Comfortable in their own skin

Postcard from... Berlin

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The Independent Online


Germans like taking their clothes off. Nobody bats an eyelid about people sunbathing or swimming in the nude. The practice is normal on nearly all public lakeside beaches in and around Berlin and much of the rest of the country.

In the former Communist east, nudity was even regarded as a bit of freedom of expression in an otherwise oppressive state. The recent additions of nude hiking, naked bicycling and – not far behind – topless tobogganing, complete the picture, or so I thought.

Last weekend, while out walking in Berlin’s Grünewald forest, a large area of woodland full of wild boar, and at weekends joggers, walkers and cyclists, I was introduced to another aspect of the Teutonic nudity cult.

The figure appeared like a weird apparition some 200 yards away down a wooded track. Slowly as the figure approached it became evident that it was a man out for a Sunday morning run. It then became apparent that the man was wearing buff-coloured shorts. On closer inspection, there weren’t any shorts at all.

Then, if body language cannot lie, the nude jogger was suddenly overcome with embarrassment. He turned his face to the woods as he passed and tried to swivel the rest of his body in the same direction. It didn’t quite work. Had it been somewhere such as London’s Richmond Park, the nude jogger would probably have been arrested for indecent exposure.

In Germany, running naked in the woods is not a crime. That said, I still don’t know whether the Grünewald’s naked jogger was wearing running shoes.