An Island by the Shore
In “the other reality”, far away from the nearby town chaos, we once lived another life, by special rules. Many fugitives found their shelter, as well as adventurist; the talented found their inspiration and many bachelors found their wives. The academy of great sciences and arts of this island was sometimes more influential than the one in Knez Mihailova Street. On these rafts, in these pile dwellings, on those ships many important pages of Serbian literature have been written, as well of Serbian theatre, painting and music

By: Brano Pavličić

In the time of great waters, when there was danger of two Sava islands to break off and to sail away down the river, Ada Ciganlija and the smaller Ada Međica, leaving Belgrade incomplete, the people were thinking how to prevent this. At the end, after many wise and experienced talks, it was decided that the bigger island is connected to the shore, and then the smaller one could not get away, because no young goat ever left its mother, as wild as it might be.
So it was done. The Sava channel was cut with three levees, the island was connected to the shore and it still stands like that today. As it was predicted, Međica had no where to go, because one cannot live without love. It is still standing in the same place.
The ones who found everything that changes their feelings and brakes up their dreams, have been sitting in nearby cafés through the years, from where one could see the beautiful view of the present main levee and the entrance to Ada. They sung in silence, they drank a lot and they were not ashamed of their tears, and there were many of them. Every tear was big as the biggest drop of dew on the island.
From the air, one gloomy day: 
Ada Singalija and ada MeđicaThat was how the river lost its island, and got two lakes, one bay and one peninsula. It also lost all the cafés on the shore, covered by the thick moss of sorrow, losing their meaning, with no island over the river, with no prison on the island, which was torn down, with no roebucks or wild beasts, just a beach, and two famous rowing clubs, “Grafičar” and “Partizan”. The forests and beautiful meadows were left, which people reached by foot, on a path, all the way to the other shore of the island and many rafts of river lovers and those who have escaped to the other side of reality.
It was not a plain row of houses on the river; it was a row of unusual people, those who have carved into our memory, as well of those who followed that same path. The most important line of communication was the river, an unseen, broad and flat road under the moonlight, with the writers-poets-painters fleet sneaking on it, on their ships, searching for the right text, book or painting, or searching for themselves before the new play, new movie or new opera.


The view of Ada from Novi BeogradMomo Kapor never left the river, nor Pavle Vujisić, or Živan Saramandić.
Momo with his famous small ship; Živan with his beautiful sailboat and Pavle with his steamboat as from Mississippi, with a tractor engine. While the first two mostly sailed, Pavle liked to sit in front of “Partizan” drinking wine, looking at the wheel of his boat and the captain’s cabin, as everything was in place, prepared, but the club and the wine can sometimes be just enough, besides the dreams.
When citizens and mosquitoes rushed, the people ran away to Ada Međica, to the upper part, in the Ada Međica Fan Club. What a name for a Shelter and a place where people talked till dawn while drinking, waiting for the new day to come?! The club was managed by the Burduš family, the brother and the sister.
Right by the 13th well was the raft of Jaša Rajter, the man who built the fame of the Belgrade Fair, and who was thankful for some other things – for some pages of the Serbian history and literature as well. The writer of this text was the misfortunes witness of the action of sneaking of one of our famous writers to the hiding place from where you could hear Jaša’s monologues, and many curses, which he pronounced while he was angry, which was for a long time.
A little bit down the river, where the restaurant “Šest topola” is standing, before the other great war was the famous beach of the same name. Right besides it was the rowing club “Beograd”, which moved to Ada in 1936. The club later changed its name into “Crvena zvezda”, and their rooms were turned into a restaurant, a place where the whole town gathered. Who did not visit that place, saw nothing. Among its guests were recruited the future citizens of Ada Ciganlija, the members of its imaginary Academy of Sciences and Arts. He, who experienced this, experienced everything.
Little marinaDejan Medaković first became the member of the Ada Academy, and then the one in Knez Mihailova Street. He visited Dušan Maksimović (Ph.D.) who started his river bathing in March, finishing it at the end of October. He was thankful, serious and biting, carrying his experience so lightly, as a gentleman. He never knew who he could find on his raft, comfortable and thinking on a leather couch of the psychiatric type. Once, it was Vesna Parun, deadly in love and desperate, then Mladen Lompar, Ćila Đurić and some freckled girls. Then, there was Ljubomir Ljumović, a poet and a surgeon, Aco Sekulić, Brana Petrović... We never called Milovan Vitezović, because he was also gentle, and then some other freckled girls... We never called Roko Andrić, because of the deep waters – who would wrestle him and get him out of the water – and because of the freckled girls.
Sometimes, but it happened rarely, the famous Filo Filipović would visit the island town, and maybe Dragan Lubarda, with his long gray beard and in his heavy shoes and an unusual coat, and his drawing book under his armpit. Several galaxies could be found in his worn-out painting book, with many stains of quick meals and coffees and crumbs of warm biscuits from “Kolarac”. One of the galaxies was called “Zgarišta”, the other “Vetar sa Bežanije”, the series of the most beautiful drawings seen in the area.


A lake on the island: Ada safariThere was also Bruno Hrastinski. Do you remember Bruno? He was one of the most important figures of Serbian sport. He was quiet and peaceful. He came to Ada running away from a misunderstanding with others and himself. And when they made him leave the river for a while, he created the most important boxing national team that Serbia ever had. The people of Ada were so proud watching so many medals on world rings, and the main person was Bruno. Besides him stood Vujković, Parlov, Beneš, Ristić, Perunović... And we were so proud of them.
Somewhere in the area of upper Međica was the raft of Dule Glavonja (“glavonja” meaning “big-headed”), in the shape of a ship. Dule Glavonja was the mayor of the fugitive residents, a man of a hundred crafts and the best fish soup and bean meal cook that you could imagine. No one knew why they called him Glavonja, because his head was not that big, but no one knew his family name. After a long time, the name came out: Tirnanić. On his ship’s deck many fishermen came to unload their catch in the morning. Then came many other people. All day long. From the coast and from the water. Who saw Dragan Nikolić and Bora Todorović playing cards on that ship, saw it all.
Dule Glavonja was sometimes absent. He was wondering who knows where. In his thoughts, as well. It could keep him for hours, in the autumn and in the winter. It happened that he crosses the river, in his thoughts, not even soaking his feet. And now, it would not represent such a problem if it had not happened that the river was all uneven and rough under the gust of wind. That is what our witness told us, the architect Peđa Ristić, a former resident of Ada Međica. He saw it all from the balcony of his small house, between the treetops. And one must believe what Peđa says...


Under protection since 1821
Ada Ciganlija is four kilometers away from the confluence of Sava into Danube. Since 1821, Prince Miloš Obrenović proclaimed the river island the state and national property. Branislav Nušić called Ada the “river flower” and he founded his satirical newspaper in Ada. Since then, through many decades, Ada attracted artists and adventurists. With the blocking of the right channel, in 1967, Ada became a peninsula, surrounded by a levee and marked by Sava on one side and Savsko Lake on the other side. Today, along with Ada Međica, Savsko Lake and Makiško polje, Ada is lying on the surface of 800 hectares. It is four kilometers away from the town center.
The lake is 4,2 kilometers long, about 200 meters wide, from 4 to 6 meters deep. During the summer season on Ada and the Lake, it is visited by about 300 thousand visitors per day.


The name
Many people of Belgrade and visitors of Belgrade are confused by the name Ciganlija, because its meanings in Serbian are completely unfounded. The name probably represents a toponym composed of Celtic words singa and lia, meaning island and underwater ground. According to experts, the name expressed the changing of water lever of Sava. When the water level was low, it was called Singa, and when it was high it was called Lia.
Singalia was changed into Ciganlija through time.


The beach of Savsko Lake is one of the biggest and most beautiful beaches on lakes in Europe. The lake water is warmer and cleaner than the river water. It is suitable for many competitions on stagnant waters, with its location, water quality and length – for swimming, rowing, water polo, diving, sailing on board and other sports, so many world and national championships took place on it. There are more than 50 sport terrains on Ada Ciganlija, among which the water-skiing system, golf, football, tennis, handball, volleyball, basketball baseball, rugby terrains... There are also sand-volleyball and aqua-soccer terrains, and there is also an artificial rock for extreme sports and a paintball terrain. Fishermen can enjoy Ada safari, the small lake on the island, full of carp.


Restaurants and theatres
There are about 70 restaurants placed around the lake and many raft-restaurants on Sava River. Near Ada safari there is a children’s theatre-playground “Robinson’s Island”, which is showing Life on a Deserted Island and Robinson and the Pirates, as its regular repertoire. During the summer season, the scene on the beach is very popular, below the big stands, where many cultural programs and events are taking place.


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