08. 03. 2011. 09:44

Legendary Danube IX: On the shortest night: black whirlpool

Yet in summer, when the night is shortest and the longest trains trundle over Gubacsi Bridge, an enormous boat makes an appearance on the Soroksár Danube, arriving via the tubular bridge and preceded by huge waves.

Kayaks, canoes, keelboats, dinghies and ships—one after another they vanished, along with their human freight and everything else in the in the Soroksár branch of the Danube in southern Pest, from Kvassay Lock to the tubular Gubacsi Bridge. Backwater, water sportsmen, anglers, leaseholders and disaster-sightseers said of the hapless near-stagnant, all but back-flowing stretch of water. Reporters from TV channels dropped by and cameras rolled day and night, but nobody saw anything. Sporting contests were cancelled, training sessions too—no one dared to venture out on the water. Yet the divers found nothing, as if the waters had swallowed up whole ships. Where could all those oarsmen be? Only breezes ruffled the waters of the Danube on its Soroksár branch. The motor launches and boats of the River Police set out to investigate every square inch of it, from Kvassay Lock to the tubular bridge, in the course of which two motor launches and a boat disappeared. Then Lumbricus, a homeless man who sold earthworms to anglers (collecting them from leaf mould or by digging the ground in the wood on Csepel Island or by French Creek) found some unoccupied folding chairs on the riverbank, with the anglers also gone; all that was left behind were poles, landing nets, bait, and folding chairs. It might be a big fish, was the word which went around on the riverbank, or else a giant water snake. Or a treacherous, invisible whirlpool, a death trap, a black hole on the river…
    There were also tragedies on dry land. The proprietor of the Danube Tavern took his own life; there was a nasty car accident in Water Sports Street; a fatal wasp stinging. The place has a curse on it, it was whispered, and now people dared not even go to the riverbank; helicopters whipped up the waters, choppy waters, wild ducks, leaseholders all fled. They sought the spot, the black whirlpool, in vain at French Creek, under the tubular bridge, at the closed outdoor swimming pool, at the swimming pool of the demolished paper factory. By now even a drifting branch of a tree or flask was suspicious, the wild ducks and fish were suspicious, for now those people had vanished the fish had proliferated and teemed in the water like the earthworms in Lumbricus’s tins of shoe polish; now all that was needed was a landing net had there been any anglers. The fish darted about. Throwing themselves at the light; it was better than a dolphin show but there was nobody to see it as the riverbank was deserted from Kvassay Lock to the tubular bridge, while the leaseholders of Wave, Seagull and Rainbow Boathouses had not yet shoved off but had withdrawn to the cabins. It was rumoured that the black whirlpool was at the place where the heart of Gyuri Kolonics, the Olympic and World Champion canoeist, had given up. Or where the chimney of the paper factory cast a shadow on the water. No one knew anything; the riverbank was desolate.
    Yet in summer, when the night is shortest and the longest trains trundle over Gubacsi Bridge, an enormous boat makes an appearance on the Soroksár Danube, arriving via the tubular bridge and preceded by huge waves. All that can be heard is its throbbing before swimming away majestically in front of the naked men "moonbathing" on the riverbank. An ocean liner on the Soroksár Danube! When its bow is by Gubacsi Bridge its stern is by Rainbow Boathouse. The bathers in the pool with the wave machine rush to the railings, so that two groups of people eye one another at length and impassively: on the banks of the Danube the dead, and on the deck of the liner, on loungers, those who had disappeared from the Soroksár Danube.
    The wash lap the riverbank, and in the pool the last of the waves is set off; the train disappears from Gubacsi Bridge, the liner under the bridge,
    How can it fit? And does it get through, and does it at all? If so, where is it heading? To the Black Sea or the Black Forest?
    But that belongs to another Danube legend.


Translated by: Tim Wilkinson

Tags: Danube, László Sajó