Once in a lifetime ice bathing in the Baltic Sea

Or maybe every Sunday? When the air is freezing and the water is struggling to stay ice-free, it's time for the Warnemünde ice bathers. A wintry visit to an ordinary beach in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - and a rendezvous with a very special family.

Author: Mathias Christmann
Published: June 18, 2024

Ice bathers take a dip in the Baltic Sea on Warnemünde beach., © TMV/Gross

Author: Mathias Christmann
Published: June 18, 2024

The wind whistles as the thermometer plops into a tub of fresh Baltic Sea water. Three degrees. Plus. While the first walkers stop and let their eyes wander, a little irritated, Silke clarifies: "What is it? It only gets really cold when ice has formed.“ Then she turns the lock on the small metal shack underneath the rescue tower at the foot of the famous Hotel Neptun in Warnemünde. „We once went swimming in the Warnow in Rostock when the river was frozen over. That was cold. But three degrees? That is pleasant.“

The family goes ice swimming in winter at the Warnemünde rescue tower., © TMV/Gross

A rescue tower as a changing room

What Silke means becomes clear when the woman in her mid-fifties, together with her mother Lindi, her daughters Saskia and Wencke and granddaughter Ashley, quickly transforms the windswept dwelling, which is used as a lifeguard tower in summer, into a makeshift changing room. And when jeans and winter jackets are swapped for woollen bikinis, bathrobes and signal-colored hats. We started wearing them back then so that we could be seen better in the water. Now our whole family wears them“, Silke's mother cheekily jumps to her side. The whole family – that's now four generations, ranging in age from eleven to 80.

Learning to ice swim with the Rostock seals

„Rather by chance, we saw a few ice bathers on a visit to Warnemünde and thought to ourselves: That's actually cool. We'll join in one day," says Silke. When they heard that there was even a club, the Rostock Seals, the path was paved. „The seals really made it easy for us. When we first arrived, we were greeted so warmly and with a hot drink - it was simply wonderful." A feeling that must have quickly spread through the family, because only a short time later, the seals had five more brightly colored members.

The wind continues to whip sand drifts against the tin rescue tower as Ashley steps outside the door in her woolly bathing suit. Only a bathrobe keeps the sub-zero temperatures off the eleven-year-old's body. „We also call her Flitzi“, smiles Silke, „because she dashes into the water just as quickly as she is out again.“ And indeed – while Silke, Saskia and Lindi are still in a good mood üstrolling along the beach, Ashley is already waiting expectantly, albeit a little frumpily, at the waterline.

Ice bathing in company on the beach of Warnemünder in winter., © TMV/Gross

Three minutes of fun is enough

„And off we go!“ Lindi gives the starting signal. Without a battle cry, but with joyful shouting, the four generations plunge into the Baltic Sea, which is as smooth as glass that morning. While the spectators take their gloves out of their pockets and pull their hats down, Silke, Saskia and co. dive in deep for the first time.

After three minutes, the fun is over. "You should only stay in the water as long as the temperature is high," Silke tells an interested onlooker as she throws on a towel and a bathrobe. „Then nothing stands in the way of the fun“

Bathing in the cold Baltic Sea in winter on the beach of Warnemünde-Rostock, © TMV/Gross

Everyone is welcome - whether you're a vacationer or a true northern light, whether you've been planning for a long time or spontaneously. The main thing is that you fancy a refreshing dip in the Baltic Sea.
„We have many vacationers who quickly decide to join us. These are the particularly brave ones,

says Silke and recommends that they wear neoprene shoes, never go into the water alone and only stay in the water for as long as the temperature is high.

A family goes ice swimming with crocheted swimwear on the beach at Warnemünde, © TMV/Gross

Daredevils welcome!

Ice swimming with the Rostock seals is possible every Sunday at 10 a.m. between September and April. Meeting point: At the rescue tower below the Hotel Neptun in Rostock-Warnemünde

5 reasons why ice bathing in the Baltic Sea is good for the body

Dr. Hummel, lung specialist and former head physician at the rehabilitation clinic in Heiligendamm, where ice bathing was used as a therapy for many years. As a passionate ice swimmer, the doctor is also a regular companion of the Rostock seals in Warnemünde.

  1. „The immune system is strengthened“
    When you go into cold water, you first experience a vascular contraction of the skin, followed by a heat wave. This blood circulation and immune-boosting reaction is triggered by active substances such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, among others.
  2. „The body cools down“
    Constantly freezing in winter? Ice bathing helps. Regular cold baths acclimatize the body to colder temperatures and normalize temperature regulation.
  3. „A bath in cold water makes you happy.“
    This is due to the increased release of happiness hormones, the so-called endorphins. This means that ice bathing in the Baltic Sea can also alleviate psychosomatic complaints.
  4. „Pathogens are combated.“
    Bathing in the winter sea can be particularly beneficial for people with asthma problems. A spontaneous drop in nitrogen monoxide levels in the body helps to combat pathogenic inflammation.
  5. „Joints and muscles are positively stimulated.“
    The effectiveness of cold for joint or muscle injuries is widely known. Ice baths are the crowning glory of cold therapy – they can significantly reduce rheumatic complaints in the short term.

Other places where ice bathing is a tradition:

Baltic Sea resort Boltenhagen

Every year on the first of January, hundreds of brave ice bathers plunge into the approximately five-degree water right next to the Boltenhagen seaside resort. Participation is strongly encouraged. Watching too.

Baltic Sea resort of Prerow

„Just do it“, the Darßer beach pirates probably thought when the diving club revived ice swimming in the FischIand-Darß-Zingst region a few years ago. There are now around 500 participants every year who dive on Prerow's north beach on New Year's Day - and they even do it in a variety of colors.

Seeheilbad Heiligendamm

Ice bathing is also offered here for therapeutic purposes: In Germany's oldest seaside resort, the former head physician of the Median Clinic, Dr. Stefan Hummel, was once able to prove that the cold bath in the Baltic Sea was an effective remedy for bronchial diseases. Even today, ice bathers still regularly take a dip here.

Baltic Sea resort of Binz

If you prefer to relax after New Year's Eve and missed out on New Year's bathing on the beaches of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, you get a second chance a few days later in the Baltic seaside resort of Binz. The Ice Bathing Light usually takes place in February after a refreshing dip in a sauna cart carted to the beach to warm up.

Lubmin seaside resort

In the seaside resort of Lubmin, the Seehunde Club has been inviting people to go ice swimming together since 1975. The club meets every Wednesday and Saturday from October to April at 9 a.m. on the Lubmin pier.

Mirow in the Mecklenburg Lake District

Every year since 1982, the thick skins of Mirow have entered the cold waters of Lake Mirow at 2 p.m. on January 1 and are cheered on and motivated by 300 to 350 spectators. Competitors are always welcome.


Ice bathing events

in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

1 result

© Binzer Bucht Tourismus

3rd Ice Bathing in Binz

  • Date: 2/1/25
  • Strandpromenade, 18609 Ostseebad Binz

A winter sports event of the cool kind for young and old, whether you're a hardened skier or a fresh-faced ice-bather. With music and entertainment.Around 2.45 p.m. it's off into the water

Read more: "3rd Ice Bathing in Binz"
© Binzer Bucht Tourismus

3rd Ice Bathing in Binz

  • Date: 2/1/25
  • Strandpromenade, 18609 Ostseebad Binz

A winter sports event of the cool kind for young and old, whether you're a hardened skier or a fresh-faced ice-bather. With music and entertainment.Around 2.45 p.m. it's off into the water

Read more: "3rd Ice Bathing in Binz"
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