Public Pools

I recently wrote about Vancouver vs Berlin public libraries. Now, let’s turn to swimming pools, another city service that we use quite a bit in Vancouver.

We are partial to the Hillcrest Community Centre pool where the lazy river is great fun for kids and I sometimes swim laps with a friend and then use the sauna. The sauna at the yoga studio is a different story. River bathing would also be a different story.

The Berlin Baths designate six of the pools as “star baths” (Sternebäder). One of them offers a water slide, a “sole bath”, and other attractions, so Ingm and I gave it a try.

We were both a little nervous because you always have to figure out the way a pool works when you go for the first time. Are there family change rooms? What coin do you need for the locker? Do you wear Adiletten and carry your towel/shampoo around. My secret worry was also that swimming pool attendants (Bademeister, I would not call them lifeguards) historically have a very particular reputation, not very much unlike old-school bus drivers.

The building that the “Hans Rosenthal” pool is housed in is a beautiful brick building that has received quite a makeover relatively recently. The original brick structure was expanded with glass (photos on their website).

So, the slide was pretty fun. Interestingly, it did not involve a Bademeister regulating traffic getting on the slide (unlike slides in Vancouver). So, mayhem! Yes, kids riding the slide in twos and threes, Ingm and I sliding down together, it must have been a liability gong show, so we enjoyed it.

The main pool surprised us for being cold, but also somewhat anarchic as there were no lanes.

The “sole bath” was very surprising as I didn’t know this term and had interpreted the picture to be simply a large hot tub. But, as we learned, sole baths are not that hot and the water is salt water. This seems to be good for various ailments, mostly skin. The tiled benches built into the side almost make this an, er, soul bath.

And the Bademeister? Well, one older, one younger, the older fit all my stereotypes. And sure enough, he patrolled the side of the large pool, chastising bathers for various offences. We attracted his attention because Ingm was trying to pull me off the side of the pool into the water by holding my hand and swimming away. Repeatedly. So, the Bademeister saunters over and let’s me know that this is definitely a “borderline” activity. Grenzwertig is a surprisingly common or commonly-used term. But he was in a good mood, so I said, well that means we’re acting in a grey zone here. He agreed but pointed out that from grey to black or white depended on his mood. I observed that he seemed cheerful, but naturally Ingm and I stopped doing what we were doing. When we were almost leaving, the younger Bademeister also came over to let us know that swimming in a horizontal direction was not to be done, as it was across the primary flow of traffic, vertical. So no lanes, but we’re still swimming in lane-like order.

Of course, we had fun, and I had fun examining the Bademeister stereotype. They are now friendlier and younger, but still enforce rules that seem to have been decreed by the bathing gods themselves.


This is the post with by far the most links to other, previous posts. No particular reason, I don’t think, I just noticed…


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