Naked Rules!

On our way northward from the island of Rab yesterday, 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.

“WEAR SHORTS!”

IMG_3138

Beach-side bistro at Buncaluka

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.

IMG_1962

Naked surveillance

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’re 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?

IMG_3147

Should I dress to walk home?

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.

10412-3

Seems clear to me.

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.

IMG_3140

Buncaluka – It really is a beautiful spot.

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.)
IMG_3150

Naturism on the Island of Krk

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 person there who didn’t meet the dress code. Are you the only person 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 dress-code? We keep saying that nudity is all about acceptability and tolerance — except when it’s not.

Of course, there’s also 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.

BrightonSandFestival

And there you have it!

Don’t worry newbies. It’s not just you. It really is that confusing.

 

 

 

The Best Nude Beach in Europe?

Well, maybe… yeah!

I mean, that’s a pretty high standard when you consider beaches on the Greek Islands, the long stretch of naturist friendly shores on the French Atlantic, and then Spain… Oh Spain! With your beautiful islands and recent legislation that states that any beach is a nude beach, unless it’s not.

IMG_3073

The paved path to the nude beach

But then there’s Croatia. Back when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, it became the “go to and get naked place” for so many Germans who had grown weary of rainy days in July. And so the tradition continues, not only in several naturist resorts (See Valalta, Koversada, and Solaris) where the staff is required to speak Croatian, GERMAN, and maybe a bit of English, but through the northern regions of Croatia at large. Just tonight, in fact, we had dinner at a restaurant in the charming island village of Rab, and nearly every other person in the place was speaking German.

IMG_3009

Naturist palapa heaven

But alas, that is the bread and butter business of nakedness in this beautiful landscape that winds down the coast of the Adriatic Sea. And to that end, most of the naturist destinations are in the north on the Istrian peninsula. But as it turns out, many of the Dalmatian islands are quite naturist friendly as well.

This is our second visit to Rab, and as it happens from a naturist perspective, this one is turning out quite a lot better than that last. When we were here several years ago, we tried to GPS our way to Kandarola Beach, but found ourselves on a gated road with no way forward.

IMG_3050

Kandarola naturist beach

After that, we made our way out to the Lopar peninsula, allegedly famous for FKK (naturist) beaches, only to find hordes of people in swimsuits sitting beneath the FKK signage. All quite disappointing given the legend that purports that King Edward VIII discovered the joys of “naked in the sea” on the place that is known today as Kandarola Beach; thereby giving birth to the Croatian naturist movement.

Amazingly, or not… it seems there are very few Croatians on the naturist beaches of the Adriatic, but instead, the aforementioned Germans who seem quite happy to change their euros into kuna and raise a tall Weissebeer to the frugal joys of eating and drinking in Croatia.

IMG_1901

Naked on the water taxi. 🙂

As for Europe’s best nude beach, Kandarola is most definitely a contender! Long sandy beach suitable for volleyball – NO. Beautiful little cove with palapas, sun-loungers, and restrooms and a beach-bar nearby? YES! In fact, I suspect you could be naked on pretty much any part of this peninsula, and in the worst case, somebody might give you the “put your pants on” glance, but from all I can tell, naked is a critical component of the economy around here.

In an effort not to repeat the sins of our past, I did a bit of research on getting to Rab’s premier naturist destinations, which led me to believe there would be a boat waiting for us at 9:00 am outside our room at Hotel Istra in the harbor village of Rab. Maybe that happens in July or August, but in June, the only bargain boat goes to a dock just beyond the naturist beach, and thus, we opted for a water taxi instead. At $30 round-trip, we thought it was money well spent. In fact, on the return, I asked the captain if I could wait until the Rab harbor to put my clothes back on. “Not a problem!” Should have asked on the way out.

IMG_1877

Wooded areas around the beach.

As reported on TripAdvisor, the beach is a gem. Like most in Croatia, it is situated on stone slabs, but with palapas and beach loungers it would be difficult to find a better place to enjoy the sun and sea breeze in the altogether. And also as reported on TripAdvisor, we found a nice cross-section of beach goers ranging from families and young couples to the more typical middle-agers and beyond. The nearby bistro overlooking the beach required an effort to be clothed, but quite candidly, I’m not sure anyone would have cared had I chosen to dine naked. It’s just sort of a chill kind of place.

IMG_3081

Life is good!

So it took two visits to Rab Island to find the best nude beach in Europe. Is it really the best? Well, it’s up there in the top ten to be sure. Well worth the trouble to get there even though that requires a trip on a car-ferry and probably a night or two in a local hotel. But it was truly a lovely day in a place where the nudity ratio was 95% or better – more than you can say for most naturist resorts in Europe these days. That, by itself, puts this on our “gotta get back here someday” list. For the Meandering Naturist, that’s a big deal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Boatload of Naked Germans

So that’s a thing!

When we were here at Valalta ten years go with our teenage children I remember seeing a flyer for the “FKK Fish Picnic.” FKK, of course, is the German nomenclature for naked (Usually naturism, but be careful – sometimes sex clubs!) But at the time, it seemed pricey, and a day floating around the Adriatic – naked – was not getting high marks from our adolescent offspring.

IMG_7954

Swimming at the Fish Picnic

But now, the nest is empty, so I say, “Let’s give this a whirl!”

Seems there must be a few regulars on this excursion as the boat was packed by the time we got there about 15 minutes before departure, mainly with naked Germans. Clearly, I have no issue with naked, and I have many friends who are German, so the only reason this is noteworthy is that there is most certainly a propensity of Germans at the naturist resorts on the Istrian Penisula of Croatia. Simple math when you think about it. A drive to northern Croatia for a German is roughly the same as a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, or Washington DC to the Outer Banks. The only difference being that when you make that trek in Europe, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be flanked in nakedness, whether that’s your cup of tea or not.

IMG_7937

A naked friendly island off the shores of Rovinj

This particular excursion was operated by Valalta resort, which meant you could walk to the boat naked, be on the boat naked, and once we arrived at a remote little island past Rovinj, wander the island naked – which we did. The advert boasted Croatian music along the way, which consisted of an accordion player serenading us with stuff you would likely hear in the Paris Metro and scarcely pay attention to, but there was no getting around this guy. From polkas to John Denver, he was in your naked face for much of the journey. Romantic and introspective? No. A really good time as the Germans on the bow got to their third or fourth drink? Absolutely!

IMG_7945

Fish picnic done – Scraps go to the food chain!

The second port of call on our six hour journey was in the sweet town of Vrsar, across the Lim Fjord from Valalta. We know the town well, having stayed several times in Koversada; just a stone’s throw away. The captain told us (explicitly in German, then in an abbreviated version in English) that we were entering the harbor and to get some clothes on. Was hoping it might be naked day in Vrsar; alas, no. But we still made it to our favorite little wine bar at the top of the hill in the shadow of the campanile. About the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

IMG_7990

Who doesn’t love the accordion guy?

Valalta runs several “FKK” excursions each week in the summer, and I’m hoping we’ll take one or two more during our stay here. Sea breeze + no clothing = a very nice state of being on the Adriatic, which makes you wonder why anyone would bother to wrap themselves in wet nylon when the defacto rule is, “No clothes. No worries.” We made a pass each direction past Koversada Naturist Resort on the way to Vrsar, but there were plenty of other islands decorated with naked bodies where the inhabitants waved vigorously when they realized there was a boat of naked humans floating by.

IMG_8028

The Blue Bar on Koversada. No “Cover Charge!” 🙂

Wouldn’t that be something if a boatload of naked humans was not actually a thing?

While there’s still a ways to go, Croatia is most definitely leading the pack on this front.

 

 

Naturist Croatia!

Several perspectives on naturist Croatia, from the clothing optional beaches near Hvar, to the expansive naturist resorts of Istria

See our other post about Naturism in Croatia

Naturist Odyssey: NAKED CROATIA!

Should you be foolish enough to pick an argument with an acquaintance at a cocktail party about the birth time and place of European naturism, you’re likely to find three viable contenders in the final round for this illustrious title; Germany, France, and… CROATIA! The last of which, by the way, owes much of its naturist reputation to its proximity to Germany, but I’ll get to that in a while.

Regulars on my blog are already well acquainted with my infatuation with French naturism, and the various resorts that have come to define our own personal sense of family naturist nirvana. But as I kept digging deeper into the adverts and propaganda directed at those suffering from chronic-sun-addiction-disorder, names like Koversada and Valalta kept resurfacing in naturist guides and pre-Google-era web searches! Strangely enough, I had a vague awareness of this eastern European phenomena, as my first trip to Europe was in 1985 when I was in college; a trip that included a wide swing through (what was then) Yugoslavia, which generated a fair number of wise-cracks on the bus, “Hey, we should go to the beach and see the naked Germans!”

IMG_3123

Valalta

At twenty-two years of age, I had not yet ‘come out’ as a naturist, but at the time, I thought the whole thing sounded pretty intriguing. Given our two-day stopover in Zagreb, I hadn’t the vaguest idea as to where we were in relation to the nearest naturist beach or nudist resort. Turns out that beach would have been at least four hours away, on the Istrian peninsula on the Adriatic Sea.

IMG_0502

Beachcombing on Hvar

Before I continue, I should proclaim that with this post, I am making a decisive departure from the documentary style of our Naturist Odyssey across Europe that I had intended to post – blow-by-blow – last summer as we actually forged our way some 10,000 kilometers from Spain to Greece. (You can read about that here.) My journalistic ambitions were thwarted by poor Internet connections and a limited skill-set in navigating the blogosphere, so I finally gave up. That’s a particularly important point, as I have decided to use this post to encapsulate five different visits to naturist Croatia over a period of the last ten years, amalgamating trip reports from 2005, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013. The consequence is a series dated photos and details that may well be lacking in the realm of immediacy and accuracy, but my desire here is to capture the prevailing sense and atmosphere of naturism in Croatia.

That said, during the 2013 Naturist Odyssey, we made an early departure from Origan Village (in the foothills above Nice) with the objective of blasting straight across the admittedly prudish region of northern Italy (more about that in a future post) to reach naked Croatia by nightfall at the end of the day. Remarkably, our mission was accomplished, despite an aggravating, bumper-to-bumper, final approach down the narrow highway that leads to Istria, where 90% of Croatian naturist activity takes place. This particular time, our destination was the naturist apartment complex at Koversada; a sprawling property self-proclaimed as the largest naturist resort in all of Europe!

Modest apartment at Valalta

Modest apartment at Valalta

This would be our second visit to Koversada, our fourth visit to Istria, and in all, our fifth visit to Croatia. At the risk of being redundant and/or patronizing, it is worth reiterating the fact that Croatia is a part of former Yugoslavia, which was a ‘nation’ created in the wake of WWII, held together for nearly four decades with bailing wire, a charismatic dictator, and a good deal of imagination when it came to creating reasonably attractive seaside resorts with little in the way of external (or internal) capital investment. As one might imagine, the result of all this can be found in hotels and seaside apartment complexes that are… almost… luxurious! Things have improved, significantly, since our first visit in 2005, but suffice it to say, if you’re accustomed to traveling in Western Europe, once in Croatia, you will know that you’re in Eastern Europe.

Gazing at Koversada

Gazing at Koversada

Our first venture in 2005 included a mid-June visit to Valalta, near the Lim Fjord on the Istrian Penninsula, where you can see Koversada on the facing shore. I have recounted elsewhere in these pages the deep affections my children held for a place called La Jenny in the southwest of France, but to put it bluntly, the weather on the Cote d’Argent (southwest France) can be unpredictable at best. Seasoned travelers in the know suggested that we would have a better chance at winning the New York lottery than experiencing a rainy day on the Adriatic, so we took the bait, and as it happened, had a week of postcard-perfect weather in this Croatian naturist resort during the summer of 2005.

By this time, our kids were in their late teens, and I have vivid recollections of our youngest daughter trying to recreate the French naturist experience at the dance party near the Valalta pool. “A+ for effort,” but it simply wasn’t the same. Of course not, we were 1000 kilometers, and a million miles away from France. Sadly, that was the last time our entire family embarked on a naturist adventure to Europe. It wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t French!

Nice apartment at Koversada

Nice apartment at Koversada

But wait! Before you dismiss Croatia as a viable family naturist destination, I need to mention the calm, warm-water inlets, the deep blue skies, and the local eateries with lamb or roast pig on the spit; or the fact that especially in the northern region, almost any beach is a naturist beach! While traditionally Catholic Croatians aren’t so keen on naked sunbathing, they are quick to realize the value of the tourist revenue to be had from the good (naked) people of nearby Italy and Germany.

Modest nudist sculpture

Bashful nudist sculpture at Koversada

That, along with the weather, was enough to inspire us to venture back to Croatia four more times, with a penchant for more adventurous explorations to the islands of Rab and Hvar, the historical cities of Dubrovnik and Split, and two additional visits to the Istrian peninsula, with extended stays in the lovely, remodeled apartments at naturist Koversada that afford the luxuries of modern living (thinking dishwashers and air conditioning here) along with a stunning view of the Adriatic Sea.

To date, we have stayed once at Valalta (2005), twice at Koversada (2012 and 2013), made a day visit to a third major resort called Solaris (2012), and have worked our way down through the Dalmatian Islands with stops on the island of Rab (supposedly the birthplace of Croatian naturism), the large island of Hvar (including the lovely little naturist islet of Jerolim), and even paid a visit to a small naturist beach on an island near Dubrovnik, which as it turns out, proved to illustrate a very important point…

Croatia is a stunningly beautiful region! In fact, I dare say, with the dissolution of the Yugoslavian state, the Croatians ended up with the lion’s share of magnificent beachfront property! But typical tourist Croatia – Dubrovnik, Split, and Hvar – is a significant distance from the “bazillion naked Germans” Croatia, where you may, indeed, find Europe’s largest naturist resorts with loads of naked Europeans during the months of July and August. But all those naked people are a long day or two of travel from Hvar and Dubrovnik.

In fact, one of the most startling moments during our journey down the Adriatic coast was our visit to the island of Rab, renowned for her remote and exquisitely beautiful naturist beaches. We set out one day on foot to find said beaches when finally, upon discovery, overheated and dehydrated, I doffed my shorts underneath the sign that indicated we were on an FKK (naturist) beach. I waded out into the tranquil shallows, only to realize that I was the only naked guy on the entire beach! Nobody seemed to care, but I had clearly failed the ‘blend in with the locals’ test. Never had I been so cognizant of the fact that guidebooks, even naturist guidebooks, are outdated the day they are printed! Naturism may have been allowed on this beach, but it most certainly wasn’t the common practice on the day of our visit.

Beach day on Jerolim

Beach day on Jerolim

Once this post is up, I will go to work on a new photo gallery that should provide a good sense of naturist life in Croatia. We will go back one day, but as it turns out, the Adriatic weather can be temperamental as well as we have learned that Croatia is not a slam-dunk guarantee for uninterrupted sunshine. But swimming in the Adriatic is hard to beat, and for those who enjoy exploring the rocky coastline, there are an infinite number of places where jumping naked into the sea is completely acceptable.

In the meantime, the Istrian peninsula remains the principal naturist region, near the quasi-Italian villages of Rovinj and Poreč. Friends tell me Valalta is reaching out to make naturism more relevant to the modern naturist, which I take to mean they are updating accommodations and working to create dining and entertainment options that will keep your tourist dollars in the resort. I would rent our sweet little apartment at Koversada again in a heartbeat, as a naked afternoon at the fish restaurant on the adjoining naturist island there constitutes an indescribably delicious slice of nirvana. And even though we have only made a perfunctory visit to Solaris, I would stay there without hesitation as well – a smaller resort with newer apartments, and a great little pool area overlooking the sea. Given that these incredible naturist places are roughly a six-hour drive south from Munich, (ironically, much closer than driving from Dubrovnik!) it seems you could hardly go wrong if your main objectives are sun, swimming, and the sensuality that is a nakation.

IMG_2954.29

Baywatch on the Lim Fjord

In my humble opinion, there are two Croatias; one that caters to westerners who are willing and able to pay the price to stay in five-star hotels, and another that is a bit more earthy, where people go to lay out on innumerable and expansive rocky slabs for an all-over tan. We are quite enamored with each, but have come to realize that you can’t do it all in a week!

You may also be interested in our other Naturist Odyssey installments: