Hitting the pool on a hot day helps keep a cool head and the energies flowing – thus staying near or in water is sound advice during the summer months in the city, both for residents and visitors.

Berlin, which can heat up like an oven on many an August day, thankfully features a number of recreational open-air pools sprinkled all across town. As afternoons can be busy, the seasoned water enthusiast enjoys a cool dip in the morning hours, when the water is fresh and the personnel is relaxed.

There is no doubt that German pool attendants will always find a rule to point out, so make sure you book your ticket, store away your bag safely in a locker and keep out of the fast lane (that is, if you don’t consider yourself a fast swimmer).

As many others, I had lost out on the most rewarding urban summer activity over the pandemic years, and this spring featured a much belated comeback. At my first outdoor dip, I made the acquaintance of a phenomenon which was new to me: There is now a lane officially dedicated to people who consider themselves “fast swimmers” at my local pool. On detecting the sign, my lips formed a soundless “Oh”, as I dutifully scanned the pool for another unoccupied lane. However, there was none. Now, I obviously can’t blame people who have been quicker to get up and rush to the poolside than me, but I do admit I dislike the feeling of swimmers in hot (or in this case, cold) pursuit, literally on my heels, prone to splashy overtaking manoeuvres, etcetera. What was to be done?

Cornelia Brelowski: Swimming Rules

Relaxing at Schlachtensee lake. © visumate, Photo: Thomas Kakareko

I thought to myself – why not use the as yet unoccupied fast lane for as long as nobody else claims it? And into the blissful cool water I went, breathing deeply and starting my meditative strokes, all by myself and in my own rhythm. What a relief, I thought, that this is again possible – albeit at a whopping price of € 5,50. No matter the inflation, a swim is always worth it – immersed in cool water and surrounded by trees and green, you soon can truly forget that you are in the middle of a capital.

Bliss sometimes is a matter of minutes, and after only a few lengths, each time my head went to the surface I could spot a figure slowly approaching the sign at the head of my illegally conquered lane, and starting to lay out mysterious items and devices at its feet. It was the equivalent of a very serious sport cyclist stepping into gear. So this, I mused, is what an official fast swimmer looks like.

Cornelia Brelowski: Swimming Rules

The Badeschiff pool is part of an inner city beach bar. Photo: visumate

Reaching the end of the lane, I swiftly dragged myself out of the water and said nonchalantly: “This is your lucky day, it’s all yours.” The alleged fast swimmer, strangely smelling of sweat already, looked up from his task a little confused. “Thanks”, said he and, considering myself undefeated, I ambled towards the hot shower – this one at least I would have all to myself.

Berlin Notes: Town of coffee

Photo: Coline Mattée

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