Modern naturism can be traced back to the health and fitness philosophy adopted by Germans in the twentieth century. In the early decades, freikorpkultur had gained prominence in the German lifestyle, and to this day FKK remains the symbolic mark of naturism there.
By now, the health and fitness element of naturist life in Germany and elsewhere, has all but vanished. But there is one significant exception, and this is how it came about.
In 1921 a Swiss national named Eduard Fankhauser came into contact with the spiritual father of the naturistenbewegung, Werner Zimmermann. It was Zimmermann who had founded the first German naturist camp, the freilichtpark at Hamburg in 1903 and he had become well known, and liked, in the German speaking regions of Europe.
Now Fankhauser, at the time still a student aged 17, had gained an interest in Yoga, the school of Hindu philosophy advocating a course of physical and mental disciplines. It seems that the young Fankhauser could detect in naturism an outlet for his enthusiasm and with help from Zimmermann he both established a naturist group near the Swiss town of Neuchatel and published German translations of books on Yoga.
Both ventures must have been a success because by 1928 Fankhauser had purchased several hectares of land at Thielle, right on the north shore of Lake Neuchatel and there he founded a naturist enclave which he called die neue zeit, “The New Time”.
Life there called for participants to follow a communal keep fit regime, emboldened by a policy of temperance, vegetarianism and abstinence from tobacco.
All that may not be everybody’s idea of fun, but the fact is that many hundreds of Swiss families willingly joined in. They could enjoy social naturism, have a good time, and feel good. But the Swiss authorities were to look askance upon what was then viewed as immoral activity. However, Fankhauser and his followers were undeterred, although it was not until 1944 that an official tolerance of naturism was secured from the Swiss Federal Court.
With a history now going back more than eighty years, die neue zeit is today run by a self-governing trust. There are fine lawns surrounding a two-storey club house. Separately, there is a modern reception and office building, a shop and a restaurant. Members’ caravans are sited around the perimeter of the property, and cabins may be rented by the day.
There is statuary in the gardens and between the tennis and mini-ten courts, there is a large trampoline. This seems to be as much used by adults as by children, an indication that keeping fit remains a priority here. There can be more 30- and 40-ish people than retirees and in term time, you find families bring in their children as day visitors at the weekend.
Access to Lake Neuchatel is by a short footpath through a reed bed. The water shelves gently here so, on sunny days, it warms up nicely. Kayaks and windsurfing are available too, so if you had a mind to it, you could paddle or surf as far as Yverdon on the opposite bank, but that is 38 km away. I am not sure anyone at Thielle is quite that full of energy!
True, there is plenty of opportunity for keeping fit at Thielle; however the daily morning turnout for communal exercise is no longer practised. Even so, the members and guests of die neue zeit are all expected to eat vegetarian meals and to avoid alcohol and tobacco. I must say not many of them are overweight, they are a jolly and sprightly lot and they always keep a few spaces available for guests. A high-season pitch for two people in a motorhome or caravan costs Sfr.39 a night, including electricity (about £27.95).
Elsewhere in Switzerland, there appears to be little interest in naturism but there is one major exception – Camping Club Leman. It is right beside the lake at Perverenges, near Lausanne. They are just as welcoming as the people at Thielle, the facilities are clean and modern, and the grounds are nicely
landscaped too, but there is no view or direct access to the lake.
On the plus side, rates are slightly lower, it is less remote than die neue zeit and there is a traditional Swiss baker within walking distance.
Everyone knows about Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolate, not to mention fondue and rosti, but in the culinary scheme of things, what’s really outstanding is the Swiss line of delicious bakery products. To experience this, you simply have to go there! BN
Rothausstrasse, Gampelen, Cantone
di Bern, CH 3236, Switzerland.
Tel: 0041 032 318 4555
Camping Club Leman, Case postale
5583, Ch-1002 Lausanne, Switzerland
Tel: 0041 218 018 398 (summer only)