Swimming Noodles On Straw Hats In Vogue At German Cafes Serving Coffee With COVID-19 Distancing

The Cafe & Konditorei Rothe in Schwerin, Germany, is handing out swimming noodles attached to straw hats to visitors to its pavement cafe service to make sure they don't flout physical distancing guidelines - Photo Courtesy: Facebook

Swimming noodles have become a COVID-19 fashion item in Germany at a time when the nation’s learn-to-swim programs remain in lockdown. The buoys for little swimmers have been fitted to the top off straw hats by a cafe owner as a way of ensuring that all sitting down for a coffee and cake will know if they get too close to others because they’ll bump noodles before entering ‘the proximity danger zone’.

Authorities across the country are currently sending out guidelines to lidos and pools so that they can start to open up by the end of the month ahead of the popular summer season of swimming for fitness and fun. Among the last expected to be allowed back to ‘normal’ are big club programs, aqua fitness and learn-to-swim sessions with large groups.

The swimming noodle has stolen a march on that whole process and broken free of the pool cupboard thanks to the Cafe & Konditorei Rothe in Schwerin, Germany, the birthplace of the late Olympic 200m butterfly champion Andrea Pollack and the GDR teammate who held the world record before her, Rosemarie Gabriel-Kother.

The Cafe asked its first returning customers as lockdown measures were eased last weekend if they’d land a helicopter hat on their heads while sitting at their pavement cafe in the spring sunshine to remind themselves and others to keep a minimum distance of 1.5m between themselves and other customers and the staff. “Kein problem” was the answer and so began the fashion coffee and cake in a straw hat with a swimming noodle tied to the top:

When the cafe posted pictures of customers sitting enjoying traditional afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake)  compliments came flowing in, one Facebook user noting:

“So, I think that’s innovation for you. There’s certainly a slice of ironic humour in it!”

Some expressed concern over multiple wearing of hats but the cafe has since assured folk that it’ll be switching hats and applying cleaning in between wears.

The trend to rethink the offer at cafes and restaurants is catching on across Germany, swim noodles appearing in other places and one owner setting up greenhouses in a garden overlooking a lake and offering romantic moments for two in sheltered dining with a view. Some cafes are following the model used by supermarkets by placing markers on the floor reminding people to keep their distance, while the perspex screens that are now standard in many supermarkets to protect checkout staff and customers alike, are starting to appear between tables in between the potted plants and shrubbery.

Germany has been among the most successful nations in the world when it comes to handling high infection rates but ensuring those do not result in the kind of mortality rates seen in Britain, Italy, Spain and the United States. As of today, Germany has recorded just shy of 175,000 COVID-19 infections and just under 8,000 deaths, compared to figures of 233,000 and 33,600 deaths for Britain, converting to a difference in the deaths per million of population to 95 for Germany and 495 for the UK.

Germany has started to open up within a controlled environment this week, with schools set to return in time states by the end of the month but only in stages, with children from different years attending school on one or two days a week, offset with other years and all classes split into as many groups as it takes to achieve class sizes of no more than 12 pupils at once, with local provisions taking into account the size of facilities. Face masks are obligatory on all public transport and in shops across much of Germany, while the 16 states have the freedom to set local rules.

Local state and department (or shire) authorities, for example, have been following their own timetables and distancing rules when it comes to letting restaurants and cafes reopen this week.

One rule is a red line: if any shire has more than 50 new infections per 100,000 population, lockdown measures will be imposed. That has happened this week to a district in Bavaria, the focus on the R rating – the rate of infection (how many people can be affected by one infected person) still monitored but less significant than the 50/100,000 measure. The R rating rose from 1.1 to 1.13 last weekend but has since dropped below 1 again.

Guidance from the German Swimming Federation (nothing about swimming noodles)


The Freibad – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

Pools have been given permission to start opening up in Germany but the guidelines from central Government are now being interpreted by state and local authorities granted powers to decide what provisions and controls to make. Until the rules are set, pools cannot open nor can they make plans for opening up. As such, many believe it will be June before a feature of many communities across Germany – the Freibad – is actually up and running and those swimming noodles can be put to the use they’re intended for.

The DSV, the German swimming federation, offers guidance for clubs at a time when it notes: “The coronavirus pandemic presents companies and clubs worldwide with immense challenges.”

The federation sends members to the places online where they can apply for short-time working compensation and tap into other provisions for organisations and businesses at state level. Legal guidance and video instruction on using Zoom and other chat platforms are offered.

The DSV also notes that clubs do not have to reimburse membership fees as a result of being in lockdown and unable to operate. It’s explanation offers insight into both the simplicity and complexities that clubs have to deal with:

“According to Dr. Frank Weller, Vice-President of Club Management in the State Sports Association of Hesse, members have no right to reimbursement of membership fees in this [COVID-19] context. Likewise, no special termination right arises from this situation.

“As a rule, the membership fee is not tied to specific sports uses, but, as the name suggests, is a “membership fee”. As a member, you are not a customer, but part of the association. The costs of the association continue to run and as a member you have a responsibility towards the association. The contribution does not represent a fee according to the principles of association law, but serves the association to achieve its purpose. The membership fee cannot therefore be compared with the cost of a flight or concert ticket.

“Incidentally, the rules of non-profit only allow the association to waive contribution payments if the statutes expressly allow it!
The same applies to “real” department contributions. These are also paid for by the members, without any direct consideration from the association. Therefore, membership fee and department fee are also to be booked in the ideal area.”



  1. Doug Schack

    The hysteria is so rampant that this apparently looks like a practical solution.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      I think you’ll find it was a bit of fun and a lot of publicity for that cafe in Germany … I doubt our mention will increase their traffic much 🙂

  2. Jackie Bracey

    Good use of wiggles whilst they are not in use

  3. Aisling Mcelwee

    Natasha Wegloop an idea for the pool bar 😉

    • Eric Kalee

      Anne-Irene Ducheine whaha verschrikkelijk….

  4. Kirsten Noij

    Elle van der Hulst OMG je had er straks een moeten kopen

  5. Madeleine Byrne

    But people have to share the hats…so they could be more at risk than just staying away from each other 🙄