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Swiss vote bans nude hikes after invasion of 'disturbing' Germans

Voters in the heart of the Swiss Alps have passed legislation banning naked hiking after dozens of mostly German nudists started rambling through their picturesque region.

By a show of hands, citizens of the tiny canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes voted overwhelmingly at their open-air annual assembly yesterday to impose a SFr200 (£120) fine on violators.

Only a scattering of people opposed the ban on the back-to-nature activity that took off last autumn when naked hikers started showing up in eastern Switzerland. The cantonal government recommended the ban after citizens objected to encountering walkers wearing nothing but hiking boots and socks.

"The reactions of the population have shown that such appearances over a large area are perceived as thoroughly disturbing and irritating," the government stated.

A similar legal move is expected in the neighbouring canton, Appenzell Outer Rhodes. The nationalist Swiss Peoples Party has advised the cantonal parliament that it is preparing legislation against "this shameless behaviour".

German websites promoting the activity describe it as "a special experience of nature, free and healthy" and said nude walking in the Alps had roots in antiquity. The verdant Appenzell region has been regarded as a favourite, because of its trails that the nudists regarded as off the beaten path.

The German sites also promote walks in France and in regions of Germany, where public nudity has roots going back to the 18th century through a movement that has come to be called the "Free Body Culture". Nudism in more conservative areas of Switzerland is less common.