By Katja Colmenares

    The wind gently blows through the reeds. A small waterfall splashes meditatively into the young morning, when suddenly a common buzzard rushes down from the sky into the garden with a shriek. “We already know each other,” says garden owner Horst Spranger (74). “He comes to swim.” And for this the bird of prey has chosen one of the most beautiful spots in Steglitz: the pensioner’s natural swimming pond.

    “More paradise is not possible,” says Spranger, “that’s what my wife Renata says.” She is a professor of linguistics, he was an Allianz insurance agent. Together they turned their garden into a wellness resort.

    Spranger is lying relaxed in his favorite spot, on a sun lounger on the wooden pier. From time to time he grabs a landing net and collects a few leaves from the water surface. “The water has a refreshing 25 degrees and is as clear as a mountain lake. I don’t go swimming anywhere else here in Berlin.” Of course, when you have your own Riviera in your garden…

    Spranger has had a small pond since 2016: “A little piece of water, really nice, but actually useless.” At an acquaintance’s, he saw a natural swimming pond for the first time. “And then I knew: I really want to have one of these!”

    For more than a year he was looking for a company that would then implement his idea. The expansion took five weeks. “In the beginning, of course, the garden looked terrible. Two excavators pushed the sand from one side to the other for days.”

    In fact, there are companies that offer their customers, for example, to dig the pit themselves in order to keep the overall costs lower. But that was out of the question for Sprangers. “There were always at least three men on the construction site. I made sure there was a supply of coffee and cake every day,” she says.

    The pond construction site.  Two excavators and four workers were employed here for five weeks

    The pond construction site. Two excavators and four workers were employed here for five weeks Photo: Stefanie Herbst

    The swimming area is 1.50 meters deep and 16 square meters in size. The regeneration area, located in the same water but delimited, also measures another 16 square meters. Grasses, rushes, water mint, marsh marigolds and irises grow here on the shore. Dragonflies dance along the small embankment.

    Horst Spranger: “Now in summer I’m in the water at least three times a day, do a few laps, wonderful. And of course we usually spend the rest of the day here. If it gets too warm on the jetty, we move to the pavilion.”

    Sundowners at the pool pavilion.  Renata and Horst end the evening with a glass of rosé:

    Sundowners at the pool pavilion. Renata and Horst end the evening with a glass of rosé: “This is one of our favorite places” Photo: Stefanie Herbst

    The couple sometimes has to share their pond with complete strangers. The pensioner: “The wild ducks come every year. Then the buzzard. Lots of birds, squirrels and crows.”

    And again and again the water attracts frogs. “But they are too loud for us. What noise they make at night – amazing! We catch them and resettle them on the canal,” he says. The ravens are particularly impressed by the waterfall: “They park the old bread leftovers there, wait until they have been soaked up with water and become soft.”

    The natural swimming pond also includes a small waterfall.  The wet splashes quietly into the pond

    The natural swimming pond also includes a small waterfall. The wet splashes quietly into the pond Photo: Stefanie Herbst

    But today Renata’s son Szymon (34) with granddaughter Maja (6) is a guest. Pond party is announced. Everyone agrees: “Anyone can do an infinity pool, but having your own swimming pond is much nicer.” And at 36 degrees, the family is already making plans, dreaming of a winter paradise by the pond.

    Spranger: “Hopefully we will have a cold winter and the water will freeze over. Then we can all skate. In your own garden. How great would that be!”

    Renata's son Szymon (34) and granddaughter Maja (6) are visiting.  Neither of them want to get out of the natural pool

    Renata’s son Szymon (34) and granddaughter Maja (6) are visiting. Neither of them want to get out of the natural pool Photo: Stefanie Herbst

    Frogs make noise up to 40 decibels

    How does a natural swimming pond work? Chemical water treatment is taboo. Instead, the water is cleaned by the plants – mainly sedges, rushes and various types of reeds – which grow in a special filter substrate. They absorb nutrients, filter pollutants, release oxygen instead, and thrive in their own space so they don’t get in the way of swimming and bathing.

    How much does bathing fun cost? Horst Spranger has dug deep into his pocket for his bathing paradise. The first pond alone cost 15,000 euros: “I then paid another 25,000 euros to expand it into a natural swimming pond.”

    running costs? The 1.50 meter deep swimming area alone holds 24,000 liters of water. In the summer, some of it evaporates and has to be fed back in. Spranger: “I pay around 100 euros more per year for this.”

    Danger! Frogs are magically attracted to natural ponds. Most people don’t want to hear what sounds romantic – especially not at night. The amphibians can put on a quack concert with more than 40 decibels. This has already led to a number of neighborhood disputes and court proceedings throughout Germany.

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    And the care? Even though the plants purify the water, a little human care is important. Leaves should be skimmed off with a net. As in a swimming pool, the bottom should be vacuumed to prevent algae. In addition, the plants must be pruned back before winter. Since Spranger’s pond is also cleaned by a mechanical filter system, it also has to be serviced.

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