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Cooling down in the baths after a hot night in Zurich

Seeing and being seen at Zurich's outdoor baths Keystone

As the summer draws to an end, Zurich's residents are enjoying the last few weeks of visiting the open-air swimming baths dotted around the city. There are around a dozen official bathing spots and they're an integral part of Zurich's summer life.

But they aren’t just about swimming and sunbathing. They’ve become important meeting places and even cultural hotspots.

Thousands of people flock to them every weekend and the one you go to regularly says as much about you as the car you drive.

A dip in Lake Zurich is especially refreshing after a hard day in the office and the Seebad Enge is usually packed on sunny weekday evenings as well as at weekends. There’s been a swimming bath here for around 100 years. It used to be reserved for women but men were allowed their own section when it was rebuilt in 1964.

Eighteen months ago, the Seebad Enge was taken over by “TonTTu”. TonTTu is a company formed by five young friends; three architects, a lawyer and a construction expert. Together they’ve transformed the place.

“All the investment came from us,” says one of the five, Sybill Burkhardt. “We’d just finished school and we didn’t have a lot so we did all the work ourselves. Unfortunately, the city authorities had let it get quite run down. We built a new kiosk and kitchen. It’s our money and our work.”

To get to the swimming bath, you cross a narrow gangway across the water to its entrance. Inside, there’s a raised wooden deck where you can sit and enjoy the sun. There’s also a shop that sells home-made salads and cakes as well as coffee and cold drinks.

Beyond this, there’s another decked area extending out into the lake with a sunken shallow pool in the middle for those lacking confidence to swim in the lake. Most people though jump or dive into the water and swim out to floating platforms.

“I think it’s one of the nicest baths in Zurich,” says one regular.

“You have a lovely view of the mountains and the food is good too,” says another.

“On Tuesday evenings we open as a bar and that’s really beautiful,” says Burkhardt. “We have music here, sometimes DJs. On Thursdays, there’s a dinner and every week we showcase food from a different country. On Sundays there’s a barbecue.”

And there are also plans to open Seebad Enge up for the whole year.

“In the winter it’s beautiful here. The five of us made a trip to Finland and checked out saunas there and last winter we started a sauna project on Saturday nights and Sundays. We’re going to expand that this year and open two sweat lodges, resting spaces, a coffee shop and massage area.”

The bathing spots around Zurich have long been the place to be during the summer. If the plan for a winter sauna takes off at Enge then other bathing spots may follow suit making them popular places to hang-out all year round.

by Michael Hollingdale

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