Officials in the Swiss Alpine village of Appenzell have been forced to take firm action to stave off the threat of an invasion of German nudist hikers, instituting a hefty new fine for anyone caught on the mountainside in nothing but their boots and a backpack.
"This has always been a place where visitors like to come from all over the world," the Appenzell-Innerrhoden region's website proclaims. But last summer, a new and unwelcome sort of visitor made an appearance, apparently encouraged by a German naturist organisation that suggested the area's lax rules made it an ideal getaway spot for those who need fresh air on their nether regions. Worried that the recommendation would spread by word of mouth, the Appenzell authorities decided to act before the advent of spring made an unencumbered walk in the hills an appealing prospect again.
"Local people were offended by the visitors," said local government secretary Markus Dörig. "It became clear there was a desire to fine people. We live in the countryside and people here want to live a quiet and undisturbed life. These incidents were really annoying."
There was already a statutory provision in place to allow for a fine to be imposed. Unfortunately, that regulation required a member of the public to report the matter to the police. While a number of people had grumbled about the new visitors, no one was willing to attach their name to a formal complaint. That meant that although the police could briefly detain the ramblers, they were powerless to take any further action.
"It was maybe a little embarrassing for people to speak," said Mr Dörig. "That made it very difficult for us to do anything."
Now the regulations have been amended, allowing the police to act without a formal complaint from a third party. As of last Wednesday, anyone caught wandering the mountain region in the nude will be hit with a fine of 200 Swiss francs (£122).
Locals are said to be relieved at the change, which was timed to come into force in advance of peak tourist season. "They had to do something before it exploded this year," said Stephanie Sutter, who works in the local tourist office. "It's sort of a joke. But there are lots of kids hiking in this area and they shouldn't have to face these people."
Not everyone is so pleased at the tough new stance. "I can understand that we all have to live in this world together," says Barbara Foley, a member of the central committee of the International Naturist Foundation. "But I would certainly enjoy doing the hike in the nude and I wouldn't want to be deprived of it. It's nice to feel the sun on your skin. Maybe they should designate a couple of trails and people would know they might come across naturists there."
Appenzell-Innerhoden has a reputation as a bastion of tradition, partly founded on its local election laws, which did not change to allow women the vote until 1990, making it one of the last regions in the Western world without universal suffrage. The introduction of the new fine leaves the Harz mountain range in Germany as the undisputed favourite spot for a naturist rambling break: in that region, two villages have declared themselves nudity-friendly holiday spots, and have seen a growth in naturist tourism.
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