The Coat After
As we walked along the Atlantic Ocean on a late November afternoon we completely ignored the group of people who were noisily bubbling out onto the beach from several Jeeps and Pick-ups, accompanied by two Labrador Retrievers. The traditional walk, always facing the strong ocean breeze, is part of a ritual on a Thanksgiving weekend in America, like turkey or pumpkin pie.
Only when everyone started to take off their winter clothes to then wade into the surf in bathing suits we realized: These are modern city dwellers, presumably vegans, who are pursuing a new trend sport: winter swimming.
I would like to make two points:
The first winter swimmers I ever heard of were relatives from my mother-in-law's family. They had been vegetarians for generations, travelling during the winter months from their residence in Berlin to the island of Hiddensee in the Baltic Sea to take a beach holiday there. They were convinced that toughening up and renouncing lead to a fulfilled life, that a healthy mind could only exist in a hardened body.
The second association concerns my own youth.
Blessed with a mother who preferred rainy summer holidays at Germany´s North Sea coast to the then celebrated destinations like Italian Riviera or Mallorca, I completed my first swimming test in an unheated sea water pool. The picture that was taken afterwards shows me as a six-year-old with the lifeguard who hands me the certificate. I smile with the huge new teeth that had only recently replaced my baby teeth - and dark blue lips. Hours later I was still completely frozen, but my pride in this first sporting triumph will forever be linked to perseverance in the rough elements.
Now I have discovered the item of clothing that gives me back this confidence - without making me rattle from the cold: my new "Dryrobe", a kind of outdoor bathrobe, lined with synthetic lambskin. A purchase, by the way, that celebrates the resolution and not necessarily the implementation. Because it has not yet been decided that I will actually rush into the Upper Rhine on our doorstep this January.
But very possible.