I mentioned the other day that next on my fitness tourism list was a trip to Alpa Mare. It’s a place that I first visited when I was a teenager traveling in Europe after high school and before university. My aunt has always lived in Switzerland. When I spent about eighteen months backpacking around Europe, one of my favourite things to do was make periodic pitstops to spend time with her in Rapperswil, on the lake near Zurich.
She of course was always trying to find ways to keep me busy and new places to show me. One rainy day thirty years ago she first took me to Alpa Mare, a water spa on the other side of Lake Zurich in Pfifikon. For one ticket price, you had access to an indoor wave pool, and then you could swim from inside to outside through a little corridor with underwater music (which at the time I thought was unbelievably amazing) to an outdoor hotspring. Beside that is an even hotter pool, the iodine bath.
Both had bubble jets in seating areas at one end, and others that bubbled up from the bottom of the pool to massage your feet or, if you positioned yourself properly, your back. Both pools overlooked the lake on one side, the Alps on the other.
In the past, we used to go from there back inside and wander into the quiet solarium–loungers in a warm room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake. If we felt like it, we could take a hot sauna followed by an icy plunge into a freezing cold water tank.
But the reality of Alpa Mare today doesn’t live up to the idyllic memory. For one thing, it’s re-purposed itself as a “family water park.” The wave pool has now been joined by a few water slides and a pool called Rio Mare. Rio Mare is a current pool shaped like a circular river. At regular intervals, the current starts up in a light, medium, or strong version and carries you away, as if you’re being taken down a river.
But the relaxing quiet stuff is now behind a pay wall. You can’t get to the saunas or solarium without paying a surcharge. The original price is already as steep as the hills all around town, and it just seemed wrong to pay extra for anything when we’d already paid close to $70 for the two of us to spend a few hours there.
We braved the waterslide if for no reason other than that we paid for it! I hope I have the same adventurous spirit as my aunt when I’m in my seventies. We each grabbed an inner tube and headed down the first chute, slammed with a face full of water at the bottom. I got stuck in one of the pools between chutes when I tried to regroup, and just went round and round and couldn’t get back into the downward current. Really, I just wanted it to be over. On the next level, the same thing happened to my aunt.
Okay. Off to Rio Mare. On the way there, she said to me, “Next time you want to come to Alpa Mare, I’m not coming with you.” Fair enough. But there isn’t going to be a next time.
Besides how it’s now marketed more for “family fun,” I think the main thing that lacked from my perspective was that it was all too passive. You go from one pool to the other and just sit there. You sit in the bubbles, you soak in the iodine, you let the river current take you away in Rio Mare, you hang onto your inner tube for dear life on the water slides. Even the sauna and the solarium, which we liked for their quiet, weren’t all that appealing anymore?
Why not? Because when I think of pools I think of swimming! I want to laps and drills and time trials. I like to watch the clock and track my pace. What I like about this trip to Alpa Mare is how it showed me how much I’ve changed in my attitude about physical health and what makes me feel good since I was a teen.
Back then, I sought leisure and relaxation. Now, I like to be active. When we left Alpa Mare, I still craved physical activity. Upon arrival at home, I grabbed my resistance bands and my workout sheet and improvised a resistance training session. After dinner that night, I talked my aunt into going for a walk with me (she lives in the most picturesque setting).
So I’m not really saying there is anything wrong with Alpa Mare. It’s still an impressive facility, well-maintained and attractive to many. It’s just not *my* style anymore. So my aunt doesn’t need to worry about disappointing her niece the next time I visit. She’s not the only one who is done with the waterpark.