Germans get closer to nature with opening of first nude hiking trail

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The Independent Online

The Germans already lay claim to the world's first nudist hotel, have hundreds of nudist beaches and even hold the odd nude tobogganing race. But now ramblers can fully enjoy the Teutonic cult of stripping-off with the opening of the country's first nude hiking trail.

The 11-mile path – upon which wearing anything other than sturdy hiking boots is strictly verboten – winds its way through the wooded hills of the upland Harz district in the centre of northern Germany, whose rugged beauty once inspired Goethe to write poems about it.

Clothed walkers need not fear. Those who find exposure to the bare facts of nude hiking distinctly un-beautiful are forewarned. "If you do not want to see naked people, then do not go past this point," say the signs at the beginning and end of the newly-opened pathway. The project is the work of Heinz Ludwig, a restaurant and campsite owner from Dankerode village who claims to have enjoyed unsanctioned hiking in the nude for years. He said that although the nude trail was already open to hikers, he had been obliged to postpone its official launch until the spring of next year.

Germany may have a 50,000-strong nudist society with members keen to hike without clothes, but they are bashful when it comes to exposing their nakedness to the media.

"Nobody seems willing to take part in the inaugural walk," Mr Ludwig complained yesterday. "They are afraid that if they take part in such a high profile event, their naked bodies will pop up on the internet and in newspapers and magazines across the world." The nude hiking trail follows the launch of what is claimed to be the world's first nudist-only hotel in Germany's Black Forest region last March.

Nudist hiking has been practised in the German, Swiss and Austrian alpine regions for several years. This year, the Swiss canton of Appenzell banned nude hiking after receiving complaints about the large numbers of naked Germans hiking through it.

In Germany's Harz region, the new trail, which includes a stopover at a nude bathing lake, has met no opposition but has yet to be approved by the local tourist board.

"We do not expect the trail to present much of a problem," a spokesman said. "Last March we held a nude tobogganing race and it was very popular."

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