Martin and Andreas provided a participant's report:
Note for English-speaking readers:
The Naked European Walking Tour took place in the Austrian province of Styria, or Steiermark in German. An “alm”, which appears in many of the place names, is an area of alpine pasture, very often the site of a farmhouse.
Dear hiking friends
After Andreas and Wolfgang took part in the Naked European Walking Tour in 2015, and Torsten and I joined it in 2017, we wanted to stay true to the good old two-year rhythm and be part of this unique hiking group again in 2019. Andreas, myself, and more than 40 other naturists from numerous countries joined to explore the area around the Dachstein …
As usual, but still different …
In contrast to the Naked European Walking Tour '17, this hiking report will be updated every day, so that you always may know, what Andreas and I experienced that day …
► Arrival: The day with the special surprise … [13 July 2019]
Our journey involved a good eight hours drive through the Czech Republic, then through countless tunnels in Austria to Ramsau am Dachstein. At first the world seemed to be in order, so Andreas and I unpacked our clothes, had a short chat with Lim from Singapore and John from Ireland, as well as some other participants, before I decided to jump into the swimming pool belonging to the property. Pascal first got an “okay” from the owner that we could walk naked to the pool, but after this practical example, there seemed to be a reason for the owner to inform us before dinner that we should please keep our clothes on in the hut. The planned Naked European Walking Tour became a clothed European Bed and Breakfast …
But none of this should discourage us, and so I went to the Bergerhof next door to take a panoramic photo of our accommodation with a view of the Duregg.
“When I wake up in the morning with a headache, lying in my bed with my shoes on, I think I must have an allergy to leather.”
We spent the evening in a convivial group to exchange thoughts, opinions and all sorts of intelligent nonsense. Which included the above quotation from Horst from Thuringia.
► Day 1: The one with the infinite ways … [14 July 2019]
On the first day we decided to defy the weather forecast and so we didn't let the morning rain stop us from visiting the Rosemialm. So we drove our cars towards the alpine pasture and then started the hike – with a destination of Ahornsee – in light rain.
The first part of the hike we followed a narrow path through the Styrian wilderness. As the weather unfortunately did not allow us to photograph the landscape of the hike at the beginning, I decided to capture the first photos of the near surroundings on digital film. So I took the following photo of a wild azalea …
After the first third of the hike we finally arrived at a place where an unexpected delay occurred. None of us knew what was going on, until after a few minutes it turned out that Peter had to turn around with stomach pains, and so he could not participate in the rest of the hike.
We decided to vote whether we should continue the hike or turn back in the direction of the cars – at first there was consensus that we should go back. So we descended the slope we had climbed minutes before until Pascal informed us that his wife Clarisse would accompany Peter back to the car. We walked up the slope again, through the Styrian wilderness, always accompanied by the light rain, which partly stopped, to return again as soon as we took off the rain ponchos.
Some time later we reached the temporary end of our hike: When two textile hikers approached us while we were eating lunch, and told us about the slippery path we had planned to climb down, Pascal decided to stop the hike and walk back towards the car. The rain-laden sky gradually cleared up, then rain intensified further towards the evening. So we followed the northern route through the woods, where we took numerous photos of our hiking group.
Shortly before the end of the hike we were suddenly told that we had to get our clothes out of our backpack at a hut in order to get dressed …
The reason for this was – apparently – an abandoned hut, but Pascal didn't want to take any risks based on the experiences of last year. So we followed the last two kilometres of the hike up the slope. On the way we took some videos and numerous photos, including two taken by Lim showing me lying on a bench. While the rest of our group kept their clothes on, I decided for this one moment to throw the “load” off.
This last possibility of "being human" took place at the end, a few hundred meters before the end of our hike.
► Day 2: The one where I'm 17 again … [15 July 2019]
On the second day we intended a high-altitude walk, and a hike to the Seekarscharte at 2,044 meters was planned. We started our hike at about 1,400 meters, very close to an alpine hut, which also housed a small pigsty on the property. From the parking lot we followed the way up into the mountains, until Pascal gave the word after some time that we could undress – since we started at about 12 degrees, Andreas and I decided to keep our clothes on for the time being and hope for warmer temperatures or a proper ascent. The latter was also promptly fulfilled by Pascal and so we found ourselves after relatively short time as part of the nude hiking group again.
On our way we also passed a small stream, which we had to cross – the opportunity for me to use the functions of some camera apps. The first meters of altitude behind us, we took not only pictures of the stream, but also photos of the impressive landscape, as well as our hiking group.
After we left the first meters of altitude behind us – the first break was also over – we climbed the mountain further until we stood at the foot of a valley. Of course, the climb was not over, but the mountain gave us a short rest before we needed to go further up a steep slope …
On the way up Peter seemed to have problems again and so I decided to take his backpack from him so that he could breathe a little better – until the lunch break at around 1:20 p.m., after we gained a few more meters of altitude.
At lunchtime it was time for me to take a picture of myself again and so I asked Lim from Singapore to take a picture of me and then Pascal, a few meters further on, to ask him to capture me in front of a panorama. It was natural that Lim and Pascal also got photos of themselves – the view into the valley was utterly unique …
Lunch break doesn't mean a break from all activity, and so after this little photo tour I went out again to capture some good shots with the digital app “Spectre” – it turned out that other fellow hikers were also impressed by the shots. I would like to withhold these photos from you (for the time being), as the next few days will certainly promise similar photos.
At the end of the break I also took the obligatory group photo – I'd like to offer it to you later. It struck me that I forgot to pack my trousers during the first break, so that I went through the windy passages of the Alps in “Marylin-Monroe-Style” during the further course of the hike. But as a nude hiker you quickly forget the unimportant things … trousers for example.
After this little “shock”, we continued on our way, because there were still some kilometres ahead of us and we wre a long way from the peak. So it wasn't surprising if we photographed some flowers along the way, as we saw alpine florets, but also the rare blue gentian. Who remembers the song of Heino?
A few minutes later we reached the destination of our hike: The Seekarscharte at 2,044 meters above sea level. Since Horst was about to explore the vastness of the landscape, I decided to press the trigger immediately …
Maybe I should also mention here that when we reached the 1,900 meter level we encountered small snow fields again and again, which were used for one or the other photo, as well as – later – a slide. Also at the Seekarscharte a small snowfield was found and I asked Andreas to take a picture of me lying in the snow. Since on the third day Pascal took us on a difficult hike, during which we were to encounter such snowfields again, I'll show you pictures from that day instead.
At the Seekarscharte Pass a small part of the group decided to descend to the nearby village, because Peter wasn't doing well again and he had to fight with the thin air.
For the rest, we went further in the direction of more snow fields. This took us to a height of approximately 2,060 meters. The next snowfield was bigger, and Lim used it to prove to the rest of the group that he is a real guy, and so he rolled through the snow once. Following the increasing number of snowfields, we also passed the first lakes, which were created by the melting snow of the last months – at one of the biggest lakes we finally found a “slide of snow” again ( we should speak much more of a snow-covered slope here ). Clarisse then said that this would be ideal for me to slide down … a few minutes later I was already 17 again and the next hit arrived in my ear …
The cold lake was also a welcome occasion for some fellow hikers to go for a short swim.
At some point every bathing break comes to an abrupt end, because the destination of our hike was still far away. A short time later, we discovered a marmot on a ramble through the meadows of the Alps. Horst, Pascal and some fellow hikers at the end of the group had the opportunity to watch the small rodent's goings-on. A few minutes later we had the luck again to get one of these little guys in front of the lens, and I could get as close as two meters without frightening the rodent …
From this small visit to the fauna of the Alps, we continued in a downhill direction, not without first capturing the panorama of the impressive landscape on digital film. The last big panorama of the day was finally a few meters away, which I will show you later.
Until the end of the hike it was only a few more kilometres, which led us past an alpine hut – including a herd of cows – and over stony paths in the direction of the valley. The third day's hike promised so many beautiful photos, which I can't present to you all in one article, so a video
► Day 3: The one with the quintessence of life … [16 July 2019]
The third day was to be one of the highlights of the whole Naked European Walking Tour '19 for me – not only that I tested the limits of the app “Spectre”, but also that the landscape we saw this day will remain a good memory for a long time to come …
Beautiful things don't ask for attention.
According to Sean O'Connell's quote from the film “The Amazing Life of Walter Mitty”, this is how it was as we drove to the starting point of the hike at the Ursprungalm, not having expected anything special. But that was after we again financed the robbers who control this private toll road uuuh… the Styrians and their “well constructed sand roads” … So we started with 13 degrees and a cool wind, in order to make the first climb of almost 350 meters over a distance of about two kilometers. On our way along the Ursprungalm we saw some strange looking stairs as well as a lot of textile hikers.
For H. and me there were plenty of opportunities on the way up to about 1,900 metres to photograph the flora of the Alps – for him on good old analogue film and for me on the digital version of the iPhone.
Arriving at the first highlight of the day, we saw the valley below us, until we went on and passed a wall of snow. Since Andreas and I were a bit annoyed in the meantime to always have to keep our clothes on, Andreas even toyed with the idea of leaving the NEWT sooner – but only if Rainer and I would see it the same way. This attitude might change again in the evening.
When we finally left the main road, we could finally put our clothes in our backpacks – whoever wanted to, because the wind was still not really playing along.
But at some point the sun showed up and it made nude hiking more attractive – our friends from the USA, especially Dan, already a bit ahead of us …
Passing the first lake, we passed an alpine hut to feel the next meters of altitude under our feet. Some paths reminded of Saxon Switzerland, even if the sharp-edged rock did not correspond to the sandstone there. After another short climbing tour, I decided to make the above panorama of the lake in the valley.
For the next kilometre we followed the path, which always led us along the slope, past countless photo opportunities, like path markings and our hiking friends. I don't remember when, but after some time we suddenly reached a small hill at an altitude of about 2,150 meters, which I climbed up and stopped for a moment …
At places like this, beauty doesn't ask for attention. She's just there. So at first I hesitated to pull out the camera to press the shutter button, because sometimes it's Sean O'Connell who goes through my head with his quotations …
If I like a moment, … me personally, then I don't want the camera to interrupt me.
I've seldom lost my touch in recent years. This day, this 16th June 2019 was such a day. So it is not surprising that I remember the motto of the magazine LIFE:
To see the world, to dare something,
look behind facades, come closer to each other,
to find and feel each other.
This is the meaning of life.
But now enough about Sean O'Connell, LIFE and Walter Mitty, even if this film plays a very special role in my ( photographic ) life.
A short time later we arrived at a larger snowfield, which had already been used by Milton for some sliding. He offered me his jacket (which is his sled for such occasions), gave me some starting tips and immediately I was going down the slope – I don't have to tell you that this was a lot of fun. Meanwhile Dan decided to take a bath in one of the adjacent lakes – at about five to eight degrees water temperature this is definitely just for tough guys, which also led to some applause among us.
Since we were travelling in relatively hilly terrain, it was also a good idea to explore the surrounding area and so we again found a view of the above panorama, this time from a slightly different angle. At the same time Pascal decided that we would divide the group and change the hike a little – reason was the somewhat too slow speed, as we were a little over two hours behind schedule. So it was decided that after a group photo a part of the group would wait where we were, while the bigger part of the group would continue to climb the mountain …
Shortly before this group photo I decided to do the same as Dan and also take a bath in the nearby lake, which Andreas recorded on video.
So we followed a path up the mountainside; over numerous larger snow fields we steadily approached the level of 2,200 meters. A few meters before this we saw a lake, which was used again to capture some photos on digital film. On this lake also numerous ice floes were found. From this lake we had to walk a few hundred meters via a narrow path along a slope until we decided to take the way back …
Shortly before our departure I decided to take a photo of a very special kind. At the end I took another photo with the app “Spectre”, which served as a test for the next days. On the way back I took some panoramas and some closeups of the flora of the Alps, which also needed to be captured. After a long hike we reached the parking lot where our cars were.
► Day 4: The one in which I wished to be a mountain goat … [17 July 2019]
The first three days of the Naked European Walking Tour '19 are behind us. Half time. On the fourth day Pascal planned a medium hike, which became a little challenge even for experienced hikers like Andreas and me. But we started off at the Felseralm, a youth hotel, which amused us with free roaming alpacas in the parking lot. Hubert, Hermann and Enzo were quite tame and seemed to have no problem with the many people who photographed them and called their names.
By the way, we should start by mentioning the tent group – whose luggage was a good 10 kilograms heavier than ours. It was all the more astonishing that these seven hikers overtook us several times during our common tour.
But for me it was also the opportunity to talk a little with Andreas from Thuringia. But already on the first ascent the wheat separated from the chaff and so I was astonished that Andreas hastened away from all of us – by the way the same applied to Roland from the Netherlands, the organizer of the tent group.
Our hike led us on the first part along a slope, which reminded us a little of Saxon Switzerland. However, the steep slopes were missing – at least it was a safe place, and for some of our fellow hikers, this small passage was a challenge. Reason enough for me to take some photos of the closer and farther surroundings and to fill the memory of the iPhone with it further …
After we had mastered the first small challenge of the day, we headed towards the forest, not without first capturing the impressive panorama. From time to time I also decided to set up my tripod and step in front of the lens myself.
Some hundred meters later we encountered a small stile, which separated the cattle pasture from the rest of the forest and so after a short climb the time had come to take a common group photo on film – the hut group, united with the tent group. It is not easy to get 35 people in one photo, but considering that not everyone wanted to be in the photo, we were 38 naturists from 10 countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Belgium, France, the United States, Slovakia, Ireland, Austria and Singapore.
At the end of this small photo session we followed the path until we reached the first alpine hut on our way, which was being visited by a group of children sent out by the Upper Austrian Children's Cancer Foundation. A few meters before that, a photo was taken, which can be called a cliché …
Alpine meadows. Mountains. Cows. What more does an Austrian want? Or rather: What do his guests require for their satisfaction?
Our common way led on and brought us to the first break shared between the hut group and the backpackers. Here Andreas from Thuringia unpacked his gas cooker and prepared himself a bag of “Chicken Curry”. Since Lim was on a photo safari, I joined him and took some very nice photos, with the unique landscape in the background. Afterwards the way led us steeply up the slope – an achievement for all participants of the tent group, but this ascent was a challenge to everyone. The thought arose that this way is more suitable for mountain goats than for humans.
A few meters before the end of the ascent, I decided to use the snow again for a little cooling and softening of my light sunburn. Unfortunately we could only take a short break, but at the end of the ascent Horst decided to climb a small slope, a few minutes later H. and I were also there and a photo of the three conquerors of the summit was taken.
Further on, the hike went along the ridge and gave us a view, more beautiful than the other one – but this time without thinking about Walter Mitty and his film. The tent group was slightly behind after the common break, but their speed allowed them to catch up, and so we were reunited after scarcely one hour again, before we had to climb the next steep ascent … I already mentioned the mountain goat character of these paths? This ascent was no different and I made an offer to Andreas to carry his 15 kilogram backpack, which he kindly refused.
So a few minutes later we found ourselves at the end of the mountain goat ascent, but after a short look into the distance we decided that there was still a small slope to be climbed. After the first few meters the slope was a bit steeper and when I thought the end was reached, a small slope appeared behind it, which was no longer a problem – even if it was exhausting to climb it, ambition won. But in the end a fantastic panorama was visible, which was captured by Joost from the Netherlands …
After some small jumps we went down the slope towards the Wildsee, not without taking some pictures of some views on digital film. Arriving at the Wildsee, it was said at first, whoever wants to swim can climb down another 30 meters, and then – after bathing in water at around 5 degrees – climb up again.
The rest of the hike led us down 700 meters of altitude over another mountain goat path paved with uncomfortable loose rock, until we reached the Felseralm, where Pascal invited us to decide if we wanted to visit the Johannes Waterfall or not. One part of the group decided to drive immediately toward the hut, while the other part of the group explored the waterfall …
When I was just about to make the ascent back from the waterfall, I thought that a geocache would be a natural thing to find there and, as chance would have it, such was the case. So, the Johannes Waterfall was transformed into a smiley during the golden hour of late afternoon.
► Day 5: The one where I'm really okay … [18 July 2019]
On the fifth day, after the previous day's efforts, Horst, Rainer, and I decided to take a break. Since Jane and Nick from Great Britain also longed for a day off, we decided to take a short walk a few kilometres away from our hut. So we walked about seven kilometres over normal forest paths, for which we did not need a “mountain goat licence”, as was the case on the fourth day …
During the hike we saw not only our hut, but also the so-called “Skywalk” on the top of the Dachstein, including the suspension bridge. As someone familiar with Saxon Switzerland this reminded me a little of the Bastei and its touristic development. By simple ways, which we used the whole week, we managed to talk with one another and to get to know each other better. Jane, Nick and Theo were three English-speaking friends that day, so Rainer, Regina, Udo and I also decided to speak English, and we translated some things for the benefit of S., our youngest fellow wanderer.
With rain just beginning, we reached our cars and could return dry-footed to the accommodation where Horst and Anton were waiting for us. For dinner we had spinach soup, which was prepared with love by Jane and Nick.
► Day 6: The one that's supposed to be over by now? [19 July 2019]
Our last day of the Naked European Walking Tour – alternatively the sixth day – took us to the Rittisberg, after Pascal decided to offer only an easy walk. So we started directly from our accommodation and went to the neighbouring hill, which we could already see at the start of the hike.
Of course we had to master some meters of altitude right at the beginning of the hike, so that an “easy” walk quickly became a challenge – especially considering that some hikes were already behind us. But when I arrived at the first stop, I decided to unpack the tripod and take a seat in the picture. Lim replied that it was not wrong to have a tripod with you! Since this hike was to be the last of our hiking week, we took the usual group photo – since Stephan, the backpacker, was also part of the group, he was also allowed to get in front of the camera once. From the view in the direction of the Dachstein we went further toward the top of the Rittisberg, on which an observation tower was erected, which also houses a geocache ( you don't need to ask yourself if I collected it or not ?? ).
The observation tower was not only used by me for photos, but also by numerous textile hikers who enjoyed the view of the Dachstein. So we could get into some conversations and exchange thoughts until Andreas came up to me and asked for a business card for a man who came from Zwickau. What happiness such a simple greeting can provide.
But each lunch break knows an end and after the cache was found, the way took us down the Rittisberg. On the way downhill our youngest member S. decided to drop her clothes. She said the day before that she didn't want to become a naturist – less than 24 hours later she was naked in the group and walked with us through the Styrian forests and mountains. In the end this even led to her saying that shortly before reaching the “Clothing Point”, i.e. the point at which we had to get dressed again, she would have preferred not to put on her clothes anymore, as she was so warm!
But our hike wasn't over yet: Pascal suggested that we could visit a small lake only two kilometres away. I don't know whether he deliberately concealed the altitude difference or whether Pascal didn't see it on the map, because the path led us down a forest path a good 100 metres before we could jump into the cool mountain lake, which was created to run a hydroelectric power station. We also crossed a bridge to cross one of the mountain rivers to take a dip in it afterwards …
S.'s father needed a little encouragement to let himself fall into the ( estimated ) eight degree cold water – what can you do for your daughter! It wasn't that easy for me either, but if my feet are already in the water to take a picture of the bridge and the whitewater stream, then the rest of me can get wet as well. After a short break we went back on our way to welcome the tent hiking group in our accommodation that evening.
In the end, this easy walk was a good 22 kilometres with about 400 metres of altitude difference – as I said, it was an “easy” walk.
► Tent group: Only the tough ones come over the Dachstein … [20 July 2019]
In addition to the "normal" day hikes, Roland from the Netherlands had again gathered a small group of intrepid hikers around him, who set off on two three-day hikes in the Alps, each with tent and rucksack. For the first three days cool weather was announced and thus for the first two overnight stays two huts were rented, up at 2,100 meters height.
On the first day, the weather was sometimes poor and the first climb was a steep one. After a rest on a mountain pasture the weather improved considerably and we walked in a good mood to the Südwandhütte. Walking naked was only possible to a limited extent, but the panorama of the Dachstein was magnificent again and again. On the second day we took the cable car to the Dachstein up to 2,700 meters. Up there, at three degrees and 2.90 meters snow depth, winter clothing was the order of the day. I have Roland's words “we are just going down" still well in memory, when we went with cool temperatures first through fresh snow and then over innumerable snow fields and much rubble slowly downhill. At some places we had to work our way down in mountaineering style with 15 kilograms of luggage on our backs. Even if the whole thing had little to do with a naked hike, this descent was nevertheless an unforgettable adventure. We spent a nice evening in the Guttenberghaus at an altitude of 2,146 metres before we went down to Ramsau on the third day and back to the hut on the Panoramaweg.
On the fourth day we hiked together with the hut group to the Wildsee in the best naked hiking weather. While the group started their way into the valley, we pitched our tents, which were then ready in time for the thunderstorms. The night was then also a kind of adventure, but everyone survived it somehow, and the next morning we were more or less rested again and ready to walk. The weather was also beautiful on the last two days, so that we took the efforts of the hikes gladly, in order to enjoy again and again the marvellous alpine panorama. In the end everybody was happy to have reached the cars again. As a crowning conclusion there was then still a small hike without luggage to the Johanneswasserfall.
► Departure: The last one? [20 July 2019]
The last day in Austria brought the question of whether the event should be in Austria again, because of the "scandal" on the day of arrival, when the owner's sister demanded that we should keep clothes on in the hut. The idea arose to organize NEWT next year in Germany or Spain. What is the outcome of this development? We don't know, but we hope that the NEWT will continue to exist – even if Spain is too far for us, for our friends from afar this is certainly no problem …
So we said goodbye and like 2017, I made many new friends during this NEWT, like H. and his daughter S., but also Jane and Nick from Great Britain, Ernst from Austria, Joost from the Netherlands and many more. I hope we will see each other again in two years, when the destination will be set towards the biggest, most international and most beautiful nude hiking week in Europe.
With the last hike, the Naked European Walking Tour 2019 came to a worthy end and we – as a circle of Saxon naturist friends – can only thank Pascal, Clarisse, and Roland for the great organisation and realisation. Without them, there would have been no NEWT in the last years after Richard Foley's witdrawal, and even if the walks were exhausting at the beginning, Pascal always ensured that our group mastered all tours. We thank you so much for that.
Your Andreas and Martin
– Report and photos: Martin (hut group) and Andreas (tent group), Germany; translation: John P, USA. Courtesy of Andreas and Martin: Naked European Walking Tour ’19" (nacktwanderfreunde.de)