The German love of hiking sans vêtements is rather perplexing to native English speakers. In Australia, it’s too hot and there are too many things that could bite your dangly bits. In North America and Britain, mosquitos are only too happy to take advantage of the increased real estate. Luckily, there are very few mosquitos in Germany, no poisonous snakes or spiders and no predators large enough to be interested in a bite of something human-sized.
There are still plenty of brambles, nettles, sharp sticks and rough rocks, but that hasn’t dampened locals’ enthusiasm for experiencing nature with no buffer aside from a pair of sturdy boots (and a rucksack, of course).
Naturgefühl is the German word for the feeling of pleasure and oneness a person achieves when they are in harmony with nature (when they are not worrying about beetles crawling up inside them, or thorns giving other protruding parts a good scratch, that is).
In the Harz mountains in the north of Germany, there is a dedicated 18-kilometre (11-mile) trail from the town of Dankerode to the Wippertal reservoir and back that is dedicated to naked hiking. Handily, this helps to ensure that a group of Girl Scouts on a Saturday outing elsewhere in the mountains don’t unexpectedly encounter a posse of naked hikers.
The Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur (‘German Society for Nudists/Naturists’) also organises outings that are private enough to keep all parties enjoying the day. In the Lüneberg Heide, there is the Naturistenweg Undeloh; Süsing, also near Lüneberg, has a nudist campground and hiking trails; and the organisation Natury also has a calendar of events including things such as naked caving, mountain climbing and dancing.
If you’re really feeling the FKK spirit, there is no law in Germany requiring people to wear clothes, so technically you can strut what your mother gave you anywhere, anytime. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can do so without consequences, however. If others feel like it’s an unacceptable time or place to bare all, they will tell you very directly.
France is also generally open to naked hiking, but do take care in other countries. A couple of years ago, Switzerland had to pass a law banning nude hiking because so many naked Germans were wandering over the border that local sensibilities were offended.
Whether you join up with an existing group or give it a go on your own, remember to put sunscreen and insect repellant in with the Schnapps. A scarf or small towel might be useful too, just in case you find yourself suddenly in the company of people who might not appreciate a full view of you in all your your glory.