Maybe it is the shimmer of the water, maybe it is the people around them, or perhaps it is chlorine or sunstroke, but swimming pools, and especially public pools, have a magical, surreal touch to them. It is no wonder they inspired a lot of great art from Hockney’s Bigger splash, to Cheever’s excellent (yet dark) tale of a man who decided to swim his way back home on a summer’s day (definitely read it or watch the 1968 film starring Burt Lancaster).
While gazing over the best public pool in the world in Monjuic (which inspired a masterpiece of a video), I decided to try and emulate poor Ned Merrill this summer and swim through Belgrade’s public pools.
All of them, as I have written previously, are truly amazing feats of architecture and show a great devotion to public health and spectacle which existed in Yugoslavia. While in pre-WWII Belgrade, most of the swimming was done in the swim clubs on the Sava and the Danube, since 1960s, Belgrade started getting Olympic-sized swimming pools. The reason for this was partly due to care for well being of socialist men and women, and partly because sports were a great way for Yugoslavia to show its power on the world stage. First came Tašmajdan (1960) then Olimp (in Zvezdara) (1970) and then the three most ambitious and amazing public pools in preparation for hosting the first FINA World Championship in watersports: Banjica (in Voždovac), Košutnjak (in Koš and 25. maj in Droćol. Finally, 11 April. gave New Belgraders and Zemunians a place to go for a salubrious open air dip in 1979. These great facilities also spurred Belgarde to try and host the 1992 Olympics (which made Mojuic famous!), however the crisis stopped those ambitions (as I wrote here).
Despite decades of neglect, all of the pools are now open, in relatively good shape and lovely. I can imagine no other pieces of socialist architecture (and ethos) being more loved in Belgrade, and one can only hope that there will be more of them at one point to serve Borča, or some other more distant suburbs.