For Alice Weiss there is no alternative to what the Germans call Flucht nach vorne, or knuckling down, to cope with the challenge of surviving winter during a pandemic. Others are determined to stay warm as the temperature drops, but Weiss has embraced winter swimming, plunging into the chilly lakes on the western edge of Berlin.
“It is invigorating, it takes me out of myself. It makes me stronger, healthier,” she said. “I’ve yet to have the legendary endorphin release that some swimmers talk of, but I expect that to come in winter.”
Winter or “ice” swimming, as it’s known once the water gets cold enough, is just one of the ways Europeans across the continent have been trying to keep up morale while boosting their immune systems. Experts say psychological strain can have a huge impact on physical health, and the pandemic has inspired a boom in everything from knitting to foraging to a surprising craze for ponchos.
Sometimes referred to as the “Estonian vitamin”, ice swimming or jääujumine is a flourishing trend among young people in the capital of Tallinn, where winter swimmers are organising a festival in a former Soviet submarine shipyard in December. They hope to set a world record for the number of participants in an ice swim.