Posts Tagged ‘switzerland’

Culture clash! Click the image below and see for yourself the contrast between British and Swiss culture when it comes to outdoor swimming.

Wild Swimming Gunton Switzerland


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Having spent a fortnight touring France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland I am left with many questions about the disparity between European and British swimming culture. From my perspective as a swimmer, and as Brexit draws closer, I wonder if we were ever really part of Europe at all. Switzerland is bordered, and very much influenced by its neighbours. When it comes to swimming there is no need for an ‘Outdoor Swimming Society’ or a ‘Wild Swimming’ guide, because in every river and lake where swimming is possible, hot weather draws swimmers to the water in droves. Local authorities provide a huge number of bathing beaches, lakeside lidos, diving boards, changing rooms, BBQ facilities and even firewood with an axe to chop it up. But lifeguards are typically absent, with a swim, jump, or dive at ‘your own risk’ notice taking their place.


In England, changing attitudes and perceived concerns have forced swimmers out of most rivers and lakes. The rules by which we live make us cautious in the extreme. Designated bathing areas at the seaside give us a sense of security. Lifeguards are seen as essential. We are constantly warned of the dangers of deep water and convinced that ‘cold water shock’ makes the risk of outdoor swimming seem to those unacquainted with its pleasures, foolhardy at best.

Basel River Swimming

Soon after landing at Basel airport my wife and I were drifting down the Rhine. The river police have earmarked specific bathing places to separate swimmers in the city from shipping. Even so, you have to navigate your way around cross-river ferries, bridge pillars and marker buoys. It’s a little like playing a slow motion game of ‘Space Invaders’, only in this version you have to avoid rather than intercept approaching targets. Swimmers and their dry bags line the riverbank; boys jump in and delight as they are swept along in the swift current. With thousands swimming every day in the cool deep fast flowing water there must be accidents surely? Surprisingly, Switzerland which encourages swimming at every opportunity, shares a similar safety record to that of the over cautious English, who feel duty bound to keep swimmers out of open water to reduce the risk of drowning and any chance of litigation. Yet if our drowning statistics are just the same as Switzerland’s, could it be that with a little education, open water swimming could be opened up in England, just as it is has always been in the rest of Europe?


The same story unfolds wherever I travel. Take for example the Strandbad in Hard, Austria. Attracting 2,300 swimmers on a hot day, there are pontoons and springboards enticing huge numbers into the greenish waters of a huge lake. The entrance fee includes the use of lockers and changing rooms, and a beautiful chrome edged open air pool with flumes and excited children everywhere. But look for a lifeguard and you will be disappointed. In Austria the dolphin like children sport slender physiques and deep suntans in settings that echo Britain in the 1950’s. Can you imagine a paid attraction in the UK drawing such numbers with the focus on keeping the site clean and the café well staffed rather than on providing lifeguards? For Austrians the school holidays are spent by the river or lake, and swimming even for the very young is a happy and fulfilling way of life. Europe is in itself an outdoor swimming society; swimmers feel at one with the countryside, they enjoy being outdoors; cycling and swimming whenever possible. Could it be that after all these years as part of Europe we have simply not thought to look at the lessons that could be learned from those who swim, swim, swim?


For how long will English outdoor swimmers be faced with the inevitable reaction to their activities; “They must need help, call 999”? 

Education is of cause the key, but it is not just potential swimmers that need educating, landowners and local authorities also have a lot to learn. Certainly much needs to be done if the swimming holes of the past are to be resurrected today. What I learned from my holiday is that swimming in deep cold water does not lead to certain death, but rather to a very happy life!

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An item in the news from Switzerland warning swimmers that on Monday a boy of eight was bitten by a beaver whilst swimming in the Rhine at Lindli caught my eye. Later that day a woman was also bitten on the leg so badly she needed to go to hospital to have stitches.


What advice have the authorities given? ” Beavers are only likely to become aggressive if they feel threatened or are defending their nest. Bathers are advised to avoid swimming close to the shore, and to not allow dogs to enter the water.”

What a contrast to the news this week and the tragic drownings resulting from river and lake swimming by those with little knowledge of how to stay safe.

Discover how differently the Swiss approach water safety.



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Visit Bern - Capitol of Switzerland

Nestled beneath the Capitol Building you will find a swimmers paradise.

Offnungszeiten Freibad Marzili Swimming Pool Opening Times

Offnungszeiten Freibad Marzili Lido

A Lido free for all to use with diving boards, children’s pools, play areas, sunbathing and cafe’ facility’s.

Swimming at Offnungszeiten Freibad Marzili Bern Switzerland

But outdoor swimmers will be tempted by the city’s special attraction; swimming in the Aare.

Wild Swimming in the Aare

Of course you must be a good swimmer if you want to go river swimming. Try short swims to begin with paying special attention to how experienced swimmers both enter and exit the water and then copy their methods. Rivers with a strong current like the Aare deserve respect and so it makes sense to follow the advice of locals!

Aare wild swimming

Campingplatz Eichholz Aare Swimming

You can walk up to the park and camping ground: Campingplatz Eichholz, Strandweg 49, 3084 Wabern, and swim from there to the city center. Take notice of the warning signs and get out well before the last take out point.

Source of the River Aare

The river Aare begins with glacial melt water and its wonderful colour results from the minerals it contains.

Are you safe swimming in the Aare

Wonderfully refreshing as it is to swim in cool water on a hot sunny day, remember that you can get too cold! If you get cold GET OUT and warm up again in the sunshine. On a hot day adjust to the cool water before setting off on a swimming adventure.

Swimming in the Aare

Warnings wild swimming

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Wild Swimming, lake Zurich, Switzerland
Wild Swimming, lake Zurich, Switzerland

People on a floating dock enjoy a sunny and warm summer day on lake Zurich, Switzerland, on June 26, 2011. See more…


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Wild River Swimming in Bern Switzerland

It’s hard to imagine now, but at one time river and lake swimming were encouraged throughout Britain.
Before the current era of NO SWIMMING signs, wild swimming was very much the thing to do each summer.
Those that chose not to swim enjoyed watching the spectacle of fun freedom and adventure as it unfolded in the waters all over the UK. Later the lido era drew huge crowds of spectators as swimmers, divers and beauty contestants pulled in crowds from traditional bathing places.
The sunbathing era  changed the focus of swimming and eventually put pay to the chilly lido, especially when bargain holidays to Spain came within reach of the working man.
Throughout Britain, outdoor swimming has been discouraged since the 70’s, yet by contrast throughout Europe, America and Australia attitudes are have remained liberal and supportive.
These pictures might just tempt you to take a trip to Burn this summer to see and experience for yourself what life is like for swimmers who have remained free.
Wild Swimming
The following information is provided by: Tourist Information Bahnhofplatz 10a | CH-3011 Bern | T +41 (0)31 328 12 12 | F +41 (0)31 328 12 77 | info@bern.com | Bern.com
Swimming in the Aare – Information
Dear Guests,
Summer in Bern is a wonderful season of the year. The arcades provide shade for visitors strolling through the city. And when the weather becomes too hot in the old town, swimming in one of the Bern municipal pools or in the Aare beckons.
In summer, the River Aare is very popular. Many Bern residents enjoy a refreshing swim in the river. The Aare is a beautiful, but untamed river which must be treated with the respect it deserves.
To avoid getting into any kind of difficulty when swimming in the Aare, please observe the following rules:
Only good swimmers venture out into open water (rivers or lakes) and swimming aids do not provide 100% safety.
Never go swimming on a full or entirely empty stomach – wait for two hours after eating a rich meal.
On no account drink alcohol or consume drugs.
Never jump into the water when you are very hot – your body needs time to adjust.
Never jump into turbid or unfamiliar waters – especially not head first!
Small children must not be allowed in or near the river without supervision.
Make sure to comply with the local notice boards. You will find them in all the bathing pools in the River Aare in Bern.
Never swim on your own.
So if you wish to swim in the Aare, you will do well to start at the Marzilibad (admission free of charge) and leave your personal effects at the bath (lock up all valuables). The river reach at Marzili is a good place to get to know the Aare for the first time. Many landing stages and steps down to the Aare make for easy access to the cool water. Here you may also take the opportunity to swim for a few metres to familiarize yourself with the river.
If you then wish to spend a little more time in the Aare, just follow the Aare path up to the Schönausteg, a good point of access to the river. If you prefer, you can also walk as far as the Eichholz camp site where you will find another ideal access to the river.
You can then swim down the Aare back to the Marzili pool where you may leave the water by one of the landing stages identified by a red handrail. Marzilibad is the final point at which swimmers can leave the River Aare. Please comply with the warning notices!
If you are not sure where and how to get in to the River, just ask a local Bern resident. We will all be happy to help you.
Have fun and enjoy your stay in the Swiss capital!
Best regards,
Michael P. Keller
Head Tourist Information, Bern Tourism


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Zurich swimming

Wild Swimming in Switzerland is just as popular as it used to be here in the UK just a hundred years ago. What a contrast now exists between our British attitudes towards river and lake swimming and attitudes in the rest of Europe. An article in yesterdays Guardian starts with a sign at the entrance to Zürich’s largest cemetery; ‘detailing all the things that are not allowed – No Jogging, No Cycling, No Dogs, No Littering, No Beachwear … Sorry, no beachwear?’ Yes the Swiss take the plunge on a regular, often daily basis. Read the article and you will discover that wild swimming is not all that wild after all: click here. For full details of where to swim: click here. For a swimming weather app: click here.To read the history of Wild Swimming in the UK read Hung Out to Dry, Chris Ayriss. Watch the video.


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