Bonkers, yet a tradition. One thing is clear to the people who come to watch the New Year’s Eve swim – anyone who takes part needs to bring a great big helping of daftness with them in order to leap into the water in the ice-cold Achensee, where the water temperature is around four degrees, and then cover the 50 metre distance.
For many people New Year’s Day is not just highlighted in red in the calendar for celebrations to mark the turn of the year. No, it is the New Year’s Eve swim at Achensee which year in, year out, attracts curious onlookers and daredevil swimmers. They all follow the maxim ‘feel the frost!’ and take this challenge literally.
Scantily dressed participants leap from the three metre high footbridge into Achensee, which at this time of year might even be frozen over in a few places. To get in the right frame of mind before the jump, participants get a ‘shock-cool’ – a bucket of cold water is poured over their heads. The swimmers then swim the 25 metres to the iceberg, scale it, ring the New Year’s Eve bell and swim back to the footbridge.
The swimmers’ corporeal wellbeing is of course also looked after. To bring their body temperatures back to a normal level again, participants get to recover in the sauna in the Hotel Post after their escapade.
The entertainment value at the New Year’s Eve swim is hard to top. Between 2500 and 3000 spectators line the banks of the lake Achensee every year and cheer on the courageous swimmers. The fun factor involved, where everything from grandma’s nightdress to grandpa‘s underpants can be worn, means spectators get lots of laughs every year.