Postcard From...Aargau


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The Independent Online

In Switzerland, cleanliness is more than next to godliness. It seems to trump absolutely everything else. And as lovely as it is to stroll along the country's über-clean streets and swim in clear, crisp water devoid of the floating plasters endemic in Britain's public pools, I sometimes wonder about their priorities.

Visiting one of the sprawling outdoor swimming pool complexes they do so well, towels were laid out on the grass with no worries about slimy patches of spilt toddler food or tossed-aside beer cans.

All well and good, but a brief survey proved that for the four pools that make up the complex – one toddlers' play pool, a huge children's pool, an Olympic-sized pool and a diving pool – there appeared to be only one lifeguard. And his priority did not appear to be policing the toddlers barrelling unaccompanied down slides or the teenagers larking about on the diving platforms.

As one young man ascended metal steps to the five-metre diving board – from which youngsters happily pushed each other, attempted shaky handstand dives, and bombed with impunity – the lifeguard rushed over shouting "douche, douche" (shower, shower).

The man in question, it seemed, had entered the hallowed cleanliness of the pool area without spending adequate time under the "obligatorisch" cold showers.

So, welcome to Switzerland. You won't get told off for trying to drown your mates, but sully their waters at your peril. And you know what? I'd rather that than floating plasters.