SLOVAKIA’S so-called “Polar Bears” gathered at Hangóka lake in Nitra for the biggest nation-wide winter swimming event on January 12.

“I got to like it three years ago,” Peter from the Vranov Otters club explained to the SITA newswire. “My friends persuaded me, I literally jumped among them, and that was it. I had no problems, rather the contrary. I started to like it, as I don’t enjoy bathing in cold water in a shower at home. That’s not the same,” he added, shivering from cold. He came with a group of nine others from the eastern-Slovak town of Vranov nad Topľou.

“We have a very big age span at this event,” co-organiser Marek Pozdech said. “The oldest participants were 68 and the youngest was a girl of four, from Bošany.”

As with previous years, this year’s event included a programme with entertainment – attracting about 300 onlookers – which started when the winter swimmers arrived in various costumes, ranging from a water sprite to a Viking.

This year proceeds from the registration went to the Slniečko crisis centre.