Taming the Kind Monster
Swimming across the Danube doesn’t seem like a good idea when you see György Schirilla test the icy water every January. But after we talked to Balázs Mezősi of MOME Line, one of the organizers of Swim the Danube, it’s definitely a maybe.
How did the idea of organizing a cross-Danube swim for the masses come about?
TheDanubehas been one of the central issues of MOME line since 2010. Our aim is to create a recreational area along the downtownDanubearea instead of a motorway. TheDanubehas become a hot topic since the wastewater treatment plant was built in Csepel in 2011. Now 95% of the wastewater flowing into the river has been cleaned. I’m not saying its drinking water quality, but it’s close to the standard values of recreational water. Our aim is to make theDanubemore accessible, to resolve its isolation. It works in some cities, and in others, like inBudapest, it doesn’t. But the demand is there…
Do you think there’ll be lidos on the Danube banks in the near future, or will swimming in the river always be an extreme sport?
We’re not aiming for that, but it’s possible. As far as I know, something like that happened in the ‘20s, when the people ofPestcould swim in a pool next to the Parliament. Let’s be clear here, theDanubeis not exactly risk-free. There’s a lot of drift and the traffic is busy. Obviously, these obstacles will be temporarily dealt with for the duration of the cross-swim. Guard boats will provide for the safety of the swimmers, they’ll pick up the drifting rubbish. There’ll be 20 boats from the Budapestwater police and from the Search and Rescue Service to help the swimmers along the way.
How important is it to change people’s opinion before the cross-swim?
The wastewater treatment plant in Csepel and the subsequent ‘cleansing’ of theDanubehas been seriously undercommunicated. The majority of the people still consider the river to be a kind monster, they think if they go in it, their arms will fall off. It’s not the case anymore. One shouldn’t drink it, but the fact that 95% of the wastewater is cleansed before it gets in the river is unmatched inEurope. So yes, the communication of the improvements and the cleansedDanubeis one of our goals.
How many swimmers do you expect on September 1st? Does swimming the Danube require any special skills?
We’re prepared for a thousand people. Anyone over 18 can register at their own risk. We haven’t tried it yet, but the police assured us that intermediate swimming skills are enough for the cross-swim. The current of the river is about 5 km/hour, and the distance allows for comfortable pace. The temperature of the water will be around20°Cin early September.
If you feel like testing the water, register for Swim the Danube on http://swimthedanube.org/