One of the things I’m really going to miss about Germany when we finally leave will be the Schwimmbaden. I grew up in Southern California and I guess since so many houses and apartments have pools, public pools are pretty simple (or at least they were 25 years ago). If you wanted more than a lap pool with a diving board you had to go to a water park and pay the big bucks. Not so in Germany. Most towns have a Hallenbad (indoor pool) which is really a complex usually including a kiddie pool, lap pool and whirlpool, plus saunas and tanning, and maybe even a waterslide. Often the Hallenbad is combined with a Freibad (outdoor) for warm weather use. The Freibad will certainly have diving and a slide, and of course, a large lawn for sunbathing and a playground. You bring your own food, and there is usually a restaurant or kiosk on site with fries and ice cream. All of this for about $5 for four hours, less if you are between 7 and 18 years old, and free if you are under 7.
Interesting side note. At about 7, one seems to go through a sort of rite of passage. This is the age the kids start first grade, and it is a big deal here. At the end of the last Kindergarten year, the Schulanfanger (kids who will start school in the Fall) get to have a sleep-over at Kindergarten. They also get big cardboard cones filled with goodies for school and some candy too. The family might even have a professional photo taken of the kid with his or her Schultüte. The week before First Grade starts the kids and their parents go to an Einschulung, where the kids are treated to a performance by the second graders, a little party, and an hour of “class” in their soon to be school. And, now that the kids are in school, they must pay for things like bus tickets, museum entrance and Schwimmbad use. Modern life needs more rites of passage.
But I digress. We are lucky to have several Schwimmbaden nearby to choose from. Our favorite winter-time Hallenbad, Bella Mar, has an indoor/outdoor slide and a grotto with a current around it and a slide on top of it. We now have a new summer-time favorite, the Waldfreibad in Walldorf. In addition to a baby pool with pirate themed playground nearby, water works playground, main play pool with slide and lap pool, it has a forest and a lake (where we spent most of our time today).
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the kids collecting rocks, searching for fish, making sand castles, or generally horsing around in the water here. But I did get a few from the main play pool. This one is only 3 or 4 feet deep, so even those who can’t swim well can enjoy it.
And it has a twisty water slide. That’s my boy splashing out the end (did you know that pre-teen and teenage boys slide faster when they pull down their shorts and slide on bare bottoms?).
Despite overwhelming odds against us (two adults to seven kids) we had a great time. My neighbor chased after her toddler while I kept an eye on five 7-8 year old boys (one hers, one mine, one neighbor, one best friend, plus later, one friend from school who found us there) and the two girls (mine and hers). It’s much easier when they can all swim at least a little. We escaped the scorching heat this afternoon, along with everyone else in a five-city radius, and I think the kids will be sleeping very soundly tonight.