On days like today (the end of Ostern or Easter holidays with no family nearby and only medium-nice weather) there is a question of what exactly to do. We’ve already had 3 glorious days off, admired our Osterstrauch (Easter tree), celebrated the holiday with enough chocolate to fit in with the Germans.
But going to the pool in Germany can be a bit odd. A few things always stand out that we’re not in Kans…erm, America anymore. Here are some of my top observations about swimming pools in Germany and my favorite pools for the whole family in Berlin.
Don’t expect life guards to watch your every move
I count my swimming skills as strong and usually both my husband and I are there when my daughter is in the water, so I never noticed before a recent pool visit that life guards are not readily available at German pools. Sometimes there are a few milling around, yelling out rules and regulations randomly (what a dream job for a stereotypical German), but they seem far from preoccupied with their work. They are usually chatting together, sometimes on their phone, and I swear I caught one dozing.
This fits with Germany’s general fend-for-yourself attitude. If your kid is too small to handle the big pool, they expect you to tell them not to get in there. Slides that whip you around in the dark through twists and turns that made me nervous are operated by a series of lights that tell you when it is safe to proceed. There is an expectation of common sense and responsibility. And while I find that slightly unnerving, I also respect the lack of Big Brother.
Everyone has pool shoes
Maybe this is part of the popular saying “Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, nur schlechte Kleidung” (There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing). Germans are (generally) exceptionally prepared and they attend every function – whether business of pleasure – with the proper clothing, documents, and back-ups.
You’re gonna see a lot of nudes
This has been discussed at length, so I won’t belabor the point. But there is no ignoring that a German swimming pool experience is sure to include some live nudes. There is nothing sexual about it, just practical as getting changed usually involves showing your bits and pieces.
If you feel a little insecure, there are changing rooms and you can safely keep your body shielded if that is important to you. It just isn’t the German-Way.
Pools almost always have a sauna
That said, if you want to go full nude almost any pool has a sauna. I was surprised that the small, very kid-centric pool we went to today had a full sauna – but I shouldn’t have been. Saunas are in an inalienable part of German health and going to the sauna is seen a necessity, not a luxury.
Pools usually aren’t warm enough to keep your kid from turning blue
As wonderful as the pools are, they are usually chilly for the little folk. Our first experience with a pool was when my girl was just 6 months old and while the facilities were excellent and the temperature was posted in the various pools, she had blue lips within minutes. It was a little disappointing. Even today, three years later at a kid-friendly pool, my daughter spent part of the visit with blue lips and shivering.
I don’t know if is Germany’s high energy costs or if this is the same in the USA, but it was something I was unprepared for. We got a hand-me-down thermal for her as a baby and that made a big difference, but also be prepared do some serious warm-up time during and after a pool visit in Germany.
Top 5 Swimming Pools for Kids in Berlin
If you too are looking for somewhere to turn your kid into a very happy popsicle, here are my top 5 pools for kids in Berlin (I’m keeping this to indoor pools at the moment. There are a whole herd of Freibad or open-air pools that generally don’t open til May 1st):
- Bad am Spreewaldplatz (Kreuzberg): This was the location for today’s excursion. Even though it is highly visible with windows bordering popular Görlitzer Park, we had never been here before. The changing rooms are a maze of staircases and showers but once you make it to the pool, it is a compact kiddie oasis. There are shallow basking pools with animals like sea lions that shoot streams of water, wave pool, warm mini-pool, plus lap pool and diving pool. And a sauna. Of course.
- Stadtbad Schöneberg “Hans Rosenthal” (Schöneberg): Three years of extensive renovation work took this old-school pool into the future. There are slides, pools for laps, pools for non-swimmers, and a kid’s pool with toys and all kinds of entertainment. It was renamed during its renovation for the Jewish entertainer Hans Rosenthal who learned to swim there at age 25 after he was forbidden to enter the swimming pool as a child by the Nazis.
- Schwimm-und Sprunghalle im Europa-Sportpark (Prenzlauer Berg): This massive complex has professional quality pools with stands as well as facilities for us pleebs. For kids there is a separate area with a small slide and tons of toys available from noodles to balls to fountains. And for babies there is a splashing pool and a deep, very warm pool to keep them happy (open when there aren’t classes).
- TURM ErlebnisCity (Oranienburg): Putting this one on the list is a bit of a stretch as it is far in the outskirts, but it is still in the reach of the S-Bahn (in the C Zone) and I recently went and enjoyed so it makes the list. The wave pool is impressive and two thrilling slides have you questioningly looking for lifeguards. It also has outdoor areas accessible by pool so you can enjoy the masochist German pursuit of freezing your nipples off in-between bouts in the hot tub. If your kids are old enough or go on your own, buy the sauna ticket for the impressive complex next door.
- Tropical Islands (Krausnick): A much bigger and well-known location outside of central Berlin, Tropical Islands is a whole experience. Part massive water park, part sauna world, there are accommodations on site at this incredible resort.
Learn more about Berlin’s public pools on their website: https://www.berlinerbaeder.de/