At the Guča Trumpet Festival, exaggeration is the norm. Every August this sleepy town in southern Serbia attracts thousands of people from all over the Balkans – and increasingly beyond – for several days of traditional brass music unleashed by dozens of bands, large and small, of dancing and singing, of overeating and overdrinking, of behaving as if there is no tomorrow, when life is to be lived to the full.
The view towards the floodlit Petrovaradin Fortress is spectacular and a gentle breeze ruffles the Danube, yet the restaurant at the military club of Novi Sad is half empty. There are no tourists around, as the place is far away from the main attractions.
The narrow Iron Gate Gorge of the Danube is deservedly called so. Here, for 134 kms, the mighty river squeezes between formidably high cliffs. Living here is hard, but 8,000 years ago at the Lepenski Vir site a group of people developed an elaborate culture, the like of which has not been seen before or since. It was wholly dedicated to the Danube.
"Tra-ta-ta-ta! Tra-ta-tata!" The trumpet solo sweeps over the river valley shrouded in morning mist, bounces off the nearby mountain slopes, and rebounds over the sleeping town. The sound wakes up some of the people in the houses and tents. They start to stir. "What's the time, mate?" "It's seven o'clock; too early." People pull the blankets over their heads, returning to sleep. For some minutes, the early-rising trumpeter proceeds with his morning concert, then tucks away his instrument and goes God knows where.