January 26, 2019 / 5:41 PM / 10 months ago

Nearly 2,000 people join annual plunge into icy Danube

Swimmers wearing costumes bathe in the 3 degrees Celsius water of the river Danube during their annual 4 km swim, in Neuburg an der Donau, January 26, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

NEUBURG AN DER DONAU, Germany (Reuters) - A record 1,917 hardy swimmers of all ages joined an annual 400-metre race in the icy Danube River in southern Germany on Saturday, a popular event now in its 50th year.

Most participants wore neoprene suits, Viking helmets and other colorful costumes, but 70 so-called “naked swimmers” wore nothing but their bathing suits.

Organizers said the temperature of the Danube, or Donau in German, was 2.5 degrees Celsius (36.5°F). Twenty swimmers suffered hypothermia and had to be pulled out of the water.

Volunteers doled out hot soup as the swimmers emerged.

Michael Moeller said he wore neoprene the first two years he came, but has participated bare-chested for the past 13 years.

“It’s very refreshing,” he 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,” he said.

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

Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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