There's so much more to Switzerland than Fifa corruption and a gateway to Dignitasby Edward Docx / February 17, 2016 / Leave a comment
Seebad Enge was on the shore of Lake Zurich and looked partly like an elaborate Edwardian boating house and partly like a floating wurst stall from one of those German Christmas markets. This was to be our first stop of the night. Inside, everything was warmly lit and there were cocktails and cushions and an open air, laissez-faire atmosphere that might be the nearest thing Switzerland comes to explicit decadence. Directly ahead of us were long, neat, flat, wooden boards that were arranged to make a square pontoon that reached out into the lake. Inside this square – a lido floodlit in amber and gold.
My guide was Patrick. He was Swiss-American but fanatically determined to prove to me that Zurich was so much more than merely the centre of Fifa corruption and the gateway city to Dignitas. To prove—hell, yeah—that Zurich could be “cool.” The clinching evidence, he believed, was to be found in a new pursuit that was unique to the city: urban nocturnal bar-bathing.
“Okay, we need to drink these fast,” he said. “And then we gotta take our clothes off and get in.”
I followed him onto the wooden run way, sipping at my Manhattan. There were people all along edges with their trousers rolled. Feet dangling. And maybe a dozen swimmers already out in the lake—most of whom, judging by their bathing suits and one or two caps, had come prepared. Although I couldn’t help but notice one woman sliding seamlessly from borrowed towel to water without any such encumbrances. Maybe this is what happens outside the European Union, I thought; elegant urban night time nudity; maybe Brexit isn’t such a bad idea after all; bar-bathing would certainly revivify urban waterways like, say, the Manchester Ship Canal; who needs the beaches of France or Spain?
We had not come prepared. Indeed, this bar-bathing crawl idea had broken late—perhaps under the pressure of a sustained mockery from me over dinner following a trip to “Züri-West,” Zurich’s painfully risible new Hipster quarter. So neither of us had towels or trunks. And the rest of our party were drawing the line on the bar side of things and refusing to bathe. Unfortunately, due to a somewhat over-defiant insistence on my being ready for anything day or night…