Saturday, January 31, 2009
A local Swiss government has shown some bare cheek and has taken action, after hordes of German naked hikers rambling across the Swiss alps au naturel, caused indignation amongst locals.
Authorities in Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden have warned that starting from February 9, the government will impose hefty fines of 200 Swiss Francs (£122, €135) on naturists found walking or hiking in the nude without clothes in the picturesque mountains because of a recent influx of visiting German nudists.
The new ordinance is expected to be passed this spring. If it is approved by the local parliament on February 9 it should be effective on April 26. The Swiss canton aims to stop spread of ‘indecent practice’ by minimally-clad German climbers.
The problem started with a group of “boot-only hikers” who were stopped by the police in the Alpine region last autumn. They had wandered there regularly, proudly marching through nature with bare bums, and had also advertised what they thought was a naked paradise on the internet. But it was all too much for the Swiss.
A nude rambler dressed in nothing more than a rucksack and walking boots in the eastern Appenzell region was arrested and detained in the canton, but authorities were unable to file lawsuit because the act was not punished by law or ordinance at the time.
“We were forced to introduce the legislation against this indecent practice before the warm weather starts,” Melchior Looser, the canton’s justice and police minister, said. “Ultimately, in the summer lots of kids stay in our mountains,” he added.
In the guidelines imposed, arrested offenders who cannot pay the fine, will face legal action. The new enabling ordinance has, however, been met with protests by nude hikers. “We simply try to tune into nature. It’s the most harmless pursuit possible,” said Dietmar, age 58, a German lawyer.
German tabloid Bild Zeitung has editorially attacked Swiss intolerance and even suggested nudist alternatives worldwide, after hinting a Swiss tourism boycott. Local authorities of Harz mountain range in central Germany have also announced the openness to any visitor of an “official naked walking route” in nature’s outdoors.
Freikörperkultur (“FKK”), or “free body culture”, is a popular pastime in Germany. It is a German movement which endorses a naturistic approach to sports and community living. Behind that is the joy of the experience of nature or also on being nude itself, without direct relationship to sexuality. The followers of this culture are called traditional naturists, FKK’ler, or nudists.
The naked ramblers have hoped it doesn’t lead to another naturist-clothed ‘war’, like the one at a beach between German and Polish holidaymakers in 2008. Naturism has roots traced from the start of the 20th century. “Abandoning unpractical clothes enables a direct contact with the wind, sun and temperature”, naked hiker website nacktwandern.de stated.
But Markus Dörig, a spokesman for Appenzell Innerrhoden canton has defended the law, explaining that the “public nuisance” was a foreign import. “We have been receiving many complaints. The local people are upset and we in the government share their concern. How would one feel if one was to go walking in nature and suddenly came across a group of naked people? They are definitely not people from the area, and I think many of them come from Germany,” he noted.
“We are a small and orderly community and such things are simply out of place here. Perhaps in vast mountain areas naked people would not be much of a problem but here they simply stick out,” Dörig added. “I can understand that we all have to live in this world together,” said Barbara Foley, International Naturist Foundation member of the central committee. “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,” she added.
Appenzell Innerrhoden (Appenzell Inner Rhodes) is the smallest canton of Switzerland by population and the second smallest by area, Basel-City having less area. The population of the canton was 15,471 as of 2007, of which 1,510 (or 9.76%) were foreigners. The canton in the north east of Switzerland has an area is 173 km². It was divided in 1597 for religious reasons from the former canton Appenzell, with Appenzell Ausserrhoden being the other half.
Appenzell is the capital of this canton. The constitution was established in 1872. Most of the canton is pastoral, this despite being mountainous. Cattle breeding and dairy farming are the main agricultural activities: Appenzeller cheese is widely available throughout Switzerland. Due to the split of Appenzell along religious lines, the population (as of 2000) is nearly all Roman Catholic (81%), with a small Protestant minority (10%).
The town, however is far from liberalism: the canton granted women the right of suffrage only in 1990 under pressure from the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland and international human rights groups. The Alpine village of Appenzell Innerrhoden, being known for its beautiful landscape, has recently been declared a “naked rambler paradise” by a German mountaineering website, which was created by a lobby group of hikers.