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Signs ease German-Polish nude bathing war

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Photo: DPA
17:14 CEST+02:00
A long-running row between German nude bathers and their more modest Polish counterparts in the Baltic Sea resort of Usedom was eased on Monday after signs were erected on the beach dividing it into nudist and textile-wearing zones.

Referring to the proud East German nudist tradition of “free body culture” or FKK, the signs read “Nudist Zone Begins Here” and “Nudist Zone Ends Here.”

Written in English, Polish and German, the signs mark the culmination of a bizarre row between the latter countries.

The beach, located on the German-Polish border between Ahlbeck and Świnoujście (Swinemünde), has drawn vacationers and residents from both countries for decades. Last year, it drew some 441,000 guests.

The East German bathers - who have a tradition of swimming in their birthday suits - were separated from their more modest Polish neighbours by a fence until December 2007, when the border was dismantled in accordance with the Schengen agreement.

The sight of Germans lying on the beach without a stitch sparked controversy in largely Catholic Poland. Conservative local Polish politicians such as Edward Zajac demanded that the 500-meter-long nudist beach be closed.

For their part, German bathers complained they felt stripped of their dignity by gawking Polish beach-goers.

But Robert Karelus, spokesman for the city of Świnoujście, said on Monday that Poles weren’t as squeamish about nude bathing as had been portrayed in the media.

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Swimming in the buff was getting more popular in Poland, he said, adding that several nudist beaches had sprung up off the coast of Poland too in recent years.

The new signs on Usedom will not prompt Polish beach-goers to turn back, Karelus said. “We aren’t so prudish at all,” he said.

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