Naked European Walking Tour 2011 – Thursday

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.

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