If you step outside our house and walk down the road 50 feet, you’ll see a tiny sign that says “schwimmbad” pointing down to a hidden trail. I had heard about this outdoor swimming pool, but thought it was on the other side of the village. It’s not to be confused with the divine Kurbad where we have gone swimming several times. The Kurbad sits high on a hill and has heated indoor and outdoor pools. As you paddle around the bubbles and jets, our village castle presides on the next hill over. Not bad.
Anyway, I decided to check it out and walked down the trail, into the forest, down into the valley below. You can hear the pool, long before you see it. Voices and splashing echo up through the trees until finally you reach a set of stairs. At the end of the stairs, down a bit is the schwimmbad. It’s actually a lap pool with a high dive, another pool with a slide, and a baby pool. I’ve taken Nora and Jack there several times now and each time we go we hope the water will be warmer. But it is like diving into iced tea. Once you get used to it, it’s more like cold water, no ice. But you would never know that just by observing the other swimmers. The Germans frolic in these pools like it’s the Gulf of Mexico. We swim in it, turn blue, then get out for a while to warm in the sun. Repeat.
Despite the chill, it’s a great place with a large expanse of lawn behind the pools where people play cards, take naps and eat lunch. And, like every other place in Germany (the zoo, amusement parks, etc.,) you can always buy beer. However, I haven’t bought beer in any of those places (yes, shocking). I’m too busy just trying to be an aware parent there.
One thing we always buy at the schwimmbad is ice cream, always a happy moment. But, the last time, not so much. As we walked back toward the pool and Jack and Nora licked their ice cream bars, we had to go down a set of concrete stairs. Being two, Jack still needs to hold onto a railing while going up and down stairs. So, he latched onto the only railing which happened to be on the left side. A thought flickered in my head that this could be trouble for the German mindset since we were going downstairs on the left side. But, I wanted Jack to stay on the railing so I didn’t move him over to the right. My mistake. Suddenly, a woman, maybe 65 years old, comes charging up the stairs and heads straight for Jack. She knocks his hand off the railing, barks something in German, and pushes through, sending his popsicle flying and Jack tottering on the brink. I steady Jack and look back in disbelief at her quickly disappearing form. Another German woman, about the same age, gasps. She saw the whole thing and lifts Jack’s popsicle off the ground and turns on some water to rinse it off. She spoke to me in German and I gave my standard line “Ict spreche nicht Deutsches gut.” Which means, “I don’t speak German well.” She had sweet eyes and said in English: “Some people just don’t know.”
Or care, perhaps. But, there is a definite pattern here. When you interrupt “Ordnung” someone around is going to do something about it. While these moments (like Frau Zilla–see “Terror on the Streets”) have been upsetting, they make me laugh later when I think about them. I’m not sure I’ll get many laughs from this one though.
But, the other part of the pattern is, for every rude encounter, kindness still trumps. Like the woman who washed off Jack’s popsicle and another German woman at the pool who eagerly struck up a conversation when she heard me speaking English. She and her family just spent the last 4 years in Rhode Island. With serious intention, she gave me her phone number. I would have given her mine but I still can’t remember any of my numbers and have to carry them on a piece of paper in my purse.