This year's Newt was based at a farmhouse in Leogang, Austria. The more than 20 people who came along this year enjoyed superb weather, varied walking, and a warm welcome from the locals and tourists we met. Our team this time was made up of people from England, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland and New Zealand, professions ranged from Architect to Tourist Rep., Software Engineer to retired School Teacher, and Management Consultant to Electrical Engineer, etc., a mixed bag indeed, as usual. We also had a number of people from nearly every previous Newt year, so we were a proper crowd. Including: Doug ( 82 from New Zealand), Jacques (APNEL), Sylvie (president APNEL), Bernard G. (secretary APNEL), Chris (the infamous South Bank art installation crasher), Roland (Dutch tour operator), Robert (our Biker), and Bernard B. (co-organiser of the London WNBRs). I was particularly pleased to see Paul (CERN engineer) come along, as I wanted to hear more of his hilarious naked mother-in-law stories, Gianni (retired train engineer), whom I knew from the recent first succesful naked WNBR in Torino, and his wife Mira. Having along the core of the APNEL organisation, (working towards better acceptance of naked freedoms), their attendance most definitely swelled our ranks by association. Although the men outnumbered the women, which is also usual, this year we had three brave ladies to keep us company, and the conversations (more or less) polite.
The weekend had been wet and on the drive into the village of Otting, near Leogang, Chris, who I'd picked up in Munich, and I had serious doubts about the coming week, naked hiking in the alps around here with the rain and dark broiling clouds blotting out even the lower peaks. The somewhat grey and damp Sunday was spent meeting up and doing a short naked circuit up the valley and around a forest trail near Oberwarming. The group was split between the main house and a convenient second floor apartment just across the farm courtyard. We managed to eat communally by cooking in both kitchens and squeezing 23 into the dining room designed for 18. The living room had a superb cubic kachelofen which requires a certain technique to light and maintain, but will stay warm constantly when looked after, and we had it running non-stop almost all week. This room became so warm, even with the door open to lose the heat, entertainingly like a mini-sauna.
On Monday we drove to Maishofen, near Zell am See, parked, and set off north into the forest up the hill looming above us. Stripping quickly, the weather looked on us more kindly now and we were soon sweating as we toiled up through the pine forest. The advantage of being naked of course was that our clothes were dry in our rucksacks, the disadvantage that we still had to carry them. Polly the Collie, even with her little backpack on was desperate to run after sticks the whole time, and it was sometimes with difficulty that we managed to keep her on the winding and narrow trail. Up and up, still further up and up. Occassionally we glimpsed the surrounding peaks getting smaller. After a several hours we emerged from the forest onto the ridge and a welcome pause. Then onwards past an unfriendly gasthof, who's landlady came rushing out to us calling "FKK go away, we have children and guests here!". We dressed to pass her house quickly and naturally we were naked again as soon as possible and we continued along below the ridge on a narrow trail towards the high point on the ridge above Zell am See. We were going slowly and stopped for lunch just below the top, Doug, Mira (our Italian lady), Jacques and Sylvie, then joined us for lunch and to walk back up to the top of the ridge. We entered the Hochzelleralm Mountain Gasthof and were sitting down when Jerome, (organiser of the BrusselsWNBR), suggested I ask the staff if it were possible to sit on their terrace naked. Naturally I thought they'd say no, but was happy to ask. The young and friendly waiter looked surprised, but said that it was late in the day, with not many guests, and if they didn't mind he had no objection either. So I asked a couple on the nearest table, and they said they didn't mind, I dutifully fed the response back to the waiter, and he said, "fine, enjoy your drinks on our terrace naked by all means, then". We needed no further encouragement and our flimsy wraps and shorts came off, much to the surprise of one other couple, who'd I'd neglected to ask. They however were quite ok with the situation also, and Gilles, (admin of the Vivre Nu website), was quick to interview the lady as to her reactions. She was very friendly, gave me her email address to send a photo to, as their camera had ran out of battery power, and we all had a great time chatting to and fro. The proprietress of the Hochzelleralm gasthof now came out, to join her son who was the waiter (it transpired), to get a photo first of all of us to prove to her friends the days events, and finally a self-timer with he and her together in the middle of this somewhat unusual group on their mountain restaurant terrace for their own home-page. The whole event was very friendly, a most pleasant contrast to our earlier gasthof experience, and served only to underline how inherently inoffensive nakedness is and how it's so very clearly only a matter of personal opinion when someone chooses to take offense at our presence. We left in high spirits and headed back down the ridge a short way, before Gilles found yet another couple, (from Canada this time), to interview with his video camera, they also said they had no issues with public nudity in the mountains, although it was not their personal choice of activity. We banked left after a minor summit and descended the long and pretty ridge as the day drew to a close, winding our way downwards. Trudging on, we lost height steadily until we eventually reached Viehoffen[?], where we could yo-yo with Sylvie for the cars and drivers to return to the farmhouse for a welcome and well-deserved evening meal.
Tuesday dawned sunny once more, and we were met at the base of the Asitz ski-lift complex in Leogang village by the Salzburg journalist team of Fritz and Walter from the Viennese das Tageskurier newspaper. They were walking with us today on behalf an article on our naked hiking activities in Austria and the alps. We left the village and headed up into the forest again, Fritz getting naked almost before any of us, much to our surprise and satisfaction. We have had many journalists on our walks and naked boat trips, and it's a rare one who actually joins in. Neither is it necessary for an observer/walker to strip off with us, but it was certainly refreshingly pleasant to see the effort to experience our adventure for himself, all the same. We zig-zagged up through the trees until we emerged near a restaurant near the base of the ski-fields. The photographer nipped down to ask whether the people sitting on the terrace had any objections to our naked hiking group, the answer came back "no, some of them look quite nice, too!" I'm sure they were being selective and talking about Kathrine, and not most of the rest of us, at this point. We kept going up the fairly quiet trail-come-road below the gondola lift above our heads and next to the mountain bike track where various teams of whistling and hooting youngsters were practicing their downhill on wheels instead of boards, (because it was summer and there's no snow at the moment). Everyone we met was either enthusiastic or neutral, we had very little negative reaction, until an official sounding man arrived with two cars just below the lift station and told us to dress as there were "school children and guests" (again), just above us. We were going to dress in any case to go through the busy section around the lift station, this is almost a rule, and certainly a guideline, for naked hiking, so his insistence was unnecessary and amusing. Nevertheless we naturally complied. We carried on, above the station, stripped off once more, and stopped for lunch. The journalists now left us to our own for the rest of the day as they had enough material for their story. The group now split with Roland, Gianni, Chris, (who had been regaling us with most entertaining stories from appearing impromptu in various art installations in London at the South Bank etc.), and the rest of the Dutch team heading up to the top lift station before turning for home and following a ridge through the forest back towards the road and our farmhouse. Sylvie and a small group took the lift down while the rest of us headed back the way we had come, (because of a slight navigation hiccup - ahem), and wound our way through the trees until we reached the road once more. One part of our team also seperated to make speedier progress, got lost in a deep and muddy trail and wound up behind us at the car park. Ah, that special smugness which comes with being right. As if to make sure my smugness was not too great I nearly lost my dog in the forest, somehow... Polly came back though, covered from top to toe in sloppy mud and looking very happy - how can one be grumpy with a happy dog, especially when it finally comes back to you, smiling with a spring in it's step and wagging it's tail!
Wednesday dawned with low mist on the hills, which some thought looked like bad weather and the rest of us thought would be burnt off by the coming sunshine. We drove again to Maishofen, and this time turned north. We were able to remove our clothing differentially almost as soon as we left the road and crossed the bridge, once more zig-zagging up through the forest trails. After some time we passed an occupied farm with a dour couple who nevertheless exchanged greetings with us, and on and up again to a lone mountain hut which looked purpose-made for our kind of naked week in the mountains. A super view, tables outside, no neighbours to be concerned about, if only we'd been able to rent this place, we all thought. As anyone will tell you who has organised any kind of group activity, let alone a naked one, finding the perfect place is not easy at the best of times, and only made more complicated by changing numbers of attendees, and an indecisive organiser. Nevertheless with the experience of years, and some advice from Roland, perhaps next time. Roland had also brought Elgar along again this year, which was nice as Polly had something to keep an eye on during the day. The pace was a tad quick during the week from time to time, and we had to keep pushing back so the slower walkers could keep up and not become demoralised by the speedy gonzaleses at the front of the line. The daily-nominated Tail-End-Charlie was a difficult but essential role for someone to take on, and we were lucky to get a willing volunteer each day. More than once they were most definitely necessary, and today Roland set the pace for the steep section. Onwards and upwards again, until we finally emerged from the trees again amidst a group of cows and mountain horses hanging around near a couple of small huts. The main group headed off up the obvious (wrong) track, while I and a few others followed the map and the correct route. Even in glorious sunshine it was obvious how easy it can be to lose half your group on an unfamiliar mountain with well marked trails, and all the more so if the weather turned unexpectedly. The main part of the group rejoined the map-carrier some were sheepish, and some unrepentant, but alls well that ends well. We continued up the easy track across the mountain side, towards the ridge above, where we stopped for a group photo with our walk from Monday as the stunning backdrop. A man appeared on the trail below us, and somewhat surprisedly asked of our naked group: "what are you all doing?", to which I replied: "walking in the hills, and what are you doing?", at which reply he broke into a wide grin and said: "yes, of course, how silly of me!" We took a photo of the friendly man with our little group, before he headed off exchanging waves of mutual encouragement. We set off shortly after and mounted the ridge with stupendous views off to the east towards Saalfelden and the Steinernern Meer beyond. We met the man again at the summit of the [Spitzhorn] where we took mutual photos and chatted about the mountains. He's a local from Zell, and has been walking the mountains now for nearly eighty years, much like Doug (82 and chief pace-setter) and Jim (79), (both from New Zealand). He left us, and we had lunch on the summit, glorious views and a well deserved rest, before heading off along the ridge to the next shoulder. We passed a little group of mountain bikers, one of whom warned us about one of their team, a woman who had not had a man for a couple of years, quite cute and very dangerous apparently, especially as this was her birthday mountain bike tour! We stopped at a pool of water, perhaps 20 degrees on top and 5 degrees just one foot down, for a few of the lads to jump in and splash about. Polly lent a hand/paw to proceedings. We kept moving along the ridge, soaking up the atmosphere, the incredible views on both sides of us, the easy walking was a simple joy up here. Being naked amongst such scenery, finding little time for chit-chat and idle banter and we were all of us absorbed in our own thoughts as we were surrounded by raw, naked, huge, gorgeous, nature, (and sunshine). We took a path along the ridge through the trees, being overtaken by a friendly couple on mountain bikes. Gilles interviewed the man, and the woman chatted with the rest of us a while, before continuing on their own tour. We trudged on, and eventually arrived at the Biberg Gasthof perched halfway up the ridge on the other side of the hill, and with a stupendous view across the Leogang valley to the Leogang Steinberge beyond. Again, I asked the owner if it was ok to be naked on their sun terrace, away from the other guests. At first she misunderstood and thought I had said "nachtwandergruppe", (night hiking group), instead of "nacktwandergruppe", (naked hiking group), and questioned me as to how long I expected to stay (it being 1600 in the afternoon). Eventually the story became clear, and we almost got a refusal from the lady when the man of the house asked: "naked? from the waist up?", and I replied: "yes, and from the waist down, too", and he looked surprised (as usual), and then said: "sure, why not?". So Robert, who had missed out on Monday's adventure at the Hochzelleralm Gasthof to attend a funeral, had his own being naked at a mountain restaurant story to tell, his grin was as wide as he is tall. Gilles interviewed an enthusiastic lady cyclist on our terrace, and the owner came up to take a couple of photos, while we sipped our drinks, and lounged on their sun terrace deck chairs, tables and chairs. Below us several guests vied for the best seats and waved occassionally. Gilles interviewed a family group on the terrace and the kids were very enthusiastic, so much so, that when we left they stood up on their chairs and waved us goodbye with big grins and shouts of glee. So much for the usual drivel about children being upset about seeing naked people, and we wondered how their parents were going to get out of the naked walking holiday next year... We set off again, Gilles finding yet another, (pretty too), enthusiastic interviewee en-route. The question came: "what do you think of meeting a naked hiking group up here in the mountains?", she replied: "so long as you don't come at me with weapons, I'm perfectly happy about your walking naked in the hills", Anton, (our GPS expert), asked: "weapons?", looking down at his naked body, and she laughed. We set off once more, steadily losing height, talking non-stop about the interesting interactions we had had this day, and this week, and all too soon arrived at the base of the hill by the road. Now some people had a dip in the fast running stream next to the trail, and we all tramped back to the hut, looking forward to the meal which the Dutch team of Joop, Roland, Tony (from the Dutch Naturist Federation) and Wilfried, had gone on ahead to fix. We lost Andre today as the walking was just too much for him, even though we promised a short easy day on the morrow, especially chosen for the weaker walkers.
Thursday dawned another warm looking day, and we could not believe our luck with the weather. Polly the Collie was not so lucky, being attacked with a vengance, as we came out of the door in the morning, by a cat who had three tiny kittens to defend from anything looking like a dog. Polly leaped back with multiple yelps and luckily only a sore nose to complain about. We went for our morning loo stroll, and the cat stalked us menacingly for a good hundred yards, arched back wide-eyed and ready to attack again. Polly was not amused. Today was going to be a short, although not uneventful, day, as we wanted to give both Mira, and especially Sylvie, an interesting walk. Because she has prosthetic hips and has had multiple problems with joints and many operations, (the story is too long and painful to relate here), Sylvie cannot walk far, and certainly not up and down the Austrian Alps, so it's particularly poignant that she chose to join our Newt this year, and I was determined she should have at least one dedicated day. Today was that day. We drove north around the back of the Leoganger Steinbirge massiv, and parked at the end of the Naturbad valley. We all set off up the easy forestry road, used by farmers, hunters, cyclists and walkers alike, removing our clothing some 100 metres from the cars. Somehow we managed to reach our target farm hut without managing to lose anyone, where we stopped for lunch and photos and much tomfoolery, leap-frog, etc. The team split into two, the larger part heading off across the Romerpass towards the Leotal, and the smaller staying behind for the short walk. In our group, Joop and I had managed to end up accompanying all four ladies, (including Polly in the count), although we were at a loss to understand quite exactly how that had happened. Nevertheless we tried to make the best of it, and after a little dutiful sun-bathing headed off up the same trail the others had used, towards the pass, Polly chasing sticks the whole way. Eventually we reached a pleasant place to stop and to bathe in the river and stopped a while, this being our high point. After some time we returned to the cars via the original route, and although this was a reasonably short walk for a fit person, I was still concerned for Sylvie and possibly over-doing it. As we approached the cars, and the cafe, we met more people, couples out walking, and a hunters car with maniacal dog, loose and barking wildly. An ice-cream saw the end of our day before we drove home to find out what had happened to the "B-team". They had been descending the other side of the pass, when they entered the Hochfiltzen military zone, where there happened to be a live shooting exercise at the time. This is supposed to be notified on a dedicated board at our starting point of the walk, (and wasn't), but never mind. The guard told everyone, including two mountain bikers, to stop while an escort was arranged through the firing range. The escort arrived and the motley group traipsed through the range to the other side. While no-one seemed overly bothered about the group's nudity, the police were indeed summoned all the same. Five (yes, 5) police cars roared up and out jumped the appropriate number of Austrian police, the naked group continued sitting quietly munching their sandwiches. Robert now rose, as leader of the hiking group for the day, and approached the police, he had the presence of mind to pick up his shorts but to keep them in his hand, ready but not wearing anything. Robert and the police, chatted for a while, and Gilles most impressively got all of this on film and is entertainment par excellence. The first police group were apparently trainees, hence the number being used for our benefit for impromptu practice. The real police turned up shortly, yes, still more, and our group dutifully dressed for them on request, before being asked to refrain from walking naked through villages and towns and on the main roads. In the mountains apparently naked hiking isn't a concern so long as there are no reports of any form of misbehaviour. This all sounds awfully like our own unofficial guidelines, thought I, on hearing the news, but pleased to hear it in almost correct form from yet another official. In the end, the group simply walked out of the military training area and caught a bus back to our farmhouse. If anything, the military appeared to be far less concerned by the nudity than the police, and the police didn't seem that concerned either. All in all, a most remarkable, and above all interesting, week, topped by Jim celebrating his 79th birthday with us at an all-naked dinner, with which even Mira joined in, at our farmhouse.
Friday dawned with some grey clouds and a forecast of storms in the afternoon, so we headed across to the area behind Wiesbach where there was a low-lying area of good forestry trail hiking to be had. Setting off from the car park naked we found the easy trail steady as it gained height evenly through the trees. Bernard G. was cold enough to wear a jumper, which event, for anyone who knows him, is fairly unusual. It was some time before we began to gain enough height to begin to appreciate the peaks soaring into the thin grey cloud above. We emerged from the trees onto a pleasant plateau with a scattered hamlet of mountain dwellings and summer alms, as we walked through we heard and saw waves of delight from one small party at a nearby hut. We kept going and arrived at a small lake where we sat for a short lunch stop and soaked up the atmosphere of our nearly remote spot. The sun came out unexpectedly and the day stayed warm and sunny until the evening, we couldn't quite understand the weather but were glad of it all the same, sunshine is of course the perfect weather for naked hikers, although one has to be careful not to get too much, as with anything. People began to get restless and Bernard B., wanted to get to the top of the ridge above us so we set off at a pace which Mira couldn't match. Mira and I peeled off and went for a coffee and hot chocolate at the mountain gasthof just above us, while the rest of the group kept on up the hill heading for the ridge. A little later we walked back through the hamlet together, with Polly, passing some cows coming in to be milked. I was naked again by the time we got to the other side of the alm and we walked steadily back towards the singular "bench with a view" we had seen earlier, before meeting the rest of the group descending towards us. The group was now complete once more, and we descended together through the forest, taking in the nature trail at the base of the valley which led us nicely back to the car park. Another glorious day, short but perhaps just right for the last day of the week given the long drives everyone had ahead of them on the morrow. The evening was spent doing battle with Gilles and Jerome's laptops, various cameras and USB sticks as we struggled to share all our photos in the most practical way possible, before having to fall back to the internet when we all got home.
The Saturday was another day without rain, although the clouds had begun to thicken and lower, which was good for the drive home. Some were driving all the way back to Paris, others were flying to England, and still others were heading for the naturist resort of La Sabliere in the south of France. Envious heads turned at every corner, however, we had had a good week and were not complaining (yet). I drove back home naked from the petrol station, and later heard (unsurprisingly) that Jerome did the same, although he extended his naked driving trip by he and Jos driving naked all the way from Munich to Brussels too. Jean-Pierre and Kathrine, Paul and Jim, Jerome and Jos (the photographic shop owner from Belgium), joined me in Munich for a quick sojourn at my place, (to drop off the dog), before heading for the Therme Erding, a huge sauna and bathing complex, almost certainly the biggest in Europe, with the largest no-clothes area any of us had seen in any commercial operation to date. It was a great way to finish off our naked hiking week, we started at 1400, first one sauna, then a shower, then a swim, then a different sauna, coffee, a swim, a music pool, another sauna this time with an aromatic and extremely hot "aufguss" session from the young and pretty staff, (one from yorkshire), another shower, and a meal at the restaurant, a swim, then another sauna, a paddle around the lake, another swim, cocktails in the pool, a different sauna, swim, sauna, etc., never going to the same sauna twice. Until midnight, when we did a last walk around the lake in the rain after the thunderstorm and then reluctantly packed up and headed home, and back to reality. What a fantastic week!
What are you doing for the NEWT 2017 ?-)