Naked on vacation: naturism in Germany is experiencing a revival

"In the beginning it was a strange feeling to take your clothes off. You think everyone is looking. But then nobody looks at all. After all, they're all naked."Like the father of the family from Hesse at the nudist beach of Cuxhaven-Duhnen, many describe their "first time".

In the meantime, he and his wife have been coming every summer for five years with their daughter (now 10) and son (12) to "Nackedonien," as locals call the section. At first, more mundane reasons would have brought them here: better parking, more peace and quiet, lots of space, places sheltered from the wind.

In the meantime the family is enthusiastic, also at home they prefer a bath with FKK area. "The bathing suit is just annoying", the son reports. "Yes, being naked is pleasant," says the father. "And we like the atmosphere. Friendlier, more familiar. Also more tolerant. Fat or thin, it doesn't matter here. One is not valued as at the textile beach."

The vacationers from Hesse belong to a group that is growing lively. You can see more naked people again on many beaches of the North Sea and Baltic Sea and at the nudist bathing spots of Berlin and Hamburg. Above all: more newcomers, more younger people, families, international guests. The demand for nakation (naked vacation) is increasing, clubs and tour operators confirm.

Naked in nature while hiking or biking

"Naturism is on the rise. This is also evident in the increasing popularity of 'nudist activities' such as hiking or biking without clothes," says Sonke Reise, chairman of the newly founded GetNakedGermany association, for example. "In the naturist clubs there is or was indeed an aging problem. However, this is changing, even traditional clubs are getting younger."

They are renaming themselves (such as the League for Free Living, founded in 1949, to Naturist Camping at Flemhuder See Kiel) and offering contemporary, modern services. For example, they rent out Tiny Houses or install fiber optic connections on their premises.

"Right now we are experiencing an upswing, as many people long for places where they can be undisturbed in nature," also observes Michaela Toepper, vice president of the DFK (German Association for FreeBody Culture).

Founded in 1949 in Kassel, the umbrella organization today links more than 130 nudist clubs – and their club sites with bathing and other recreational facilities. After the numbers of members sank for years or stagnated, there is now according to the latest survey (from the fall of 2021) again an increase to 32.531, plus 2.6 percent compared to the previous year.

Corona may have played a role in this. "Vacationing in Germany was the order of the day," says Martina Vavra, federal chairwoman of fkk-jugend, an association for people up to 27 years old. "And since our club sites are small paradises, many new members come. In our case it is mainly young families."

The protected space offered by a club is likely to be particularly attractive to parents with children. Generally respect and a careful contact with each other is very important among naturists, erotic or assaultive behavior is frowned upon.

Naturism is in line with other trends

More people are also discovering naturism outside of clubs, at lakes, by the sea, in the countryside. Finally, it's in line with other trends like being close to nature and body positivity, the ability to like your body even if it's not perfect.

US studies found that being naked increases self-acceptance. In addition, there is the feeling of well-being and a sense of freedom to be out in the fresh air without disturbing swimwear: Once you try it, you often stick with it.

Wind on the skin, back to nature, nothing between me and the sea – it seems that the tradition of nudism in Germany is actually experiencing a revival after a long lull. The first nudist club in the world was founded in Essen in 1893. The life reform movement sought to break out of the unhealthy and unnatural conditions that prevailed in industrial cities. In the 1920s the initiative grew. After 1933 it was banned by the Nazis.

Naturism boomed – not only in the GDR

What many do not know: There was also a ban on nude bathing in the GDR. Only after strong protests of the population it was lifted 1956 – for marked places. Nudism boomed, not only in East Germany.

In the 68er movement in the west nudity was considered as liberation from the bourgeoisie. Anti-authoritarian parents let their children play unclothed. The nudist destination of Sylt experienced a new rush: "There's a naked ass in every wave," Romy Schneider remarked after a visit to the island in 1968.

Isabell Kroner of Euronature, specialist for naturist vacations: "This year there is a surprisingly high volume of requests, which can no longer be met due to lack of availability."There is a very strong demand from families with several children. They preferred nudist resorts close to nature, especially in France, with offers for all age groups.

And another development stands out: Comfort is in demand. "Most guests are interested in higher quality accommodation, but the offer of equipped tents, which offer absolute deceleration in the midst of nature, is also used," says on the part of Euronature. Many vacationers would spend more money for it.

There is also a "discernible trend toward at least a second nudist trip per year". In Croatia, the most popular destination for German naturists, inexpensive nudist resorts have been converted into textile facilities, but higher-priced nude bathing facilities such as "Valalta" have been modernized and expanded, says Wolfgang Weinreich of the nudist travel provider Miramare.

France is ahead of Germany when it comes to nudist vacations

Resorts in France have also been given a makeover, such as the oldest nudist resort ever, the "CHM Montalivet" on the Atlantic coast near Bordeaux. It seems that France is ahead of Germany when it comes to naturism.

Our neighboring country also looks back on a long naturist tradition – and has already seen a revival in the past. "In fact, for the last ten years there has been a new enthusiasm for naturism. Young urban families want to spend their vacations as close to nature as possible and experience values such as respect and authenticity," says Philippe Champetier, co-managing director of France 4 Naturisme, which claims to be the largest provider of naturist vacations in France.

After two years of Corona epidemic, they are now seeing a very strong increase in bookings from Germany – the main foreign clientele of their Atlantic and Mediterranean destinations.

The group operates six upscale naturist vacation villages with bungalows, chalets, mobile homes and rentable tents. Offers, which according to Euronature in this form in Germany still do not exist enough, although the demand would be there.

Nudists from the USA and Poland

There is also an increasing demand for German naturist destinations from abroad. At Berlin's Muggelsee, for example, they're seeing more nude vacationers from the U.S., where nakation was already reported as a travel trend in 2018.

And at the naturist beach of Ahlbeck on Usedom, within walking distance of the seaside resort of Swinemunde in Poland, one observes a growing proportion of Polish visitors. In the Catholic country, nudity is still a taboo, confirm Frank Straka of Travelnetto, provider of trips to Poland, and Peter Rijnvis, president of the Polish Naturist Federation, which has only about 100 members. So one evades discreetly into the more liberal foreign countries.

-> Tips for beautiful naturist destinations in Europe:

Which beaches are perfect for naturists? The booking and rating platform Holidaycheck lists them as the best in Europe:

Kampener Strand, Sylt: The section at the legendary "Buhne 16" on Sylt has been famous for decades. With bistro and beach sauna.

Praia do Homem Nu, Algarve: The "beach of the naked man" stretches over three kilometers on the fine-sand Ilha de Tavira. Attention, strong currents!

Playa el Mago, Mallorca: On the west coast of the island, it is sheltered in a picturesque bay, pines and shrubs provide shade.

Beaches of Hvar, Croatia: Nudist island hopping – from the beach of the fishing village of Zavala on the south side of the island to the mini-island of Jerolim.

Faliraki, Rhodes: The only nudist beach of the island is located between the textile beach and the bay Anthony Quinn. Everywhere else nude bathing is forbidden in Rhodes.

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