old, and was buried in sandy soil at his express wish on the island. His tomb became a place of pilgrimage for Christians from around the Muslim world. His grave, as part of a Muslim cemetery with the oldest stone in 1963, was removed during work on the Simian Island reconstruction.
Charles II drinking in "Mocha" coffee "in the sand"
Hogea, Muslim priest and teacher, told the journalist G. Lungulescu that the Holy Baba told of the dream of Ibrahim Ali, the most stupid man in Ada Kaleh, who laughed all the time, that, on the fourth day of May in the year 1931, there would come to the country's largest island someone who would restore the Muslim inhabitants' lost privileges. The dream came true exactly, Charles II unannounced visiting the island, accompanied by Prime Minister N. Iorga. The king listened in a state of good humor, and passed some hours on the tranquil island while sipping a coffee made "in the sand" of the cup once used by his father, Ferdinand I.
(Hot sand is the traditional method whereby a fire is made beneath a vessel containing sand, and the coffee pot is heated by contact with the sand - Don)
In the 80s, after midnight, the restaurant 'Popasul Căprioarelor' carried by 'Neptune', an old man with a red fez, on behalf of Papa Ali, offered guests excellent coffee brewed in hot sand. Charles II, said solemnly to island officials that he would give the locals privileges, which was shown by the exemption of customs for foreign tobacco, local sugar, spirits, souvenir items, etc.., Within certain limits. Because the land is unsuitable for agriculture, most people are traders, and the centre of this is around the Oriental Bazaar and the streets nearby dotted with cafes and two restaurants that were crammed with customers, especially after Ada Kaleh was declared in 1932, to be a resort. 40 000 - 50 000 Romanian and foreign tourists annually visit the island attracted to the picturesque site by the famous Turkish delight with nut, halva, candy bars, fig jam and roses, or the outstanding refreshment Braga, made to a secret recipe, it seems, by fermenting beans in water.
British royal house prefer cigarettes "made in Romania"
Following the visit of Prime Minister A. Averescu to the island in 1921, and with the deputy T. Ioanid, there was founded at Ada Kaleh, in 1927, a cigarette factory regulated under the State Monopoly, which has absorbed about 120 workers. Prior to the war they made cigars, competing with famous Cuban Habanos. In the factories of Ada Kaleh cigarettes are produced and are preferred by some members of the British Royal House and King Charles II, an inveterate smoker. The most expensive cigarette of this type is called "Cabinet", replaced in the 50s, by the manufacture of the "Carpathian" brand.
Ada Kaleh, view of the Landungsplatz, or landing place, or quay.
The black and white image from 1915 has a little better resolution than the hand tinted postcard, and shows floating at anchor what looks like a larger version of the Romanian Cin, or dugout canoe, adapted to accommodate passengers.
View of the quay at Ada Kaleh, a little further back than the photograph above, with some of the boats which serviced the transportation needs of the island drawn up at the shore.
This photograph appears to have been taken in the early 20th century to judge from the fashions.
This 1936 photograph was taken with a telephoto lens, or was blown up on the enlarger to give the same effect. It shows a ship, a large ferry, tied up at the side of Ada Kaleh Island.
Photo: Ada Kaleh CD
Ada Kaleh on a box of matches from 1936.
Ada Kaleh, cabinet matches, Bucuresti match factory of "Chibriturile" S.A.R., 1936 Label size 122x67 mm
(text from http://phillumeny.onego.ru/)
Photo: Ada Kaleh CD
The text on the photograph reads:
The view from Alion Mountain.
The plans for the improvement of shipping on the Donau and the building of the Canal were begun on 15 September 1890 and were completed in the year 1896.
The project was planned by Superintendent Géza, who was born in Zichyfalva 13.11.1864.
(This town of Zichyfalva has had a chequered history. It was successively part of Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia and now Serbia. From 1787 to the present it held the names Zichydorf/Zichyfalva/Mariolana and is now Plandiste, in the province of Vojvodina, Serbia. Plandiste is about 85 kilometers northeast of Belgrade. see http://feefhs.org/zva/zvillage.html )
Electric light was brought to Orsova by the Ganz Company of Budapest in 1910.
The main street of Orsova was sealed in 1910.
(The following text is from Wikipedia)
It was walled: the Austrians built a fort there in 1669 to defend it from the Turks, and that fort would remain a bone of contention for the two empires. In 1699 the island came under Turkish control, from 1716 to 1718 it was Austrian, after a four month siege in 1738 it was Turkish again, followed by the Austrians reconquering it in 1789, only to have to yield it to the Turks in the trailing peace treaty. Thereafter, the island lost its military importance.
The 1878 Congress of Berlin forced the Ottoman Empire to retreat far into the south, and the island came under the control of Austria-Hungary, though it remained the property of the Turkish sultan. The inhabitants enjoyed exemption from taxes and customs and were not conscripted. In 1923, when the Ottoman monarchy had disappeared, the inhabitants chose to join Romania.
The Ada Kaleh mosque dated from 1903 and was built on the site of an earlier Franciscan monastery. The carpet, a gift from the Turkish sultan, has been located in the Constanța mosque since 1965. The population lived primarily on the cultivation of tobacco and fishery, later on tourism. The island counted approximately 1,000 inhabitants.
With the building of the dam, some of the structures built on the islands were moved to nearby Şimian Island, including part of the masonry of the fortress' catacombs, the Mosque, the bazaar, Mahmut Pasha's house, the graveyard and various objects. However, the Ada Kaleh community decided to emigrate to Turkey after the evacuation of the island instead of re-settling on Şimian island. Also, a smaller part went to Dobruja, another Romanian territory with a Turkish minority.
Postcard of the Ada Kaleh fort during WWI. Photograph taken looking through one of the main stone gates with a "dropped" keystone in the arch.
Note the way that the fort has been used as dwellings, and the fence on top of the wall, designating a property boundary.
Image of someone who appears to be sewing, with a good view of one of the watch towers on the wall of the fort.
Photograph apparently taken from within one of the "root cellars" which were semicircular strongly constructed arches bermed with earth, under which food such as potatoes and similar goods were stored, to keep them cool (but not frozen) and dry.
Mosque at Ada Kaleh. Some photographs (such as this one) show the mosque with the minaret integral with the building, other later photographs show that the mosque has been altered to include a well made octagonal minaret separate to the main building as well as what looks like a pagoda in the grounds beside the minaret. The photographs appear to show the same mosque at different periods after alterations. The buildings in the photos themselves are identical in construction, however chimneys in the roof shown in some photos appear and disappear in separate photographs of what is obviously the same building,
Note what appears to be a group of people on the entry ramp to the gate into the grounds of the mosque.
Photo: Ada Kaleh CD
Mosque at Ada Kaleh. This shows the later alterations to the original building, including the separate minaret and the pagoda, which is not visible in the 1912 photo above.
The moat around the Mosque has been flooded in this photograph. It seems that it may have been possible to get into the grounds of the mosque by boat, or at least very close to it, which would have made transport of heavy supplies for the Mosque much easier.
There appears also to be a low level path across the moat, just visible in this photograph.
Distant view of the Mosque at Ada Kaleh.
Note that modern houses appear to have been built on the ruins of the ancient fort, and the figure sitting on the culvert over what may be a sort of canal leading to the mosque.
Photo: Ada Kaleh CD
The gate in the colour photograph on the left is a recreation, using the same stone, of the entry shown in the centre and the right hand photograph, to the grounds of the original mosque on Ada Kaleh. It has been reconstructed on Şimian Island near Drobeta Turnu Severin.
You may see more text and images of this recreation of Ada Kaleh at New Ada Kaleh
The proportions of the gates and their general appearance are identical, although the extra, separate construction above the gate forming part of a wall around the Mosque has not been recreated.
The earlier centre photograph shows a ramp from a dry moat to the gate, the later right hand photograph shows the ramp and low stone walls erected on the ramp for safety of pedestrians have been removed, once the gate was restored to a position where the entry was at water level, accessible only by small water craft after the flooding of the moat.
On the earlier centre photograph, the shadows of the stone "minarets" can just be distinguished on the face of the stone entry way.
The Mosque originally had an integral minaret, and later when the separate better designed minaret was constructed, the builders also added a beautifully proportioned pagoda, as well as completing the flooding of the moat around the Mosque grounds. In addition, the Mosque was re-roofed with a better roof which had a larger protective eave over the walls.
Photo: Adrian Gheorghe (L), Ada Kaleh CD (Centre and right)
This is a stereographic view of the mosque at Ada Kaleh.
600 dpi image, 852 KB
Those skilled at unfocussing their eyes may be able to see the image in three dimensions without artificial aids.
Note that this photograph shows the new minaret, but the moat has not yet been flooded (or has been drained again), and the stone walls beside the ramp to the gate for pedestrian safety have been taken away. Note also the vines which have grown over much of the gate and the wall.
It should also be realised that the gate and the wall were there first, the mosque was put up much later than the gate and the wall, which were part of the original fortress erected on Ada Kaleh.
A stereoscope is a device for viewing stereographic cards, which are cards that contain two separate images that are printed side-by-side to create the illusion of a three-dimensional image. This is an example of stereoscopy. When stereographic cards are viewed without a stereoscopic viewer the users are required to force their eyes either to cross, or to diverge, so that the two images appear to be three. Then as each eye sees a different image, the effect of depth is achieved in the central image of the three.
This is the oldest method of stereoscopy, having been discovered in the mid-19th century by Charles Wheatstone. In the late 19th and early 20th century "stereoviews", stereo cards, stereo pairs or stereographs were popularly sold. The cards had a pair of photographs, usually taken with a special camera that took the pair of images from slightly separated views simultaneously. Cards were printed with these views (often with explanatory text); when the cards were looked at through the double-lensed viewer, called a stereoscope or a stereopticon (a common misnomer), a three-dimensional image could be seen.
Photo: Scanned by Don Hitchcock from an original photograph.
The Bazaar of Ada Kaleh.
The isle of Ada Kaleh is probably the most evocative victim of the Djerdap dam's construction. A Turkish enclave, it had a mosque and a thousand twisting alleys, and was known as a free port and smuggler's nest. Many other ethnic groups lived here beside Turks.
Ada Kaleh Bazaar. A postcard with the caption "Greetings from Ada Kaleh".
It is interesting to see children in the photo. It is a hand coloured sepia photograph, taken looking out of the compound, towards a gate through the wall of the fort.
Photo: Ada Kaleh CD
Ada Kaleh Bazaar. The quality of this shot is not high, but it can be seen that the caption reads "Orsova Ada Kaleh".
Note the awnings over the shop front in order to protect patrons from the heat of the sun. This shot is also taken looking out of the compound, towards a gate through the wall of the fort.
Photo: Ada Kaleh CD
Ada Kaleh Bazaar. This is one of the better built sections of the bazaar, presumably catering for the tourist trade. Note the men on the left in western dress, perhaps friends of the photographer, and the others in red turbans, as well as the drain down the middle of the road, and the carpet seller on the right displaying his wares.
The reconstruction of an Islamic room from Ada Kaleh at the Drobeta Museum.
Photo: Adrian Gheorghe
New Ada Kaleh
This area on Simian Island in the Danube recreates some of the architecture of the old Ada Kaleh, now beneath the waters of the hydro-electric dam.
Alexis Project Filiasi/Romania
RC J/263/230/2007 CIF 21464151