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Polar bears ahoy! It’s ice bathing season in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Ice Bathing - Mecklenburg-Vorpommern/Photo: Joachim Kloock/TZRW

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern welcomes the New Year and the ice bathing season

On New Year’s Day the fearless, foolhardy and thick-skinned will be diving into the icy, three to four degree cold waters of the Baltic, in pursuit of a great tradition enjoyed by all kinds of ‘water rats’ between Boltenhagen and Usedom. Most of them belong to clubs which take their names from Arctic wildlife, and through long hours of training the ’Seals’, ’Walruses’ and ’Kingfishers’ of Rostock, Stralsund, Waren and Neubrandenburg have become so resistant to the cold that for others, watching them bathe sends shivers down their spine. Between January and April, when these hardy men and women take up their freezing hobby again in all parts of the state, thousands of curious spectators will join them on the beaches, lakes and bridges, some of them fascinated, others shaking their heads. Below is a list of the biggest ice bathing parties. Newcomers are welcome to come along and take part.

New Year:

After the New Year’s celebrations are over there are eight places where one can shake off one’s hangover and keep in high spirits. The Mecklenburg seaside resorts of Boltenhagen, Kühlungsborn and Warnemünde, Prerow on the peninsula of Darss-Zingst, a fishing and holiday paradise, Heringsdorf and Karlshagen on the island of Usedom, as well as the Hanseatic city of Stralsund and the tiny village of Banzkow/Lewitz near Schwerin will be inviting enthusiasts to join in the ice bathing fun, which always promises entertainment for all. That is where, for instance, adventurous ’polar bears’, often in costumes and wearing a slogan, will be swimming the icy Stör canal near the drawbridge at Banzkow.

Ice bathing has firmly established itself almost everywhere in the post-unification era, just as it has in Boltenhagen, where New Year swimming events are now into their twentieth year. The action usually begins shortly before midday with a variety of supporting events. The main spectacle will take place at 2 p.m. when groups of ice bathers will be getting down to business. In general, participants number between 50 and 500 men, women and children spanning all ages, who in Kühlungsborn for instance wear traditional red, white and blue striped bathing suits. Clad in these uniforms, they will cheerfully descend into the waters.

On Prerow’s northern beach too, swimmers will be boisterously splashing around and braving the cold On New Year’s Day. Neptune, god of the sea, will be looking on when hardy swimmers plunge into the Baltic in trunks, crazy costumes or even in the nude. They rarely stay in for more than five minutes. One healthy side to this activity is the physical response from heat loss through the skin. The body reacts by producing extra heat, dilating veins, which in turn improves blood circulation and strengthens the immune system. Mulled wine, a log fire on the beach, as well as several thousand cheering and admiring onlookers are the swimmers’ reward for their brave deeds.

Six days after New Year the town of Neustadt-Glewe will be playing its part in the ’winter fun’. On 7 January the ’Grand ice bathing event on Neustädter See’ will be taking place for the second time and aiming to attract a wide range of visitors, not just ’water rats’ oblivious to the freezing cold. Besides the general public, families are particularly welcome to visit Barracuda Beach, as well as athletes capable of and willing to compete over a 70-metre stretch of the lake. Prizes in the shape of a short holiday break await the winners.


Along with the New Year, February is the main period for enjoying ice bathing in this state. That comes as no surprise, as visitors are given an outstanding opportunity to combine two types of fun. The traditional carnival bathing event in Warnemünde will open on 10 February at 11 seconds past 11 a.m., upon which one group of crazy people will meet another. The organisers are the ’Rostock Seals’, who are also responsible for several other events. The New Year’s Eve swimming event will bid farewell to the past (see below), while the New Year’s event will greet the future (see above). Together with fun winter and carnival bathing in Warnemünde these events make sure that Rostock’s popular ’bath tub’ attracts large visitor numbers from all over Germany.

Another very popular area for ice bathing in this state is the island of Usedom, where besides the season’s opening events in Heringsdorf and Karlshagen (see above) there will also be three others, namely in Trassenheide, Ahlbeck and Koserow on 3, 17 and 24 February respectively. Taking place in the Valentine’s Day week, the ’Usedom winter ice bathing spectacle’ at the Baltic seaside resort of Ahlbeck has become immensely popular and received positive reactions abroad. In particular, it attracts ice bathing clubs and many spectators from neighbouring Poland. The main event in Ahlbeck will be the costume competition, whose slogan in 2018 will be ’Petticoats & Rock ’n‘ Roll – a Trip back in Time to 60s and 70s Fashion and Music’. Those who want to have even half a chance of winning will need to be very creative indeed.

Anyone desperate for an icy dip even before the year is out can look forward to fun ice bathing in the Baltic before and on New Year’s Eve. Zinnowitz on the island of Usedom and Warnemünde will be the first places to head for on 30 and 31 December respectively, while 28 April will mark the end of the ice bathing season there in 2018.

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Photo: Joachim Kloock/TZRW

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