Postcard from... Berlin

The Bal des Pompiers is one of the France’s best-loved traditions

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The Independent Online

On hot July days the scores of lakes in and around Berlin attract bathers and many don’t bother with swimsuits. The Germans, and particularly the east Germans, are well-known for stripping off in public.

In the former communist east, bathing in the buff was one of the few personal freedoms citizens could enjoy. But now comes the news that the German nudist movement has gone into decline. According to Kurt Fischer, president of the federation of naturist clubs, membership has been steadily dwindling by roughly two per cent each year since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

He says going naked is now in danger of becoming a niche activity for  the over 50s, and that nudist club members aged under 25 are becoming harder to find.  It seems young people are reluctant to strip off on the beach because trunks and bikinis have become vital fashion items which contribute to group identity. He also maintains that they have neither the time nor inclination to join nudist clubs, with total members around the country now estimated at around 40,000.

However, a recent study found that between eight and 12 million Germans still go naked each summer irrespective of whether they belong to nudist clubs.