Sorry if you’re offended by my elbow…

Today was a good day.

I spent most of it sitting naked by the pool at a quaint little naturist resort on Rhodes (Greece), which allowed the luxury of a day of dozing and pleasure reading. And indeed, it was a pleasure to read Mark Haskell Smith’s Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World. i’ll get around to posting a full blown book review in the coming days as I think this is a must-read for anyone interested in nudity; pro, con, or indifferent.

An afternoon dip in Montenegro

An afternoon dip in Montenegro

As I reached the end of the book, one of those silly internet quiz games came to mind, like this one, where you try to guess whether you’re looking at a picture of an ass or an elbow. While I don’t have statistical evidence of this, it seems that most people pretty-much fail these tests outright. When put to the task, most are unable to distinguish one from the other. In other words, all our family photos of arms in flexion should have been confiscated by the WalMart photo guy as pornographic – just a simple crop and Photoshop away from the photo line-up of inter-generational asses!

Forest walk the South of France

Forest walk in the South of France

What’s most brilliant about Smith’s book is his assertion that being offended lies mainly in the eyes – or more accurately, the acculturation – of the beholder, well illustrated by the fact that in many parts of the world, the exposure of a woman’s elbow would be considered way more heinous than a guy like me dropping his clothes and walking naked through Barcelona. (Which up to a couple years ago, used to be legal, by the way.) After chatting up all the leaders of various naturist movements at play in the last fifty years, he concludes that the crazy ones are not the naked ones, but the people who can’t handle looking at them – or even simply knowing about them.

In any case, here’s where I think Smith delivers his knock-out punch

“Society needs to come to terms with the fact that some of us like pleasurable pursuits. A person shouldn’t feel guilt or shame for being naked any more than someone should feel guilt or shame for enjoying a ripe peach. So what if people want to go skinny-dipping at the beach? If it really bothers you, maybe you need to take a long look at yourself and figure out why it bothers you. Just because you’re offended doesn’t give you the right to keep someone from enjoying their own body and the environment. Two things we all share. Two things that are free of charge.”

I don’t want to throw out a spoiler, but this is coming from a guy who didn’t consider himself a nudist before writing the book, and admittedly, doesn’t consider himself a nudist after writing the book, despite the fact that he must have spent the better part of a year hanging out naked (sorry for the pun) while researching why people get naked, and investigating the psychological mêlée surrounding people who love getting naked, as well as the people who freak out when they hear there is nakedness occurring on the beach down the road.

"Point de vue" in the South of France

“Point de vue” in the South of France

Funny thing is, I have vivid memories from my adolescence when a local swimming hole became so controversial that it made the headlines of the local newspaper for weeks on end. (I was a paperboy, so I was tracking it closely.) It seems the problem was two fold; the first being that people were getting naked and jumping off the bridge into the river, but secondly, this became such a popular pastime for so many that parking and facilities became a real issue. People were blocking the driveways of the local residents, and lacking a better option, peeing on their trees. But by the time it hit the newspapers, crowd management wasn’t the offense – public nudity was the culprit, which led to strict legislation that would make any incident that involved nakedness a serious offense with “one-strike – you’re out” kinds of penalties. My father, who I always thought to be quite open-minded, applauded the authorities for shutting down the hippies at the river. “Why would anybody in their right mind want to be swimming naked anyway?” It was probably the first time I realized that I was a naturist at heart, as I tried to figure out if I could ride my bicycle to this place. It never happened. The whole thing was shut down before I could save enough money to buy myself a map.

A couple photos in this post are from a little villa we rented on a mountain overlooking the stunning Bay of Kotor in Montenegro a few years ago. We had a private veranda with a small pool, where we could watch the cruise ships creep in and out of the harbor. The neighboring villas on each side were closed up for the season, so while we weren’t sure whether we should be naked at the pool, we thought it was worth the risk, especially given the fact that people seem more tolerant about nudity on the Adriatic than almost anyplace in the world. On at least two or three occasions, a lovely Serbian woman from three doors down would magically appear on our veranda, either to look after the villa for the owners, or to deliver freshly picked grapes and figs, or a homemade pastry fresh out of the oven. And there we were, unable to conjure up a single word in her language, unsure of how Serbians felt about nakedness, only to respond with a smile – which was reciprocated each and every time. We were naked. She was kind. Nobody got hurt.

Morning stroll on Ile du Levant

Morning stroll on Ile du Levant

Isn’t that the way it should be? I’m not crazy about tattoos and have chosen not to get one, but I have little concern for those who enjoy them. I do have issues with people who fly the Confederate flag, despite the numerous explanations I have heard as to how that doesn’t imply what it seems to me it would imply. In short, I find that offensive, just as I find some of the political propaganda signs that appear in my neighbors’ yards to be offensive. But that is my choice to be offended – in this case, quite likely the desired effect of the offender! (I could launch into an entirely new tangent about the right to be offended in the land of the free, but I think you get my drift.)

Covering one's ass is now a requirement on Orient Beach

Covering one’s ass is now a requirement on Orient Beach

But when I walk naked on the beach, i have no desire to offend anyone. In fact, I go out of my way to avoid offending people as best I can. But as many have noted, someone taking offense could lead to any number of untoward consequences, from compromising one’s career to being labelled as a sex offender. Unlike today, that would not be a good day.

All that ruckus… when you have to take a double take at the photographic evidence to determine whether you’re offended by my elbow, or my ass.

Really?

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!”

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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.

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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.

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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: