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Monday, June 13, 2011

Hike Naked: Germany Opens New Nude-Friendly Nature Trails

This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global-news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in Tages Anzeiger.

When "Germany's first hiking trail for nudists" opened on May 29, 2010, near the town of Dankerode, enthusiasm was running high - and not just among those who enjoy braving nature in the buff. Mayor Monika Rauhut hailed the trail as "the latest attraction here in beautiful Wippertal." (See eight new natural wonders of the world.)

The trail was an instant hit, which got us wondering if such a thing might be a good idea in Switzerland, where the issue of nude hiking will soon be taken up by the Supreme Court. The "unofficial spokesperson" for Swiss lovers of the outdoor activity isn't so sure. But Puistola GrottenpÖsch (not his real name) does see some upsides. A sanctioned trail would give many people an opportunity to experience the "bodily freedom" that only hiking in the nude offers - an experience that "fills you with happiness," he says.

In Germany, signs placed around the nude trail area warn: "If you don't want to run into any naked people, stop right here!" The message makes GrottenpÖsch uneasy. "It seems to suggest such a thing would be terrible," he says. "The sign could be taken as more of an encouragement than a deterrent." Nor does he like the idea that such a trail could be seen as a "ghetto" for nude hikers, particularly as such a thing might make people think "that it's obligatory to be clothed everywhere else." (See Switzerland's nude hiking [EM] in the winter.)

GrottenpÖsch recently appeared in court in Appenzell-Ausserrhoden to support a fellow nude hiker who was arrested for practicing the peculiar pastime.

The first year that the German trail - played up initially as a "paradise" for nude hikers - was up and running, there were no legal problems. But there have been some red faces. The brains behind the endeavor is a nearby campground owner who had hoped the novel trail would bring him more paying guests. He no longer wishes his full name to be given in the press, reports German nude-hiking aficionado Horst K. on the Nacktwandern website, which has provided information about the trail since it opened.

Integrating the naturist trail and the family-oriented campsite proved more difficult than anticipated for the owner, whose initial enthusiasm soon gave way to concern. Instead of trying to draw nude hikers as customers, he found himself telling them to give his campsite "a wide berth." (See a brief history of the Appalachian Trail.)

"Yes, there were some problems," Horst K. says. "But we cleared those up, and now things are okay for both sides." As things presently stand, the mood in Harz seems to be one of determined conflict avoidance.

Even among backers of the birthday-suit lifestyle, nude hiking can be a prickly issue. The president of the German naturists' association called naked hikers "neurotics and psychopaths." Fans of the activity, in both Germany and Switzerland, reject the labels flat out.

"We are careful," Puistola GrottenpÖsch explains, citing by way of example an outing he took near Toggenburg (Appenzell, Switzerland), where he came across a group of people celebrating a religious service in a field. GrottenpÖsch conscientiously hid his privates with a scarf, something he carries for just such occasions. "You quickly wrap it around yourself and all conflict is avoided."