Zagreb

Tales of the Sava Riverbank

13 Sep 2017

Many of the world’s great cities have a river running through them, from the River Thames in London to the Yarra River in faraway Melbourne. Zagreb too has its own Sava River, a symbol of the city that has over the years shared its ups and downs with Zagrebians. As opposed to many other rivers, the Sava River is not located centrally, but rather on the outskirts of the city. It is one of the three longest rivers in Croatia running a length of 944km, whilst the width of the river spans more than 100 meters in parts. FYI, the Sava River along Zagreb is neither navigable nor drinkable, mostly because of industry and waste water treatment; yet despite this, it’s common to see some fishermen hoping for a catch along the riverbank.
Turning back the clock, the first public beach was opened in 1926 by the then mayor Vjekoslav Heinzel. The water was crystal clear back then, drinkable in fact, and in addition to swimming, the beach was a place where one would stroll, play cards, sing, mingle, socialise, play games... The area known as ‘Babinjak’ was primarily a sunbathing area where many of Zagreb’s ladies would catch a tan. The swimming area had about 900 cabins, with one end including the so-called ‘Gospodarić's baths’ where wealthy citizens unconcerned with admission prices would seek leisure and refreshments. Did someone say ticket price? Yes, indeed, one had to pay to bathe in parts! To the right there was a public beach with two wooden pools in the river itself. At the time, ‘The Sava Riviera’ stretched all the way to present-day Lake Jarun and the Sava Beach also held an annual‘beauty pageant’.
Things turned for the worse in the 1960’s when a huge flood engulfed one third of Zagreb in 1964. The flood destroyed many of the beach structures and with contamination detected, bathing in the river was prohibited and so the beach was only used for sunbathing.To make matters worse, a large number of cars began to invade the city at the time and the Sava River served as a ‘car wash’, it even became fashionable to wash your car from top to bottom alongside the river. How eco-friendly is that?
In this day and age, you’ll be happy to know that swimming and car washing are strongly prohibited but in juxtaposition, there is an abundance of ‘sports and recreational activities’linked to the Sava River embankment and Lakes Jarun and Bundek.

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