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At the weekend I found a particularly interesting article in Jetzt.de by Sophie Kobol. If you are interested in the original German version it can be found here. The following is my attempt to capture some of the highlights in English for my non-German speaking readers.
This young lady described what is for her the best part of summer: swimming in a tranquil Bavarian lake after the sun has gone down.
She described how at 1:30 a.m. on a warm summer night she went night-time bathing with friends in the moon lit Feringa Lake (Feringasee) not far from Munich. This followed a night of fun visiting various bars with her friends in Munich; but somehow that was just not enough. They wanted to experience something else, something special. So off they went to the Feringasee. Without bikini and without bathing towel? “Who cares”, she said. They jumped into the old VW Beetle belonging to her girlfriend Anna (a present for her 18th birthday) and 15 minutes later the three friends were on the banks of the lake.
With the shimmering image of the half-moon mirrored on the surface of the water there was an incredible stillness. This was only interrupted by the occasional rustle of leaves in the trees around the lake. The sand under their feet was still warm from the day’s sunshine and there were gentle waves on the surface of the lake. Sophie noticed a few goose pimples on her arms from the cool breeze as she ran into the water. She ran until she was unable to stand and then began to swim. The water was refreshing and cool a perfect end to a hot summer’s day in Munich.
In her article Sophie explained how she had acquired her love of night swimming from her father. Even as a child he would drag her off in the middle of the night to just about every lake within close proximity of Munich. Although she was often tired and had a terrible fear of water snakes she still loved these trips. Today she has fewer problems staying awake and has retained her love of night-time swimming (although she still worries a little about the water snakes). Today she springs into the moon-lit water with her friends rather than with her father.
At night-time the atmosphere at Munich’s bathing sites is totally different to that which exists during the day. You are not surrounded by hundreds of bathing towels laying in tight formation around you, there are no screaming children firing water pistols and trying to destroy each other’s sand castles, no parents trying to force their infants into their water-wings, no ‘seniors’ spreading themselves out over their sun-beds with their pink bathing caps by their side, no legions of giant water balls and plastic whales, or obscenely coloured inflatable mattresses which constantly collide with you as soon as you try to enter the water.
At night-time you just have peace; it is lonely, but in a nice way. Although you may have been at this site many times during day-light the atmosphere at night is so different that it appears to be a totally different location. It is this contrast which is its attraction; everything that you do at night-time has an air of increased excitement. This is because it is dark and everyone else is asleep. In this way the most common summer activity like going for a swim in the lake becomes an adventure.
You can be a little more daring at night. In the day time the bathing trip needs to be planned down to the last detail: Which bikini shall I take? What clothes do I need to change back into? What shall I take to read? Should I use the factor 15 or 30 sun-screen? Then you must put on your waterproof make-up in order to look pretty, you clean the cool box and pack everything you need for the trip. At night-time no-one gives a hoot. If you want you can even spring straight into the water in your clubbing outfit; it will dry again! smeared mascara? Who cares no-one can see anyway.
The best part of night swimming for Sophie is the special feeling that goes through her body when she dives under water in the dark. She is free and independent. All her problems are, for a short while, forgotten. It is as if at this moment she can do whatever she likes. When she comes to the surface again the real world reappears, but she feels incredibly light and refreshed. No other place gives her this feeling.
Fortunately it is not difficult to find a lake or river to bathe in close to Munich. Sophie believes night swimming needs to be spontaneous. Going back home to pick-up your bathing costume and towel is for wimps.
On the banks of the Feringasee the swimmers spread out a rug they found in the boot of the car. They sat next to one another on the damp grass with their clothes hanging from the branches of a bush to dry. After an hour the clothes would be dry enough to wear (well at least without dripping too much when they popped into McDonald’s to order a burger). While they sat by the lake they made their plans for the next hour, and for the rest of their life.
In the next part of her article Sophie described what in her view were some of the best places for night-time bathing trips in and around Munich. If you would like to check the details they can be found here (they are in German). These locations include: the Isar river, the Feringasee, the Steinsee, the Deininger Weiher (pond), and the Eisbach (stream). Included in the information are the best spots at each location for night-time swimming together with some positive points and some things to look out for.
For those of my readers who have lived in or near Munich I am sure they will be familiar with the many bathing lakes in and around the city. Although the town is land locked it manages to create a true beach-resort atmosphere in the summer months. I have visited the Feringasee many times and can recommend it both for family excursions and as a location to try out some of Sophie’s night-time adventures. Her story reminded me of the days when I used to take my own son, Pascal, to one of the lakes for weekend camping trips (he was then about 10). I can identify fully with Sophie’s description of the peace and tranquility once the crowds have left. In my view there was nothing to beat the refreshing first swim of the day just as the sun was rising and with no-one for company apart from a rather curious and oversized carp.