I just met a guy who is from Berlin, and walking to Bulgaria, having come through Slovakia. Well, I say a guy, but he is about my age, and usually camps with his tent during his walk. He came in during a thunderstorm and said he fancied a day off to rest his knee, but claimed, successfully to me, that walking in the rain is no bother. In fact, in my memory it is enthralling, and it crossed my mind that I needed to buy a tent, or find and retrieve mine from one of the many countries it might be. The days of the single backpack come back to me and envy him.
The hardy German had basically been locked in the city until the wall came down. He was one of the first to cross though broken spaces when the wall had come down, and now lives in a village outside Berlin. Though sometimes hiking in a Speedo swimsuit, he remarked that in the old days, much hiking in his area was done without clothes on.
East Germans were famous for their nudism, and the communing with nature that nudism brought was also a way to break with the conformity of the communist regime. And the nudity was done in public, on beaches or in meadows, as private clubs were seen as potentially subversive by the regime. Nowadays Germans from the eastern regions, especially along the Baltic coast, blame priggish Westerners for imposing restrictions on coastal areas where previously nudism was normal.
But nudism in Germany goes back a long way: when the Victorians of GB shocked each other with titillatingly immoral displays of the ankle, Germans were already extolling the virtues of walking in forests nude before plunging into fresh lakes, and world's first nudist camp opened near Hamburg in 1903. The first nudist magazine was published around the same year, though literary texts on the subject had been published in German some twenty years earlier.
In fact nudism was part of the Lebensreform movement of the late 19th century and early 20th century, which promoted a back to nature lifestyle, eschewed tobacco and alcohol and emphasised organic foods and sexual liberation, as well as passive nudity. Some links to Lebensreform stretch to the hippy movement of California in the 1960s, through influence from texts and music such as 'Nature Boy,' written by Eden Ahbez and recorded by Nat King Cole in 1947, reaching number 1 in the charts for eight weeks.
Nudism was also a feature of Wandervogel, a movement started from 1896 onwards, developing hiking and rambling, with an ethos of shaking off the restrictions of society and get back to nature and freedom, symbolised with a bird logo.
The virtues of nudity as peaceful protest or active natural life and communing with nature has at times throughout recent history taken overtly right wing extremist political connotations, though times are changing; the concept of nudity and equality is declining, as new generations define themselves on appearance, and immigration from faraway countries brings new values. And life is not controlled in the way it once was. People do not need to take advantage of a rare liberty of being nude anymore, though even staunch party members, policemen and women and judges were regular nudists. Perhaps only the beach of Croatia, in the Adriatic had more educated nudists than East Germany, on long stretches of coastline referred to as naturist beaches, though Germans remain popular visitors to the coast, as well as Cap d'Ag, a nudist beach and town in France. Will you, too, let it all hang loose among others on beaches and in long grasses?
nude in nature
-freedom among trees
and the calming sea