THE CUSTOM OF BATH-TAKING ON THE VISTULA RIVER IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE 19th C. (ON THE BASIS OF ARTICLES FROM 'KURIER WARSZAWSKI')
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Bath-taking in public places is a relatively new custom, originating in the second half of the 18th c., when first public bathing places appeared. In Warsaw the vogue spread in the second half of the 19th c. Because of the strict morals characteristic of the epoch the use of bathing places was subject to very rigorous principles. One of its manifestations was the swimming suit, which was supposed to cover all the body. Shaped almost like everyday clothing (including footwear and headgear), it was impractical and uncomfortable. Also the organization of bathing facilities on the Vistula resulted form the rules of decency. Bathing places were divided into 'omnibuses' and 'barges'. The former were sheds built on the riverbank, used for changing and for other services (the bath itself took place at the beach). The latter were constructions placed on special boats, which allowed a person to bathe inside, without being seen by strangers. As bathing in the river became very popular, the municipal authorities were sometimes forced to set up temporary open bathing places on the beaches. Bathing facilities were usually located in fixed places, although this depended to some extent on the waterlevel in the Vistula. Although bathing places had obvious advantages, such as offering access to refreshment and rest in hot weather, their users sometimes complained about various inconveniences, e.g. crowdedness, difficult access (caused by the shape of the river's embankment), the poor quality of the facilities and of the bathing utensils (towels and combs) available. Another commonly noticed problem was the sewage pollution of the Vistula. Bathing places were attended mainly by workers, burghers, intelligentsia and freelance professionals, by men more commonly than by women. Because of varied prices this service was widely accessible. The bathing season lasted about four months, usually starting in late May and ending in early September.
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