Summer in Switzerland: Taking a Refreshing Plunge
What do the Swiss do when temperatures start soaring? They take a dip into the cool waters of the nearest river or lake!
It is still summer in much of the Northern Hemisphere and, with heatwaves hitting different parts of the world, a lot of people are hard-pressed to find ways by which to cool off. If you live in Japan, this would mean lining up at a kakigoori [syrup-topped shaved ice] shop to enjoy a frosty treat. For those in the United States, it means trooping down to the nearest swimming pool to take a cooling dip.
In Switzerland, however, one might be surprised to see corporate types heading to work on a summer morning – with swimming gear in tow. You can even spot groups of people at noon in their bikinis and swim-shorts heading down to the closest lake, river, or even badi [public pool] for a splashingly good break from work.
Especially in the Swiss capital of Bern, locals and visitors alike celebrate the end of the workday by plunging into the chilly waters of the Aare River which meanders through the city.
Impeccably clean and fed by glacial runoff from nearby mountains, the temperature of the water runs between a bracing 15°C and a more temperate but still soothing 21°C. The Aare is a tributary of the High Rhine and is the longest river within the country.
No one is sure when exactly the summer tradition of river bathing began in Bern or in any other part of Switzerland, but it is an event that everyone looks forward to as the temperatures rise. Indeed, it is considered a social event by many people, a way to meet up with friends either for a lunchtime break or a dip and a drink at sunset. And it is a highly democratic event: everyone, regardless of social standing or position, dives right into the Aare to cool off.
“Swimming in the Aare river is a very nice feeling as you can just float along with the water. Moreover, it’s always really refreshing because the water never gets too warm”, as a seasoned Aare swimmer puts it.
Key Tips to River Swimming in Bern
- The best place in which to dive in and get out is the stretch between Eichholz and Marzili, which is considered the safest area by experts and local authorities. Also, Eichholz has a public campground where you can pitch a tent at nightfall, sleep surrounded by nature, then take a plunge into the icy depths to wake yourself up in the morning.
- New to the experience? Go with a guide or with friends who are knowledgeable regarding the area to ensure a safe and fun experience all around.
- Need a sweet break from swimming? Grab a scoop or two of freshly-made ice cream at the Gelateria di Berna over in Marzili. Along with classic flavors like fior di latte [sweet cream] or black cherry, you can also sample unusual delights like the intriguing mix of marzipan and nutty poppy seed or the tangy grapefruit and pepper.
- A drink before and after your swim is a great way to relax, but be moderate in your consumption of alcohol before going into the water.
- Look before you leap, especially if you’re diving in from a height like the bridge at Schönausteg: check if there’s anyone down below and raise a shout to alert them you’re coming down.
PS: Don’t forget to bring your ZigZagZurich towel with you!
Photos: MySwitzerland.com, Bern Tourismus