Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Map of Germany
Maps of Austria & Switzerland
Getting Acquainted with Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Naturism in Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Nudity and the Law in Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Ich spreche kein Deutsch.
Map of Germany
| SOUTH |
||Ndrsa ||Niedersachsen Lower Saxony
|Bay ||Bayern Bavaria
||N-W ||Nordrhein-Westfalen North Rhine-Westphalia
|Ber ||Berlin 1
||R-P ||Rheinland-Pfalz Rhineland-Palatinate
|Brm ||Bremen 1, 2
||Sa ||Sachsen Saxony
|Ham ||Hamburg 1
||S-A ||Sachsen-Anhalt Saxony-Anhalt
|He ||Hessen Hesse
||Th ||Thüringen Thuringia
1 Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen are city-states (Stadtstaaten). The metropolitan areas of these cities extend into neighboring states.|
2 Bremen, which is Germany's smallest state, has two parts. The actual city of Bremen is in the interior, surrounded by Niedersachsen. The town of Bremerhaven is located on the North Sea, and it is Bremen's seaport.
|Getting Acquainted with Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Germany, Austria and Switzerland are three neighboring countries in the center of Europe that form a bloc in that they share a common language (for the most part) and similar cultures. Collectively, these countries would fit into Texas, with plenty of room to spare. They would also fit into France, with somewhat less room to spare.
Germany (in German, Deutschland) is by far the largest of these countries, both in physical size and population. Germany is the second most populated country in Europe (after Russia), with about 82 million people who live within an area that is a bit smaller than Montana. It is among the more densely populated countries in Europe. (For comparison, Germany has about two-thirds the land area of neighboring France but about 25% more people.)
While the dominant land feature of Austria and Switzerland is the Alps, this majestic mountain range just barely extends into Germany at its southern border with Austria. The rest of southern and central Germany is punctuated with much gentler mountains and hills, while northern Germany is much flatter. The northern border of Germany is mostly the sea, and the German coastline is split into two parts by Denmark, which sits atop Germany like a cap. In the west, there is the North Sea (Nordsee in German), which is characterized by a number of barrier islands separated from the mainland by mud flats. In the east, there is the much longer Baltic coastline. In German, the Baltic Sea is known as Ostsee, which means "East Sea."
Germany consists of sixteen states, which are formally called Bundesländer (Federal States) but more popularly just called Länder, or Land in the singular. The three smallest states in area—Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen—are city-states (Stadtstaaten). Bremen is unique in that it is divided into two parts. The city of Bremen is surrounded by the state of Niedersachsen. The town of Bremerhaven is located on the North Sea, and it is Bremen's seaport. Below the state level, the next administrative division is called a Regierungsbezirk, or region, but not all states are divided into regions. There are further subdivisions below the regional level, but for the purposes of this guide the levels of state and region are sufficient for organizing the listings.
Southern Germany is the most familiar part of Germany to tourists. In the southeast, there is Bavaria (Bayern), which more than any other region shapes our concept of what is German. We tend to wrongly think that lederhosen and Oktoberfest are quintessentially German. They are actually facets of traditional Bavarian culture that have nothing to do with the rest of the country. Bavaria is the location of the storied city of Munich (München) and the much-visited fairytale-like castle Neuschwanstein in the foothills of the Alps. Southwest Germany is known for the thickly-wooded mountain region called Schwarzwald, better known to English speakers as the Black Forest, and for spa towns like Baden Baden. While tourists may flock to the south of Germany, it is the heavily industrialized northwest part of the country that is home to most Germans. The northwest is the location of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region, a conglomeration of cities that includes Cologne (Köln) and Düsseldorf. The Rhine-Ruhr megacity has over 10 million people, which is more than the combined metropolitan areas of Berlin and Hamburg. In the northeast, there is Berlin, which is once again the capital of Germany since 1994 and is also among the preeminent cities in Europe. Although Berlin is the most visited city in Germany, this once divided city is surrounded by what was once East Germany. The former East has a markedly lower population density than the former West. Excluding the city-state of Berlin, the five states of the former East (Brandenburg, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Thüringen and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) comprise about 30% of the land area of Germany but just 16% of the population.
The narrative of 20th-century Germany is fraught with war and division. While there are some very dark chapters in modern German history, the most recent chapters make for more pleasant reading. In the post-war era, Germany has evolved into a bulwark of progressivism and prosperity. After more than 40 years of existing as East and West, Germany was reunified in 1990, and the scars of division have gradually faded. Some two decades later, Germany feels like one big country again, but most Western tourists have yet to rediscover the attractions of the former East, like the grand towns of Dresden and Görlitz.
Toward the eastern side of Germany's southern border, Austria is a landlocked, mountainous country of roughly 8.3 million people, with a land area similar to that of South Carolina. The western and central parts of the country are dominated by the Alps, while most of Austria's population is concentrated toward the eastern end of the country, especially the northeast. In the far east of Austria lies its capital city of Vienna (Wien), which is the only major city in the country and also the easternmost city in what is generally regarded as Western Europe. About 29% of all Austrians live within its metro area. The next three largest cities—Graz, Linz and Salzburg—have a combined population that is not even half that of Vienna. Austria is a German-speaking country that has just 10% of the population of Germany, so we naturally tend to think of Austria as Germany's little brother. We're sure there are differences beneath the surface, but on the whole, discussing the differences between Austria and Germany is kind of like discussing the differences between Pennsylvania and Illinois. Sure, they are different, but they are the same in the ways that really matter. In German, Austria is Österreich, which means "Eastern Realm." Once upon a time, Vienna was the centrally located capital of an empire that includes present day Austria and many of its eastern neighbors. Today, Austria more than any other country is the bridge from Western Europe to Eastern Europe. The western end of Austria borders countries that are familiar to most of us—Germany, Switzerland and Italy (and also miniscule Liechtenstein). The eastern end of Austria borders countries that are less familiar—the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia. Like Germany, Austria is divided into states (Länder). There are nine Austrian states, and one of those nine states is Vienna, which is a city-state. Since there is a manageable number of listings for Austria, we aren't concerned about subdivisions below the state level in this guide.
Toward the western side of Germany's southern border, Switzerland is also a landlocked and mountainous country. With about 7.8 million people, Switzerland has a population just slightly smaller than that of neighboring Austria, but it has a land area that is about half the size of Austria, making it comparably more densely populated. While the Alps sprawl across parts of seven countries, none of them is more associated with these iconic mountains than Switzerland. The highest Alpine peaks in Switzerland stretch across the southern part of the country, while the population is concentrated in a number of medium-sized cities that are located amid the lower mountains and many lakes of the north. Switzerland is well known as a multi-lingual society, but it is mostly German speaking. Nearly two-thirds of the Swiss speak German as a first language, and the German part of Switzerland is mostly on the north side of the high Alps, in the areas that border Germany and Austria. The second language is French, spoken as a first language by about 20% of all Swiss. French Switzerland is the western quarter of the country, including all areas that border France. The third language is Italian, which is the first language of less than 7% of all Swiss. Italian Switzerland is on the southern side of the high Alps, geographically isolated from German and French Switzerland. Besides German, French and Italian, Switzerland has one more language among its four official languages: Romansh, which is the first language of less than 1% of all Swiss. Romansh is an obscure language that is one of the least spoken in the world, and its use is mostly limited to isolated pockets in the far southeast of the country. Quadrilingual Switzerland has four names for itself: die Schweiz (German); Suisse (French); Svizzera (Italian); and Svizra (Romansh). Switzerland is divided into 26 administrative divisions called cantons.
A key practical way that Switzerland is different from Germany and Austria involves currency. While Germany and Austria switched to the euro in 2002, the currency of Switzerland is the Swiss franc.
|Naturism in Germany, Austria & Switzerland
To understand naturism in German-speaking Europe, the first step is becoming familiar with the German word Freikörperkultur. (Germans do love to squash words together.) Break Freikörperkultur up into its three component words and you've got frei + körper + kultur, or, in English, "free" + "body" + "culture." Thus, Freikörperkultur is "Free Body Culture," which in German is synonymous with naturism. As important as this word is to German naturism, it is rarely written out. Freikörperkultur is almost always abbreviated as FKK, usually in all caps. Naturismus and Nudismus are also alternative German words for "naturism" and "nudism" respectively, but these words are comparatively uncommon. "FKK" is the single most important term for describing naturist entities in German-speaking Europe, and the term is also widespread beyond German-speaking Europe. Because of the importance of the letters "FKK," we tend to say "FKK beach" instead of "nude beach" for places in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Europeans in general are more accepting of nude beaches and naturist pursuits than people in any other part of the world, and this acceptance is especially common in Northern Europe, in particular German-speaking Europe, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Of all Europeans, Germans have become almost notorious for being very casual about nakedness. It is not necessarily that Germans value naturism any more than their Dutch or Danish neighbors, for example. The reputation of Germans in particular is probably just a matter of numbers. Combining the populations of Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and all Scandinavian countries, there still aren't as many people as there are in Germany. Part of the reason that naturism is so well established in Germany today is that it has been around there longer than anywhere else. The origins of the FKK movement in Germany date all the way back to the late 1800's and early 1900's, with nudity being an element of a "back-to-nature" social movement that espoused healthy living and a positive body image. It was actually German immigrants that were instrumental in founding the first naturist entities in the United States around 1930. We'll not get into the particulars of the history of the German FKK movement except to say that, despite hitting some snags along the way, it has been a remarkably successful movement over the past century, propelling Germany and many of its neighbors to the top of the list of countries with strong naturist cultures. FKK ideas have spread beyond the realm of German-speaking Europe, and nude beaches and resorts in France, Spain, Croatia and Greece are heavily patronized by German-speaking visitors.
It is notable that, even during the four decades when Germany was divided, the FKK ethos continued to develop and thrive among both Ossies and Wessies. (Ossi and Wessi are informal names for East German and West German, respectively.) It might be expected that the communists would have tried to suppress FKK culture in the East, but the reality of FKK in the East is a bit complicated. Organized naturism was in fact suppressed (just as organized anything was suppressed), and East Germans responded by shedding their swimsuits at the beach. The East German propensity to be naked on the beach can perhaps be viewed as a form of cultural protest. With so few freedoms that could be enjoyed, the expression of naked body freedom became particularly esteemed, and beach nudity became practiced so widely that authorities eventually tacitly accepted their naked citizenry. Even before the end of the 60's, nude bathing had become an openly practiced East German national pastime. Not everyone went naked, of course, but the option to be nude became so well accepted that there was widespread intermingling of nudists and textiles on just about all beaches, whether on the Baltic Sea or on inland lakes. The basic difference between FKK in West and East during the years of division is that in West Germany (as well as Austria and Switzerland), nudity was practiced mostly in designated FKK places or in remote places. In East Germany, nudity was generally viewed as an acceptable beach option, without demarcations. After reunification, a growing number of former West Germans began to visit East German beaches, bringing with them the idea that textile and FKK beaches should be signed and separated. This caused many an Ossi to grumble, accusing their Wessi compatriots of prudishness. Writing from an American point of view, that seems a little like a person with a PhD calling a person with a master's degree uneducated. Much of the English-speaking world is still in kindergarten regarding the practice of naturism. In present-day Germany, signed and separated FKK areas are more the norm overall, although there remain plenty of places in the former East, especially along the Baltic coastline, where there is a considerable mix of nudists and textiles.
These days, Germany, Austria and to a somewhat lesser extent Switzerland are replete with naturist entities. However, while all three countries draw throngs of international tourists, none of them is a naturist vacation market per se. The vast array of naturist possibilities in these countries is almost completely off the radar of non-German speakers. That is doubtlessly at least in part due to climate. Most vacationers taking a naturist holiday choose more reliably sunny and warm places along the Mediterranean. Furthermore, most of what is available in these countries is documented only in German. Any English-language naturist guide, either in book or website form, that we've ever come across just barely scratches the surface of what is available in German-speaking Europe. What we have tried to do in this guide is remedy that perpetual shortcoming. Granted, Germany and its Alpine neighbors may not be the first places that pop into your head if you want to spend a week basking naked in the sun at the beach, but it is a shame that many travelers who visit for the cities and the castles and the scenery overlook countless possible FKK excursions simply due to lack of information. For example, as a general tourist pursuit, you may visit the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany at the Austrian border. An aerial tramway takes visitors to the top to marvel at the panoramic views. Most of them have no idea that there is a hidden FKK location on the shore of Eibsee, a lake at the bottom of the mountain, where naked sunbathers can watch the tram go back and forth to the peak. Or you may visit Hallstatt, a postcard-perfect village on a lake in the Austrian Alps. After you've explored the village, you can head across the lake to enjoy views of Hallstatt from an FKK meadow that few tourists know about. If you head across country on the autobahn, you'd be surprised at how many small lakes with FKK areas are close at hand, where you could be sunning or swimming naked within minutes after exiting. If the weather doesn't cooperate, or if you visit in the winter, you can always escape to a lavish sauna as a backup plan. If you know where to go, the possibilities are endless.
In this guide, we have listed nearly 300 FKK places in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. (This number does not include saunas, which are so numerous they are considered in a separate section.) About 200 of these are nude beach listings, and about three-quarters of those are inland locations. Even though this sounds like a lot, there are far more FKK possibilities. There are about 200 more sites we have listed in a separate Google Earth file called "Supplemental Listings for Germany, Austria and Switzerland." We do not document these sites in detail, but if you are motivated to find out more, we have linked to each file to one or more sources of information (in German). The supplemental sites are mostly undeveloped and informal FKK locations along small lakes, and some of them may be sporadically visited by naturists. When possible, we have made every effort to document in detail formally designated FKK areas. In all, there are three Google Earth files you'll need to download to get the fullest possible picture of the overwhelming number of FKK places in Germany, Austria and Switzerland: the main file, the supplemental file and the sauna file. Even with such a wealth of places, we are sure there are many sites we have overlooked.
Below is a rundown of the primary manifestations of FKK possibilities.
|As previously noted, Germany has two long stretches of coastline. In the west, there is the North Sea (Nordsee), which stretches from the Netherlands to Denmark. In the east, there is the Baltic Sea (Ostsee), which stretches from Denmark to Poland. The German seashore is mostly overlooked by international visitors, who tend to flock to the Mediterranean. However, the Germans love their often blustery coastline, and an iconic sight on German beaches is a unique type of beach chair called a Strandkorb , which provides shelter from the wind. Anywhere you may find yourself on the German coastline, there is a designated FKK beach nearby, and nudity is likewise an acceptable option at remote and undeveloped stretches of coastline. The bulk of visitors to the German coastline are from the cities in the northern part of Germany. Southern cities like Munich, as well as all places in Austria and Switzerland, are actually closer to the Mediterranean.|
|INLAND RIVERS AND LAKES|
|In many European countries, going to a nude beach is synonymous with going to the seashore, with inland nudist sites being comparatively few in number and obscure. Such is not the case in German-speaking Europe. Germany is dotted with a wealth of inland FKK beaches. Of course, all nude beaches in Austria and Switzerland are interior locations since these are landlocked countries. There are FKK locations along rivers, natural lakes and reservoirs, and FKK beaches are also quite common along man-made lakes, especially a type of lake called a Baggersee (Baggerseen in the plural form). A baggersee is any artificial lake formed by gravel or sand extraction, and such lakes tend to be located beside major highways (especially autobahns) since the earth that was removed was probably used to build the road. Many baggerseen have become recreation areas, and typically there are both textile and FKK swimming areas around the lake. Some bagerseen are highly developed with many amenities, while others have minimal development. Developed baggerseen are likely to have signed FKK areas (and entrance fees), while nudity traditions are likely to have evolved informally at undeveloped sites.|
Some interior FKK beaches are naturally sandy locations, and at others sand has been brought in to create artificial beachscapes. However, the majority of interior FKK sites are not particularly "beachy" in the seashore sense of what a beach is like. An interior FKK location is likely to be a grassy lawn next to the water.
|Not only is it not necessary to go to the seashore to find a nude beach in German-speaking Europe, it is usually not even necessary to leave the city. Berlin, Munich and Vienna are the most notable of the cities that offer FKK opportunities that are within the urban limits and accessible by public transit. In fact, Munich has a very popular FKK area in a public park called the English Garden (Englischer Garten) that is just a 20-minute walk from the city center. There are also FKK locations within the city limits of Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hannover, Hamburg, Bremen, Nuremberg, Leipzig, Dresden, Zürich, Graz, Linz and other cities.|
|Freibad is the general term for an outdoor swimming pool. As part of a proper name, a freibad is typically a public outdoor swimming complex, most of which are open in June, July and August and sometimes parts of May and September. Very few freibads offer nude swimming possibilities, but a number of them do have designated areas for nude sunbathing. Such FKK lawns are usually screened from the rest of the complex by a hedge or fence. So, while patrons must be appropriately attired in swimwear while swimming, they at least have the option of sunbathing nude in a designated part of the property.|
|Sauna going is a very important leisure pursuit in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and nudity is an intrinsic part of sauna culture. Wearing a swimsuit in a sauna is not only frowned upon, it is usually against the rules. Furthermore, most saunas are not segregated by gender. Men and women visit them together, in the nude. Saunas are much more than places to sit and sweat. Many have facilities for nude swimming and sunbathing, and some are quite elaborate affairs with facilities akin to what you might find at a posh naturist resort. Even if you visit Munich in the dead of winter, you can escape to Therme Erding and swim naked in the tropical environment of the huge glass-roofed atrium. Such a sauna represents the high end of what is possible. Saunas range from modest to magnificent in scale.|
While mixed-gender sauna nudity is not the norm throughout Europe, it is the norm in countries where German or Dutch is the first language. There are so many saunas in German and Dutch Europe that we have listed them in a separate section. A European Saunas link is on the red bar that appears near the top of every page of this website.
|There is a scattering of naturist camping establishments throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and there is also a number of camping establishments that are split into textile and FKK zones. Considering the vast number of other types of FKK entities, the number of naturist camping establishments is comparatively small. While German-speaking Europe has countless places for enjoying short-term naturist pursuits, most German speakers spend longer naturist holidays abroad, in places like Croatia, Spain or the south of France.|
|Nudity and the Law in Germany, Austria & Switzerland
FKK culture is so ingrained in German-speaking Europe that there is very little reason to worry about running afoul of the law. Most places listed in this guide that are in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are signed and designated as FKK, and nudity is well accepted at countless other sites that are traditionally nudist despite the lack of any kind of formal signage. If you visit a beach or lake that does not have a designated FKK area, basic common sense rules of distance and discretion will ensure that you coexist peacefully with textiles who are in the same general area. Neither authorities nor the general public are concerned about nude bathing done at sufficiently secluded spots.
Considering Germany, Austria and Switzerland collectively, the only region of these three countries where beach nudity seems to be a perpetually contentious issue is in Ticino, which is the main Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland. Ticino is culturally an extension of neighboring Italy, and Italians are generally far more conservative about nudity than their Germanic neighbors. For the few listings we have for Ticino, we have done our best to give appropriate cautions.
|Ich spreche kein Deutsch.
English is widely known in German-speaking Europe. For example, even though English is not one of the four official languages of Switzerland, a higher percentage of German-speaking Swiss know English as a second language than know Italian (which is one of Switzerland's languages). Conversely, very few native English speakers know any German. Compared to Spanish and French, German just looks really hard to most of us. Websites like Google Translate can provide assistance if you need help figuring out something in German, but the translations tend to be clunky.
German is notorious for the frequent use of compound words. Here is a pertinent one: Nacktbadegelände, which basically means "nudist area." The word is easier to decode (and pronounce) when its three component words are split apart: Nackt + bade + gelände = "naked" + "bathing" + "area." Another unusual feature of German is that all nouns are capitalized. Here is a question from a German cat lovers forum: Wie viele Katzen schlafen in eurem Bett? The question is "How many cats sleep in your bed?," and the words for "cats" and "bed" are both capitalized.
The modern German alphabet is basically the same as the English alphabet, sharing all 26 letters. However, German also has four extra letters: ä, ö, ü and ß. Of the four extra letters, the first three are not unfamiliar to English speakers since they tend to crop up here and there. A pair of dots over a vowel is an umlaut, and the presence of an umlaut changes the way the base character is pronounced. Umlauts also appear with upper case letters—thus Ä, Ö and Ü. However, the umlaut is not employed with "e" or "i," so any word you might come across with an ë or ï is most likely a word borrowed from another language.
When a word contains an umlaut, the umlaut is considered essential. If an umlaut can't be typed on a keyboard, it is replaced by the base character followed by an "e," so Ä becomes Ae and ü becomes ue. For example, the word for "king" can be written as either König or Koenig. Such substitutions are very common in internet domain names. Consider a swimming establishment called Phönix Bad. Dropping the umlaut is considered bad form, and while domain names with umlauts are now possible, they remain rather uncommon and problematic. So, the website for Phönix Bad is www.phoenixbad.de.
The ß character is far more likely to make English speakers scratch their heads. In German, this letter is called the Eszett or the scharfes S. In English, it is called the "sharp S." An acceptable substitution for ß is "ss." A very common word with the sharp S is the word for "street," which can be written either as Straße or Strasse. The German letter ß is not the same as the lower-case form of the Greek letter β (beta), and it is merely coincidence that they look so similar. Look closely at ß and β to see that they have slightly different forms. Furthermore, the ß does not have an upper case form since it is never used at the beginning of a word. Finally, in some words "ss" is generally preferred. For example, the word for "water" almost always appears as Wasser and rarely as Waßer.
Just as a peculiar example, consider a town called Großschönau. An acceptable alternate is Grossschoenau, even though this yields a very unwieldy triple "s." In this guide, we use umlauts when appropriate but always replace ß with "ss."
German nouns have gender: masculine, feminine or neuter. The article "the" can take the form der, die or das, depending on the gender of the noun. Thus, "the man" is der Mann (masculine), "the woman" is die Frau (feminine) and "the house" is das Haus (neuter). The gender of a word has nothing to do with actual gender. For example, Hund (dog) is masculine, Katze (cat) is feminine and Kamel (camel) is neuter. There are many endings that are added to words to make them plural, depending on the particular word. Adding -en or -er is a common way of pluralizing, and sometimes an umlaut is added to a vowel when a word is pluralized. "The" in the plural form is always die, the same as the feminine singular form. "The men" is die Männer, "the women" is die Frauen and "the houses" is die Häuser. In German, "w" is pronounced the way "v" is pronounced in English, and "v" and "f" both make an "f" sound. Thus, Volkswagen sounds like "Folksvagen" when pronounced correctly.
In English, a basin full of water that you can jump into is a swimming pool. In French, it is a piscine. It is a piscina in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. Straightforward stuff, right? Then there is German. Maybe the Eskimos don't really have 52 words for snow, but Germans may well have 52 words for swimming pool. Because of the German characteristic of combining two or more nouns (or adjectives and nouns) to make compound words that are sometimes incredibly long, there is a seemingly endless variety of ways to say "swimming pool" and just about everything else. This makes putting together a concise glossary just about impossible, but we've tried to run through some important terms and at least give a sense of how the list goes on and on.
As discussed in an earlier section, the abbreviation FKK is the single most important term pertaining to naturism in German. FKK is short for Freikörperkultur ("Free Body Culture"), which is the most popular German word for naturism. (Naturismus and Nudismus are basically synonyms of FKK that are far less commonly used.)
Not to Mention Nackte Menschen
Just as in English, a person who eschews clothing may be described as a Naturist or a Nudist. To be technically correct, a female naturist is a Naturistin or a Nudistin, and two or more naturists are Naturisten or Nudisten. A naturist may also be described as an FKK-Fan (add an "s" to make it plural), with "fan" meaning "aficionado," just as in English, or as an FKK'ler (add an "n" to make it plural). If Nick is in his birthday suit, he is nackt. Nick is nackt all Nacht long if he sleeps in the nude, but Nick ist nicht nackt in der Nacht if he wears pajamas to bed. (Oh, and nackte Menschen means "naked people.")
Many Swimming Words are Bad Words
Bad is a flexible word pertaining to swimming or bathing that has noun and verb forms. As the last part of a compound word, -bad usually refers to a type of swimming pool or, more generally, a type of swimming establishment. Becken is also a word for swimming pool that is a bit more specific, usually referring to a particular basin of water (as opposed to, say, a complex of multiple pools). Schwimmbad and Schwimmbecken are both general terms for swimming pool. Common terms for an outdoor pool are Freibad and Aussenbecken, while common terms for an indoor pool are Hallenbad and Innenbecken. There are an endless variety of other possibilities. A Waldbad is a pool in a forested or pastoral setting, a Sportbad is a sports pool, a Stadtbad (literally "city bath") is a municipal pool, a Wellenbecken is a wave pool, a Thermalbecken is a heated pool, a Kinderbecken is a children's pool, a Nichtschwimmerbecken ("non-swimmer pool") is a shallow pool and both Freizeitbad and Erlebnisbad are words that generally describe large recreation pools. In just about all such terms, -bad and -becken are interchangeable. Can it get more convoluted? You bet! Try Kaltwasserbecken (cold-water pool), Innenthermalbecken (indoor heated pool) or perhaps Aussensolebecken (outdoor saltwater pool).
Naked and Bad
Bad takes the form Baden when it means the act of bathing, and there are several ways to refer to nude bathing. For example, consider a public swimming pool that is generally textile but offers some nude swimming hours. Times for naked swimming may be advertised as FKK Baden or Nacktbaden. Or, a nude swim may be described as textilfrei ("textile free," as in free of swimwear), or, in the grammatically correct form, textilfreies Baden. A nude swim may also be described as ohne Badeanzüge or ohne Badekleidung (both mean "without swimsuits"). Another common descriptor is hüllenlos, which is a synonym for naked that does not translate very well (literally, it means "wraps off").
A See is Rarely a Sea, and a Meer is not Merely a Lake
Generally, a saltwater sea is a Meer and an inland lake is a See. However, historically the meanings were reversed in northern German dialects, and some proper names still reflect that reversal. In fact, the two saltwater seas that border Germany (which are notably in the north) are exceptions to the general rule: die Nordsee (the North Sea) and die Ostsee (the Baltic Sea, literally "East Sea"). An alternative but relatively seldom-used term for Ostsee is Baltisches Meer. If you are going to the seacoast in Germany, you can choose between the Nordseeküste or the Ostseeküste. Other than Nordsee and Ostsee, most major saltwater seas have Meer as part of their names. For example, the Mediterranean Sea is das Mittelmeer (literally "Middle Sea") and the Black Sea is das Schwarze Meer. A relatively small number of lakes have Meer as part of a proper name. Most inland lakes, whether large or small, have See in their names.
Sometimes -see is built into a proper name, such as Wannsee and Müggelsee, both of which are lakes in Berlin. Sometimes See is written as a separate word, as is the case with Boberger See in Hamburg. A Baggersee is an artificial lake or pond that is a byproduct of sand or gravel quarrying; a Stausee is a reservoir; a Badesee is a body of water promoted as a swimming lake. Baggersee, Stausee and Badesee are all commonly the second word of a proper name. Such -see words become -seen in the plural form. Teich and Weiher are both words for ponds. Fluss means river, but it is rarely used as part of a proper name. For example, the river that runs through Munich is usually just called die Isar.
Beaches and Other Sunning Areas
Strand is the basic word for beach. A Sandstrand is a sandy beach, a Kiesstrand is a pebble beach, a Steinstrand is a rocky beach and a Hundstrand is a beach where you can take your dog. A developed swimming beach may be described as either a Strandbad or a Badestrand, and such a beach is likely to be covered with Strandkörbe (singular, Strandkorb), which are beach chairs designed to provide shelter from the wind and other elements. These chairs are especially common sights on North Sea and Baltic Sea beaches. A sunbathing area that is not a beach is usually described as a Liegewiese, which means "sunning lawn." A place designated for nudity will usually have "FKK" in the signage, such as FKK Strand, FKK Liegewiese, FKK Bereich or FKK Gelände . (Bereich is a very general term for "area," while Gelände means "outdoor area" or "grounds.") Alternative terms for naked bathing places include Nacktstrand, Nacktbadestrand, Nacktbadebereich and Nacktbadegelände. Swimwear-compulsory locations are described by the word Textil, which is just one letter different from the English word "textile." At many locations, you may encounter signs pointing to both an FKK Strand and a Textilstrand. At the former you may go nackt, but at the latter you must wear a Badeanzug.
If something is prohibited, then it is Verboten—a word we often borrow in English. If you see a sign that says FKK Verboten or Nacktbaden Verboten, then nudity is forbidden at that place.
S-bahn, U-bahn, Strassenbahn, Autobahn... I've Bahn Everywhere, Man
Germany, Austria and Switzerland all have enviable infrastructures. There is an extensive network of freeways and railways throughout all three countries, and cities are very well served by public transit. Bahn is a general term for "path" that means "railway" or "motorway," depending on the word with which it is paired. Major cities are likely to have an S-bahn or U-bahn system if not both. S-bahn is short for Stadtschnellbahn, which means "city rapid railway." S-bahn lines are mostly surface lines (except near the city center, where they may be underground), and S-bahns often connect the city center with outlying suburbs, so associate the "S" with "surface" and "suburb" and you are probably on the right track... pardon the pun. A U-bahn is another type of urban railway, but it is more likely to be contained within the city proper. The "U" in U-bahn does not always stand for the same thing. In most cities with a U-bahn system, the "U" is short for Untergrundbahn, meaning "underground railway," as in a subway. However, a few cities describe their surface light rail lines as U-bahns. (In these cases, the "U" stands for unabhängig, which means "independent," meaning the rails are independent of other types of traffic.) A light rail U-bahn is also frequently called a Stadtbahn, or "city railway." Strassenbahn literally means "street railway," also commonly known as a streetcar, tram or trolley in English. In cities that also have U-bahn and/or S-bahn lines, Strassenbahn lines tend to be comparatively short. In smaller cities, Strassenbahns are often the only form of public rail transit. Just about all towns of any size are also served by local bus lines, and the word for bus is the same in German and English. Any kind of transit station is a Bahnhof, and a stop is a Haltestelle. The main train station in any city is the Hauptbahnhof. If you travel by car, the fastest way to get from one place to another is on the Autobahn, which is the German term for freeway, motorway or interstate. In Germany, the autobahns are free, but tolls are levied in Austria and Switzerland.
Germany in particular has many urban nude beaches and other FKK locations, and most can easily be reached by public transit. For example, suppose you visit Munich and stay near the city center. You could take a tram to visit the elegant sauna of Müllersches Volksbad, which is about one kilometer from the city center. Or you could take the U-bahn to a stop that is within easy walking distance of Flaucher, a popular nude gathering spot on the river Isar that is about 5 kilometers south of the city center. Or you could take the S-bahn all the way to Wolfratshausen, a town that is nearly 40 kilometers south of the city center, to visit another popular nudist location along the Isar called Pupplinger Au. If you wanted to visit the FKK meadow at Fohnsee in Iffeldorf, about 53 kilometers south of the city center, you could buy a train ticket all the way to Iffeldorf, even though it is outside Munich's urban transit system (urban transit systems are linked into the national system of railways), or you could rent a car and take the autobahn.
Deutschland, Österreich and die Schweiz
The German names for Germany, Austria and Switzerland look rather different from what we call them in English. Respectively, they are Deutschland, Österreich and die Schweiz. Multilingual Switzerland also has three other official names: Suisse (French); Svizzera (Italian); and Svizra (Romansh). A good many other proper names are also different—sometimes slightly so, sometimes unrecognizably so. Here are some of the major cities with different names in German and English: München (Munich), Köln (Cologne), Nürnberg (Nuremberg) and Wien (Vienna).
Many states and regions also have variants. In Germany, for example, Bavaria is Bayern, and there are three states with the word Sachsen (Saxony) as part of the name. Some states and regions also have words like Nieder and Unter (both mean "Lower"), Mittel (Middle) and Ober (Upper) in their names, such as Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Unterfranken (Lower Franconia), Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia) and Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate).
As noted in previous sections, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are Nordsee and Ostsee. Bodensee (Lake Constance) is the huge lake at the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This lake is formed by one of the longest rivers in Europe, der Rhein (the Rhine). An even longer river is die Donau, better to known as English speakers as the Danube, which flows eastward through Vienna and other European capital cities that are farther east. In Switzerland, names are sometimes even more complicated. The lake that we call Lake Geneva is in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and it is Lac Léman to the locals but Genfersee to German speakers. The Italian-speaking population of Switzerland is concentrated in a canton called Ticino in both Italian and English but Tessin in both German and French.
Some cities and towns in German-speaking Europe have long formal names that get truncated or abbreviated in everyday usage. One example is Frankfurt, which is an especially important city to travelers since it is a major transportation hub, with one of the world's busiest airports. Frankfurt is actually Frankfurt am Main, which means "Frankfurt on the Main." Common ways to shorten it are Frankfurt a.M. , Frankfurt/Main and Frankfurt (Main). This is important because there is another Frankfurt in Germany, a much smaller city clear across the country near Poland. The smaller Frankfurt is Frankfurt an der Oder, usually written as Frankfurt (Oder). The Main and the Oder are both rivers. Furthermore, both am and an der mean "on the," but complicated grammatical rules pertaining to gender and contractions account for the different forms. Another example is the famous tourist town of Rothenburg, which has a walled and well-preserved medieval old town. The whole name is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which means "Rothenburg above the river Tauber," and it may be shortened to Rothenburg o.d.T.