Freikörper-Kultur (FKK) is a German movement that follows naturism and nudism. Meaning literally “free-body culture”, the whole denomination appears rarely, but you will find its acronym in popular culture, slang, schools and universities. FKK followers, or FKK’ler as they are known, subscribe to a naturalistic way of living, both as a community and as being at one with nature while nude.

To the FKK movement nudism has no direct relationship to sexuality. It’s a way of life. For its followers, the naked body is not a source of shame, but something to be loved and respected along with the environment. They believe that being open and at one with nature has a balancing effect and frees people from everyday tensions.

A long naked story

A long naked story.

Although people have bathed in rivers and stream from the beginning of time, towards the end of the 18th century this began to be viewed throughout most of Europe as a taboo. However, Germans and Scandinavians have always been a little more open-minded in terms of nudity compared to the rest of Europe. And as early as 1898 the first FKK club was opened in Essen. A short while later in 1920, Germany’s first nudist beach was established on the island of Sylt. But during Adolf Hitler’s regime, all nudist organizations were banned or at least incorporated into Nazi organizations.

Naturists have positive attitudes about their own and other people’s bodies, they accept both themselves and others as they are. Looks and a perfect figures are not important, instead they focus on a healthy mind and body. They have designated areas and communities. In Germany, these specific spaces are clearly marked with “FKK” signs, meaning nudity is allowed there. The signs can be seen everywhere, even in parks. Englische Garten in Munich and Tiergarten in Berlin both have large areas for naked sunbathing. The majority of the FKK signs though are located at beaches. Most nude beaches are mixed and include people of all ages.

Get undressed at the end of the road

Get undressed at the end of the road.
Photo by Moe in Berlin

There are just a few rules of etiquette to follow for anyone partaking in FFK. The main rule is respect and consideration towards others, which implies not staring and no taking of photos unless permission is given. Naturally (quite literally) all sexual activity is banned. And nudity is not allowed outside the designated areas, so people need to be aware of where the FKK area ends.

Is naturism on the increase? That’s something pretty hard to gauge. People who engage in it tend not to shout about it. But the truth is that the availability of resorts and nude beaches all over Europe has never been so high.