Post Updated: March 2021 – Added an epilogue about our US travels to this post about goofy regulations – formal and otherwise – one encounters when visiting a naked place.
On our way northward from the island of Rab a few years ago, we decided to deviate by taking the ferry to Krk, where subsequently a bridge would connect us to mainland Croatia. Lunchtime destination? Buncaluka Naturist Resort on the southern tip of Otok Krk. It’s a lovely spot, and it was a lovely day – Father’s Day after all – until I got scolded by a German patron for… ready for this? Being naked. We had taken our cue from a German couple next to us; he was naked, she had a pareo around her waist – we followed suit. But when I dashed down to pay the beach attendant the rental fee for our lounge chairs, a less-than-pleasant restaurant patron ceased conversation to issue me a citation.
“Bitte?” says I.
To be fair, I was naked in the restaurant area, which is exactly 0 meters from the beach area, and I had actually read something about the need to cover up in the bistro, though it’s always very difficult to tell exactly what that means. And what’s more, we had been interacting with our server for at least 45 minutes, who certainly had noticed our weapons were not concealed, yet he did not seem alarmed by us or the similarly attired couple at the next table. Apparently the actual rule here is live and let live.
In each of the French naturist resorts we’ve visited, nude dining is always permitted, though most guests do not exercise the option. Where we were staying in Valalta, it’s similarly nebulous – put clothes on to eat, unless you’re at a beach bar, or near a beach, or … well I don’t know exactly. Go across the fjord to Koversada to have lunch at the fish restaurant and you’ll find more naked patrons than not. You’re at a naturist resort for God’s sake. Is it such a stretch to be naked?
I suppose there is the argument to be made for hygienic conditions in an area where food is served, (though I find naturists to be more conscientious than most about hygiene, especially compared to the typical beach town crowd) or maybe the other patrons simply don’t want to “see your junk” while eating their grilled squid, but that’s not actually my point.
Given the relentless rhetoric about naturism as ultimate freedom, the rules and regulations that govern most naturist places are often complicated at least, and downright contradictory at best. I was particularly amused by a sign right outside the restaurant and bar of an Italian naturist resort that said, and I quote, “Naturista? Si Grazie!” But walk three meters beyond that sign and sit at that bar and you get reprimanded by an old Italian woman for indecent exposure.
Perhaps I’m sounding overly-sensitive, but we have found time and again that it literally takes the better part of an entire week to learn the explicit and implicit rules of virtually any naturist place we have visited. And it works both ways! My wife was once chastised for wearing a scarf around her midsection at a French naturist resort, despite the fact that she was covering a scar from a recent surgery. “You must be naked in the pool area! Undress or leave!”
So with that, here is a summary of the typical resort rules for European naturism:
- You must be naked here.
- You can’t be naked there.
- No nudity after 8:00 pm
- No nudity before 8:00 am – even in the shower!
- No clothes when swimming… unless you’re wearing a swimsuit… or you’re an adolescent… or you’re shy.
- No display of genitalia, at times and under certain conditions, which may include breasts, (but not man breasts) in places were food is served, unless it’s OK with the server, or you’re drinking a beverage with a sexy name or a pun invoking some absurd double entendre, like White-ass Russian, or Skin and Tonic. (There’s an entirely different post to be written about self-deprecating signage at nudist places, but for another day.)
I’ve grown weary from reading the long and winding thread of forum posts regarding the decline of naturism and the aging of the naturist population. But the fact is, if I visit a textile hotel and end up in a state of paranoia wondering if I’m pissing off the locals, I’m not likely to harbor fond memories about my relaxing vacation. For those who live in the eastern United States, it’s something akin to showing up to a summer wedding without a coat and tie, only to realize you’re the only one there who didn’t meet the dress code. Are you the singular human smart enough to know how to dress in 90-degree heat, or have you ruined the bride’s most special day in ignorance of the implicit dress-code? We keep saying that nudity is all about acceptability and tolerance — except when it’s not.
Of course, there’s yet another post to be written about photography at naturist places, and the fact that I’ve included a few pics in this post, taken before I saw the “camera-slash” sign, but after I had seen several others taking phone-shots of their friends and family on the beach amidst a sea of naked people. Just another tangent that makes the simplicity of nakedness way more complicated than it should be.
Since I first published this post, we’ve done a lot more naturist travel in the US, largely due to travel restrictions in the wake of COVID-19. One big difference on this side of the Atlantic is how many naked places here double as year-round residential communities for retired snowbirds who have set up house-keeping for the better part of the year. That adds yet another wrinkle to the “implicit rule structure,” as it’s one thing to have the management enforcing policies for a vacation destination, but quite another where you’re a passing guest, imposing yourself into somebody else’s neighborhood. (Similar to a lot of stories about people who rent out their apartments as AirBNBs while pissing off the neighbors who find the transient guests to be a nuisance.) And if there’s anything American nudists love, it’s all sorts of crazy policies as to who can enter the camp, where you must be naked, where you’re not allowed to be naked, and what happens should you dare to show up as a single male. (I’m eager to tell the story in an upcoming post of a naturist friend who was told he couldn’t return to a particular resort without a notarized note from his wife! Really!!!)
Many of us are putting a lot of effort into normalizing nude recreation in hopes of easing some of the stigma while fostering a more inviting environment for would-be/could-be naturists who’d like to give it a try. This sort of crazy is not helpful to that cause! We love to revel in the sense of freedom we derive from clothes-free recreation, but that can be easily thwarted by the paranoia of stepping outside the lines when you didn’t even know there were any.
Don’t worry newbies. It’s not just you. It really is that confusing.
And hey, faithful readers! If you have some crazy stories of your own about the day you inadvertently broke the rules at your favorite naked place, please share them in the comment section below. There’s comfort in knowing about shared experience, and we might all pick up a few tips along the way.