This morning, as I walked with Lotte down the street towards the U-Bahn on her way to the second day of the school year, we noticed that we could see our breath in the morning air. Is the summer over already in August? It certainly feels that way, with school returning and the football season long begun. So it seems like a good time to reflect on the summer and to return to the grey skies of this website.
Our main trip this summer was to the Thuringian forest and then on to the Ardennes, with more trees and plenty of Trappist beer. There will be more on that journey in the coming weeks, but in some ways it was an unrepresentative fortnight when it comes to this particular summer as, if there was a theme of the last few months, it was finding some lake or other in which to jump in.
Almost all of our swimming (we could call it ‘wild swimming’ but then, how wild is it when a little further down the shore a couple of retired women are preparing for the morning swim, even the smallest lake has a Badestelle and every Berliner or Brandenburger has their own favourite lake?) took place in the waters around Berlin. There are hundreds, if not thousands of lakes in Brandenburg, and we found some pretty special ones. The Gamensee near Werneuchen. The Steckelsdorfer See near Rathenow. Both were connected to nearby campsites, but it felt like we had the lake, the water, the reeds and the big skies all to ourselves.
In Berlin things were a little more tricky. At Tegel the way into the water was sandy, but on a sultry summer evening it felt like half the city were crammed into the small gap between the trees. In Weißensee there was also a party atmosphere, with plenty of music and excited chatter. But the lake floor appeared to be littered with the remnants of the neighbourhood’s Second World War bomb damage and stubbed toes as we entered the water were not the ideal beginning.
So on the morning after we returned from Belgium, our first day back in the city, we got on our bikes, rode down the street, and went to our very own local lake; the place we should probably have begun our search in the first place. I have written about the Plötzensee before, on a day when the lake was covered in snow and hockey players shuffled their puck across the ice. I have walked and ridden around the lake many times, and drunk beers at the little shack where they hire out the rowing boats and the mosquitoes like to pick on the shandy drinkers.
What I had never done before that first morning back in the city was stand in line, pay my entry, and head into the surprisingly large Freibad Plötzensee, the swimming beach on the lake that also has fields and football pitches, playgrounds and beer gardens. We got there reasonably early, before it truly filled up in the afternoon, but it was already quite busy. And Plötzensee feels like a representation of the neighbourhood it belongs to.
The people who offered us a space next to them in English spoke to each other in Hebrew. In the entry line I heard conversations in Polish, Turkish, German and Arabic. On the beach, Russian, French and American-inflicted English. Wedding has one of the largest immigrant populations in the city, and at the Plötzensee – the Wedding Riviera – we all share the sands and gentle, wind-blown waves. Oh, and the water was lovely and the lake floor soft. Come early enough, before the crowds, and Plötzensee is one of the best places to get wet in this city of ours, and it is at the end of the road.
Words: Paul Scraton
Pictures: Katrin Schönig