When it’s hot outside, where do you go? Some of you may go to your local pool. If you’re lucky, you may even be near a beach.
But for Germans, the answer is often a nearby river – or a so-called Flussschwimmbad (“river swimming pool”).
There are plenty of clean rivers to swim in throughout the German countryside. But in recent years, German cities have made an effort to convert city rivers into swimming areas. For example, the Flussbad project in Berlin is an initiative to transform an unused part of the Spree River into a giant swimming pool that is equivalent to 17 Olympic pools. This “will provide a public urban recreation space adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Museum Island, for both residents and visitors,” according to the foundation planning the project.
But for now, Berlin already has the so-called Badeschiff (“swimming ship”) – a pool that floats in the River Spree and allows visitors to feel as though they are in the river already.
Some German cities, however, are already home to clean rivers for swimming. In Munich, for example, many residents choose to cool off in the Isar River in the hot summer months. Part of the Isar River is even used for surfing!
For those who want a well-manicured Liegewiese (“lounging field”) and changing rooms to add to their experience, they can visit a pool filled with river water, such as the Naturbad Maria Einsiedel in Munich.
A Naturbad (“nature pool”) that consists of river water is free of chlorine and is therefore a healthy alternative to conventional swimming pools.
The German city of Lübeck also has a popular Flussschwimmbad. The so-called Marli-Freibad pool is a swimming area in a river. The water is supposedly clean enough to drink. With water slides and changing rooms, swimming in this section of the river can be fun for the whole family.
Although there are occasional rivers that may not be clean enough for swimming, the vast majority are: a recent study found that 98 percent of the rivers, lakes and coastal swimming areas in Germany met the water safety requirements set by the EU, according to the magazine Monumente. Of these, 91.4 percent were considered to have “excellent” water quality.
And swimming in rivers is an aspect of German culture that dates back hundreds of years. The first river bathing establishments were set up in the 1800s and usually including food vendors, changing rooms and sectioned-off areas for swimming (often separated between male and female swimming areas).
Some of these establishments were shut down in the early 1900s but are being reestablished today. Having access to a clean river for swimming is simply part of the German culture!