THERE’S a silver-haired man with a gappy-tooth smile and sun-ruddied face who lives on a tidal island in Serbia, where the lazy Danube eases on by.

Here he lives mostly in solitude but for his animal herds and the occasional boat of visitors he graciously allows to interrupt his simple sanctuary that is a special nature reserve.

Living side by side with nature suits him fine, far from the rush and demands of the past city life he gladly surrendered for this peaceful existence.

He shares Krcedin with herds of frisky horses who run wild and answer his hollering call with a thudding of hooves, the cattle who also live there take a cooling paddle in the river.

Unique to this place are white long-horned cattle who take shade under the trees when the sun grows too strong. Donkeys lope around as do the dusty pigs while chickens and red necked turkeys peck in the yard, the strutting peacock keeps its distance.

We sat under a wooden shelter and cracked open beers from the cooler we’d brought with us on the boat from the other side of the shore, while our new friend dragged a flapping carp from the river and cooked it on the open fire.

We ate it with our picnic of bread and a rough-chopped salad of tomatoes and cucumber, picking the delicious white flesh from the needle-thin bones - in case we needed more, we were offered ‘domestic’ eggs from the hens that have free-range of this little good-life kingdom.

A Dutchman who had taken redundancy from his dreary-factory job to escape into the wild and live a life-long dream of kayaking down the whole length of the deep-running Danube, relying on the kindness of strangers and a bivouac for shelter at night, joined us for lunch.

Bushman and his Australian soon-to-be wife had also tagged along, hitching a ride by securing their canoe to our boat. They’d met at a village wedding, Bushman, self-named because of his knack at crafting handy tools and making fire from whatever his environs offered up, had been tasked to accompany her to the celebrations - and they have been celebrating ever since.

Wild boar roam in the woods that flank the Danube while inland stalls selling tomatoes and green stripey watermelons three-for-a-pound dot the countryside roads that lead past rustic timbered houses.

About half-an-hour drive from where our boat moored, is the small historic town of Sremski Karlovci, drink from its fountain and face the consequences of its match-making powers. Locals say, if you drink from it you will marry the next man or woman who stops to sip its refreshing water.

Much more disconcerting than the fountain is the eerie yet revered relic of Saint Arsenius of Srem that lies in a glass casket in the stunning church of St Nicholas just opposite. Its walls are rich with gold-gilted icons while the saint lies under a shroud, all but for a yellowing if not waxy-looking hand.

To muse further over The Hand, real or not? we stopped at a bar in the pretty market place, watching would-be wooers come and go.

The forested hills of Fruska Gora are nearby, this is wine-producing country. You will find about 60 or so wineries here, the day before we had lunched and tasted the delights of Kovacevic Winery steeped in a century-old tradition of growing vines on the southern slopes of this national park. The Bermet, a sweet dessert wine and a speciality unique to this region was a drink of choice on the Titanic, bottles of it were brought to surface from the wreck 73 years after it sank.

Communities of monks still live in the lush woods where pine martins live in the holes of old trees and eastern imperial eagles swoop. The monks wake in the early hours to pray and work the land, eeking out their existence, selling sticky, golden honey from their bees and small souvenirs for pilgrims. It’s peaceful here and would be good to sit a while in the late afternoon and reflect.

We had been staying at Hotel Park in Novi Sad, a delightfully chilled-out city with its outdoor cafes and public parks that plays host to the internationally renowned EXIT music festival, held every Summer in a lofty Petrovardin Fortress whose ramparts overlook the Danube.

It’s about a one hour drive away from beautiful Belgrade which sitting on the natural boundary between East and West. Belgrade is itself an emerging tourist destination enjoying a popularity spurt. It has a much to offer visitors, a vibrant culture and a nightlife that would rival any modern Western captial city - its boat bars are world-famous. Belgrade has been ravaged and rebuilt at least 30 times but it still has a certain charm to it. The breathtaking view of the rivers Danube and Sava coming together, the Old Town which is so compact it’s easy to explore on foot and Kalemegdan Fortress are must-dos to take in on a visit here. The local food is incredible, great platters of cooked meats and cheeses and peppery morsels and sweet treats - fun to share with friends and wash down with a beer and a heartfelt round of Ziveli - Serbian for Cheers!

The Metropol Palace was our luxury base in Belgrade just steps away from many of the city’s gems and a swift half-hour transfer from the airport, it’s a fantastically indulgent place to rest up and zone out after sightseeing - make time for the fabulous spa.