Winterbathing – Diane in Denmark
Welcome to my My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar! Join me every day in opening a new door. Once again, I’ve got a host of goodies to share with you – traditional Danish Christmas recipes, traditions, songs, games, decorations, crafts and landscapes… So sit back, relax and enjoy!
Just when the Danes are in the middle of stuffing themselves with æbleskiver and quaffing great quanties of snaps, julebrygand gløgg, they seem to stop for a moment mid-December and forget about Christmas for a few days (or at least a few evenings) and everyone is glued to the telly. Why? Um, because the European Women’s Handball Championship is taking place right now. And the Danes are c.r.a.z.y. about handball. Not really surprising as the modern rules were made up by a Dane (a teacher at our local school) way back in 1898, and the Danes just seem to be very good at it. Yep, interest here in Women’s handball is only surpassed by their interest in men’s handball – when the nation will once again be glued to their tellys in January.
Me? Not a handball fan. I get my kicks (as regular readers will know) from vinterbadning. Winterbathing, skinny dipping in the Danish sea all year round! 🙂 Here’s a photo from this morning, about 8.15am, just as it was beginning to get light.
And here we are, after our second swim…sorry about the quality, but as well as being very blustery it was also raining heavily! 😛
Here’s a better photo I took last week of the Christmas tree. Just hope it doesn’t blow away in tonight’s storm “Alexander”!
The water has been really quite ‘warm’ so far this year – no sign of any snow or ice yet. But to give you an idea of how extreme it can get, here’s a picture from when we were out swimming last January. Note the snow and icicles on the steps… You don’t have to be mad to be a winterbather but it helps! 😉
Keep yourselves warm, batten down the hatches for tonight’s storm and don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we open the next door!
What a difference a month makes… Spring officially started here in Denmark on Saturday (1 March) and, though we’ve still got the odd night of frost, the erantis (Week Seven. Sea or sun?) are out in full force and things are definitely beginning to look up! To give you an example… Here’s a photo I took of my sweetie-skinny-dipping-buddy V just four weeks ago (6 February). Freezing fog and ice on the bathing steps. Yep, you don’t have to be mad to be a winterbather, but we find that it helps… 😉
And here’s me this morning. The sun was out – hooray, hooray – and we had an air temp of 4c (39.2f). Okay, okay, so the water is still a tad on the chilly side – about 3c (37.4f). But we’re not complaining. In fact, the sea was so beautiful and clear this morning that we just had to swim twice!
And there’s more good news ‘cos apparently the Danish weather gods are going to give us a beautiful, Danish spring weekend with sun, sun, sun and temperatures up to 13c (55.4f). Time to head for the beach!
I don’t know what we’ve done to appease the Danish Weather Gods this year but – holy mackerel, Batman – we’ ve had the mildest winter since I arrived in Denmark 16 years ago!
Normally we have the first snowflakes in November. Hats, coats, gloves and thermal undwear are de rigueur through December, January and February. And, come March, we can be thoroughly sick of the white stuff, yearning for spring. Because a) it’s constantly c-c-c-cold and b) getting from A to B is a constant chore. Yep, even the short journey from home to school can involve hot chocolate and a sledge… 😉
But this winter has been ridiculously mild. Average daily temperatures of 6c (42f). Lots of rain. And long, dull, dark (and therefore pretty dreary) days.
But today the calendar says Monday 13 January. The first day we’ve awoken to a real, old-fashioned, woah-it’s-ch-ch-ch-chilly-out-there morning and a very hard frost on the ground.
And this afternoon we had our first big, beautiful snowflakes!
But, if – like me – you’re a winterbather, here’s a little word of warning. Watch your step! Here’s a video I made last week (that’s me in the green bathrobe). The noise you can hear? No, it’s not bad audio. It’s the howling wind 😛
Now, add to the above scene an air temperature of -4c (25f) with a windchill of -10c (14f) and – wow – this morning we had extreme winter bathing conditions. We ran down to the water’s edge, bathrobes flapping. Wearing gloves, hats and with extra towels around our necks – my sweetie friend H even had a fleece blanket wrapped around her waist! There was ice on the steps of the bathing bridge and on the handrail. Very slippery stuff! And your bathrobe and shoes are in real danger of flying away in those high winds. So make sure to take it in turns to swim/hold each other’s gear…
Here’a a photo I took of our bathing bridge in March last year. There was so much ice on the bridge that we had to walk into the sea from the edge… Yep, you don’t have to be mad to be a winterbather, but it helps!
Have a marvelous wintry Monday and let’s keep warm out there!
Welcome back to My Danish Christmas Advent Calendar!
Woop, woop – it’s here! 24 December and we are ready to say “God Jul!”
I started off the day – as I do most mornings – with a skinny dip in the Danish North Sea. The weather was been extremely mild this December, with an average air temperature of 6c (42f) and water temperature 3c (37f). Here we are…fresh out of the refreshing, cold water!
Christmas in Denmark officially starts around 6pm on the 24th of December with dinner…
Our dinner is always roast duck, warm red cabbage, a fresh red cabbage and carrot slaw, caramelised potatoes, boiled potatoes, warm potato crisps and lots of yummy sovs (gravy).
Dessert – as tradition dictates – is ris à l’amande (cold rice pudding with hot cherry sauce). Who’s going to find the almond and win the marcipan pig? It’s anyone’s guess!
Anyway, on to the main event of the evening for the kids…the present opening! Um – no – hold on! We have to dance round the tree first! Yep, we all join hands and dance and sing around the Christmas tree. Normally we sing “Nu er det jul igen!“, “Jingle Bells” and “Højt fra træets grønne top!”
And then the presents can be opened! One at a time, slowly, at random. So that everybody can see who got what from whom. Which makes for a loooooooong process. For us, it usually takes about two hours…
And – hey – thank you for joining me for my Danish Christmas Advent Calendar! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about those crazy Danes and their fantastic month long Christmas…
God Jul! Merry Christmas!
You know you’re in Denmark when…
The Danes just love the saying, “Der findes intet der hedder dårligt vejr, kun dårligt påklædning!” (“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!” – Alfred Wainright) And we have more than our fair share of the wet stuff around these parts… So a couple of weeks back, at the sprightly age of 46, I found myself investing in my first ever set of adult waterproofs. This morning the heavens opened (again, again, again) so I took them out for an intensive test drive!
And where was I headed to in the pouring rain? Why, the beach selvfølgelig! To go skinny dipping in the cold Danish sea! Though, truth be told, the sea water felt warmer than the rain this morning: water temp 11c/51f and air temp 12c/53f. Now, you’ll remember from my Winterbathing Guidethat you also need to be suitably attired for skinny dipping. Here’s my sweetie friend H with her three essential items: bathrobe, brolly and wellies. Yep, there’s no such thing as bad weather…
Have a marvelous Monday! Whatever the weather!
While not an avid follower of fashion, I do try and take pride in my appearance. (For example, I would never dream of leaving the house without mascara and lipgloss. Hey, I don’t even walk around my own house without mascara or lipgloss – don’t want to scare myself in the mirror!)
But these autumn mornings, when I’m biking down to the sea for my skinny dip (vinterbadning, as it’s called in Danish – read about my passion for that right here), I find myself in a quandary. ‘Cos it’s chilly on my way down to the sea, but warming up on the way back. A little too soon to be wearing gloves. But – waaaaaaaaah – my wrists get dang cold. Yes, yes, I may be a winterbather and swim in the sea when it’s frozen at the edges. But at all other times I’m a frossen pind (“frozen stick”).
What to do? I dug out a (very old) pair of woollen legwarmers. And popped them on my wrists. To wear as an extra layer under my woollen cardigan and coat. Værsgo’! Problem solved!
Okay, so it’s not fashion, darling. But it works.
Have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful – woolly – weekend!
Early Monday morning – like most weekday mornings – I was down at the beach having a swim in the sea with my (fellow-female-heading-towards-50-year-old) buddies. All our kids are back at school/college/work after the Danish 6-week-long summer holiday and, alack alas, the summery weather is beginning to follow suit. Yep, the afternoons can be positively tropical but there’s a definite chill in the air before sunrise and after sundown. (Note to self: keep old towels in the garage, for wiping the dew off the bikes in the morning.) The water temperature, which peaked at around 21c (70f) last month, is now cooling down, day by day. So there we were, sitting on the shore, sipping tea from our thermos, nibbling figenstænger (fig bars) and mourning the passing of summer…
This morning there had been a (sea)change. Yes, okay, the water was colder than it has been the last couple of weeks. The first couple of strokes actually took my breath away. (Note to self: remember to put my asthma inhaler back in my swimming bag.) But when we came out of the water, we weren’t sad about the passing of summer. We were excited about autumn and winter and all the bathing adventures that lie ahead! Hooray, no pesky stinging summer jellyfish to worry about! Bathing in huge waves. Bathing in the fog. Bathing in the pouring rain. Bathing at sundown. Bathing when it’s so windy that we have to tie our dressing gowns to the bridge so they don’t fly away. Skating across the ice on the bathing bridge, dressed only in dressing gowns and bathing shoes. Bathing on the First of December dressed in – and only in – a Santa Hat. Jumping over the ice on the sand in order to get into the sea. Bathing in slush ice.
Yep. Been there. Done all of that. And are excited and ready to do it all again! Vinterbadning? Det er livet! Winterbathing? This is the life!
Fancy having a go yourself? NOW is the time to start. Take the plunge while the water is still relatively warm and then keep going, taking one day at a time. Go read my Winterbathing for Dummies (Part One – Be Prepared!), (Part Two – Taking the Plunge!)and (Part Three – The Aftermath) for my tips and tricks.
So, see you in the sea?
“Wow, have you seen the weather forecast? We’re in for a heatwave come
Thursday!” That was the conversation I had with my vinterbadning (winterbathing) buddies this morning
as, tugging our bathrobes tightly around us, we attempted to remove the last of
the snow from the bathing bridge steps… [If you want to see what our bridge
looked like a few weeks ago go read Winter bathing – who wants a slushice?]
And how high will the temperatures get? A whole six degrees (43f) – woop,
We’ve got off fairly lightly this winter – only a very few occasions when snow
has stopped the traffic. Only a fortnight when the sea froze over and we
weren’t able to get into the water for our daily skinny dip. But,
unfortunately, it’s been a very long grey and dull winter – and we’ve had below
zero temperatures for months…boo!
But spring is definitely on its way. I know this because the first Danish
heralds of forår are the tiny yellow erantis. And they’re popping up
all over my garden…
You’ll see them everywhere. Often beside vintergækker (snowdrops).
Which, incidentally, you’re soon going to need if you’re going to follow the
singularly strange but sweet Danish tradition of sending a Gækkebrev or Secret Snowdrop Letter!
Have a terrific Tuesday!
If you’ve a regular reader, you already know that I’m a h.u.g.e fan of vinterbadning. Winter bathing. Skinny dipping in the Danish
sea. What ever you want to call it. Though I guess most people would probably
just call it plain madness…
I’m just back from this morning’s dip and can report that the sea is slowly but
surely turning into slush ice. We have, of course, had sub zero temperatures
for the past couple of weeks. Which has meant that we aren’t able to use the
bathing bridge, as it’s very slippery and icy. Here’s a photo of the bathing
bridge steps this morning…impassable!
And here’s me on the same steps, a couple of summers ago…
So for the past week, we’ve waded in to the sea from the side. Today it was
a new experience for us because there was some slush ice! Yay! What did it
feel like? Hmm, like putting your hands into a bucket of gravel!
Now, to be honest, we don’t really have extreme weather to speak of here in
Denmark. But there is something fascinating about watching the waves coming in,
slowing up and finally turning into slush ice on the shore. Here’s some video I
took this morning. Won’t be long now before the sea freezes over completely –
probably three or four days…
So, will you be joining us down at the beach? Don’t forget your bathrobe and
PS: Today’s stats: air temp -5c/23f, windchill -11c/12f, water temperature
-0.5c/31f. Yup, pretty chilly!
So now what? Chances are that you found it scary – but incredibly
exhilarating – and are ready for more? Great! But stripping off down at the
seaside is only fun for so long. Trust me – been there – done that!
If you’re determined to keep going for the whole season – which for real Vikings
is from November through to April – you’ll most likely want to join a club. A
place to change and hang up your clothes (without them blowing off down the
beach). Some clubs even have showers, toilets and saunas. But most of all,
you’ll just want a place to share your love of this Danish extreme sport with
There is a great overview of Danish clubs, with a nifty little map, at vinterbader.com They’ve
also put together a handy list of contact details for the various clubs…you can
find that here. But be warned. Winterbathing has become extremely
popular the last few years, and most clubs have waiting lists – some of them 6
Yep, you don’t have to be a crazy Dane to be a winterbather but it sure
helps… See you on the bathing bridge?
Last time I gave you a rundown of what you’ll need to do before you try winterbathing ( Winterbathing for Dummies (Part One – Be Prepared!)
So, are you ready to go down to the beach and ‘take the plunge’?
Here’s what you need to know, before you take that first step into the cold, cold water…
- Remember, remember, always bring a friend with you – either to join you in the water, or keep an eye on you from the water’s edge.
- You can walk right in from the edge of the water, but it’s easier from a bathing bridge. Your aim is to get in fairly deep – up to your neck – as quickly as possible.
- Check the water before you get in. Are there any stinging jellyfish hanging around, just waiting to strike?
- Remove your bathrobe (on windy days, you’ll need to physically tie it to the bathing bridge…) and remove your shoes last (your feet get colder faster than your body).
- Be resolute. Walk right in – don’t stop! Say to yourself that you are going to take 2, 4 or 6 swimstrokes in the water. Don’t allow yourself to think “Yikes, I’m freezing”. It really is a question of mind over matter!
- Do not hop in – it’s dangerous (very hard on the heart, especially at low temperatures).
- There is no need to put your head underneath the water if you don’t want to. I never put my head under (unless it’s the summer). Keeping your hair dry will keep your head warm! (I wear a little wooly hat when it’s very blustery/ice cold.)
- If you begin to feel heavy/very relaxed, get out of the water immediately. It’s a sign that your heart/body are working overload. What will happen next is that your body will shut down any ‘unnecessary’ functions like hearing/sight etc. Not a nice feeling.
- When you come up, quickly dry yourself off and get your bathrobe back on pronto (we don’t want to frighten any passers-by!)
- You’ll notice that parts of your body (usually it’s fingers and toes) will have turned brighted red or orange. Quite normal – don’t panic. Your normal colour should return in a couple of minutes.
Tillykke! Congratulations! Yep, you did it. And should be left feeling a) enormously proud of yourself b) very warm, considering the fact that you are standing on a deserted, cold, blustery beach…
Join me next time for Winterbathing for Dummies – The Aftermath!
When I first came to Copenhagen in 1998, I heard myths of crazy Danes who
would bathe all year round in the sea. Then I spied them myself. Crossing the
road. In their bathrobes. All along the coastal road –Strandvejen– from Hellerup (just north of Copenhagen) to Helsingør.
Yes, I thought they were Completely Nuts.
Fast forward to a warm summer morning in June 2011. My friend and I were
down at the beach for a run. We spotted several ’winterbathers’ and said to
each other, “Well, that’s something we will never do!” Yep, you guessed it, half
an hour later, there we were, in the sea. Butt naked. Ha! Never say ‘never’!
We’ve been winterbathing ever since – seventeen months, woo hoo! Five days a
week. (And six or seven if we can…) Yes, we are Thoroughly Addicted.
Are you interested in trying out this ‘extreme sport’? Read on and get my
- Find an old pair of shoes that you can use to walk across the – sometimes
frozen – sand. Flipflops are only suitable for the summer.
- Invest in a really good bathrobe. You need one which is long and warm.
Preferably with large pockets (in which you can put your bathing shoes, so they
don’t fly away when it’s blowing a gale).
- When it’s really, really cold and the windchill is minus10 degrees, bring a
little hat. Yes, it looks strange to be bathing naked with a little woollen hat
on the top of your head but, believe me, you will be glad of it!
- You’ll need a bag large enough to hold the following: a small towel (useful
for drying off your feet, or as a ‘muff’ around your freezing hands and
fingers), a thermos flask of coffee or tea and a mug (enjoy a nice hot cuppa
after your swim), a few biscuits/piece of fruit/energy bar (winterbathing
really fires up your metabolism).
- Make sure you are well rested and nice and cosy before you bathe. Going into cold
water when you are tired and chilly isn’t fun.
And most important of all…
- Never bathe alone – always, always, always take a friend with you. Safety
first! They’ll be bathing too? Hooray, the more the merrier! They don’t want
to swim? Hooray – you have ‘a butler’ to hold your bathing robe!
Join me next time for tips on what to do when you actually get to the
Have a wonderful Wednesday!