There is something idyllic about Munich. It’s landed in the top spot of the Monocle Quality of Life survey, like what, three times now?
The easy biking and walkability, the lush, bountiful green spaces, low crime, beer gardens, human scale architecture, gelato shops. This is all on full display in the summer. Especially like the summers we’ve been having lately in Bavaria; long, warm and hot (for now we’ll not think about why this is).
Since we’re landlocked, Münchners have to find alternatives to cool off. There’s of course the Isar, and all of the surrounding lakes (Starnberger See, Ammersee, Wörthsee, etc.) but if you don’t feel like going on a long excursion, the easiest option is to enjoy one of the very excellent Freibäder.
These are open air pools, usually on very large plots of land, surrounded by trees and green meadows. I’ve never experienced anything like it in the states, and certainly not in L.A., where I grew up. A public pool usually meant one or two pools, cement and maybe a diving board.
The Freibad, on the other hand, is a kind of urban oasis. You can spend an entire day there, with a picnic blanket and a book. There are usually ping pong tables, play grounds, at least three pools, with one being a small kiddie pool. You can rent lounge chairs for a few Euros, each one has a concession stand which, of course, sells booze.
I had heard about the Bad Maria Einsiedel for awhile. My vague understanding was that it was a pool that the Isar ran through, or that it was right on the Isar or something like that.
Not quite. It’s a beautiful Natur Freibad – instead of chlorine, the pools use a special kind of algae to control bacteria (the water is sent to a lab weekly for control testing). For this reason all of the pools have natural cobble stone type floors and the water looks green, like a lake.
But the real crowning jewel of the Bad Maria Einsiedel is the canal that ciphers off water from the Isar. This canal runs through the middle of the grounds with stairs in and out and even a little foot bridge towards the end of it which you can float under.
The water is cold and invigorating. There’s a current and once you jump in you just float along until the end (or before) and get out. There are even ducks floating around in it. Writing about it, it doesn’t sound that spectacular. But something about having such a natural experience while still living in the middle of the city is kind of enchanting and magical.
Like many public spaces in Munich, everyone is there: young and old, fat and skinny, Ur Bavarians and folks that are clearly new to this country.
From now on, when I visitors in the summer, the Bad Maria Einsiedel is the first place I’m going to take them to.