The new generations of Germans may no longer bare all, but their nation pioneered naturism, which is still a big feature of coastal resorts.
As anyone who has ventured into a German sauna or onto the beaches of the Baltic will know, Germany is famously relaxed about public nudity, and has been for some decades. The first nude beach (on the island of Sylt) was established in 1920, at a time when the British were still excited by the glimpse of an ankle. Germany’s FKK (Freikörperkultur – free body culture) movement was intent on de-sexualising the naked body, promoting a health and fitness philosophy that emphasised nudity’s naturalness and sense of liberation. It went hand in glove with a vision of a Utopian society, a natural healing movement that believed in the benefits of sunshine and swimming in the sea or in fresh water, and in breaking down social barriers between classes. There’s no one-upmanship when you’re starkers.
However Nazi Germany was not sure whether it approved – it feared the spread of homosexuality – so the movement was intermittently forced underground as World War II approached.
The FKK rebounded with a vengeance during the Communist rule of eastern Germany, for reasons of organised recreation and reducing everyone to the same level, and many beaches and even parks were designated as nudist-friendly, although any sexual activity was (and is) strictly prohibited. The FKK even became partly politicised as a left-wing movement in capitalist West Germany, too.
There’s no one-upmanship when you’re starkers
But post-reunification the fashion seems to be passing, along with the swing away from socialism. FKK beaches are still evident on the Baltic coast and islands, as well as on Sylt, but they are no longer that popular with families, and tend to attract older and rather less appealing devotees.
But this is still the nation which pioneered totally naked flights, from Erfurt to Usedom on the Baltic Coast (visions of Ryanair charging passengers for wearing clothes) and has a specifically designated 18km naked hiking trail for Nacktwandern through the Harz Mountains. Saunas are still predominantly naked, although these days most people take a towel, to sit on. And sunbathers are allowed to strip off totally in a Munich city centre park, the English Garden, where they often prove a real surprise to unprepared tourists, especially as the vast majority come from Munich’s active homosexual community.
More information on FKK locations in Germany.