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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 February 2008, 08:51 GMT
Take off and strip off
By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Erfurt, Germany

German naturist in Berlin
Excess luggage should not be a problem
If you ever decide to visit the Nordstrand Nudist Beach in Erfurt, take my advice - don't go in winter.

True, the fluffy ducks bobbing up and down on the lake are a pleasant sight. But the wind whips your ear holes, the squidgy plant-life washed up onto the shore gets all over your trousers. In these conditions, the thought of stripping off and embracing nature couldn't be further from your mind.

So why had I made the trip to Erfurt's premier nudist location in the freezing cold?

Because this town has suddenly become the launch pad for a body revolution - one which is set to take the culture of nudism to dizzy new heights.

I think people feel free when they are really naked - that's what it is about
Sandra Koehler, tour rep
At a travel agent 10 minutes from the beach, I find a manager processing online ticket requests for a very unusual journey - a flight for nudists.

Pay 499 euros and, this July, you'll get the chance to take off - and strip off up in the air. And naked you'll stay until the plane touches down in Usedom on the Baltic coast.

"I think people feel free when they are really naked. That's what it is about," tour rep Sandra Koehler informs me.

I ask Sandra for more details (purely for the purposes of writing this piece, you understand).

"At what point will the passengers be allowed to take off their clothes? At check-in?"

"No. Only once they've boarded the plane."

Immediately I foresee problems (I can't help it - I'm a worrier).

"But what if the stewardess spills a hot cup of coffee over a naked passenger?"

"Hot drinks will be banned on board," says Sandra calmly.

"What about hygiene?" I ask. "All those naked bodies!"

"Passengers will be required to sit on towels covering the seats," says Sandra. She seems to have an answer for everything.

"But isn't fastening seat belts going to be a bit, well, risky - for the male passengers?" That got her. "I didn't think of that!" Sandra laughs.

She's probably right. It doesn't bear thinking about.

Expression of freedom

Nudism (or "Free Body Culture" as the Germans like to refer to it) has deep roots in Germany.

As early as the 1890s, the world-renowned "father of nudism" sociologist Heinrich Pudor was writing about stripping off and getting back to nature. Nudist colonies have existed in Germany for more than a century.

Later, behind the Berlin Wall, in East Germany, nudism was an expression of freedom, a very personal protest against the confines of the communist state. Taking all your clothes off became so popular, there were even pop songs written about the subject.

Mind you, not all Germans are so keen to see other people's bodies.

"I was fined whenever I walked naked through the woods," complains Germany's most famous nudist, Dr Peter Niehenke.

The psychologist from Freiburg not only walks through woods naked. He goes jogging in the nude, too.

"Even when I'm deep in the wood, the police will follow me and pick me up," he says. "But we say it is always acceptable to see a human being in his natural look."

Bare essentials

Dr Niehenke is hoping Germany's Constitutional Court will defend his right to run in the nuddy. And he believes the idea of a naked flight is brilliant.

"It's a very good way to promote the idea of nakedness in public," he tells me. "I'm sure it will be a great success."

Back at the travel agency, Sandra shows me some of the e-mails she's received about the naked flight. It's not only Germans who've been expressing interest. There are enthusiastic messages from America, too.

Personally, it's not really my cup of tea.

But I can see one advantage of stripping off on holiday. At least you don't need to pack a big suitcase full of clothes - for July's flight, you only need to take bare essentials.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
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