Swimming pool in the Danube
The wooden swimming pool or Danube bath is a fenced pool on the Danube. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were nine such wooden swimming pools in Budapest in parallel. We would like such water structures to be rebuilt in Budapest to bring people closer to the river, while also catalyzing the view of the Danube as a pure natural asset.
From the middle of the 19th century, the predecessors of modern swimming pools, the so-called Danube swimming pools or Danube baths. These rectangular wooden constitutions hovered on rafts floating on the water. Their railed wooden sidewalks, surrounded by cabins, gridled a larger or larger open water surface in the middle. The bottom and sides of the pools thus formed were reinforced with a safety slat frame due to the constant drift of the river water. The water of the pool is the Danube, which is colder here and warmer there.
For Valyo, one of the symbols of the tangible Danube is the Danube bathing, which is taking place in more and more locations on the Danube section North of Budapest, for example in Dunabogdány, Göd, Zebegény, Nagymaros. Our association set the goal of spreading bathing in the Danube, participating in the creation of the first free beach on the Roman coast in 2019, where the Danube beach in Budapest was realized for one day. According to our plans, a permanent beach will soon open there, and we would like to build a wooden swimming pool on one of the more regulated downtown river sections, similar to the former Danube baths, in the future. The foundational study of the development was carried out in 2011 as part of the Our Danube project, the wooden pools appeared on a separate location on the 2011 Danube Trail, and in 2017 we organized an exhibition on the history of Danube swimming pools in the former Belgrade International Ship Station wooden pools site. We collected information on domestic and international river basins and started negotiations with the capital and district municipalities on possible implementation.
Count István Széchenyi of Pest-Buda in the Reformation is the engine of the promotion of the Danube: he founds a boathouse, a boat association and swims daily in the Danube. Thanks to his actions, swimming has become a fashion.
The most special swimming pool of the age was the National Swimming Pool designed by Adam Clark. Its basket could be lifted out of the Danube in two minutes, if the river water level rose too high. Clark and Széchenyi watched the construction of the Chain Bridge from there. After the recovery of the Parliament, it was a gentleman’s passion for th MPs to go down to the swimming pool, where after refreshing themselves, they could also have their lunch in the swimming pool’s restaurant. This is where the first swimming competitions started from, the finish line was at watermills at today’s Petőfi Bridge.
As open-air bathing was also banned in the capital from 1839, wooden pools became increasingly popular. By 1883, the citizens of Pest and Buda could use six Danube bathhouses. The first Danube swimming pools were built in Pest Buda between 1810-20. Usually with a row of cabins, smaller to larger pools, baskets. Of course, they could only operate seasonally, from May 1st to September, and then towed or dismantled on the shore and stored in warehouses in the winter to be rebuilt in early spring.
“Sirens in the Danube. It’s not something of a mythological miracle, because since steamboats have been winding through the waves, sirens, as we know it, have escaped the waters, only to return to the foams during the summer, when paddling in the cool spumes feels so great in the glowing heat of the sun. Now this season of sirens is approaching fast, and on both banks of the Danube, strapped to the shore columns with huge iron chains, the bathhouses are already swaying and waiting for the modern sirens to bathe. To put it bluntly, the city’s engineering office is now inspecting the Danube bathhouses from a public safety point of view, and as soon as it completes the inspection, it will issue an opening permit and the sirens will paddle there all summer in the waters of the Danube.”
Pest Diary May 18, 1893
The last functioning Danube Bath welcomed its guests until 1944 on the shores below the Parliament, but as the city, its wooden baths were also destroyed by the war. Very early, as early as 1945/46, the need arose to restore the Danube swimming pools, and MPs proposed that “the Danube swimming pools should be put into operation by the capital in the interests of Budapest workers. If the budget does not cover this, it should be implemented on a contractual basis by involving private companies ”.
But in the end, implementation was always taken off the agenda: referring to the pollution of the Danube’s water, the risk of infection, and the lack of wood after the war, such beaches were never open again.
“The importance of the Danube swimming pools is not negligible: they were born at an age when Hungarian swimming life was booming, and the ability to swim began to become an integral part of the civic lifestyle. The first swimming courses started in these swimming pools and the first competitions were also held in them. In essence, these simple floating wooden structures can be considered the cradle of the later successful Hungarian swimming sport. Their popularity lasted until the middle of the 20th century, when they were slowly supplanted by built, heated and safer swimming pools with generally cleaner water ”
István Horváth, Danube Museum, Esztergom