Earlier in April, Strandbad Wannsee was the first of Berlin’s many summer swimming spots to open its doors to particularly courageous swimmers.
This weekend 13 more of the open-air bathing areas are set to follow, including 10 more public beaches, the outdoor pools in Kreuzberg and the Olympic Stadium plus a public pool in Spandau.
The remaining summer pools will continue to launch gradually, with every spot set to be open to the public by July 1st. For the first time in a few years, there will no time slots or other pandemic restrictions – but the most astute swimmers may still notice a difference.
That’s because this year, the Berliner Bäderbetriebe (BBB), which operates the capital’s pools, will be turning down the water temperature by up to two degrees centigrade in support of Ukraine.
“We want to make a contribution to reducing dependence on Russian natural gas supplies,” Johannes Kleinsorg, CEO of BBB, told reporters at a recent press conference.
According to Kleinsorg, open-air pools that are heated by fossil fuels will have water temperatures reduced by up to two degrees, while indoor pools will have temperatures reduced by a maximum of one degree.
Though the slight temperature reduction should be “barely noticeable” for swimmers, the move is intended to be a “political statement” about reducing dependence on Russia following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The plan to reduce the water temperature was organised in tandem with the Berlin Senate, Kleinsorg said.
Last year summer pools in Berlin saw an average water temperature of 22-24C.
The small reduction in temperature will save around 20 percent of energy and won’t affect the summer pools in Gropiusstadt, Pankow and Mariendorf as these are heated using solar power.
Why is Russian gas such a big issue?
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, Germany has been under increasing pressure to justify its ongoing business dealings with the Kremlin – particularly in the energy sector.
Though the German government has so far sent billions of euros’ worth of weapons and financial support to Ukraine, these contributions are dwarfed in comparison to the hundreds of millions the government sends to Russia each day in exchange for gas, oil and coal.
Despite public outcry and consternation from some other nations, Germany has so far opted for a strategy of gradually weaning itself off Russian gas and oil rather than opting for a rapid embargo.
In the oil sector, finding new suppliers has been relatively simple. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Wednesday announced that the nation had so far reduced the percentage of oil imports from Russia from 35 percent to around 12 percent.
However, it says new infrastructure needs to be build in order to facilitate an end to Russian gas imports, so this could take much longer.
At the same time, fears are growing within the EU that Russia is preparing to turn of the taps to any nation who doesn’t comply with his request to pay for gas deliveries in rubles.
The Kremlin has already confirmed that it will end gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria after both nations refused to meet President Putin’s demand for payment in the Russian currency.
This has sparked concerns that Germany could be next.