So it seems that Germans (and Europeans in general) are more comfortable with their bodies than us Americans. I make that assumption based on the observations I’ve made on the beaches and surrounding waters in and around our home in Croatia. And it’s not Croatians for the most part, but rather the German tourists who visit the area. They are often topless or nude or changing easily in and out of swimsuits on the beach with not a care as to who sees them.
Last year when we visited the beach in Pješćana Uvala, we first noticed a lot of topless woman sunbathers. I have to admit I was a little jealous of the lack of tan lines that they were able to achieve with this practice. And it really didn’t surprise me because I knew from traveling in the British Virgin Islands and Mexico that topless sunbathing and nude beaches were a thing, especially among European tourists.
I also noticed lots of naked children running about on the beach near us as well, which I have to say warmed my heart because I love the freedom of it and remembered how happy my kids were when they jumped out of the bathtub in the evening, and they would take off running down the hallway as I tried to dry them off with a towel. They somehow would slip away, and I have to admit that I always took my time chasing them down. One, because I was normally exhausted in the evenings with three kids under the age of four, but mainly because they seemed so happy and free. I did feel a little guilty about doing this, like, was I encouraging them to be streakers? Do you remember that era in the 70s?
But since we have been going out on the water on our sailboat, I’ve noticed the naturist thing is quite prevalent with boaters in general. We’ve noticed a trend though, it’s mostly boats flagged with German and Austrian flags with a few Slovenians thrown into the mix. Not just topless though, totally in the buff. Sometimes it’s a lone man, sometimes a couple, sometimes a whole family—– the common denominator is no clothes, just their birthday suits, as my mom used to say.
First of all, let me say, there is nothing sexual about it. There’s no leering or crudeness about it. People just seem to be really nonchalant, both the naked person and the people around said naked person. It’s about freedom, I believe. The same freedom that sent my kids running down the hallway as little ones. And this freedom extends to everyone —- young, old, tall, short, fat, thin, flabby or muscular. It’s doesn’t seem to be about how you look; it’s the freedom of feeling, of being who you truly are, absent of the coverings that man has forced upon himself.
For some reason, boats seem to bring out the nakedness. Perhaps the freedom of the sea paired with the anonymity of boating lends itself to this phenomena. At one little cove we visited on a sunny afternoon this July, the ratio of nakedness to us clothing-disabled folks was about 4 to 1.
According to the European Points of Interest website, “Croatia was the first country in Europe to start with the concept of commercial naturist resorts.” According to their estimates, “about 15% of all tourists to Croatia are naturists or nudists.” That’s a rather high percentage when you consider how many people visit this country each summer. “You are likely to find nudists on any beach outside of town centers,” the site continues, which seems to be our experience here. According to the website, the most popular nudist destinations are Pula, which is right where we live, and on the islands of Hvar and Rab, which are further down the Adriatic coast.
I reflected on the body anxiety that many women face in the U.S., and the big deal we Americans tend to make about certain parts of the body. Are we encouraging this unnatural preoccupation with the stigma of nakedness? There are controversies in the states about people getting offended when a woman is breastfeeding in public. But what is wrong with that picture? It’s the healthiest way to feed a baby and the way nature intended. And besides, any museum you go to normally has a Madonna nursing a baby or a Venus de Milo chiseled in stone and no one is upset about that. Just my two cents.
While this naturalist trend hasn’t gotten me baring it all when I’m out on the boat or on the beach, I have become much more comfortable as a 50-something year old woman walking around in a bikini on the beaches of Croatia and in Europe. The one piece swimsuits I packed when I left the USA to move over here sit in my closet gathering dust for the most part. I’ve seen many 70 and 80 year old women in two pieces around the area and somehow thought, what is the big deal? They can cover my belly when I’m dead, right?
So the final day of our last sailing trip we were on around the island of Mali Losinj, I was texting back and forth to a dear friend back in Louisiana. It was her 58th birthday and we were chatting back and forth. Since it was a milestone day for her, I decided to try to send her a little birthday video to express my feelings. (See video below.) The sound wasn’t working on my camera for some reason, but please watch my expression as I go to video Mike in the water so he could wish her a happy birthday as well. My cheeks go a little pink in the end. It’s subtle because of my olive complexion, but you can see the unexpected look I have.
Because as I glanced off the edge of the boat, I saw something very white and round where a bathing suit should be, and I suddenly came to the realization that it was the backside of my husband Mike totally in the buff jumping into the water.
Yes, my American husband had become the Naked German.