Heinz Ludwig, who owns a campsite and restaurant in the small village of Dankerode in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, has another passion beside serving food and providing tents: naked hiking. He is the initiator of a planned walking path meandering 18 kilometers (11 miles) through the Harz mountain range in central Germany, which he claims will be Germany's first official naked hiking trail.
The official opening ceremony and inaugural walk will take place at the start of the hiking season next May, but Ludwig has already posted the first sign warning trekkers that they might run across naturalists if they continue their journey. "The only problem I have is that nobody seems willing to take part in the inaugural walk," Ludwig told local media.
Although plenty of people are interested in taking to the hills in nothing but their birthday suits, he says, many are afraid that, if they take part in the high-profile event, images of their naked bodies will pop up on the Internet and in newspapers and magazines all over the world.
However those who shun the pursuit of nude walking are given ample warning if they happen to stumble across the new path. "If you don't want to see naked people, then you shouldn't go past this point," a sign at the beginning of the path reads. The track also leads past a small lake, which has for years been known amongst locals as a hotspot for the unclothed.
Germany has a widespread tradition of naturism -- known by its German acronym of FKK (for free body culture) -- dating back to the late 19th century, and nude bathing is widely accepted, especially on designated beaches on the Baltic Sea coast.
'Give It a Go'
Naked hiking, which has become something of a trend in the alpine regions of Germany and Switzerland, is also attracting enthusiasts from abroad. Earlier this year a conservative Swiss canton banned the practice of nude hiking in a popular vote after locals complained about the sheer number of bare ramblers descending upon their idyllic forests and picturesque meadows and valleys.
But, in Germany, these problems are yet practically unheard of. "We have never really experienced any resistance," says Kurt Fischer, president of the German Society of Nudists, which has over 50,000 members and is an official member of the German Sports Association. He explained that Germans are fortunate enough to have the right to choose what they want to do and to do exactly that.
"Naked hiking in the fresh and healthy air, when the weather is good, is an experience that many people just don't want to miss out on," Fischer told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Everyone should give it a go."
Correction: German wire services, including DPA and DDP, incorrectly reported on Monday that Heinz Ludwig had already opened the 18-kilometer long hiking trail. However, as also stated in the SPIEGEL ONLINE article, he is hoping to officially open it next spring.