Postcard from... Germany
The Germans are famous for taking their clothes off in public. Naked bathing and even Alpine hiking in the buff are regarded as liberating pastimes.
In former communist East Germany, sunbathing and swimming in the nude symbolised personal freedom in an otherwise oppressive society.
This may explain why topless tobogganing – Germany's latest clothes off activity – is becoming hugely popular in the hilly and still snow covered regions of Germany's east. Last weekend more than 5,000 spectators descended on the winter resort town of Altenberg in the eastern state of Saxony.
They were there to watch 25 men and women speed down the slopes on plastic sledges wearing nothing but helmets, underpants and boots. The winner of the men's event, a minor TV celebrity called Nico Schwarz donated his €1,000 (£870) prize money to charity and proudly claimed the title of Naked Tobogganing Champion.
The new snow sport was launched in a resort called Braunlage in 2009. It proved so popular that the authorities were forced to cancel the resort's 2013 topless downhill event because they said they couldn't cope with the crowds. Last year over 25,000 spectators turned up and the local mayor said it was "logistically impossible" to handle so many people.
But while Braunlage is still mulling whether to re-start topless tobogganing, other winter resorts can't wait to hold their own bare-breasted events and cash in on the spectator trade. Oberweissbach, a hitherto neglected resort in the east German state of Thuringia is planning to hold its own topless tobogganing competition next year.
"We would be happy if we could attract a quarter of the tourists who went to Braunlage," said the mayor.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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