If you have a fear of genitals then Germany isn't the place for you. They pop out of nowhere when you are least suspecting it. Here, there, everywhere. You can be bending down to pick up a pen you dropped, turn around and then suddenly meat and two veg are practically grazing your right cheek (the cheek belonging to your face, that is). You really could do a twisted naked version of Sixth Sense quite easily in Germany's nudist-filled environs.
Seriously though, Germany is definitely the land of the 'free' in the clothes wearing sense. Whenever and wherever there is an opportunity to strip off and strut their naked stuff, the Germans will take it. When I first arrived in Munich I was an innocent, fairly prude British soul. Naked? In public? Me? I was afraid of even my doctor seeing anything from the neck down, let alone Joe down the road in a public place. The main place where you can't avoid naked bodies is the sauna. Yes, the sauna. I know British people will be reading this thinking "huh?” Here's the huge difference between Germany and England though (which pretty much acts as an indicator to their attitude to nakedness in general), in English saunas and spas there are huge signs that read: "Swimwear must be worn in the sauna and spa area at ALL times". Here's the German: "Swimwear must NEVER be worn in the sauna at ANY time. Those who do will be politely asked to leave". Leave?! LEAVE?! Yes...I was as shocked as you were in the beginning. It only gets worse though. Once I was at a large water park / spa and then there was an announcement over the tannoy: "Please be advised that it is now 6pm and the whole of the area is now "Textilfrei" Those who do not wish to participate must now leave". Textile-free? I didn't have much time to process the information before all of the German's were stripping off and swimming in the pool around me – the stuff of nightmares. Never until that point have I been more concerned about accidentally kicking someone with my foot whilst swimming...who knows what my toes may touch...?!
Over time I gradually started to adopt the German approach and go starkers in the sauna (I know, too much information, right?). Still, at least you have a towel to wrap around you. It's all about the technique too though...the technique I like to think of as ASS: Avoidance. Shielding. Sweating. Here's how it works:
1. Avoidance. I try to make sure I am in the sauna on my own if possible, carefully timing it so that I always start my session when someone has just left (this also avoids the awkwardness of being in sync with another sauna-goer...which essentially means that you sit naked together, shower next to each other, sleep next to each other, and then do the whole thing all over again two more times *squirm*). If this isn't possible, I at least try to be first in the sauna, lie down, in the darkest corner and close my eyes – that way, I will never know who was in there with me and will never have the difficult moment of seeing them in clothes and not really knowing quite what to say.
2. Shielding. You definitely have to have technique as a woman. Guys have it easy – they just whack the towel around their wil.... well...you know. Women have so much extra to shield! It's taken me several times over the years to perfect, but now I've got it down to a fine art so that any potential perverts don't really get much of a show.
3. Sweating. The more you sweat and the hotter you look – the less likely you are to be the centre of male attention. So work those sweat beads ladies!
All this though, is unfortunately not enough to deter the Germans. They LOVE to talk whilst in the sauna, even to complete embarrassed strangers like me. One opening line was: "you seem sporty, were you in the gym with me earlier?" (a bit stalker-ish...), another was from an old, fat, Bavarian man: "Was that you swimming earlier? You are really fast!" (My thoughts: yes...I am fast...because I'm not seventy...in fact I'm young enough to be your granddaughter and you are talking at me and my fully exposed boobs right now - STOP IT!).
As well as the saunas though, there are also whole naked Sauna Worlds! Yes...worlds! There are over 40 saunas of different kinds...including ones with planetariums inside or thrones and beer on tap...it really is a whole new world of naked fun. The thing I can't get over though is swimming naked in a pool with other people (yes I did it...got to try everything once right?). It's like taking a bath with everyone who you are on the U Bahn with – what a disgusting and shudder-worthy thought.
Unfortunately the nakedness isn't confined to the spas though. Oh no. In Germany "Where's Willy?" rather than "Where's Wally?" is probably their favourite book. You could definitely make a good game out of it in Munich's English Gardens in the summer. Nakedness reigns in certain sections, so you need to be careful where you lay down your mat to sunbathe! The riverbanks are swarming with the nudists too (although that term probably doesn't apply in Germany, as everyone is a little bit of a nudist inside). There is one character that I call "Jesus", who has long hair...a long beard...wears white kaftans and strips off to bathe in the crystal clear running waters of the Isar (no doubt he's a crazy Catholic thinking he can cleanse his sins!)
Personally I just think the Germans are all extreme exhibitionists. The female changing rooms at the gym in Germany are a good example of that. I'm very British when it comes to the changing rooms: I choose a locker in the corner and get changed facing it, as quickly as possible. The Deutsch women? No way, this is the chance for them to strut their sexy stuff! They stroll around, even putting their socks on before their kickers – weird. What makes me laugh the most though is when they actually do their moisturising regime for all to see. Slapping on the cream extra loudly to make heads turn, then putting one leg up dramatically on the bench while they rub it in. (I'm sure for any men reading this...this is nearly their "Fifty Shades of Grey" erotic novel moment and I'm just reinforcing the stereotype in their minds that all women do when they are alone together is run around semi naked. Maybe it’s not a stereotype after all and the men are totally on-point...) It all boils down to competition though, like everything with the Germans. They just want to show off the body they spent 2 hours perfecting that evening, that's all. I can't help thinking: "Whatever love, you slap on that cream onto your toned abs, I really don't care and there's no guys to faun all over you in the female locker room so I don't get your game plan – I'm going home to eat cake and watch trash TV...and I'm going to enjoy every second of it!"
Strange things have started happening to me though. I'm always adding a sauna session onto my gym stint. I look at friends in shock when they say they wear swimwear into the sauna in England: "It ruins your swimwear! Don't you get hot? It’s so unhygienic!". In fact...am I starting to become accustomed to stripping off without a care in the world? Am I *gulp*, becoming a naked-loving German?
I think I'm a few naked steps away from nudist – but that's not to say that being naked in a small sauna doesn't have its benefits, particularly when the German football team walks in like they did into mine. And I'll leave you with that little nugget to ponder on.