Hundreds swim in Germany′s annual icy Danube River race | News | DW | 26.01.2019
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Hundreds swim in Germany's annual icy Danube River race

A record number of people have taken part in the annual, 400-meter mid-winter dip in the Danube River in southern Germany. The water was so cold that 20 people had to be treated for hypothermia.

Almost 2,000 swimmers braved the icy temperatures of the Danube River to participate in the annual 400-meter race in the southern German town of Neuberg on Saturday.

The event originated in 1970, when divers from the Neuburg water rescue service started practicing rescue operations in freezing temperatures. Over time it became a public spectacle, and eventually more and more people started to participate.

Most of Saturday's 1,917 participants wore wetsuits; some wore Viking helmets and other colorful costumes, but 70 swimmers wore nothing but their bathing suits.

Organizers said 222 groups from 162 communities took part this year, including swimmers from Poland, France and the Czech Republic.

The swim went ahead as Germany is in the middle of one of its harshest winters. Organizers said the temperature of the Danube was just 2.5 degrees Celsius (36.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Swimmers suffer hypothermia

Twenty of the swimmers suffered hypothermia and had to be pulled out of the water.

Others were treated to hot soup brought along by volunteers as they emerged from the water.

Michael Moeller said he wore a wetsuit the first two years he participated, but has gone bare-chested for the past 13 years. "It's very refreshing," Moeller said.

Thomas Giesefeld said the experience was exhilarating.

"When the body goes back to normal it is just fantastic, it feels like champagne, and for hours you feel like you are walking on air. I can't really describe it, but that is what it is," Giesefeld said.

Watch video 04:41

Southern Germany gets snowed under

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