Over the years Germany has cultivated its open air pools and swimming lakes thoroughly and developed them into one of the widest spread summer activities in the country. With spring approaching, many people are getting ready for the bathing season and, when examining the possibilities, they have a great deal to look forward to.

Picture this: the sun is out, the skies are blue and there is a light breeze. With a cool drink in your right hand and a great novel in your left, you are doing noth-ing but relaxing. With the clear blue wa-ter in front of you, soon you may go for a swim. It feels like you are in the Car-ibbean, but actually you are just around the corner from your home. This is the experience that you get when visiting one of the many open air swimming options in Germany.

Bostalsee im Saarland. © Klaus-Peter Kappest.

The numbers

Crunching some numbers when think-ing about open air pools and swimming lakes in Germany creates a necessary per-spective on the topic. There are around 5,250 lakes in Germany. From these TEXT: THOMAS SCHROERSlakes almost 2,000 are suitable for bath-ing as they adhere to the European reg-ulations for water quality. In comparison there are only around 900 lakes in France and around 800 in the United Kingdom. When you consider the number of open air pools in big cities, a similar difference shows up. While the 8.5 million people living in London share 15 pools, the city of Berlin offers its 3.5 million inhabitants twice as many possibilities. The same goes for Hamburg, where 1.7 million peo-ple are able to relax in 12 different open air pools.

The original pool

So what is it with Germany and its open air swimming? Curiously enough, the outdoor pool is a longstanding tradition in the country. While the ancient culture of bathing in public was mostly lost dur-ing the Middle Ages, it was reintroduced to Germany in 1799. In close proximi-ty to the city of Lübeck, Anton Kreide-mann, a swimming teacher, opened the ‘Kreidemannsche Anstalt’, which lasted roughly one century. When it had to close due to restructuring in 1899, a new one was build right next door. The new pool, called ‘Freibad an der Falkenwiese’, is still up and running under the same name to-day. Put under monumental protection in 1997 one can assume that it will remain for many years to come.

Badeschiff in the Arena Club. © Thorsten Seidel / visitBerlin.

Quality and activities

In Germany a deliberate effort is made to cultivate both the swimming pools and lakes. As with many things the Germans value their quality, which explains why so many people enjoy using the bath-ing facilities. With regard to swimming lakes, the water quality is regulated in accordance to guidelines provided by the European Union. Every year each feder-al state tests its waters and publishes the results. Hence before dipping a toe into a water, visitors or inhabitants can check whether that water is actually suitable for swimming.Apart from the water quality there is a huge desire to provide pool and lake visitors with a complete holiday experience. The time of a simple 25-metre length pool has passed. Today one can expect to see the conjunc-tion of beach-like qualities with slides and diving platforms out of a water park. Like the Opelbad in Wiesbaden, where one can see the city while swimming, sliding or re-laxing in the Finnish sauna. Or the Wann-see near Berlin, which is large enough to enable surfing and sailing. The Bostalsee, located in the Saarland, even invites visi-tors to camp out for an actual holiday. A true innovation in terms of bathing en-tertainment is also the Badeschiff which is floating right in the Spree in the heart of Berlin. But it is not only the location visitors will celebrate. As the Badeschiff belongs to the Arena Club, there is no reason to leave the place in the evening. What happens is just a change of atmosphere as people stop bathing in the sun and start bathing in the relaxed sounds of contemporary music. Needless to say this list could go on and on, which highlights again: there is every reason to visit one of Germany’s open air pools or swimming lakes.


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