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We discovered a swimming pool in each metropolis on our Interrail journey round Europe | Europe holidays



Stepping into the foyer of the Gellért Baths in Budapest is like stepping again in time. Having resisted the temptation to take a look at pictures of the baths on-line, I used to be thrilled at my first sight of the spectacular artwork nouveau inside.

After altering, my husband and I did a number of laps of the principle indoor pool, admiring the intricately embellished columns surrounding us. Afterwards, we explored the constructing’s labyrinth of geothermal swimming pools earlier than rising on to the big roof terrace. There, we swam within the heated outside pool beneath shiny sunshine.


Much less touristy than the extra party-style Széchenyi Baths, the Gellért supplied us the prospect of a good swim and steam.

Visiting a thermal spa in Budapest is a should, however this wasn’t the primary dip on our Interrail journey round Europe final spring. Lured by the provide of a reduction on an Interrail World Cross, we discovered time to journey throughout mainland Europe by rail – 30 years since I final Interrailed in my 20s – with little in thoughts however sightseeing, consuming and ingesting.

The terrace cafe at Ljubljana’s Museum of Trendy Artwork. {Photograph}: Tamir Potokar and Manca Jevšček

We had loosely deliberate a clockwise route, beginning on the Eurostar from London to Brussels and returning by way of Paris two months later. Staying in mid-price motels and hostels, we took whirlwind excursions of Bruges, Brussels, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Berlin and Kraków, making an attempt an limitless stream of cafes, bars and eating places.


However lower than two weeks into our journey, after we arrived within the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, we discovered that our experiences have been already blurring into one. What’s extra, regardless of strolling a great variety of steps every day, we have been feeling the results of the liberty to overindulge and lacking the routine of our common swims again dwelling.

So, deciding it was time to take motion, we hit on the thought of searching for out a swim wherever we stopped. We Googled swimming swimming pools and set off throughout town on foot, finally arriving at Plaváreň Pasienky. As soon as inside the power’s largely abandoned constructing, we wandered up and down staircases and alongside quiet corridors till we noticed an indication telling us that the doorway to the pool was “by the wardrobes”. We situated our respective altering rooms and located an attendant promoting tickets.

Our journey by the wardrobes then led us to a 50-metre pool – the biggest in Bratislava – with only a handful of swimmers bobbing alongside the lanes. Although the pool was a little run down (and would quickly be refurbished, to reopen this spring), we emerged feeling invigorated and prepared for the following leg of our journey.


Apart from the apparent bodily advantages, our swimming expeditions additionally took us to components of cities we’d in any other case have missed.

La Plage de la Gravette – the horseshoe-shaped public seashore behind the ramparts of Antibes’ previous city. {Photograph}: Sina Ettmer/Alamy

On our solution to Plaváreň Pasienky, we chanced upon the enormous Slovak Radio Constructing, formed like an upside-down pyramid. After our swim, we travelled again to the previous city by trolleybus, missed our cease and ended up on the parliament constructing, the place we dined at a restaurant overlooking the Danube.


In Budapest, our go to to the Gellért Baths had led us throughout the Danube from Pest to Buda by way of the magnificent Liberty Bridge and given us wonderful views over Gellért Hill.

As we journeyed throughout Europe, we grew to become obsessive about evaluating swimming pool costs and amenities, embraced the array of wristbands and tokens for lockers and hairdryers, realized that almost all swimming pools insisted on flip-flops and a swimming cap, and got here to just accept the ignorance on-line about opening occasions.

In Austria, throughout our keep within the south-eastern metropolis of Graz, we swam at Dangerous zur Sonne, a pristine stainless steel-bottomed pool the place the efforts of swimmers contrasted starkly with spectators having fun with an early morning beer. Later, our swim offered a dialog opener with locals, who instructed us how, earlier than the constructing was renovated, it had been the scene of an arts occasion, with bands utilizing the drained pool as a stage and artists establishing their wares within the cubicles.

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Sarah Kovandzich at La Plage de la Gravette in Antibes {Photograph}: Sarah Kovandzich

A wet day within the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, led us to the 10-lane Kopališče Tivoli in Tivoli Park the place, after our swim, we ate scrumptious savoury waffles within the pool’s Vafljivaflji cafe and drank recent orange-and-mint tea. Our exit by the park led us to an outside photographic exhibition, an ornate Serbian Orthodox church and the Museum of Trendy Artwork, with its fabulously fashionable cocktail bar.

In Trieste, we walked the width of the port to the big Centro Federale, run by the Italian Swimming Federation. After a affected person receptionist helped us register on-line, we made our means across the constructing to Piscina Bruno Bianchi. We have been about to leap into an empty Olympic-size pool after we noticed the groups of swimmers arriving for his or her competitors and observed a smaller pool on the again for public swimming. With its six lanes and diving “pit”, the 25-metre pool was nonetheless a powerful facility.

The stroll again to our Airbnb led us alongside the tree-lined Passeggio Sant’Andrea, the place we discovered the Ariston cinema and watched an Irish arthouse movie.


In Vicenza, we have been positive we’d taken a fallacious flip after we arrived at a constructing milling with youngsters, however a useful scholar directed us throughout the varsity automobile park to Piscina Patronato Leone XIII. The amenities have been primary however the pool was clear and orderly, due to an officious attendant who made positive everybody showered earlier than getting within the water, and swam in the precise route.

In Pistoia, an underpass led us to a quiet residential space and, down a facet road, to the grandly named Acquarama.

The pristine steel-bottomed Dangerous Zur Sonne pool in Graz, Austria. {Photograph}: Sarah Kovandzich

“Are you aware the Olympic pool in London?” requested the receptionist, stunned to see vacationers. We nodded eagerly.


“Effectively, that is nothing like that!” he laughed. Once we noticed the slim pool with its light tiles, we understood why he needed to handle our expectations, however with just one lane already occupied we loved one other refreshing swim.

As we took the practice alongside the Italian Riviera in the direction of France and the climate received hotter, our swims moved open air, however we continued to search for modest places.


On a positive day in Sanremo, we slipped on to the seashore of Bagni Paradiso, the place the rocky groynes and rows of fixing cabins created the calm of a lido. Because it was nonetheless barely low season, the one different guests have been contained in the seashore restaurant – friends at an Italian household lunch.

Bagni Paradiso at San Remo, Italy. {Photograph}: travelbild-Italy/Alamy

In Antibes we beloved the unpolished really feel of Plage de la Gravette – the horseshoe-shaped public seashore behind the ramparts of the previous city, made all of the extra entertaining by seasonal staff from the luxurious yachts within the harbour, who shared tales as they swam within the sea.

In Bordeaux we took the tramway to Les Aubiers and serene Plage du Lac. We clocked up lengths whereas geese swam round us and boats sailed by within the distance, rested afterwards beneath tall bushes, watching youngsters taking part in desk tennis – and felt we’d been totally immersed in native tradition.

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