Summer in Germany is a humid and sweaty affair, especially down here in the landlocked south. For a pale, sea breeze loving Brit my first summer was indeed a baptism of fire. When I heard of a beautiful place where you could swim and laze away a day it seemed to be the stuff of dreams. I grabbed my swimsuit, towel and sun cream and followed the directions I’d been given on my recently acquired bike. Unfortunately it was 19th April, and even though the temperature was 35°C outside the pool would remain firmly closed, until the safe date for open air swimming, May 1st.
The Freibad (lido or open air swimming pool) is open to all and can range in size from a simple rectangular 50m pool to a complex of various pools with slides, diving boards and water features. My local is famous for its wave pool, in addition to its, sometimes stinky, sulphurous mineral water, which you can drink and thankfully don’t have to swim in.
Anything goes at the Freibad, speedos have never gone out of fashion here in the south anyway, but feel free to wear what you want, some kids are still wearing wetsuits well into July. Temperature wise I’m not sure I’m the best judge of what is considered cold since I’ve swum outdoors in the UK all year round, but the pool for swimming is generally the coolest 21-24°C whilst the more family friendly pools with slides, whirlpools and waves tend to be a little warmer at 25-27°C.
If you want to blend in at the Freibad you’ll need a few things, this isn’t the place for a less is more approach, basically this is the beach, without the fish. A large highly patterned towel to mark your spot, this towel isn’t for drying it’s purely for lazing on. Badeschuhe (swim shoes) that weirdly you don’t swim in, but use only to transport yourself from the changing area to the pool. Always watch out for the skilfully chaotic Badeschuhe abandoned near every pool entrance and exit. Tents, parasols, cool boxes, blankets, toys, the only thing that’s generally forbidden is BBQs.
If you manage to grab an optimum spot, near the pool, shady but not too shady, be prepared to defend your territory and expect that any view you have will most likely be replaced with one of an extremely tanned elderly gentleman
snoring up a storm watching his grandchildren. If you have kids you are expected to supervise them. There are lifeguards, but slides and children’s areas are mostly unmanned and left to parental discretion.
Throughout the summer you can find special events at the Freibad. So far here there’s been World Cup viewing, a Bavarian theme night and coming up there are kids clubs, disco night, family fun and naked night. Something for everyone? I can only say I made use of the World Cup viewing because, for once, the pool was practically empty. Even though dogs are not welcome at the Freibad as a rule, many open their doors to our canine friends at the end of the season in September.
To get the most out of your visit, just know that…
It fills up fast, particularly when school finishes for summer. Get there early if you want shade, a particular spot or a sun lounger.
Taking your own food and drink is totally fine. The usual Pommes, Currywurst, ice cream and beverages (including beer) will also be available to buy onsite.
Not just for swimming. You might just find table tennis tables, volleyball courts or mini golf too but you can just sunbathe if that’s your thing.
Unfortunately it’s now raining outside and I’m hoping I haven’t jinxed summer for everyone by writing this. Go try a Freibad, it’s cool, literally.
Happy Swimming. – Alie.