Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ich schwimme gern!

Taken straight from my memories of high school German class, this phrase will probably always be true: "I enjoy swimming!" I was inspired by the pre-departure encouragement of one of our friends, "You won't have trouble finding a pool. Germans like to swim." "Yep, I could live there," I thought. So I have been on the lookout for swimming opportunities since we arrived in Munich. Instead of not finding any possibilities, I was surprised to find almost too many options. The problem was that they all seemed much too expensive, and the charge scales were far too complicated for any foreigner to deciper in the first few weeks.

So I finally figured out the concept of the "Freibad," meaning "free pool"... not in the sense of cost, unfortunately, but in the sense that it is "open," or "outside," as opposed to an indoor "Hallenbad." If you can get over the fact that it feels like a crowded beach, it's really a very pleasant experience.

Germans don't mess around when it comes to swimming. These are not just your typical American neighborhood pools. Each "bad" ("pool") is actually a swimming complex complete with showers, lockers, trampolines, playgrounds, several pools, fountains, slides, diving boards, grassy picnic areas, you name it! Steve and I went to "Westbad," the pool (complex) nearest our home, last Friday night. Of course I went straight for the lap swim area at first, but I found my feet wandering over to the slide and the fountain, just to get the full experience. The water is gloriously cold; it was a refreshing, rejuvenating experience!

OK, for those of you who are fascinated by this sort of thing, German lap swimming culture is quite unlike the "my space / your space" culture of the American pool. I'm not sure lane lines are ever used, so it's a complete free-for-all. Instead of mindlessly swimming back and forth, staring at the black stripe on the bottom of the pool, my head must stay up, making sure I'm not coming up behind a very slow swimmer, swimming head-on toward a normal swimmer, or trapping myself between two characteristically zig-zaggers who might zig-zag me down into an underwater swim! So it keeps life interesting, and after each workout, I find myself amazed that I actually completed a certain number of laps. : )


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