Wednesday July 17
After the long tour of the day before, we decided on a short tour to follow, so we headed up the forest behind our hut. As we entered the trees, most of us removed our clothing and placed it in our rucksacks, as was common practice for the week. So our group was already naked when we encountered the local girl from our farm herding her cows to a gate. We helped her guide them through, trying not to get in the way too much, and she waved gratefully, wishing us a good walk for the day. Now, if the farm and restaurant people didn't already know we were a naked hiking group yet, they certainly did now!
Our trail took a slanting upward cut through the trees, and headed steadily towards the ridge above. We kept a reasonable pace past the ferns and the undergrowth, gratefully shaded by the high foliage from the searing sun. This made for a nice contrast with yesterdays' rocky route with it's wide open skies. We traipsed up the side of the hill, slowly gaining altitude. The flora began to change, the trees more widely spaced and shorter and thinner, and then we could see sky through the tree tops on all 4 sides. We were on the top of the ridge.
Although we could have continued on to the Roßbrand summit proper, which would have been another hour or so of easy hiking, I wanted to stop here to let the group recuperate properly from yesterday's exertions. Instead we found a mountain hut with a convenient wooden table and benches and settled down for lunch with a stunning view to the Dachstein across the valley, and watched as our t-shirts dried in the bright alpine sun. A couple of groups of people walked along the same trail we had used, mildly amused to see the group of naked picnickers and waved in friendly greetings as they passed us by. Our hunger sated, we set off to retrace our steps back down the hill, to our hut for an early tea.
As we slipped our clothes back on, to walk past the restaurant next to our hut, I saw the lady, who owned both premises, sitting having coffee with a couple of friends or relations, and I had an idea. I approached them and asked about perhaps our group eating an early dinner at their restaurant. They said that would be fine, but they close at 18:00 (in 2 hours time). I asked them if they were aware that we were a naked hiking group, and they nodded and smiled. I then asked them if it would ok for us to eat our dinner at their restaurant, but that we'd like to be naked, (with suitable towels on the benches naturally), perhaps slightly to the side so we were not quite so obvious. They didn't even blink before they nodded and smiled again. "of course, that would be no problem", and the nice lady in charge waved her arm in the direction of the tables. Not needing to be told twice, I returned to the group and informed them of the new dinner arrangements before hustling them off the comfy table they had chosen and around to the slightly less public table.
We sat down around the large square wooden table with several of us stripping off immediately and some of the others remaining dressed. This was after all a new experience for some, and in any case it's always good when a group can accommodate different dress codes for different people. If there's one thing I've discovered about the best naked dress codes, it's that the only firm rule is a flexible one.
We ordered drinks from the nice young kellnerin, probably the daughter of the mother of the house, and settled down to enjoy an early tea. Our group languidly appeared and we brought over a couple more long tables and benches to enable enough seating for all of us. Gradually we had probably half of us naked and half dressed, and all comfortably eating pizza and toast, and drinking Austrian beer and fruit juice, in this very nicely placed low mountain restaurant. Harry from Belgium described how good it was during the week to just go naked hiking, in contrast to his prior experience with one hiking group who always sent out (dressed) people ahead and behind the group with walkie-talkies (for goodness sake) so they could warn the naked people to get dressed before they met any clothed hikers on the trail - this is the wrong way to change public perception about nudity, there is no need to hide from anyone if you're not doing anything wrong. It was good to see Harry come around to our approach during the week and we hoped we'd hear of him promoting this solution in his own area in future.
All the same, we did get several funny looks from a few of the other patrons, and one poor young boy nearly went flying through the (reinforced) glass window pane behind us as Paul stood up naked as the lad walked past to the toilets. Throughout our meal, we were served promptly and pleasantly by the staff and the Chefin, and although the dinner was a little early for the French, I think we all did it justice. One couple had apparently given us a strange look during the meal, so when Pascal, (our co-opted treasurer for the week), and I went to pay (dressed), I went up to them and explained we were a naked hiking group. The woman looked up, smiled pleasantly and nodded, and said: "oh, we know that already, it's perfectly fine with us, no problem whatsoever." More public acceptance of simple nudity - result.
After this congenial meal we retired to our hut to sit outside and enjoy the view over a fine campfire which Stuart built beside our garden tables. Another fine day.