“Pack up your swim-trunks…and your little sister…cause today we’re going to Wannsee…”
A translation of a popular German song from the early 20th Century, a song that, still today, every German knows. Strandbad Wannsee was the Berlin lake-version of Coney Island, or say , Blackpool, where the masses went to splash in the sea on hot summer days.
Berlin has lots of lakes and public swimming pools of every style and measure, and most of them are much nearer than god-damn Grünewald, hidden as it is, off in the woods to the west of Berlin, but Wannsee has always been dear to my heart because of the spooky vibe there. The Strandbad retains a tangible postapocalyptic day-after mood, where a bather can lounge about enjoying the sun, sand and water, as at any public swimming-hole, but with you price of admission at Wannsee, free-of-charge, are the sepia Ghosts of women strolling in long dresses and parasols, men in seersucker suits with wide-brimmed hats; children in those striped, full-body swimming pajamas of yore and little sailor outfits.
But those are just the ghosts. Nowadays, the full-body swimming pajamas have been replaced by bikinis and speedos, bermuda shorts or just plane naked skin. Yes, unlike the mostly dead (or now undead) Coney Island, Wannsee is still open and a popular swimming spot, though much of the former grand facility is run-down and crumbling. Just how I like things, of course.
The structure has been tinkered with since we last lived in Berlin, but apparently, from how much has been finished, I can only assume it is only perhaps an old pensioner doing the work on the weekends. Some of the more dangerous edges have been removed…nothing more than that really. To my great joy, the fallen Babylon feel of the old deco-style hall endures.
As far as the swimming facilities go, however, Wannsee is open for business. The water slide, the pier, the changing rooms, bathrooms, etc. are all in standard public swimming pool order. And of course, the food vendor strip is open for business. Personally, I can’t spend a day at the lake without enjoying a plate of crispy French Fries, with mayo and catchup (Yes, it’s a German habit I picked up).
Oh, and while I’m on the subject…if you’re watching out for German traditions…you’ll want to avoid the Nudity Cult Beach (FKK Bereich) located next to the main beach to the north. Unless of course, you want to get a eye-full of German habits.