Bonn Thirteen signs on the Rhine indicate that bathing is dangerous. The city's appeal to common sense is often ignored.
"I wouldn't trust myself to swim in the Rhine," says Jutta Zietzlaff from Buschdorf, who has just taken a cool dip in the Rhine in Graurheindorf. Her friend Elvira Gräf adds that Zietzlaff is a very good swimmer. The two pensioners have spent the morning in the open-air swimming pool and as it is supposed to be a particularly hot day, they now want to enjoy the rest of the day at the Rhine. They are convinced that the Rhine has rarely flowed through Bonn with clearer water because of the few ships that passed through during the coronavirus period.
"But that's almost over now," says Count. Jutta Zietzlaff adds, "we came to the Rhine, since the open-air swimming pools currently only offer limited time slots." Then she makes herself comfortable on her beach towel spread out on the Rhine pebbles.
Gräf looks thoughtfully at the children bathing on the bank, who are jubilant about the rolling waves of a container ship that has just passed by. After a pause she says: "My father's brother drowned in the Rhine not far from here." Although her father trained as a combat swimmer during the war and allowed himself to be pulled into the depths by the whirlpools, only to reappear elsewhere, such "tests of courage" became fatal for the brother. For her, however, the signs put up by the city of Bonn that bathing in the Rhine is dangerous to life are not necessary.
"They know that," says Jonas (26), who has just emerged from the waves on the banks of the Rhine in Beuel and does not want his surname to appear in the newspaper. Then he repeats what everyone can read on the warning signs: The waves of the passing ships can create such a strong suction effect that is not possible to overcome. "I know my way around and know where I'm swimming," he says with conviction. With an outside temperature of over 30 degrees, it is hard to sit on the beach, he argues, despite the danger he faces and the possibility of setting a dangerously bad example for children and young people. His girlfriend adds that she has already stopped children from going deeper than their hips into the Rhine.
Signs placed on the most frequently used banks
But even this recommendation could quickly become fatal for non-swimmers. Meanwhile, the city has put up thirteen signs at the most frequented places on the Rhine, appealing to the common sense of the public not to bathe in the Rhine. "Take care of your children, so that your 'beach holiday' on the Rhine does not end in tragedy," it says. A swimming prohibition is only depicted by the small pictogram of a swimmer crossed out in red. According to the city, it is often underestimated that the boundary between stagnant and flowing water is not gradual, but occurs unexpectedly. And where the bottom slopes steeply down to the shipping lane, it is very easy to lose footing on the river bed. In addition, as the water level falls, the boundary between the shipping lane becomes increasingly smaller, and the distance to the ships disappears very quickly.
The Rhine flows in the Bonn area at a speed of about six kilometres per hour and at high water levels, the flow speed can increase significantly. Even experienced swimmers cannot withstand this current for long. (Original text, Stefan Hermes; translation John Chandler)