In July of 2006 a small group got together to walk from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, through the thinnest part of Austria and on to the Italian border – naked. This was the NEWT, or Naked European Walking Tour, and was planned as a repeat of a similar walk I had completed alone in 2005 and described on the http://www.naktiv.net web site. We started at 9am on July 1st from the bahnhof (train station) at Garmisch and set off beside the river towards the Mittenwald forest, discarding our clothes as we each felt comfortable along the route, between the town and the entrance to the Partenklamm gorge. The gorge cost 2 Euros each to walk through, and I paid for all of us so as to speed up the process. Although the lady behind the cash desk looked a bit bemused, she seemed fairly comfortable with the sight of 7 naked men queueing up at her counter. Another punter, one of a mixed group of clothed men and women hovering nearby, requested to take a photograph of this unusual sight, and curiosity satisfied, we set off up the cold, dark gorge. The water churned through the tight rocky confines, waterfalls sprayed from high above in the distant sunlight as we followed the winding trail carved from the eastern side of the gorge walls, just above the raging torrent below. The cool air blew freshly over our naked skin. We passed several groups of people in the gorge, one girl looking back as she held her mother’s hand, another couple squealed with surprise as they noticed us, but no-one appeared overly concerned, even this close to such a major tourist town as Garmisch. After a while we left the gorge, having survived the ‘blooding’ of our naked walk – our first encounters with textiles (people wearing clothes), and certainly not our last. We continued alongside the river, passing a pair of women on the opposite bank who waved encouragingly to us as they took photographs of this perhaps unusual sight.
All of us were experienced naked hikers but this was our first trip together. We were an interesting mix of people from different countries: including Britain, France, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States of America. Our professions were equally varied including a librarian, an ex-prison officer, a grounds- and handy-man for a castle estate, a programmer and author, a translator and an unemployed wastrel. Although the average age was near 50, we ranged right up to 76! Extraordinary though it might seem, at 46, I appeared to be the baby of the group. An unrelenting grind up the Kalbersteig, winding through the trees, gained most of our height for that day. Konrad, the Swiss Bear, carried David’s old and heavy cotton Italian army rucksack for the steep sections, a mighty demonstration of solid mountain strength. We spent the day walking along forest trails below the Wetterstein, an enormous wall of limestone towering above the pine trees of the Mittenwald. Along the route we met several cyclists – a particularly pleasant encounter was one girl who rode through our group on her mountain bike giving us the thumbs up, and calling out enthusiastically and with a big grin: “Nice outfits!” After a pause for an apfelschoerle, (applejuice mixed with fizzy water, and very refreshing), at the Ferchensee gasthof next to an idyllic lake, we continued for another couple of hours and ended our days walk with dinner at the Gletscherschliff gasthof. Here we lost David, the American, the walk was too strenous for him, and his ancient army rucksack with very thin shoulder straps had proved most uncomfortable.