Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cold Swimming

It's no secret that it's not often warm in Copenhagen. At a latitude of 55° North, there are lots of cold days here, or perhaps more importantly, not a lot of truly hot or warm days. The Baltic Sea that gives the Copenhagen area so many lovely beaches is almost always too cold to swim in around here as are the harbors and canals throughout the city. 

Yet, somehow this doesn't stop the Danes from swimming. I remember last Fall on a particularly cold day being in a coastal town near Copenhagen (I forget where) and seeing a woman in a swimsuit and bathing cap casually entering the water in the harbor and swimming several laps while her dog waited on the dock. When she got out, Neil asked her if it was warm in the water. The woman said something like, "No, it is very cold, but I train my body for this all year. You get used to it."

Since meeting this woman, I have had an assumption that many Danes do some sort of cold water swim training wherein they build endurance to tolerating incredibly cold water. I think it's probably not true, but I like to think it is anyways. 

Today was a pretty warm day at the end of a very warm week. It was, perhaps the warmest week since we moved here in January of 2011. And so, it is with that background that we decided to try swimming in the harbor baths (ie swimming pools in the harbor) at Islands Brygge. 

We'd seen people out there all week and Neil and Riley had even gone by one day and watched the people jumping off the high high dive. The pools are really cool looking and inviting - it seemed like the perfect thing to do on a warm afternoon.

Islands Brygge Harbor Baths on a sunny day.
In spite of a ton of people swimming in the pools, and a kiddie pool that was packed with kids, the water was absolutely freezing. We played for a little while. Neil went in up to the top of his calfs, I could barely force myself to go in up to my ankles. Riley was the bravest and went in up to his upper thighs. As we were "drying off" or, since we didn't get very wet, sitting on the warm dock and putting our clothes and shoes back on, Neil remarked that it seemed odd that everyone else there was unfazed by the cold water. "Everyone is acting so normal," he said. "It's like nobody notices." 

Indeed, we were the only strange family who didn't actually do what we came to do. Are we just weak Americans? Is there really tough Viking blood still running through the veins of most Danes? We have no idea. I probably won't return to the harbor pools with the intention of swimming, but it is a fantastic place to soak up some sun and watch people. Heck, maybe I will even return wearing my swimming suit, but don't look for me in the water.

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