David Whitley goes hunting for a nude beach on the Croatian island of Lopud. But something very important is absent…
At the bottom of the hill stands a cross. Nearby, there is a small statue of the Virgin Mary, with a few flowers and candles around it. Two names are carved into slabs next to her. They died, it seems, in 1992. The heart of the Balkan wars; I’m guessing not of natural causes.
This is both unexpected and a bit of a problem. From the jetty, I had followed a track up the hill and across the island. Lopud is a car-free zone, and the steps soon give way to a rocky hillside trail that’s a world away from the cafés and beaches that line the waterfront. It passes an abandoned church and little else.
I was after a beach. A special beach, and not a particularly well signposted one. A couple of signs along the track bore the magic letters – FKK – but they petered out long before the descent.
FKK stands for Freikörperkultur. Roughly translated, that means “free body culture” – and somehow the three letter acronym has become a virtually Europe-wide symbol for a nudist beach. It’s a way of saying “skinnydip here” without using the word “nude” or drawing symbols of naked people. These beaches are usually hilarious – full of ample-bellied Germans sunning their shrivelled genitalia without a care in the world. The idea of a nude beach being in some way sexy can be instantly discounted by anyone who has actually seen one.
In Croatia, they have a fairly ambiguous definition of the word “beach”. Often it’s just a few rocks to jump off. And that was the case here. Sheets of limestone tumbled into the sea like a collapsed bookshelf.
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But the key problem was that there wasn’t anyone else there. The track led to only one possible candidate, but there was no FKK sign at the beach itself. I could only be 50% certain that this was what I was looking for. And if I was wrong, I was about to strip in front of a war memorial.
Two boats came past. I waited until they’d gone. As much as I like the idea of swimming around as nature intended, I’m not so keen on flashing pleasure cruises as I stand on the rocks like a pasty white beacon.
Finally, it was all quiet, and I ventured down into the water. The rocks, sea-buffed and slippery, meant steps could only be taken gingerly. A problem with this loose Croatian definition of beach is that it can be rather difficult to get into the water. Especially when the shallows are filled with jagged edges, shells and sea urchins. An ill-timed tumble could see my flagship thoroughly scuttled. As I scrambled haphazardly, yelping every time I put my hand or foot on a rock, I turned round to see something I didn’t particularly want to see. A grey-haired man was standing next to the cross, camera in hand. He had a younger man next to him, possibly his son. Oh dear.
As I finally made it into the sea, the two men stepped towards the rocks. I found myself fervently wishing them to take their clothes off. It became a nervous wait as they faffed around with their bags and start blowing up a lilo. Then… YES! I’d never been so happy to see male genitalia.
As I swam freely, the possibility of things getting very awkward removed, I heard them talking as they stepped towards the water. They were, predictably, German. Bless you, Germans.