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Outsiders might be shocked when they hit the spa, the lake or the park in some parts of Germany and discover a profusion of naked bodies hanging about. Nudity in Germany is not such a strange and taboo concept as it is in most other parts of the world; in fact, rumour has it there’s even a club of bare-butt-only hikers on the loose in the mountains.
At first glance, German culture may seem to consist mostly of currywurst, Christmas markets and beer festivals. Perhaps less well known is the equally ubiquitous tradition of people freely taking their clothes off without the slightest coyness or concern about being judged. This element of German pride is officially known as Freikörperkultur (FKK), meaning Free Body Culture. Today an estimated 600,000 people are registered with private nudist clubs in Germany. There are almost 300 of these establishments, so being naked and celebrating your natural skin is clearly more than some obscure trend.
These clubs provide nudists with the opportunity to bare it all while engaging in normal activities, and could be anything from naked jogging clubs (nacktjoggen) to naked hiking trips (nacktwandern), where of course allowances will be made for a backpack and sturdy shoes. There are also a number of parks and recreational areas designated to FKK enthusiasts. To avoid any confusion, it is important to know that FKK has nothing to do with erotica or sexualised activity. It is solely about creating a positive body image among people, and encouraging a feeling of freedom and relaxation closer to nature. Any kind of public sexual activity in FKK areas is strictly illegal.
Germany’s naturalist movement first appeared in the 1920s with the establishment of the first nude beach, on the island of Sylt. Not long after, the Berlin School of Nudism came into being, and played host to the world’s first nudist congress. The oppression of the Nazi era certainly put a damper on such moral freedoms, but it didn’t take long for naked bodies to be back in business after the war.
If you are in Berlin and want to try your nudist look in public, head to certain designated areas of Tiergarten, where it’s on form to disrobe. Exhibitionism or freedom? You decide. But celebrating the human form, and not shying away from our natural selves, no matter what we look like, can’t be a bad thing.