Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The pool (das Schwimmbad)

There are only a few things that I feel pretty familiar with in Hannover, and one of them is the pool. (What are the others? I ask myself. I feel good about the grocery store, the ATM, and the tram. Everything else is still kind of iffy). I put my swimming stuff in the saddle bag on my bike and ride over to the pool, take out my 10 visit punch card, and make sure I have the 1 euro coin I need as a deposit for the locker. I know where the showers and the hair dryers are, and I have a pair of flip flops that I use only at the pool. It feels good to know what I'm doing.

I swim at the Stadionbad, which is the stadium pool, about two times a week. It's called that because it is right next to the stadium where Hannover 96, the professional soccer team, plays. The swimming pool is huge, Olympic size, has a lot of windows and two diving boards, and is the most chaotic place I've been in all of Germany.

Normally Germans have a lot of rules and go places in a very orderly way. They diligently wait for a green light when crossing the street. Their trains run on time. Bikes go on a designated part of the sidewalk. They have a lot of rules about a lot of things. But at the pool it's a free for all. I am used to nearly empty swimming pools with ropes between the lanes, and if more than one person swims in a lane, everyone stays to the right so they don't collide. At the Stadionbad there are tons of people and everyone swims where they feel like it. There are lanes painted on the floor of the pool, but they remind me a little of the lanes painted on the street in Cairo - purely decorative. Usually an old man is swimming a backstroke diagonally across the water and three women paddling along side by side and chatting. I have discovered that the late morning is the worst time to go. The average age of swimmers at that time is about 75 and if they see me coming toward them in the pool, they like to play chicken and keep coming straight (or diagonally) toward me. They have no fear, or are just oblivious. And because there are no lifeguards and Germans tend to just mind their own business, if someone wandering swimmer slammed into me and I started to drown, I'd be out of luck. It's a lot less crowded early in the morning, or early in the afternoon. That means less frustration for me and less risk of getting kicked in the head, or at least getting water up my nose.

The pool is also a good place to observe bathing suit fashion. You may think that German men wear speedos. Well, you're right. Not all German men wear them, but generally the older they are, the shorter and tighter the swimsuit becomes.

Is it odd that the least orderly place in all of Hannover is one of the places I feel most comfortable? Maybe not. Maybe the lack of rules makes it easier to for me to understand because there's less to learn. I may not know how to speak the language well, but I can dodge an old guy in a speedo.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.