Municipal swimming pool veterans

1.7.2020

There is always something happening at my grandma´s and grandpa´s home in Wiedenhoferhof. They have the greatest balcony in the world. All day long we can look down at the "Kongreßbad" over some high trees. We also see when boys or girls climb over the fence into the pool area. "In the past it happened all the time", grandma says. "I did it as well", she says "I didn´t have any money. And the truly poor kids were let inside by the pool staff without tickets."

All day long grandpa sits in his summer chair on the balcony, drinking lemon water and coffee, in the evening he likes to drink wine. He is reading the newspaper and falls asleep. My granny makes coffee for him in the kitchen and I bring it to him. I take the cup in both hands and take care that I don´t trip over something. The coffee sloshes around in the cup in a funny way. The coffee spills out of the cup and into the saucer. Grandpa then puts the cup onto his newspaper and drinks the coffee out of the saucer, slurping extra loudly – that´s how good the coffee tastes out of the saucer.

Grateful and strong

I love to spend time with grandma and grandpa because they always have time for me. They are always home. They usually don´t leave their flat and if they do I can come with them. If it´s raining we can still spend time on the balcony because it is roofed. Grandpa is quite grateful to grandma for speaking up so boldly when their flat was allocated. Actually, at the last moment, somebody else was supposed to get the flat with the balcony but then my granny made a big fuss.

My grandma is quite strong. She is short, has stocky arms and a neck like a bull. Grandpa also says that she is strong – but only when grandma isn´t there. When grandma is present, grandpa is always the one speaking up, acting as if he was the stronger one. The good thing is, though, that they get along well. They always say they have been in this world for such a long time that they don´t fight over minor details anymore like mum and dad do. Really, grandma and grandpa never fight and luckily, both of them are still quite healthy.

Applause for the high diver

Grandpa has a great past as a high diver in the "Kongreßbad". In the living room are several pictures of him. In black and white. There he stands, arms stretched out on the 10-metre board with his hair combed back neatly as if there was oil in it. He has quite a lot of muscles in this photo and looks very tanned. He has a very concentrated look on his face.

Grandpa says that people screamed loudly and clapped their hands whenever he jumped from the board. All people got up and stood close to the big pool. In those days there was only one pool in the "Kongreßbad". It was one hundred meters long and the water was really cold. Some people didn´t get up, staying in their sun beds and watching from there instead. The pool attendant turned off the music, everybody was quiet and then grandpa jumped, turned, made somersaults, stretched out and submerged in the water straight like a plank. Then the applause started.

Gymnastics in the living room

I had a funny idea. I put a footstool down in the living room for grandpa and asked him if he could jump from there. At first he didn´t feel like getting up and wanted to stay in his comfortable summer chair on the balcony. But I pulled him and begged him and finally he caved in and carefully stepped up onto the footstool. He really is quite old already. "Bravo!" I shouted and clapped my hands. "Now stretch out your arms, grandpa!" I said and grandpa stretched out his arms and with wobbly legs he automatically stuck his head straight and had the same concentrated look on his face like on the photo. I clapped my hands and stomped my feet on the floor.

Then grandma came in and said "What´s going on?" Then she saw grandpa and started laughing and clapping her hands. Grandpa couldn´t be bothered, though, stretched his arms and legs a little more and then he jumped. Grandma screamed and wanted to hold grandpa but grandpa landed smoothly like a ski jumper. "You see!" grandpa said, "I didn´t forget it!"

Shootings in February

Sometimes grandpa remembers when there were shootings from Kongreßpark to Sandleitenhof. Whenever there is a bang he automatically remembers the shootings. It could be a car´s exhaust pipe, a lid rattling on the street, a window or the wind slamming a door in the flat. He was still a child when this happened. He lived with his mum in a side street. It was quiet, then there was screaming, and then the shootings happened. People died. It was very close to where he lived, in an area where today people go for walks with their dogs and drive around with their cars.

"What did they do, the people in Sandleitenhof?" I once asked grandpa. "They disagreed" grandpa said. "And for this reason they were shot?" "Yes, unfortunately it happens sometimes." "And can something like that happen again?" "Anything is possible but I sure don´t hope so." Grandma said, "Grandpa and I experienced a lot of terrible things, therefore we are wary. But there is one thing I want to tell you – people should never shoot other people. As humans we are supposed to speak with each other."

Principles and nostalgia

It is the slide that I enjoy the most in "Kongreßbad". It is long, has many curves and in the end the slide goes on under the water. I also like the small yellow lockers in the changing room. And the many red and white planks. My grandpa likes to sit up there in the cafeteria, looking down at the pool. There are many people lying on the lawn. And there is a path under high, old trees from the pool up to the cafeteria. A lot is like it used to be in earlier times but on the other hand a lot has changed. Grandpa misses his old friends. There are only a few left. In the photos in the living room, all of them are young and funny and when they meet at the pool today, well, they are old and funny.

My grandma gets impatient quickly when she is together with old people – even though she is old herself – and rather goes swimming instead. She still swims very athletically today, with a bathing cap and swimming goggles. She has a friend who is quite like her. Both of them don´t act like fine ladies. They say what they think. They do what they think is right. They are just really strong women.

Interesting links to the story

Historical information in "Wien Geschichte Wiki" (Vienna History Wiki) – (German):

Drawing: Sandra Biskup
Text: Simon Kovacic
Translation: Doris Nicht