Thursday, April 30, 2009

Naked Hikers

     Hmmm...naked hikers. I am not sure I really need to say anything else. But I'm going to.
      The Swiss seem to have problems with outsiders. I mean, they tolerate us, they let us come to all manner of summits and whatnot in Geneva, and they let us have our embassies in Bern, and they are more than willing to ship us army knives and chocolates and immaculately engineered watches for vast sums of pent up wealth and currency which they are happy to house in secure and super secret bank accounts. But they still kind of don't like us outsiders, as evidenced by the fact that they have every mountain pass and tunnel connecting the place to the outside rigged with God knows what so that, at the slightest sign of provocation they can flip the switch or push the plunger and KA-BLAMO! no way in, or out. It's sort of like the panic room of the Alps in a way.
      Anyway, their very public sort of mistrust of outsiders is able to mask a very disturbed and conflicted people living among the mountains and valleys. Why so disturbed? Well, they seem to like hiking naked.  A lot.  And that's just not right.
     Before getting into specifics, let's just take a moment to go ahead and look at the sport of naked hiking. I don't understand it. First of all, hiking is really just walking through the forest or a meadow or something. Anywhere that's not a road or sidewalk, so how is it a sport. And I like hiking, don't get me wrong. I partake and I enjoy it. But we need to call a spade a spade here people. But I can see the appeal of it. You live in a smelly city and you want to get away into the fresh mountain air and all that jazz. Yet, for the life of me I cannot begin to understand why you would want to do it naked.
      First of all, I am not going to go naked hiking because nobody wants to see me naked, least of all me, okay? I don't need to be strolling through the countryside with my ding dong flapping in the wind and the countryside doesn't need that either. People would shriek, old ladies would probably pass out, a couple of Pervo McPerverstiens would be excited but on the whole it would not be good for the community. I mean, it's Switzerland, so Heidi would be blinded and the Ricola guy with that big long horn would probably choke on his cough drop and soil his lederhosen in fear and disgust. Plus, as an added bonus, it's cold up in the high Alps most of the time, with sweeping winds, and anyone who has ever seen Seinfeld knows what the cold does to it.
     Yeah, it's cold. That's my second problem.  I don't know about you, Company, but when it gets cold outside I tend to do one of two things: go inside or put on extra clothes, neither of which actions are conducive to naked hiking.  Why one would want to go ahead and get naked in the freezing cold just plain escapes me.  I mean, seriously.  That makes no sense.  No matter whether you are saying it in French, German, or Italian.
      You know what else about naked hiking doesn't make sense?  Well I will tell you.  These people aren't hiking like on a day hike where they just wander around the forest on a trail made of wood chips or something.  No, they are hardcore hiking up in the mountains like Dingo did that one time out in Colorado.  Saner people, as in people who wouldn't go naked hiking, would call it backpacking.  Because they carry bigass backpacks with clothes and tents and food and whatnot inside of them.  Well, okay, maybe not the clothes so much.  But you get the point.  And since you get that point see if you can wrap your head around this one: those bags have straps.  Straps that go over the shoulder and around the waist.  And they lie on your back.  And they chafe as they rub around on your parts in the hot Alpine sun and cold Alpine climate.  Chafage, as any person can tell you, is not good when clothes are involved.  One can only imagine what it's like when there are none.
     So okay, naked hiking is already not looking so hot in my eyes.  Actually, not in any light is it looking good.  So you could see what the powers that be in the Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, which no one has EVER heard of, were thinking about when they outlawed naked hiking in their district.  At least that's what I assumed.  Shrinky ding dongs flapping in the wind.  Pubic areas on full display in public areas.  Endemic chafing.  No no no no no!  We can't allow that.  So they outlawed it.  
      As it turns out, Appenzell is truly the canton that time forgot.  It is widely considered to be one of the most conservative areas in all Switzerland, to put it mildly.  In this case when we say "conservative" we mean "just gave women the right to vote in 1990."  It is also one of the last cantons, actually one of the last two, that still makes its laws by gathering all its citizens in the town square and having them vote by raising their hands.  And at their recent yearly Landsgemeinde, which is their little hand raising ceremony, they raised their hands in unison to bad naked hiking, something they have been raising their voices in unison against for some time apparently.
     As quoted from the BBC, one elderly local noted "I think it's disgraceful.  God may have created us naked, but he gave us clothes to walk around in." Another random woman agreed with him.  "It's just not right.  Not at all appropriate..." So as you can see, the locals are against this strange custom of naked hiking, especially since it has become more popular.  Yet, none of the "conservative" townspeople who are so against naked hiking seem to have ever seen an actual naked hiking.  That, however, did not stop them from voting a $175 fine for naked hiking, just in case they ever do see one.
     And so the showdown has been set: between the naked hikers, all 20 to 25 of them by one estimate, and the hand raising prudes of Appenzell.  Some legal analysts in Switzerland are doubting the legality of the canton's actions.  Some nearby Swiss cantons, such as the strangely familiar Appenzell Outerrhoden and more boringly named Glarus, are worried that the naked hikers will be forced into their areas.  Yet strangely, no one seems to be worried about frostbite. 
     So I guess that right now we are at a standstill, unlike the naked hikers who are still on the prowl in the Swiss Alps.  I am sure, because this entire world is messed up, that this will end up in the courts, where I assume everyone will be clothed.  And the fate of the hikers remains hanging in the wind.  Will they wither in the cold wind of the current Swiss political climate?  Or will they bask in the bright sunshine of freedom?  Well will have to wait and see.  Stay tuned.  Oh wait, here comes one of the naked hikers.  Better turn away instead.

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