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Diving into a pool of pleasure

  • 2008-12-03
  • By Kristina Pauksens

SAFE SWIMMING: Though some brave souls swim in the Daugava in summer, it is probably safer to hit the pool.

RIGA - As Latvia becomes increasingly cold, snowy and dark, it can be tempting to hibernate indoors, venturing out of the home only when absolutely necessary for work and other unescapable commitments.
One of the best ways to kick the winter blues is exercise. It is even better to combine it with summery activities 's to bring both warm memories, and actual physical warmth, to the day. There are few workout venues in Riga as relaxing and enjoyable as the Kipsala Pool 's the premier location in Riga for back-stroking your cares away. 

Going to the Kipsala Pool can easily become a full day trip. The journey from Riga's center, across the Vansu Bridge, is best done on foot for the full experience.  From the bridge, in all seasons, one can take advantage of beautiful panoramas of Old Riga's church spires, as well as a birds eye view of the sparkling Daugava River.
The bewitching waves may entice you to jump in, but don't. I strongly recommend that you hold out for the swimming pool 's although some brave (and possibly crazy) Rigans do actually swim in the Daugava River on warm days in the summer time.  These feisty swimmers can be found in July and August at a small "beach area" beside the Vansu Bridge. In winter, however, even these extreme water lovers will have to take to the pool to enjoy a proper swim without risking hypothermia.

At the end of Vansu Bridge comes Balastu Dambis, a cute cobblestone riverside road full of little wooden houses, many of which are historical heritage homes. This adorable neighborhood feels worlds away from busy Riga on the other side of the Daugava.
After a quick trek through a miniature forest, you'll find yourself at the Kipsala Pool. 
In the winter months, be sure to check your coat before proceeding to the check in desk.  Pay your entrance fee 's from 2.50 to 6 lats, depending on the day, time, and status 's and walk through the turnstile to claim your bright red ankle bracelet locker key. You are now ready to hit the pool.

Swimming in the Kipsala Pool is a wonderful experience. The pool is extremely large, clean and modern, and it is never too crowded. Swimmers of all levels 's fast, medium and slow 's paddle along in their respective lanes, feeling unhindered and unhurried by the swimmers around them.
The lanes are roomy enough to do elementary backstroke without feeling guilty, or fearful of whacking someone in the head. Swimmers can do a powerful front crawl in the fast lane, without feeling like they are constantly on the verge of running someone over. Unconventionally, the large pool is not divided into halves.
For non-swimmers, swimming lessons are available 's not to mention scuba instruction for the adventurous types.

At the Kipsala Pool you can also experience what it feels like to be a polar bear in a zoo. The pool complex has an "underwater viewing area" in the corridor leading from the check-in desk to the changing rooms. Here, people can get an underwater, aquarium style view of the swimmers going by 's all from a very dry vantage point. Showy swimmers can dive and loop underwater, to put on a good show for their audiences in this human zoo.

A perfect trip to the Kipsala Pool also includes a luxurious venture into the sauna, after swimming for an hour, and then taking a hot shower. It is unbelievably peaceful and relaxing to sit in a hot dry sauna to allow the muscles to relax and unwind. You can literally feel the stress melting away. After the sauna session, your skin will feel nice and dry, and you will be ready to face the world again.
Visitors to the Kipsala Pool should be sure to bring some small change to feed the old Soviet style blow dryer boxes, which are fortunately hooked up to modern handheld blow dryers. 
After a trip to the Kipsala Pool and a nice hot sauna, it is truly a breath of fresh air to step out in the streets, and walk back through the forest and across the Vansu Bridge. As long as you are warmly dressed, the cold winter breezes feel exhilarating on sauna-fresh skin.

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